Monday, April 29, 2019

Yorktown, Virginia

 Its time for another episode of "My Staycation is your vacation!" Today's destination is Yorktown.

While my family and I arrived by automobile, others arrived via the American Cruise Lines American Constitution.  American Cruise Lines is "Small Ship Cruising Done Perfectly" and offers river cruises as well as cruises along the Eastern shore.  This beauty is the newest in its fleet and carries a capacity of 175 guests.Yorktown, VA is a port of call on two of her itineraries.  Her guests had a gorgeous day for their port excursions, some of their possibilities are below.

Yorktown Waterfront offers a special themed markets on Saturdays between April and October.

We made the trek to check out the French Sister City market.

Crepes were the hot seller and very popular among the visitors.  We opted for tiramisu and pavlova from a nearby bakery stand.  We also enjoyed nitro coffee and steaming bowls of clam chowder from local vendors.

In addition to the festivals, the waterfront is home to the Watermen's Museum which is open from April through December. (Closed Mondays exc for most Monday holidays). This museum tells the maritime story of our nation as well as the ecology and geology of the Chesapeake Bay.

For those who wish to do more in the water than just learn about it, clipper ship sailings and playtime on the beach are also available.

For visitors interested in more than just walking around, other modes of transportation are available, such as Segway Tours and trolley rides.  

In addition to the festivals and museum, the waterfront area is also home to a few restaurants and specialty shops.

I personally love all the little art galleries which are co-operatives of several local artists.

And as much fun as the waterfront area is, Yorktown's appeal for history buffs is its main attraction. The American Revolution Museum of Yorktown took us two visits to take everything in, and I'm sure we'll return for more.  Re-enactments, lectures, temporary exhibitions and permanent collections are all available and are educational and entertaining.

And for those who want to be active and explore as they learn about history, there are pathways among the battlefield and historical sites with marquees to read along the way.

My little corner of the world has so much to offer! I'd love to share it with you.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Disney's Star Wars Half Marathon 2019

Daughter Uses (the) Force to Get Less Than Enthusiastic Dad to Run Far, Far Away

There comes a time in a man’s life when his daughter looks at him with those eyes he has stared into countless times before, and she asks a question that he knew was inevitable, and yet has still been dreading since she first learned to walk and proved beyond a doubt that the bitter-sweet moment would eventually come when she would yearn for something more than what he could provide.

She looks at him on that day and says, “Dad, will you run the Disney half marathon with me?”

For me, the dreaded day, the day the storm broke, was just a month ago. And I had no warning...and no ability to prevent this:

The Chief Blogette of this blog (my wife) used a variation of this same approach to bamboozle me lovingly persuade me to run the Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon with her in 2016. I was even made to dress up.

Having paid my penance, I thought maybe I was off the proverbial Disney racing hook. No such luck.

My daughter had already run three Disney half marathons, but apparently that is not far enough. I have pointed out that you don’t really get anywhere running these things – you start in Walt Disney World and, after a very long time, you finish in Walt Disney World, just in a different part of it. She is unmoved.

After a little guilt loving and gentle prodding by the Blogette, I agreed, thinking it would involve minimal training based on my starting condition. That starting condition promptly went down the drain when I blew out my left calf a week later (that may be a slight exaggeration, but the doc did say he thought I had torn it slightly). So, my training regimen now consisted of sitting on the couch and, in the event I had to get up and put weight on my calf, whimpering. I of course thought my racing days were over, at least in the short term.

Wrong again.

And so the day came, the day of the 2019 Star Wars Half Marathon.

The race itself was titled Rival Run because the runners are each assigned to either the Light or Dark Side of the Force. Unfortunately, this didn’t mean the two sides competed against each other. We weren’t allowed to trip or shove the opposite side off the course during the race, for example. I was on the Dark Side, and this seemed to me exactly the kind of thing I ought to have been doing to be consistent with my character. This was your idea, Disney.

No dice. They insisted all the runners be nice to one another.

