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On our way!

Thanks for helping us get there!

On to Virginia Beach

After hitting the Embassy Suites’ breakfast buffet (which is pretty good for something included with the room), we loaded up the vehicles with our crap and gas, and headed out for Virginia Beach.

The LOVE  signThe 2-hour drive took longer than necessary because of Lani’s desire to stop at Visitor Centers for free maps. This one had a lot of information, though, and we got some coupons and other things for Virginia Beach.  It was a good stop.  They even had a picture opportunity:

Upon arriving at our hotel, The Cavalier, my brother-in-law, Jim, & I unloaded my van while the females were making their way there.  We checked in and took a load of stuff to our rooms.

Our rooms. *sigh*

Upon each of us entering our own rooms, we dropped the luggage and walked back out and looked at each other.  There was a queen bed with not much room beyond it.  We each had 4 people.  We went back to the desk.  When Jim gave them the ol’ what-for, we got an upgrade, but we were going to be paying for it. I guess it is going to be offset by the hotel gift card and gas card we are getting.

Our roomBoth rooms were not ready right then, so we put all of our luggage in the other family’s room. Everyone else got ready for some beach time and left while I waited for our room to be ready. When I got the call that it was ready, I moved all of luggage to our room and then proceeded to the beach.

The hotel is gorgeous.  I definitely recommend it if you like them from the 1920′s & 30′s. Nice, manicured lawns, good food, and a nice staff are the norm here.

Lobby of the Cavalier

I am not a big fan of travelling far away to sit somewhere and do nothing. I can (and do) do that at home much more easily and comfortably. Oh well. I will get more say in next year’s trip. To mitigate this, I took my iPhone to the beach. I messed around on it a little bit and as is my habit, I put it away in my left pocket.  What is unfortunate, is I had on my swimsuit. They shouldn’t have pockets on those things. Anyway, I went out to play with the kids in the ocean.

Electronics do not like salt water apparently. I had a few problems after this unholy mating. It would act like there was always a headset plugged in and give me a pop up stating that the device wasn’t compatible with the iPhone.  There was no device connected. Twenty-four hours later, I regained use of the earpiece.  By the time we were back in Cincinnati, the pop-ups were pretty much gone. Whew!

There was another family of four that Jim & Annette know from Cincinnati we were meeting there.  They arrived during that afternoon and we made plans for dinner. They come to Virginia Beach fairly often, so they knew where was good to eat, so we went with their recommendation:  Rudee’s on the Inlet.

The food there is excellent…except for the crabcakes. Order anything BUT those.  I had the crabcakes. Everyone else’s dinners were great.  Those were crap.

Lani & Annette on the swingAfterwards, we had dessert & drinks at their little place across from the parking lot with swinging  tables & benches. I don’t think I could eat a whole meal at those and keep all of the food down, but dessert & drinks were fine.

It was then time for bed, so we headed back to the hotel.

Civil War & Soccer in Richmond, VA

Today was a full day in Richmond, VA.  We woke up did our morning ablutions and then got the kids up.  We then broke up into two groups.  Parker & I had put our foot feet down and said we were not going to King’s Dominion, an amusement park. We figured what was the point when don’t really ride the rides.  So…we went on our own adventures while the others went to the park.  I dare say we had more fun.

We had come up with a game plan that you will find as we go through this post.

We wanted to see some Civil War stuff.  First was the White House of the Confederacy.  After following Parker’s questionable map skills for awhile, we arrived.  It was closed.

We were off to a great start.

I knew the American Civil War Museum opened at 9am, so we headed there.  This place was great.  We learned a lot.  There were actually to places: a Civil War Museum encompassing the whole of the Civil War and an old iron factory (Tredegar) where they made the Confederacy’s cannons. The latter was actually a National Park. This was cool.  I have been to National Parks before, but I didn’t know about the passport program. This is where you go to National Parks and collect cancellation stamps, etc.  I bought four of them for the family.  When the park’s ranger(?) asked if I wanted them all stamped, I said, “No. Just two of them. The others aren’t here.”

