Dan Joins Hannah at Woo Girls Reunion III in Richmond, Virginia

I am soft.  Let me explain.

Woo girls outside

Woo Girls – Hannah, Wendy, Maxine, and Bambi

Two years ago, Wendy from Maryland, Maxine from New York, and Bambi from Virginia, all who graduated with Hannah in 1970 from the College of Wooster in Ohio, came to York for the first Woo Girls Reunion.  Last year we all went to Maxine’s place in western New York for the second get-together.  This year we head to Richmond in the Commonwealth of Virginia for Numero Tres.

Rather than manning up and driving the 600+ miles from York through the choking traffic of the Northeast, we decide to fly.  Flying first to Atlanta, we hike the waterfalls trails of Alabama as well as hike and play pickleball in north Georgia.  After five days loving the South, we are set to fly from Atlanta to Richmond for Woo Girls III.

Woo 1 D and H by Delta sign

Arriving two hours early at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport south of Atlanta on Friday morning, we are given the option at the check-in kiosk to volunteer to take a later flight.   If we do, we have the choice of five Delta dollar reimbursements – $100, $200, $300, $400, or $500.  Hannah selects $400, figuring we might get chosen over the “greedier” $500 selectors.

Arriving at the waiting area, soon we are called to the counter and asked if we are still willing to volunteer to take a later flight.  Agreeing to take the 222P flight rather than our 955A, we are now offered $800 in Delta dollars each.   We can’t say yes fast enough.

Having only six volunteers when they need seven as the flight is ready to leave, Delta ups their offer to $900 and nabs their last volunteer.   After the 955A flight departs, the young counter woman calls us up to get our $900 vouchers!  We feel like we won the lottery.

Woo 1A Delta scheduled departure

Waiting four more hours in the Atlanta Airport for $1800 is no sacrifice.  Sending emails and texts from our phones, Hannah writing postcards and me revising blog drafts, sharing a turkey Subway sub, and reading the USA Today, in no time, we are lining up to take our 222P flight to Richmond.

What do you know but Delta overbooks again!  It is NASCAR race weekend in Richmond.  This time they get to $1500 before they get enough volunteers.  We are not a part of the auction.  Earlier I had learned that the next flight is tomorrow.  Wanting no part of finding a place for the night in Atlanta in addition to missing the opening night of Woo Girls III, we board the plane with our hot little $900 bonanza in hand.

Woo 2 welcome to VA sign

After landing at Richmond International, we drive on I-64, then country roads to Quinton (Richmond Metro Area), where our hosts Bambi and Skip welcome us.  With Wendy, Maxine, and her husband Don already here, we catch up on each other’s lives over water, wine, and Coors Light; Bambi’s mouthwatering lasagna from the classic Moosewood Cookbook follows.

Woo 3 H at little library

Little Free Library

Come Saturday morning while the others sleep, Hannah and I drive a couple of miles down Quaker Road to the half mile oval at Quinton Park.  Before walking five laps, we find a Little Library, where one and all can take a book or place one in the outdoor cabinet for others to take.  Finding a family favorite from the Little Bear series, we add it to our own Owen and Max home library.

Our hosts for the weekend, Bambi and Skip have planned this Saturday in nearby CW.  Do you know what CW is?   I had no idea.  I am not talking the cable station, but a visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

Woo 4B King's Arm sign

On this unusually warm 90F summer Saturday in late April, we walk the car-free Main Street past period homes from the Revolutionary War era.  Lunching at the King’s Arms, we have an updated repast in a Revolutionary Years setting.  Later, in nearby Yorktown on the James River, we take in Surrender Field where General Cornwallis in defeat offered his sword to George Washington.

Back in Quinton after dinner, it’s game time.  Bringing a new Rothermel Family favorite, we introduce the Left Center Right dice game.  Played with three specialty dice, the game becomes even more “interesting” when we each bring a few dollar bills to the table.  Being an entirely random game with no skill needed, the first time player has the same chance of winning as the veteran player does.

