Saturday, August 14, 2010

We are home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin!

We made it home safe and sound.  I wanted to leave you with a post of a summary of our trip.  First, here is a picture of Grandpa Wes driving the last 138 miles.

  • We drove 3000 miles in 9 days.
  • We went through 261 gallons of Diesel fuel.
  • Our fuel efficiency was roughly 18.7 miles per gallon.
  • We watched 12 movies in the truck.
  • We drove through the following states:  Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and we were a stone's throw from Michigan (Calvin wanted to go there, just to say we drove through, but that didn't happen).
  • We saw the following state's license plates during our trip (39 states accounted for):  Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Indiana, Iowa, Oregon, Nevada, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Dakota, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Maryland, California, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Maine, Utah, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, and Montana.  We also saw a few from Canada:  Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba.
  • The kids know every word to the song California Girls by Katie Perry.
  • Don't expect to drive 12 hours in the car and have the kids go right to bed.  Note to self, no kids are allowed to sleep in the car.
  • When you go the wrong way on a toll road, you have to pay to get off and pay to get back on again.  This results in a 10 mile detour.
  • Our Ford Excursion is magnetically attracted to idiots at the toll booths that ask all sorts of questions, and slow down the toll booth process.
  • After we got back from Washinton DC, we found out that the pollution level was at a warning level due to the heat.  Good thing we didn't know that while we were there.
  • We need a sign on the back of our truck stating "Senior On-Board" when Grandpa was driving because he needs both lanes on the highway when driving (good thing we limited his driving to about 200 miles total).
  • We made a rule that everyone is allowed to request a taxi, at anytime, no questions asked, in a desperate situation (we only used this once on our trek from the US Capitol to the Washington Monument).
  • It is very beautiful in West Virginia and Virginia.  Everyone should take the time to go out there and visit sometime.  David really enjoyed having visitors and said we can go back there anytime.  Thanks for the hospitality David and Xiang!
I will post a couple of pictures of our newly tiled/remodeled bathroom & laundry room when we finally get home to Minnesota.

David and Xiang's house in Newport News, Virginia

Here are some pictures that I have been meaning to post of David and Xiang's House in Newport News.  It is actually a townhouse or condo (I don't really know the difference).  I also posted pictures of the community center and pool that they have for the residents there.  Currently, there are only 3 four-plexes built in his area, with more to come (once they get sold, I assume).  I really could get used to having a pool around.  It was nice when we got back there to have the kids jump in the water a swim for an hour each night.  The pictures include the master bedroom and master bathroom, the guest bedroom is also big and has a bathroom attached to it.  On the second floor is the living room, kitchen, and computer office area.  The lower level is where the garage comes in and the front door exists and that has an open area that David plans to put up a train display (currently, he has 100 totes storing all of his trains, each tote has an index taped to the cover which details the inventory inside the tote, see the last photo posted in this post).  The lower level also has a bathroom.  I know many of you may not have a chance to get out and visit he and Xiang, so I thought I would post some pictures, so you kind of get an idea what his place looks like.  It is very nice, very big (high ceilings), and lots of stairs.

Leaving South Bend...stopped by Notre Dame campus and stadium before leaving

After checking in last night, the kids whipped their swimsuits on and went swimming for 20 minutes. We all fell asleep right away. The breakfast was great and included cereals, eggs, sausages, cinnamon rolls, donuts, waffles, toast, bagels, muffins, biscuits & gravy, juice, coffe and tea. After breakfast, we decided since we were in South Bend, IN we would drive by the Notre Dame campus and more importantly, the stadium. We saw statues of Knute Rockne and an entrance dedicated to Lou Holtz. The campus is beautiful and the buildings are amazing. It was a nice little diversion before driving the remaining 400 miles home. We will stop in Eau Claire to do some laundry before driving home.
That is all for now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stopping in South Bend,Indiana for the night

We left David's at 8 am today. We took a different route home. We went through Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. We took the Pennsylvania turnpike and we are now on the Ohio turnpike which will soon be the Indiana turnpike. The sunset is beautiful tonight and we just saw a whole field of bucks. We had a little rain today, but it wasn't very much and didn't last long. I just booked 2 hotel rooms at the holiday inn near notre dame for $45 each. I used a cool website called Grandpa's happy because it includes a free breakfast in the morning. It is important to keep him happy!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday...Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestown, and Go-Karts Plus