They also had something for kids where they got a free booklet that led them through the exhibits by doing different activities.  Parker ripped through those and earned himself a badge for his efforts. After this was over, we had to get to our next activity.

Before leaving Kansas City, I had checked all of the soccer schedules for various teams and leagues to see what I was going to be able to watch and what I had to try to record. With Parker’s and my defection from King’s Dominion, we were going to  be able to watch the US Women’s National Team play in the Women’s World Cup Final. Before, when the US Men played in KC, I had joined the American Outlaws, a US Soccer supporters group.  I used my connections there and got on Twitter to contact the chapter in Richmond and arranged to join their watch party at Gus’.

This was fun and at times fairly wild.

Even though the women lost in penalty kicks, we had a great time eating, celebrating, bemoaning, and generally having fun. There were points in the celebrating that people were throwing water (I was worried for a bit that I was going to bring Parker back smelling like beer). The end result of our time at Gus’? A fantastic time with some really good people. If you are there, stop by and catch a game or just meet them.

After their heart-breaking loss, we headed out from the bar. I had a charging cord for my iPhone that was breaking, so I found an Apple Store and got a new one and Parker got a new case for his iPod Touch.  We headed back to our hotel to chill after filling up the Cosgroves’ car. We were driving that so they could use the van since they had 6 people.

Shortly after getting back, we started thinking about dinner and ended up ordering pizza since the others had quit the park early.  I would tell you about their day, but I don’t know about it.  Rides, I guess.  Dinner, showers for the kids, beer, tv, and bed were what was left for the day.

This post was longer, but more had happened.  If any of them feel like contributing their activities I may update.

Day 6 – The Last Day in China

Sounds like a bad movie.

It’s been a wild ride both figuratively (general travel issues) and literally (I can’t express the fear & adrenaline laced bus rides well enough).

7:18 pm 3/17/2011 CST – 8:18 pm 3/18/2011 local
Beijing Railway Station

We have arrived back in Beijing on time. I was pretty surprised considering we had to switch engines in the middle of the night.

Many are unhappy that we are not stopping at the hotel first to clean up. If we do, we wind up not fitting everything into the day. The guides are also in the same boat, so I don’t feel like complaining.

We head off to breakfast at a nearby hotel (not ours) and then depart for the Summer Palace.

9 pm 3/17/2011 CST – 10 am 3/18/2011 local
The Summer Palace

We have arrived at the Summer Palace. This place involves the same story about the Dragon Lady and the baby dumplings from the night before. It is quite beautiful.

Other highlights include:
• A persistent young boy trying to either sell postcards or pick everyone’s pockets (unsuccessfully). Either way he also enjoyed making fun of…

• …Malcolm, who got handed some non-Chinese money as change. Malcolm was obviously upset, but took it in stride. At least the money wasn’t that much.

• The world’s largest corridor

• Lunch

1 am CST – 2 pm Local
Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City

Pictures. Keep walking. No stopping. More pictures. Keep walking. No stopping.

Thus were our instructions from our guide, Lee.

Ancient, beautiful, steeped in history (both good and bad), and more. The vastness of Tiananman Square with its modern, pervasive surveillance is in stark contrast to the colorful ornateness of the Forbidden City with it’s almost palpable sense of ghosts of the past, in spite of the hordes of tourists of various nationalities.

When I visit both modern and ancient places with a huge history, I tend to imagine the people that tread there before me. It can be overwhelming at times.

4:15 am CST – 5:15 pm local
Flying Acrobatics Show

Before dinner, we attended an acrobatics show. Flexibility, strength, and balance were all on display.

I hope my video turned out so I can post it here.

6 am CST – 7 pm local
Peking Roast Duck

Peking Duck is an old name. It is actually now called Beijing Duck. I don’t particularly care for duck, but this was delicious. The kids enjoyed it also, although I am sure yearnings for burgers and fries is becoming overwhelming.

