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A Splendiferous Start to Our Summer (May 31st - June 9th, 2024)

Updated: Jun 27

Our summer kicks off in Miami with Vovo and Vova, school finished Thursday, I had neighborhood poker Friday and Daisa is in Miami helping her Mom after a minor procedure. Azlan and I catch a train to Miami to join Daisa and her family for our last weekend together! We have an extensive summer planned, and are moving faster than in the motorhome. To tee it up, we are moving slowly from Florida to Newark over ten days, seeing friends along the way. 12 days in Iceland, 10 in NY with friends and family, 10 days in NH and ME hiking and white water rafting, 2 weeks in Nova Scotia and then a very long drive home! This blog however is about the first ten days. We arrive in Miami and spend theee days on the boat, beach and pool relaxing as much as possible and enjoying.

We go home for just two days to pack for an entire summer gone…Daisa is stressed is an understatement! My car was totaled while we were in Miami, so we had to return the rental and now we have one car…more stress! However Daisa and I are a pretty good team and in the first day we are mostly packed. Enough so that she heads off to a last couple classes the next night and says I think we are good! Trying to burn up all that’s left in the fridge, Azlan and I have bacon and pancakes for dinner that night, managed to get five suitcases into the luggage carrier on the roof, and everything else in the back back. We have the larger side of the seat set up for resting, but some luggage has to be moved into whatever seat is vacated so someone can lay down. It seems as though we have a pretty decent setup…time will tell!

Friday, 31 May we locked up the house, loaded our asses in the car and rolled out! Next stop - Georgia to see friends and spend the night. The drive was uneventful, long and straight up I-95, which is good, but boring! Our friend there had the day off, and we wanted to catch a little time with him and his son before his wife finished work and the real reunion could commence. We arrived in Savannah about 2:30 and Azlan immediately had a friend to play with! #poundwinning They played for a bit and then we went to the pool in their neighborhood…legit place with a water slide and service for food and drinks! We had a blast catching up and reminiscing about old times. His wife and other son return from work and guitar lessons and we prep Tacos for dinner, we love tacos and missed them this week, so this is a total win! It’s amazing to break bread with friends you haven’t seen in a while at home, so much better than going to loud and disruptive restaurant in my ever so humble opinion. This still leads to a far later bedtime than normal, these kids were having a ball! But isn’t that the point? Quality time with those that matter to us?

The next morning I woke up to find Azlan playing video games with his buddy and Daisa already into her coffee with our friends…apparently I’m the lazy guy today! Daisa went for a walk with my buddy’s wife (this was hard for me to write, so I’m clarifying here - I don’t mention specific names in my posts or blogs - so this may seem impersonal, but it most definitely is not, it’s just being a little discreet) while I hung out with him, drank coffee and prepped Orbeez. Orbeez is a water gun that shoots water pellets, which you soak overnight. The shooting war commences and Dads seem like good targets before long. We had a blast! We packed the car, said our goodbyes and hit the road. Great family!

We left later than intended but that’s OK, no rush, it was so nice to see them. We arrived at our next destination, NC, a few hours later and were received by more friends that put us up for a few days. Their house is spectacular, it even smells good when you arrive thanks to their well tended Gardenias! We had a rooms that connected through a bathroom, it was awesome! They even had a badass 173rd Airborne Brigade Hawaiian shirt for me, matchy matchy with my buddy! They had planned a small gathering at home with some of their neighbors, who were all lovely, with home made pizzas! I mean homemade…he makes his own dough, sauce, everything and has a pizza oven in his back yard…it was fucking legit! Azlan chopped wood on a wood splitter designed by a 12 year old girl to make splitting wood easier, lit the fire, learned how to make pizza, helped make the pizzas and even tossed his own dough! It was awesome! And of course, it was another late night…this looks like it’s going to be a thing. So be it!