David took off work today to join in the Westberg adventures.  We started out at the Jamestown Settlement.  We were able to see the old fort dwellings, indian dwellings, replicas of the ships on the James River were available for us to tour around in, watched them load and shoot a musket (which is a gun that they loaded with gun powder and lead ball) and we went through the museum of historic artifacts from the Jamestown area.  Our next stop was the Historic Jamestown site which is managed by the National Park Rangers.  First we watched an interesting movie which clued us in that Pocohontas really didn't marry John Smith, she married a guy named John Rolfe, who was also English.  All these years we have been led astray.  John Smith met Pocohontas when she was 10 years old, so it wouldn't have been possible for her to marry him.  Our park ranger named Kirk gave us an excellent tour of the Historic Jamestown grounds.  It was fun to hear his stories and see how much of the original grounds they were able to uncover and restore.  It was really interesting.  We drove to the end of the Jamestown Island before heading over to Go-Kart Plus.  The kids were very well behaved today, so we rewarded them with a trip to the Go-Kart place.  Grandpa and Grandma didn't want to partake in the activity, so we let the kids enjoy a little time on the go-karts.  Although it was still pretty hot today, we did enjoy a little bit of rain sprinkles throughout the day.  It came down in a very light mist and didn't last very long. 

On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store and picked up some stuff to make tacos for all.  We just finished eating and are preparing our suitcases to leave tomorrow morning.  We are hoping to get on the road by 8:00am tomorrow.  We are still planning to stop somewhere in the middle of our trip.  We don't know exactly where we will be staying, but we will figure it out on the road.  Everyone is still in good spirits and is still enjoying our visit here on the East Coast.  We were able to fit in most of the sites we wanted to see and I think we did a good job arranging our schedule.  It will be nice to get home again (since we are not really looking forward to a 20 hour truck ride), but it was a great visit here in Newport News, VA.  I will update with text along our way home, but I don't think I will post pictures of our drive home.
Wish us a safe drive home!

P.S.  Please note the last picture posted is David and Xiang in the Jamestown church.  Grandma got a picture of them in a church, sitting in the pew!  It made her day!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday...Virginia Aquarium and Museum, Virginia Beach, and the Drive-In!

We all slept in a little later than normal today.  We left about 10am with plans to see the Virginia Aquarium and Science Museum which is located near Virginia Beach.  It is about 45 minutes from Newport News.  We had to drive on a long bridge which eventually took us under the ocean for a mile or so.  It was a nice drive and the kids had fun in the tunnel.  It is amazing to think how they even made the tunnel there.  We toured the aquarium for about an hour before our IMAX theater show was going to start.  We bought tickets to see the 3D Dolphins and Whales show.  It was a great show.  The highlight of the day was the kids being able to pet the stingrays in the stingray tank.  We had to do this activity twice today.  We saw crocodiles, turtles, owls, hawks, turkeys, an aquarium that you can walk through, a kimono dragon, otters, and a bunch of fish.  It really is a nice museum.  Our next stop, only a few blocks away was the Virginia Beach.  None of us had swimsuits, so we walked the beach in our clothes.  The kids took off their shoes and ended up getting pretty wet.  There were thousands of people at the beach.  We saw some people parasailing, ships at sea, sailboats and surfers on the Atlantic.  We didn't stay long because we were not dressed for the beach.  On our way home, we decided to stop in Norfolk to see Doumar's Drive-In which my aunt Connie saw on "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives" recently.  It was a fun place to eat.  It met everyone's needs and the price was right for dear old Wes.  They make their own ice cream and ice cream cones.  You can either drive up and use the drive in section or come inside and eat in the diner.  With the heat outside, we decided to eat inside.  I took some pictures and will have to post them later.  We came home and the kids went swimming.  I took some pictures at the pool too.  Again, the lifeguard didn't have any guests today until we arrived 1 hour before closing.  I can't believe no one else wants to swim with the 100 degree heat wave we are having. 