Woo 5 LCR game

To explain, the six sides of the specialty dice have an R, an L, a C, and three single black dots.  Rolling three dice to begin, if the player rolls an R, she passes a dollar to the person to her right; an L, pass to the left and a C means she puts the dollar in the center (the pot).  A black dot means you keep your dollar.  Once done, the turn passes to the person on the left; when only one person has a dollar, that one wins the pot.

Woo Girls dice

With seven of us each starting with three dollars, we are playing for a $21 bonanza.  Hannah is especially adept at the pre-roll movements (e.g. holding the dice with one hand pointing to the ceiling, then extending the other arm, blowing on the dice, all the while smiling, and enjoying the attention).

Woo 5 Don and Hannah win

Don and Hannah, Big Winners at Left Center Right

It turns out Maxine’s husband Don wins the first game and the $21 bounty.  In the second game, Don and Hannah have the last two dollars.  A black dot roll for Don has him keeping his dollar, then a black dot roll for Hannah lets her keep her greenback.  Then Don rolls a C, putting his dollar in the pot and Hannah comes home the winner.

Board, card, or dice games bring groups together in laughter and celebration.  For Woo Girls IV next year in York, we have the classic Mormon Bridge for the gang.

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Dan and Hannah Experience Richmond at its Fall Best

V richmond mapTo many New Englanders (well, really just me), Richmond is known for two things: Coach Shaka Smart of VCU basketball and Civil War history.  Now that our son Will and his fiancée Laurel live in nearby Bon Air and work at Virginia Commonwealth University, we can easily fly from Boston to the River City on Delta or JetBlue to experience the South and its warmth.

Retirement is great if…

if  you have your good health and if you have enough money.  Currently we can check off yes and yes, so we are on the move.

Stuart Siegel Center with its 2M big screen TV

Stuart Siegel Center with its 2M big screen TV

Flying Tuesday afternoon from Logan Airport, we arrive two hours later at Richmond International Airport. Curbside, Will whisks us off to the Stuart Siegel Center for tonight’s 6P game, VCU v Toledo University.

Tommy J West Club at the Stuart Siegel Center

Tommy J West Club at the Stuart Siegel Center

Arriving a little after five, Will arranges for us to dine at the buffet for the big shots at the Tommy J West club high above the hardwood. Overlooking the court, we feast on sweet potatoes, green beans in mushroom sauce, and tossed salad; honey baked ham is there for the taking for the meat eaters. As we sit in luxury, we think how this club would be a fantastic venue for a rockin’ family party.

Will, Laurel, and her future in-laws

Will, Laurel, and her future in-laws

Kenyon College grad, Shaka Smart

Kenyon College grad, Shaka Smart

Shaka Smart has made VCU basketball the “what’s happening” place to be in Richmond on game nights.  Tonight will be the 51st straight sell out in this nearly 8000 fan arena.  A graduate of Kenyon College in Ohio like my Brother Richard and Uncle Bill, Shaka is named after a Zulu warrior.  Always entertaining, his team’s style is to press for 40 minutes and fast break on every possession.

Tip off of VCU v Toledo

Tip off of VCU v Toledo

With not a bad seat in the house, we sit 15 rows up from the foul line for the tonight’s game televised by ESPN against Toledo, a team that won 27 games last year and returns 7 of its 8 top players.  The crowd is electric and plugs into the high paced offense and defense of the VCU Rams.  Smart has branded their style of play as “Havoc,” which when rocking, truly befuddles opposing teams.

VCU's Melvin Johnson driving to the basket

VCU’s Melvin Johnson driving to the basket

Early on, the game is tight and tense.  Last year VCU went undefeated on its home court, but tonight they are meeting their match as the Rockets shoot well and break the press without much trouble.

Last year's NCAA leader in steals, Briante Weber, floating one above the Toledo defender

Last year’s NCAA leader in steals, Briante Weber, floating one above the Toledo defender

At halftime VCU is lucky to be down only three points, as Toledo shoots 90% from the foul line. “Havoc” defense is meant to eventually wear teams down; and on schedule in the second half, it starts to take its toll on the Rockets. They turn the ball over for an easy two at the rim and three more from downtown.