The next morning I find Azlan sliding down a pole in the den as I am last to rise again…wtf? Not only that, but he has a money gun…a gun that shoots dollar bills rapidly…between the pole and the gun, I don’t know what’s happening when guests aren’t visiting…but I wanna find out! The chef cooks a mean breakfast…did I mention he went to culinary school?..,and we hang out together, a nice slow morning!

Today we join Daisa’s college roommate and her family for lunch. We link up at a restaurant between our houses and have a pretty good meal and reminisce about times gone by and catch up with each other for a few hours. We really enjoy being able to maintain these personal connections, and these travels are a way to get it done and have lots of quality family time as well. The kids are speaking a language none of us understand, but the ladies are chatting away, and so are us mens! It was really great to catch up in person - the phone and internet just aren’t the same. Alas, it’s time, and we say our ‘see ya laters’ before heading back to our friend’s house. Until next time!

We get to their house, and Azlan wants to climb the pole five times in a row…he does it after he learns a trick. We laze around in the afternoon, and our chef makes steaks and chicken we brought back with us for dinner. More reminiscing and lazing around as we chatted the evening away.

Today, Daisa is going back for girl time with her roommate, and Azlan and I are going to Raven Rock State Park for a hike. We do the Raven Rock Loop and Fish Traps for a solid 3.5 miles…with hills and shit…whew…we don’t have those in Florida! Awesome time with my favorite little man! Some exploring and then back to the pole! Going for 10 this time! Daisa says girl time is great, and she’s happy she went. Now we must repack for the next few days. We bring out all the suitcases and take over their living room! Now, I am a pretty organized person, and Daisa and I are pretty good travelers, but our friend (my buddy’s wife) is on a whole other level…and she’s is trying to help us level up! She orders each of a different color of packing cubes, which are little zippered packing pouches of different sizes to really organize your stuff inside your suitcase. Holy hell, this is crazy! At first these are genius, but after some time, we have found they are not good for us in this trip…but if we were traveling for a week and everyone had their own suitcase and we weren’t trying to get us all in one for a few days, these would be amazing! We manage to get all squared away and load most of it back in the car. Alas, We have to move onto DC and our friends have to go back to work. It was incredible to see them and reconnect! Thank you! #whatthistripisallabout

DC…a humongous city…my favorite…we arrive at the Hilton Garden Inn Georgetown which is decent, but damn near on top of the White House! We get to do this because Daisa signed up for a Hilton four day for a deal if we go see their sales pitch on a timeshare. We of course are not buying one, but I’ll stay cheap for a couple hours of not listening. We have our first disagreement as we are arriving, so I leave for a solo walk about the city for a while to regain my composure. Patience isn’t my strong suit, and traveling, even with those I love most, is a patience testing endeavor. Believing that they all have only positive intent is paramount to me not killing anyone! I know they love me and I love them…but sometimes I just get wrapped up somehow, but it’s something I’m working on and trying to be better about. I got to see some cool stuff and went back happier though, so there is a bright side! We figured out dinner and tried to get to sleep, we have a big day tomorrow!

Today a close friend, my Platoon Leader when I was a Platoon Sergeant, is showing us around DC with his family and one of our Squad Leaders from back then! He is in DC as a Congressional Fellow and now is back working for the Army, but still connected to Congress somehow. He gives us an amazing tour around the National Mall, including the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Women’s Vietnam Memorial (Daisa loves this one, she just read The Women, a book about female nurses in Vietnam), The Korean War Memorial (which is redone since ‘21, when we were last here), the WW2 Memorial, The MLK Jr, Jefferson and FDR Memorials and some that I’m sure I’m forgetting. After a lot of miles and sore feet, we come to the Capitol for lunch at the Congress Cafeteria (a glorified DFAC - Dining Facility). He bumps into someone he knows from the Congressman he used to work for and she is about to give a VIP tour around Congress and we can tag along. Badass! We see some cool stuff and even get to walk onto the floor of the House. This was really friggin cool! I find myself thinking about this place and what happens here, and I am in awe. Unfortunately, I struggle to be interested in the men and women who currently occupy these seats, only their predecessors that in my opinion were striving for the good of the American People. I often fail to see the new occupants of these seats as striving for the good of the people, only their own self interests and that of the ones that pay them the most. Am I cynical? Or am I right? Time will tell. After more than ten miles and some seriously sore feet, we say our ‘Until Next Times’, and head back to the hotel by Uber. We are smoked! So smoked in fact, we order Chinese delivery while Daisa attends a meeting. When she returns, we eat and crash!