We have one more day of activities tomorrow and then on Friday we will be heading back home.  We aren't sure where we will stop on the way home, we will see how far we can get.  Paula said today that it feels like we have been on vacation for 2 weeks (I hope she meant that in a good way).  We have had a fun filled vacation.  We are thinking of going to Jamestown or Yorktown tomorrow.  The kids want to see the blacksmith at work.  They also have a couple ships that you can tour through.  David is taking off work tomorrow, so he and Xiang will be coming with us. 

I hope everyone is staying cool in this heat wave we are having.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday...Tour at the US Capitol Building and Washington Monument

Okay, we slept so great in our beds last night.  We were all whipped from yesterday's adventures.  Chris and I decided to get up early to get tickets to go up into the Washington Memorial.  We got up at 6am, took showers and were on the metro by 6:45am.  We arrived close to the Washington Monument and had to walk the rest of the way.  We had about 10 other customers in front of us, so we knew there would be enough tickets.  We already have tickets for the US Capitol Building Tour at 9:20am, so we were hoping to get tickets for noon at the Washington Monument.  When we arrived, it said that tickets are dispersed at 8:30am, not 8am like we initially thought.  Chris said I needed to go back because I needed to get the kids up and ready and we would all meet at the US Capitol.  I took the metro back, by myself.  Made it without any trouble!!  I got the kids up (and Grandpa and Grandma too) and told them we needed to leave in 20 minutes to get to the US Capitol.  We got on the metro for the first stop, transferred to the next train, everyone was on and they were having troubles getting the doors to close properly (we didn't have anything to do with that).  They gave out 2 warnings trying to get everyone to step away from the doors and those 2 attempts failed.  The train was packed, all standing spots were even taken.  They demanded that everyone deboard the metro and we had to wait for the next one to come.  That was a fun experience.  It was total chaos.  I had to keep close eyes on kids and seniors.  Chris wasn't with us because he was going right from getting the tickets to the Captol to meet us.  We finally made it to the Capitol building.  Chris just arrived, so we all met and got in line.  Every place you go into your bags are scanned and checked just like you are getting on a plane.  They are very cautious here.  The tour of the Capitol was cool, however, we only saw one portion of the place.  Our tour guide was exceptional and we learned a lot.  One funny thing that happened on our tour was that everyone had to tell the tour guide where they were from.  A guy standing near Grandpa said he was from China.  Grandpa quickly asked him what part of China he was from the top, middle or the bottom section.  The guy replied that he was from the SE region of China and Grandpa said oh, oh, that's nice.  It was so funny.  He really made a friend on the tour.  Grandpa likes to talk to everyone he meets, people on the metro, the night tour guide, the bus drivers, the ladies at the check-in desks, etc.  He strikes up conversations and talks about nothing.  Everyone seems to patronize him.  After our tour at the Capitol, Chris and Wes decide that they have enough time to go check out of our hotel before our noon date at the Washington monument.  They left on the metro and the kids, Paula and I stayed at the Capitol for a bit before leaving to walk to the monument.  We walked out the wrong door and walked 3 blocks in the wrong direction.  We figured this out rather quickly, turned around and started walking back.  Now, picture this, it is 100 DEGREES out today.  Hotter than H_ _ _!  Paula's legs are aching (as are mine) and we have 2 miles to walk to the monument with the kids.  We are dying for water (we would have brought some with us, but you can't bring any liquids into the capitol bldg).  Paula is a half a block behind me and the kids.  I looked behind to see her and decided we better take a cab.  I raised my hand and in one second a cab stops to pick us up, no joke.  I asked him how much it would be and he motioned to get in.  At this point, it didn't really matter how much it cost.  The fare ended up being $11.50 and I tipped him so it cost us $13 and it was the best money we spent all week.  The ride was air conditioned and I knew some of us were not going to make it.  Again, Paula was not excited to go up into the monument (it is a LONG ways up there).  She kept himming and hawing, but she went up.  The elevator ride up goes pretty quick.  You get to see everything from up there.  It was a great experience and well worth getting up early to get the tickets.  It is just fabulous to see all sites from the upper deck.  Inside the monument, they have special blocks that have been donated by different cities and countries.  On the way down, they slow down the elevator so we can see some of the blocks.  They are very detailed and ornate. 