From here, we left for the hotel…and showers. Sweet, blissful showers. Check-in bags down to the lobby by 10:30 pm and then to bed for the 3:30 am wake up call.

Day 5 – Terra-cotta and Dumplings

All of the gigs are done. Now it’s time for just sightseeing.

6:30 pm CST – 7:30 am local
Wake up calls

Every morning, Music Celebrations International makes sure every room gets a wake up call. From what I understand, it is just a call they don’t understand. I say “they” because I have never been in the room for one. I am usually up and about for at least an hour beforehand.

Anyway, it is nice not to have to do that ourselves.

Luggage had to be down and ready to go to the train (packed, locked, etc.) back to Beijing by 8 am with a 9 am departure by bus. Breakfast also had to be eaten by then at the hotel’s buffet.

8:30 pm CST 3/16/2011 – 9:30 am local 3/17/20
Terra-cotta Warriors & Horses Museum

Before we actually get to go see where the Terra-cotta soldiers were buried, we get to see how they make the replicas, both large and small. After seeing this, we have a chance to…wait for it…

…relieve us of our oh-so-heavy money.

11pm 3/16/2011 CST – 12 pm 3/17/2901 local

A local place. I may be able to get a name off of a picture that I took. Again, better than the last with a couple of new dishes.

I will take a moment to note the use of chopsticks.

I can’t.

I have attempted to no avail. Others can. They make me mad with their air of superiority and little looks and smirks as others and myself make use of the forks provided. I wish I had a knife to whittle the and of one so I could simply stab the food and go all caveman on it…or use it on one of their hands when they smirk at me one…more…time.

Uh-oh. After that last comment I think I need a nap.

12:30 am CST – 1:30 pm local
Terra-cotta Warriors & Horses Museum

This is something I have been excited about ever since finding out we were headed to China. We get to see the real ones now.
These things are amazing. Simply the amount of work that went into making them over years and years is awe inspiring. I will post some pics here when I get home.

It is also a beautiful day today. Sunny and in the 60′s. Most aren’t wearing coats. I think Chris Jones may have taken a nap on a bench.

3:30 am CST – 4:30 pm local
Dumpling Feast

As we got to the restaurant I am reminded just how good our bus drivers are. They seem to fit into any space to park or to drive through. I bet I could put a dime on the ground and they could make the bus do tricks all while keeping one tire on the dime.

I keep asking, but they won’t let me drive. I also think that if the bus drivers had an uprising and started taking out pedestrians, China would no longer need the “one child policy”. Actually, if they did, I would be fearful. There are A LOT of buses here.

Anyway. The Dumpling Feast.


That’s all. I’m done.

Actually, no I’m not. It never seemed to end. Spicy pork, chicken & mushroom, pork & mushroom, and many other varieties and combinations kept being brought out in a veritable never-ending, gluttonous orgy of small delectable pieces that even I could properly pick up with chopsticks, culminating in a state of blissful fullness only tempered by the knowledge of having to endure another train ride this evening.

At the end of the meal we were given soup and a story about the Dragon Lady and baby dumplings. I won’t relate the whole story (ask your kids and see if they were paying attention), but 9 baby dumplings were placed in the roiling soup before being ladled into our bowls. If we received any number of dumplings other than 4, it meant some sort of good luck. While we have an unlucky number of 13, theirs is 4.

All told, a very enjoyable meal.

6:30 am CST – 7:30 pm local
Xi’an Railway Station

Another train ride. Once asleep, these aren’t bad since we have sleeper compartments. Until the sweet blissfulness of unconsciousness, though, they can be hot and cramped.

They were an interesting experience for a first time train ride for many of us. Not necessarily horrible, but definitely interesting.


Scrapbook Photos10/2/11
Man U VisitNew Grill 2009

Thanks for visiting my site. Posts have been infrequent, but should become more regular in the upcoming weeks.