Saturday, March 31, 2012

Just Around the Corner

Destination: Biltmore Estate
Total Miles: 120
Cost: $20 ( bought my ticket and I just paid for gas)

"We're just going to a house around the corner." Kudos to Mom for the title. Not so much on the directions. I have (to mother's chagrin) trained the LPs on timing for road trips. So when we had left the house and not arrived at Biltmore within a few minutes (which they inferred from mom's directions), the general outcry from the back seat was to be somewhat expected. Mom was able to explain the true distance, and disaster was temporarily averted.

This was an unusual trip for me, mainly that mom came with us, and Grandma Rush and Robin (Mom's youngest sibling) met us at Biltmore. But true to form, they kept things lively...anybody who knows that side of the family knows how crazy they are. Especially when they are together. NEVER a dull moment.

We left around 0930 and didn't get back until almost 1800 (6pm for you normal people). Because it was considered "off season" we were able to do the audio tour for free. The house, however, closed at 3:30pm.

I should have prefaced this post by stating that I have been to Biltmore before...but the times I've gone, I've been paid to go. By Biltmore, no less. Hehe. A music team I traveled with in 2009 sings occasionally at Christmastime in the Winter Garden. So, I've seen the house (in bits and pieces) and some of the grounds. But never in the Spring...and I could not have asked for a more beautiful day to visit! 

If you have not had the opportunity to visit the Biltmore Estate, I would highly recommend it (both at Christmastime and the rest of the year). Check out their site to learn more about the house and when to visit.

The kids loved the audio tour! They've been learning about American history in school, and of course with their teacher (aka: Mom) on this field trip, they recited the facts they've learned about the Vanderbilts. I loved learning about random facts, not only about the house, but about living at the turn of the century. (It was like visiting an American version of PBS' Downton Abbey).

Coming off my night shift-self and trying to be a day person was a little harder for me (come to find out, the older one gets, the more sleep one needs to function at a level of compatibility with the world at large). By the time we were leaving, I was finally waking up (this is my theory) and felt more freedom to be myself. That, coupled with the fact that the masses of visitors had dissipated, I had mom take the following pics (proof that I have some of her side of the family in me)...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Packing 101

This is really a Travel Tip in disguise. Do not be fooled by it's status as a New Post!

Several of my friends have questioned me on my method of packing for trips. Be they short or long trips, I put off the bulk of packing to the last minute (sometimes literally). My motto could be: why do today what could be put off until tomorrow.

I have found that the more I travel, the packing has become. What used to take me a couple hours, now, on average, takes less 30 minutes. No joke.

For those readers who do not know me extremely well, allow me to shed some light into my brain. As long as I can remember, I have LOVED making outlines. Long, short, three points, scores of points, sentence, one-word, etc...the more complex, the more I relished the process. Came in very handy in my English classes!

So, Tip One: make an outline.

It doesn't have to be super creative. In fact, it can be as simple as:
1. Clothes-jeans, t-shirts, pajamas, church
2. Shoes-brown, black
3. Bathroom-make-up, hair-stuff, towels
4. Other-pillow, blanket, book, iPod, chargers

That took all of 1 minute to make. Mine are a little more extravagant (using Roman numerals, details regarding specific items, and quantities), but you get the gist. I normally make it sometime the week before I leave. This gives me time to think it over, add or detract from the list, and consider where everything is located. Now, I carry my iPhone which doubles as notebook and can adjust my outlines whenever I want. Ideally, you should utilize spare minutes (Biblical principles at work: "redeeming the time.")

The outlines serve a dual purpose on my longer trips. I have a tendency of misplacing things and also forgetting what I have brought. At the end of my trip, when I am rushing around trying to discover if I've left anything important, I am able to pull out my outline and double-check items. (I tend not to do this on shorter trips, which results in an increased likelihood of items getting left behind.)

Tip Two: NEVER forget these items

1. Toothbrush (I keep an extra in my make-up bag just in case I forget)
2. Hairbrush (usually obvious, but still an item that ends up getting left)
3. Wallet---with ID (especially if you're traveling by plane, have your ID handy)
4. Underwear (pack extra)
5. Pillow (if you're picky about your pillow, just take yours. I am, and almost never travel without it)

I'm sure you can think of more. Make sure they get on your list.