If you’re unfamiliar with Disney race weekends, here’s the basic gist:

The running happens over the course of three days. There is a 5k on Friday, a 10k on Saturday, and everything culminates with the half marathon on Sunday. You sign up for any combination thereof, to include just a single race, which is what most people do. Once a year, over a weekend in January, things are changed up because there is a legitimate 26.2-mile full marathon. I have no personal experience with that weekend because, at least for now, my wife and daughter don’t actively hate me.

So, having secured entry into your race of choice, by which I mean paid Disney a sufficient quantity of money, you show up at (hopefully) sunny Walt Disney World and head to the ESPN center to pick up your race bib (see above photo), which is the little numbered paper placard you attach to your shirt, along with the few bits of swag Disney gives you. This primarily consists of a running shirt commemorating the weekend. It’s a good quality running shirt, I will give them credit for that.

There is a large running expo there at the ESPN center as well.

It’s pretty fun, really. A collection of stores and vendors rent out space on the expo floor for their sales booths. With the right frame of mind, this is immensely entertaining. You get to look at all the running-themed merchandise people would rather have than money. This includes outfits, commemorative racing medal hangers, and gear. So much gear. This is the best part. There are running shoes, running socks, running watches, running snacks, running supplements, running leggings, running hats, running skirts, shorts, pants, kimonos, etc., all of it Specially Designed™ to Decrease Your Time and/or Enhance Your Run™! These products are accompanied by professionally photographed top running athletes so as to create the impression they became top running athletes by using the products, and thus create the further impression that they will work in like manner for you.

It is completely unrelated to what we’re talking about that the Walt Disney Company’s chief product is fantasy.

Anyway, on race day you have to arrive very, very early. The course took the runners through three of the four Disney World theme parks, all of which still have to open on time, so the race has to start early. We arrived at around 3:20 am. Not kidding.

There is a booth selling coffee.

There are also DJs, photo ops with various Star Wars characters, running announcers, just all kinds of stuff to keep folks interested and the energy level up. And there are the runners themselves. About a quarter of the population of North America shows up to these Disney races, so you have excellent opportunities to people watch. As I alluded to earlier, it is extremely popular to dress up in themed costumes. My daughter and I didn’t have time to make costumes, but we did buy running shirts meant to look like Storm Trooper outfits.

At one point, we had to have a talk with our manager...

He’s the stern type. Not too talkative. As we walked up he pointed and said, “Take your place at my side.”

(Admit it, you read that in James Earl Jones’ voice)

Others go all out with their costumes. And not everyone does a Star Wars character. To me, the hands down best belonged to a guy who dressed up as the Swedish Chef from the Muppets and the entire race carried a cooking pot with a Star Wars critter in it. I didn’t get a picture of him, I’m sorry to say, but just take a second and imagine that look. The chef’s apron and shirt, the toque (chef’s hat), the huge mustache and eyebrows you can’t really see under, then the silver pot with the critter in it...all the while running next to you and muttering in fake Swedish. Ok, got it?

Trust me, in real life it was way better.

There are other photo op characters, of course.

Now it’s time to start the race. Wheelchairs and hand cycles go first, followed by Corrals filled with runners grouped together by previous race times, if any. The Corrals proceed out sequentially every few minutes, each one with a slower average running speed than the one in front of it. Corral A consists of elite runners with average speeds in the neighborhood of “Gazelle Escaping A Lioness.” They’re the first Corral to start followed by B, C, etc. culminating in Corral H, whose runners have an average speed of “Wounded Sloth.” So, provided your speed is anywhere north of “Fire Hydrant,” there’s a Corral for you!

Disclaimer: I am not making fun of slow runners. In fairness, I’ve been gently teasing pretty much every aspect of the weekend, but all in good fun with no ill intent. These Disney races are only about the time if you want them to be. Of the thousands who show up, most don’t actually “run” them in any meaningful sense. They enter them and maneuver the course, stopping along the way for pictures with characters, selfies in front of Disney landmarks, photos with other runners in memorable costumes, etc. Unless it’s the Swedish Chef. You just have to mourn the loss of that photo. Anyway, the point is people do these races for the experience. They run with friends and laugh along the way. Most finish, some don’t, but these events have been the catalysts for countless people to change their lifestyles, to become just a little more active, to improve themselves in one small way. And once they’ve improved in one tiny area, like gently running a couple of times a week, what other small changes might they make?