The next day is 6 June, DDay80! To me, it is incredible that there are no major events planned in our Nations Capitol to celebrate this. I decide I will make my own by going to Arlington National Cemetery.

The morning starts with Timeshare briefing 101. Daisa and I agree beforehand we are not buying anything and we just have to get through it…I think this is mostly for me, she is worried I will be mean to the guy trying to sell this to us. As it turns out, it’s seems interesting, but there has to be a catch, I just haven’t figured it it yet. We get out unscathed, but they tried and finally I had to warn them we said no, and I don’t want to get angry, so please stop. I think the guy sees the hatred in my eyes, immediately backs off and we leave. Whew!

We have plans to have lunch with a great friend, we were 1SGs (First Sergeants) together, and his wife! It is so good to see them! The food is amazing, and we had intelligent conversation which is even better! I get excited about our conversation, which means I get loud and excited, which means everyone around us is looking at us…something I am indifferent about, but not everyone is as immune to it as I am. We are discussing problems facing our youth, their education, opportunities and possible ways ahead for them, and us. It was incredible, but unfortunately it has to end. We say some more See you laters and head back to the hotel. I love this man and his wife like my own family. A good man.

After lunch, I drop Daisa and Azlan off at the hotel, Daisa has an online appt at 4 for Symmetry. Symmetry is a body alignment program she is trying so she can possibly avoid surgery. It strengthens all the little muscles that support your skeleton, and helps make everything be in the places they are meant to be, not the way your body has shaped them to help you compensate for whatever it is that ails you.

I leave Daisa and Azlan for some private time at Arlington National Cemetery. I’m going to watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and visit a friend. The Tomb Guard change was legit, the SOG (Sergeant of the Guard) comes out, introduces himself and says his spiel, which includes telling everyone to be quiet and stand up. He then waits until everyone is on their feet, which takes a bit, not everyone jumped up…he had to look hard at a couple people to get them moving. It was awesome, exactly what I expect from an Infantry Sergeant!

The change goes well, and I set off on a very long walk downhill to see my friend. He has been here since 2005 and every time I’ve visited DC, I go see him. His death and one other haunt me, I cannot bring myself to forgive myself for leaving Italy to be a Drill Sergeant and start my life with Daisa. If I had stayed maybe I could have made a difference, maybe I could have taken their place. I cannot express how happy I am in life, but was it at the cost of my friends’ lives? Do I deserve all I have? I’m not sure I do, and that torments me. All I can do now is live a life worthy of their sacrifice, try to raise my son to be an American worthy of it as well, and pray for forgiveness. I now have what seems like an even longer walk back up the hill which gives me time to think, which isn’t always good. I miss you my friend.

Next up is a scooter ride to see the White House and dinner with another friend. As it turns out, she is going to join us for the scooter ride! First we have to find scooters, then connect to them, and ride to the next one until we all have one. We scoot through the streets and pull in behind the White House. We park, and walk to see what we can, take pictures and chat. We return for the scooters, but one is gone…damn! So we find another and go to the other side. We take some more pictures, and part ways, the ladies head out to go have girl time and Azlan and I explore the National Mall again on a scooter! We had a ball, he picked what to see and we took selfies! #iamaluckyman We have dinner reservations at 6:30, so we turn back after about 30 minutes so we can get there in time. We eat at the hotel restaurant, Chef Geoff, and the food is pretty good…but the company was way better. After catching up and and chowing down, we have to say some more ‘Until Next Times’ before we head up to our room. Tomorrow we go to Philadelphia!