Tip Three: watch for items that get over-packed.

(this is for the benefit of a couple of my siblings...)
1. Shoes (you really don't have to have a pair per outfit! just make sure you have a church pair if you're visiting church)
2. Shirts (clothes in general is a murky area...girls tend to overpack because we can't decide what outfit we think we're going to want...whatever you do, don't pack your entire wardrobe)
3. Towels (most places you visit will have these available. so check it out beforehand to save space)

Here again, I'm sure there are more. Find your weakness and then work on it!

Tip Four: pack things in the same place every time

For those of you who, like me, travel a little more often, every time you pack your bags, put items in the same place. Example: all my shoes go in pockets, all my shirts go in the same pile and are stacked in the same corner, my curlers/hairdryer/hairbrush go at the bottom of the get the idea. This will help you in making sure you have the basics.

I'm a procrastinator. And I have adapted my packing habits to suit my procrastination. Perhaps you are one of those odd people who packs a week in advance, then unpacks, repacks, double-checks, adds to, etc...I used to wish I was like that. Tried it once. My room looked like it had upchucked...and I drove myself (and Charity) crazy...for a week.

Then I realized that I am me. No one else. And the outlining works wonders for me. Give it a try! Perhaps, even if you are an unhinged-I mean, organized and proactive-person who packs over a week in advance, you will find that having at least a general list will cut back on packing time.

Don't get stressed. Packing can be fun, if you let it be. So...hurry up and get packing! Traveling is worth it!

Charles, trying to stow away to Boston

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Past Two Cornfields (Part 2)


Before proceeding any further, please make sure you've read Part 1 or there may be corny things that don't make sense. :) (Sorry...pun not originally intended but left in after editing for entertainment's sake.) that we have that order of business sorted out, here is the rest of my tale. Be warned that pen and ink cannot alone describe the weather those bitterly, blustery cold days which I will now recapitulate for you.

I'm really not quite sure what time I got up Monday morning, but suffice it to say it was early for me (maybe around 7:30 or 8?). On my way down to my destination, I stopped over at my cousin Rachel's to drop off a crib that had been in my vehicle for weeks. We talked and caught up, then I headed off...sometime between 9:30 and 10, maybe?

Of course to get off the Eastern Shore, I had to drive across yet another bridge...this one sans tunnels. It was a somewhat overcast day. The temperature when I had left Galena was around 28F. And of course, I had not brought proper ''winter'' clothes. I typed "Lincoln Memorial" into my GPS, which brought up some random place in the midwest. So, I added "Washington, DC" to the "Lincoln Memorial" which resulted in the correct   place. Because I was in no hurry, had no immediate plans (aka: was not meeting anyone until 5pm), and didn't particularly care where I ended up, I was able to enjoy driving around, and around, and around, and once more around trying to find free available parking. After passing the Washington Monument from 3 of the 4 sides, I found a nice parallel parking area with the perfect space left for a vehicle of Mr. Darcy's size complete with views of the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial.

At one point, I thought I was seeing specks, so I shook my head (precipitating in my earbuds falling out...NOTE: when I travel by myself and tour various things, I play through bunches of music. Loud enough I can hear it, low enough I can hear what everyone else is saying. Monday's playlist consisted of soundtracks* from Gettysburg, The Patriot, Little Women, and some random songs such as Summon the Heros, Theme from Saving Private Ryan, and Sweet Liberty from Jane Eyre Broadway.)...the specks kept coming and going, and I decided I was definitely seeing things.

The Lincoln Memorial was grandiose, just as I remembered it. I had a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment (one of my favorite actors...Jimmy Stewart. Classic, classic movie that if you haven't seen you MUST watch before traveling to DC). Of course, being the good daughter I am, I called my dad to share the moment. After reading through the Gettysburg Address and the inaugural speech etched in the stone inside the monument (yes, a Southern girl like me can appreciate one of the greatest presidents, even if he was a catalyst for the War of Northern Aggression), I opted to skip the National Park Service guide and walk around in the general direction of the Capitol Building.