After our tour, we took the metro back to the hotel and checked out, got in our car and left back for David and Xiang's place.  I guess I forgot to tell you that when Chris and Wes went back in between the capitol tour and the monument, they never made it back to the hotel.  They took the metro to the metro stop near our hotel, but only got off to turn back and go to the monument.  They wouldn't have made it back in time to catch the tour with us. 

The kids just went swimming at the association pool that David lives near.  Our kids were the only people that showed up all day.  The lifeguard is nice and said that our presence makes the time go by faster.  We are having dinner tonight.  Xiang made dumplings that smell pretty good and we also made a pork tenderloin.  We ate a late lunch, so I am not starving.  I am just winding down with a wine cooler and resting my feet.

We like to hear the comments.  We were worried that no one was reading the blog.  I am glad to hear that some of you are keeping up with our adventures.  It is going to be 100 degrees tomorrow too.  Maybe it is a good day for the Virginia Beach.  Paula is worried about the jellyfish (Wes read a newspaper article about them and made her paranoid).  She didn't bring a swimsuit, and Wes didn't bring one pair of shorts...go figure.


DC at Night

Well, we decided to take a night tour of Washington DC.  We booked the tour with our concierge.  At the end of the tour, they will drop us off at our hotel.  The tour started at the Old Post Office, so we got there a couple hours early, ate dinner at the food court and just rested a bit until we needed to board the bus for our tour.  We also rode the elevator up the bell tower of the Old Post Office and saw the entire city from up there.  Paula was a little nervous going up to the top because she is a bit afraid of heights.  The worst part for her was the elevator is made of glass, so she can see everything below her as she goes up it.  She was a trooper though and made it to the top with coaxing from her grandchildren.  The Old Post Office is a national landmark, so it is managed by the National Park Service.  We rested in the food court area long enough to be blessed by a tour group of 10 year old Jewish kids.  They didn't know what state they were from (pretty smart kids)!  It got pretty crazy, very fast.  It was quite entertaining for those of us ready to fall asleep from the heat.  We boarded our bus at about 7:15pm.  It was right on time and air conditioned.  They also served water bottles from a big cooler for everyone on the bus (smart idea)!  Our tour guide, Barbara, was about 75 years old.  She was a whipper snapper and knew a lot of details about the city.  We liked her a lot.  We were able to see so many sites in DC.  It was fun to see them all illuminated at night.  I hope some of my pictures turned out.  I will post them soon.  Here are the sites we were able to get off the bus and view:
  • US Capitol Building
  • World War II Memorial  
  • Jefferson Memorial  
  • Vietnam Memorial  
  • Lincoln Memorial 
  • Korean War Memorial  
  • Iwo Jima Memorial  
  • White House
These are the sites we drove past, but were unable to get off the bus to view:
  • Washington Monument
  • Arlington Cemetery
  • Watergate Complex
  • The Air Force Memorial
  • The Kennedy Center
  • The Washington Mall
  • Smithsonian Museums
We took the "OnBoard" Tour bus which was recommended by our concierge. 

These are some of the things we learned on our tour:
  • Paula has trouble walking down stairs with her trifocals.  She missed the last step at the Lincoln Memorial and fell to the ground.  She is doing fine, but is a bit sore on her behind today.  She blamed it on Wes because she was trying to keep track of him.
  • We didn't know our night tour would go until 11pm.  Boy were we tired when we finally got back to our hotel for the night.
  • Wes doesn't want to spen $2.00 for a bottle of water, but will drink from someone else's water bottle if they buy one.
  • You have to pay $40 to park your car at the hotel in Washington DC...for one night.
  • When you stay at fancy hotels, you have to tip the bell boy who brings up your luggage.  You also have to tip the guy that parks your car for $40/night.
  • Taking the metro subway system...where to is a good thing Paula and Wes are with us, because they would never be able to figure it out by themselves.
  • Don't sit on the back of the tour bus, because the ride is BUMPY!
  • David and Xiang were probably excited to have some peace and quite without the noisy Westberg's for 2 days.
  • Oh, I forgot to mention in my earlier blog that Wes had a diabetic attack in Cinncinati at 2am.  Paula sent him down to the check in desk and the guy gave him a candy bar.  He didn't want to wake us up, so he took matters into his own hands.  He forgot to take his pill before dinner...Paula got blamed for that.
That is all for now.  I will post pictures when I connect with Xiang's computer.