The next morning we head to Arlington, Daisa wants to see the changing of the guard as well. The 3rd Infantry Regiment, Old Guard, put on another spectacular performance! This is the first time I’ve seen a Sentinel change the guard instead of a Sergeant, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a woman wearing the Blue Cord of Infantry in person. When I retired, they were just starting to let women into the Infantry, but I never had the privilege of having one in my unit. I had been an HHC (Headquarters and Headquarters Company) 1SG, and had women in my unit, but never an Infanty one. I hope this is going well for the Army, and not just a Social Justice thing that is hurting the overall combat effectiveness of the Army as a whole.

Now, to Philadelphia! The City of Brotherly Love does not disappoint, it is hands down the friendliest large city I’ve been to in the United States. Azlan was asking questions about its size compared to Miami, and Google told us that it’s the 6th largest incorporated city and Miami is 42nd. Holy shit, I wasn’t expecting that! Wow! We aren’t aware of anyone we know here, so I asked a friend what to do there, and he advised us to take a Hop on Hop off bus city tour so we could decide what to see. Because we went to Arlington, we got there a little later than expected, but that’s good, we get to take the evening city tour as the sun fades across the city! Very cool experience! Daisa and Azlan even got to race up the Rocky Steps!

We are staying in an AirBnB here and it is surrounded by one way streets, which seem to be everywhere here. It’s been a long time since I was in a city set up this way, it’s very quaint. The AirBnB is cute too, and serves its purpose beautifully! The next morning we have breakfast and head out for our day in Philly!

Back on the Hop on Hop off bus we go see the Illusion Museum, Betsy Ross’ house, the Masonic Temple, Art, Love signs, churches, a few more races on the Rocky Steps and more!. A great day! Daisa and I love history and it’s easy for us to get sidetracked. Azlan on the other hand is not so afflicted and he’s constantly keeping us moving. We’ve found that if we want to have time, one of us has to take him away and entertain him, otherwise he won’t leave us alone long enough to think, let alone learn! We got through the day, and saw way more than we would have otherwise. We have been eating out a lot and Azlan asks for dinner cooked at home, so that’s what we do. We stop and pick up some chicken and veggies at the grocery store and head home to cook. Showers, cuddles and bed wrapped up the day.

The next morning we clear out of the AirBnB after breakfast, we have 9:30 reservations for an Independence Hall tour and to see the Liberty Bell. The tour was good, but the National Park Ranger kept saying “Ladies and Gentlemen” a lot, like a real lot, and it was crazily annoying! To see the original “White House”, the place the Constitution was written, where they signed the Declaration of Independence, was unimaginable! Everything about this is awe inspiring! So glad we did this!

After the tour, we head to Newark, NJ! We have a flight tonight, but first we go to the Statue of Liberty at Azlan’s request. I’ve never done this from New Jersey before. We start at Liberty State Park in Jersey City and poke around for a bit before catching the ferry out to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty. It was great, and combined with the morning expedition to the Liberty Bell and Independence hall, it was a great educational opportunity for Azlan! I pray he grows up to be an American worthy of the title.

After we see all the things at the Statue, including sliding down railings…something Azlan has never done before. We head to our long term parking lot where the car will await our return from Iceland! Time to take a Ho Bath (baby wipes) before we dorn new clothes and then we are off to our overnight flight to Iceland! We clear security, get food, and are waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Our flight was supposed to depart at 9:25, but the plane is broken, so they have to get another one, but this takes too long and now we need another pilot. We spend the time playing Quirkle Rummy, and chatting with an older couple. When it’s all said and done, we pushed back about midnight and arrived in Iceland about 2.5 hours later then intended. But we are in Iceland! Let’s Go! #conditwateradventures

Stay tuned for our next blog about our adventures in Iceland!


Ted, Daisa and Azlan

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