I would highly recommend the walk to anyone appropriately dressed for the weather. Great walk, but I was so cold wearing only a pair of jeans, 2 thin long-sleeved shirts, equally thin fleece vest, rain coat, and green-happy-shoe-moccasins (I hate socks...and hated that I wasn't wearing any that day), that my brisk pace prohibited me from truly enjoying the grandeur. On the way to the Capitol, you will pass Lincoln's Reflecting Pool...which of course was under construction; the majestically solemn WWII Memorial; the magnificent obelisk Washington Monument...which has been closed since the earthquake; the Mall...large area of land, not to be confused with a real mall; and multiple Smithsonians.

About 3/4s of the way to the Capitol, I decided the random specks were annoying, and began to search for a place to consume items which would aid in ceasing the apparently rapid dropping of my blood sugar.

At this point, I made a phenomenal discovery! My hands were so cold that my iPhone touchscreen was unable to respond to my touch! AHHH! insert quiet moment of solitary panic in which my mind envisioned me wandering around DC for hours unable to find sustenance...

The sensible side of me won out, and I sat down in front of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Capitol Building (I was so cold that I barely noticed the chill of the pavement) and stuck my hands between my knees. They warmed up, the sun came out, and after taking a couple pictures, I located a place to eat. Best panini I've had in a long time. And kind of fun to eat in a back-alley-obviously-political-gathering-spot with people in suits. I then located the first Starbucks I could find and purchased my classic hot chocolate and a Washington DC mug.

On the walk back, I walked into a couple Smithsonians...and after passing security clearance, checked out the gift stores then headed out. Must go back and visit more someday!

After passing the Lincoln Memorial again, the sky clouded up...and the specks started again. For sure, it was snowing! Or at least flurrying. Which is still just as cool. People probably thought I was crazy taking a picture of my coat, but I caught a snowflake and it had to be recorded as proof I wasn't going crazy.

I drove around, following signs to Mt. Vernon...which I never saw the front of, but somehow managed to find the backside of and a perfect spot for Darcy to sit while I took a couple pictures (the warmth of the vehicle made it difficult to stay out longer than that). Then I booked it to the northern side of Baltimore to meet up with Meredith, Josh and little Joshua Dew for supper at the Cheesecake Factory in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. We had tons of fun catching up and talking over supper and dessert, but all too soon it was time to head back to the Eastern Shore.

Of note on my drive back, I went up instead of down, leading to only a $3 toll but landing me on some very deserted roads...I had been warned that deer like to run out at cars (much like some southern squirrels), so I kept a sharp eye out for any sign of movement. The only sign I saw (literal sign) was a yellow sign with the silhouette of a horse and buggy. Definitely a first and instant favorite. But given the lateness of the hour I was driving, I saw neither deer nor buggy.

The little girls had gone home while I was in DC, so Tuesday I had Cindy and Steve to myself, and we spent some time talking and discussing Apples (which was fun to do, sitting around with our MacBook Pros, iPads/iPhones, and comparing and sharing). Cindy and I went to Rachel's for lunch then did a little consignment shopping. I wanted to meet up with a friend and had to be somewhere by 4:30.

I had the opportunity of meeting up with Sarah Bates (formerly Custer), a high school friend who lives with her husband in the Virginia Beach area. They had a soccer game that afternoon, so I dropped by, met a couple of the soccer moms, and ate supper with the team. Had a great time catching up with Sarah and meeting her husband, Andrew. Hopefully on future trips, I'll be able to spend more time with them. :)

The last leg of my journey wouldn't have been complete without another night spent at Laurie and Matt's. I'm so thankful that we have been able to be friends even though we met under tough circumstances (aka NICU). It has been decided that they are a good almost-halfway-point between home and the Maryland relatives, and I am looking forward to stopping by there again. The trip home with Jenn and Taylor went well...we discovered that Taylor didn't care as much for the interstate as she did regular roads, but all in all she did very well...and Jenn and I enjoyed discussing various topics of interest.

"Parting is such sweet sorrow" but thankfully, I am already formulating future trips...seeing as my relatives live 1 1/2 hours from not only DC and Balitmore, but also Philly, Lancaster, Ocean City, NJ, etc...which clearly means more road trips and adventures to be had (which I am eagerly anticipating). So as they say: until next time!

*disclaimer: I do not endorse any movies mentioned, merely the soundtracks as sources of musical enjoyment and mood-setting...   

