Lan has two sisters living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since it is “just” 650km/400 miles from Lan’s apartment and baby Andrew was getting baptized, we drove down for the event. About a dozen babies were processed in quick succession, though not all seemed to enjoy the experience if the screaming was anything to go by.
A wealthy Englishman, James Smithson, died in 1829 leaving his considerable fortune to form "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men". Although he had never visited the country, he specified that it was to be in Washington. He didn’t indicate why. After years of debate about what to with the money and even whether to accept it, Congress created the Smithsonian Institution in 1846 to conduct research, administer national collections and to educate the public. As a result, we now have a series of first-rate museums ranging in subject from the American Indian to Air & Space. On our first assault, Lan and I spent a full day at the Museum of American History and only conquered three-quarters of it. So much to see but sore feet are a limiting factor.
I actually lived in Washington DC in 1969 and 1970. As many of you know, my father was in the Navy and Australia was buying something from the US Navy at the time. Somehow dad was involved. I had a reasonable recollection of the house we lived in but none at all of the school I went to even though it was only two blocks away.
Lan called me after starting work describing it as a "dream job". Unfortunately it didn’t last. The man that hired her left two weeks after she arrived and his replacement was incompetent and arrogant. And loud! If Lan called me from the office, I could often hear him in the background shouting at someone. The stress made Lan sick which made life even more difficult so I urged her to give up and come back to Denver.
On my final visit, we made a trip to Annapolis, a beautiful small town an hour or two north. After inspecting the State Capitol and some other historic buildings, we walked down the waterfront and admired the yachts. We struck up a conversation with a man making repairs to his craft and he told us that "Only one thing works on an old boat and that’s the owner!".
Although Annapolis bills itself as the "sailing capital of the world", its real claim to fame is being the home of the US Naval Academy where officers are trained. The visitor center was a waste of time catering mainly to prospective students but the museum’s collection of model ships was stunning. Especially intriguing were the ships made of bone. To relieve the boredom of their captivity, French prisoners saved the bones from stew, dried them and cut them into strips to make the planks and rigging for their models. The English arranged for the models to be sold to the public so the prisoners could make a little money. A few of the model makers were so successful that they elected to stay in England after peace was established.
The ships were difficult to photograph in their glass cases so I was hoping to buy some postcards. The gift shop didn’t have any of the ships but I purchased a few others that were interesting. Figuring that Lan had a spare car key, to liven things up a bit, I left my keys on the counter after getting some coins out of my pocket. We walked back to the car and then I announced that I had lost the keys that included the keys to Lan’s apartment. I ran around the places we visited during the day but they weren’t there and the gift shop closed shortly after we left. Lan did have a spare car key so we drove back to Virginia wondering what to do next. Lan’s apartment was on the 3rd floor and she left the balcony door slightly open for ventilation. To entertain Lan’s neighbors, I climbed up from the balcony below. It doesn’t look very high up when you are on the ground looking up but it certainly looked high when looking down! Anyway, the following day we returned to Annapolis and I must admit to considerable relief at recovering the keys.
A few days later we were packed up and drove to Charlotte to visit Lan’s sisters for Thanksgiving. On the way back to Denver, we made good progress on our first day and drove into the evening hoping to make it to St Louis. While on the freeway at around 7pm, a deer mounted a kamikaze attack on us and I surprised myself by swerving instinctively to miss him. It would have spoilt my day (and the deer’s) to have hit him or her. 150 people and 1.5 million deer die in such crashes each year Note 1. The next day we set ourselves a new record driving 1337km/831 miles, getting home at 11pm. It was lucky we did as it snowed heavily the next day.
Despite trying without luck for 3 years before leaving for Washington, Lan got another job in Denver within a week of returning. It is with TriZetto which serves health insurance firms.