Now back to the race. So, your Corral is up next. You’ve been training (umm, well), you’re ready (sort of), you’re poised (eh), and raring for the off (very much so). You know the first thing you’re going to do when you finally pass that glorious starting line. You will immediately, without a second’s hesitation, as if by instinct...begin looking for the first bathroom you can find. Because the Helpful Disney Folks® having been harping about the humidity and practically demanding you hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, for the last 90 minutes, every single minute of which you have been dutifully obeying their instructions, and now you have to pee, pee, pee, and there is NO BATHROOM IN THE CORRAL HOLDING AREA!!

This is why my daughter and I, though we got pictures in front of every Mile Marker from 2 through 13, did not get a picture of Mile Marker 1 – we did not care. We just needed a port-a-potty right the heck now!

We eventually found one, somewhere just shy of Mile Marker 2. After that things got a lot more enjoyable. For example, I’d never ended up in a firefight at Walt Disney World before.

There were nice moments after sunup, too. We ran through the Animal Kingdom at one point, which was very cool.

We stopped now and then when something or someone caught her eye. For some reason, she wanted a picture with the overgrown Oompa Loompa wearing the Zebra leg headdress.

But for the most part we kept on moving. She was better at spotting Disney photographers than I was. Over 9 miles in and she still had the presence of mind to give this one Runway Model Glamour Eyes.

Everything culminated in what I think was a nice little moment.

She even set a personal record!

So, yeah, a few things about the weekend aren’t ideal. The price is a little steep. Bathroom placement is suboptimal. I never got my Swedish Chef photo. But that picture know what, I’ll keep that a lot longer than I would the few bucks it set me back.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Food, Glorious Food

I have a little family secret to share - my adult children call us snobs.  They make fun of their poor parents and sometimes their younger sisters.  They claim that we make comments like, "I can't eat THAT pizza. Once you've had pizza in Italy its just not the same!" or "I just can't have American Chinese anymore, I've eaten that in China and its just not the same."  

I will neither confirm nor deny the truth of their statements, but I will say, during our recent discussions of our upcoming trip to England, the foods we want to eat did take precedence over the sights we want to see (but decidedly NOT over the people we want to see.)


At the top of our list is sticky toffee pudding and scones and clotted cream with jam!  Fish and chips (no photo), English ale, and the assorted desserts are also high on our list!

 England gets a bad rap for their food, but it really is delicious.  Italy on the other hand is known for its food and there's no wonder!!  Yum! Yum! Yum!!


What's not to love about a country that routinely serves up espresso, homemade pasta, Balsamic vinegar, tiramisu and gelato?!!

Aloha Hawaii!!  

While one may go to feast her eyes on its tropical beauty, a luau provides its own feast and a Dole Whip on a hot sunny day is quite the refreshing delight!!


Experiencing the food at any given destination is a part of the cultural experience.  In my opinion, this is more true in China than any place I've ever traveled.  When you enter a truly authentic local establishment where English is not spoken and you have to rely on photos, smiles, nods and pointing of fingers to get your meal, it only adds to the cultural adventure.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal with another family at a Hot Pot restaurant where plates of meats and vegetables were delivered to our table and we booked them in little pots in front of us.

My favorite cultural experience with food in China - enjoying my specially ordered bowl of longevity noodles in honor of my birthday.  DELICIOUS!

Jasmine tea in a local park as we chilled with the locals and had neck and ear massages.


And sometimes what you get is definitely not what you pictured when you ordered.  I present to you a "vegetarian pizza" and a "potato" in Romania.  Sometimes it works out in your favor, and well, sometimes, you're just hungry enough to laugh and eat up!