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Past Two Cornfields (Part 1)

Destination: Maryland, Washington DC, Baltimore, etc
Total Miles: 1776 (no joke)
Cost: approx. $400

"Turn left at the second road, go past two cornfields, then take the next road to the left..."

Directions are a tricky thing...if you are getting them from a GPS (mine is a garmin nuvi, named Edmond Dantes...more to come on Edmond later) you have to worry about it not being updated; if you try to follow directions off a smartphone you will have to worry about not pushing the button for the next directions fast enough; if you are following printed directions from Google Maps or MapQuest you CANNOT stray off course or you will spend precious time trying to get back to the charted course; and if you ask people for directions you risk getting ones that only make sense to locals (see the above quote...a family joke).

I do not normally have issues with directions...I can keep a halfway decent map in my head, especially if I have been to a place once (barring places I go immediately after working 12 brain does not focus on details after work). But I have been known occasionally to get lost (rarely, I should say). Typically, it is due to following directions (whether road signs, written directions, or spoken directions) that are faulty (by my standards). So, telling a Southern girl to ''go past two cornfields'' when I'm not even sure what defines a single or how to tell when one stops and another starts, creates the unique situation of me becoming directionally challenged.

And in Maryland, there are many, MANY cornfields.

But, cornfields are all (I would like to imagine) wanting to hear about my trip to the North-that-is-still-considered-the-South.

Make sure you've read It's a Dangerous Business to get caught up. Picking up from there:

Sudlersville: Speed Limit 25
Saturday morning, I arose earlier than I normally do...6:30 am. Got a quick shower, then left to help with Men's Prayer Breakfast at church. Not being a breakfast person myself, I was able to enjoy fellowshipping with the lady in charge that morning, Maria, and my cousin Rachel's oldest, Alaina. After cleaning up, I headed to Sudlersville (after stopping for gas as my tank was almost completely empty...warning to all who drive through the Eastern Shore: gas stations are not plenteous, so stop before your gas light comes on!) for lunch with Kevin, Kelly, Katelyn and Layton. After enjoying food at the only restaurant in town, we headed over to their place to hang out for a little while. Then it was decided that Kevin, Kelly and I would go to Delaware for some tax-free shopping at the mall. I bought some pants at Lands End in Sears and a bunch of yarn at Michels (it was on sale...and tax-free!). Then we headed back to their house for supper and to watch the Duke-UNC game (which I'm still not discussing).

Sunday morning, I got up early...again. After a shower, Alaina and I went to church to record on the piano the accompaniment for a song I was to sing in the morning service. Both Sunday School and the service were a blessing. I played offertory and sang a special (had almost forgotten that they clap afterwards...something different from Westgate is all). After a delicious lunch of pot roast and mashed potatoes with Cindy, Steve, and Rachel's three girls, I took off for an afternoon drive (forgoing my usual Sunday nap). After driving a little ways and crossing some bridges, I stopped to check my GPS map and see if there was anything interesting around my location. That was how I found Elk Neck State Park...which to get to, I had to drive through North East (the town). About halfway down the stretch to the park, I passed a sign that read "Road Closed 3 Miles." My favorite!!! Sure enough, the road ended at a little parking area. There were signs posted, lots of cars around (even another one from SC!), and I was curious. The signs told me that there was a lighthouse about a half-mile walk down a nice path. No problem...except I was only wearing my church clothes, and everyone I passed was bundled up in heavy winter coats, gloves, hats, scarves, etc. Oh well. It was a pleasant walk (minus the cold) and at the end I was rewarded with a beautiful lighthouse and bay view. Of Note: this lighthouse has been "manned" by more women then men during the however-many-years it had been standing. After a very brisk walk back to my vehicle, I took off...landing myself on I-95 and having to make a hasty exit before I hit tolls. The detour back to church proved worth my time as I enjoyed a spectacular display of God's handiwork. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Six of One, Half-a-Dozen of the Other

For sure, I've heard this phrase before, but it seemed to be the phrase for the weekend. This was mostly used in reference to the location of my aunt and uncle's house...both Baltimore and DC were around an hour and a half from their place...and apparently, so are many other places (for which future road trips will be required: Lancaster, Philly, Ocean City, etc). But there were other instances in which this was used, and it was enough times that I deemed it a worthy title.

Just to give a quick rundown on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (hopefully-as I have to be up all tomorrow night-I will give some more details regarding my trip tomorrow):

Saturday, I was able to help out with the Men's Prayer Breakfast at Cindy and Steve's church in Galena. After which, I was able to meet up with my uncle and aunt, Kevin and Kelly, for lunch...which turned into a shopping trip to Delaware (tax-free) and supper at their house while watching the Duke-UNC game (which will NOT be talked about!).

Sunday, in between morning and evening church services, I was able to do some driving about...and ran across a beautiful park-complete with lighthouse! I also ended up in Delaware and made a random stop at Home Depot.

Monday...I'm still not quite sure how I fit everything into that day...after a stop at my cousin Rachel's, I drove to Washington DC, checked out the Mall (where I nearly froze, and spotted some snowflakes!) and some monuments...and Starbucks, then I drove down to Mount Vernon (George Washington's home) where I couldn't find the front of the house and ended up taking a pic of the back, from there I skipped on up to Baltimore and met up with Meredith and Josh (and baby Joshua) for supper at the Cheesecake Factory in the Inner Harbor, and lastly I drove back and got in to Galena around 11...something. :)

What I learned from Monday:
1. There is free parking to be found if one is willing to drive around in circles in DC.
2. Half of everything up here is closed because it's the 'off-season.'
3. When the forecast says 40 F, it really means 30F...when it says 30% rain, it means 100% snow flurries.
4. While it may be equi-distant from Baltimore to Galena if you go north or south, it is cheaper to go the northern route ($3 v. $12).
5. Yes. Your fingers can be so cold that your touchscreen phone doesn't pick them up.

That's a quick overview of my travelings...stay tuned for the complete and unabridged version ( will probably the revised and abridged version).

Friday, March 2, 2012

"It's a Dangerous Business"

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -Bilbo Baggins, LOTR

In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien introduces his readers to the delightful folk known as hobbits. They do not like adventures, are quiet people who love a spot of good tilled earth, and yet, when they are called upon, are found to be made of remarkable stock. While I would like to compare myself to these charming people (and my siblings would like to compare me to them, as I am turning out to be the shortest Guidinger kid), I will freely admit to dabbling in this "dangerous business." Willingly allowing myself to be swept off to wherever the next adventure leads. 

Just wanted to quickly update everyone on my current road trip...which is a true road trip this time. A month or so ago, I started getting that infectious bug, a little itch that causes me to wonder what new place I can visit next. And upon reviewing places I would like to visit, I settled on visiting with some relatives. My mom's second oldest sister (Aunt Cindy) and mom's brother (Uncle Kevin) both live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Which, is conveniently located near Delaware (tax-free shopping, anyone?) and the thriving metropolis of Baltimore...and only 4 hours from the country's capital. And (perhaps even more conveniently) only a few hours north of Laurie, Matt, and my Little Man-Nate (aka my of my A+ NICU graduates).

So, after working Tuesday and Wednesday night, I caught about 30 of my 40 winks on Thursday morning. I had happened to text my friend Jenn to see if she needed anything from her sister (who lives near Laurie) and found out that Jenn was actually contemplating a visit. So, after getting my oil changed, picking up some delicious Stax's Omega cake for Laurie and Matt, filling up on gas, and purchasing some items for my aunt, I loaded up my stuff (which reminds me...I need to write some travel tips on packing as quickly and efficiently as possible) and picked up Jenn and baby Taylor. 

The drive to VA took about an hour longer than planned because of traffic (Jenn called it "rumble-strip counting traffic"), and at one point, I was thoroughly convinced that we were having a post-apocalyptic moment (we were the only northbound vehicle, southbound traffic was backed up for miles, and bright construction lights plus an overactive imagination added up to the crazy hyperbole ). But we made it safely, and after dropping Jenn and Taylor off, I drove 20 minutes away and got in to Laurie and Matt's before 3 am. 

Today's adventures included going with Laurie and Nate to Gymboree music class (and meeting some adorable babies!), having lunch at No Frill Grill, and driving for 5 hours. But the drive was interesting! Mr. Darcy carried me safely across a huge Bay Bridge...where I bought him a new bumper sticker...and through some very long underwater tunnels, and on some long roads...all in the rain! Loved the coastal views! 

So here's to whatever adventures are waiting to sweep me off tomorrow, Sunday and Monday!