Victoire!

Victoire!

The 87-78 VCU victory reflects the team’s #15 ranking in the country. This close game is all a fan could want: fast-paced action, drama, and ultimately a W.

After a 430A wakeup call this morning in Maine, we sleep well in Virginia after a VCU victory.

The All Access Man with his Sweet Mama

The All Access Man with his Sweet Mama

With a layover day Wednesday before another VCU game Thursday night, Hannah and I plan to take in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Dropped off in the downtown by Laurel, we easily find it and talk to the museum guide about what lies within.  At $13 for seniors, we want multi-media and interactive exhibits. We get neither and decide to invest our $26 of disposable income in another way.

Let’s be fair. The museum didn’t really have much of a chance. You wouldn’t call us museum people. We like doing rather than looking.  It’s just in our DNA.  But not going to the museum today is win/win. The museum is not subjected to our feigned interest and we can walk and hike in Richmond this mid-November day.

Along the Canal Walk in Richmond, Virginia

Along the Canal Walk in Richmond, Virginia

Just down the hill to the James River, Richmond’s Canal Walk meanders along the shoreline for a mile and a quarter. It’s a winter coat and mittens day here in the South, but our steady pace keeps us warm. Normally in warmer weather the bistros and restaurants along the canal are buzzing while the park on Brown’s Island is filled with families, joggers, and Frisbee players.

The walking suspension bridge beneath the Robert E Lee Highway into Richmond

The walking suspension bridge beneath the Robert E Lee Highway into Richmond

Soon finding our way to the suspension bridge across the James River to Belle Isle, we enter a network of trails. Belle Isle was first explored by the Captain John Smith in 1607.  Later the island served as a prison for 30,000 Union soldiers during the American Civil War.

Bundled up for Belle Isle hiking

Bundled up for Belle Isle hiking

In warmer weather, Belle Isle is a great place for trail walking, swimming and kayaking in the James River, rock jumping, sunbathing, and boulder-top picnicking, just feet away from white water rapids.

Another victory for the Rams!

Another victory for the Rams!

Exercise-satisfied, we await Thursday’s VCU game at the Siegel Center.

Thursday, the Rams hit their first 8 shots and lead 18-0 over University of Maryland Eastern Shore. With the game well in hand from the outset, Shaka substitutes liberally and gets his freshman some valuable collegiate playing time.

Richmond in November is just the antidote for the coming deep freeze in New England.

Dan and Hannah Walk the Slave Trail in Richmond, Virginia

The Robert E. Lee statue, one of many along Richmond's Monument Avenue

The Robert E. Lee statue, one of many along Richmond’s Monument Avenue

As another long cold, snowy winter is predicted for the eastern two-thirds of the United States, Richmond, Virginia comes into focus as a place to be.  It is a blue sweet spot in a state of red.  Once the capital of the Confederate States of America (Lincoln referred to them as the “so-called Confederacy”) during the War of Northern Aggression, Richmond is a modern day city thriving with Virginia Commonwealth University at its hub.

Overlooking the James River

Overlooking the James River

Here in Richmond, the famous words Give me Liberty or give me Death were spoken by Patrick Henry in 1775.  In 1997, the General Assembly voted to cancel the 1940 adoption of Carry Me Back to Old Virginny as the Virginia state song, in response to criticism that the words of the song “glorified” slavery.

ST 2B slave trail signThat segues to our walk along the Slave Trail on the James River in Richmond today.  It has been said that slavery was a stain on America.  Please!  That’s hardly a potent enough noun to characterize this tragedy.  Recorded in the history books that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, phooey.  That sounds like spin to me.  It was all about enslaving fellow human beings for King Cotton.

Hannah’s College of Wooster classmate Bambi offers us the opportunity to educate ourselves further about this “peculiar institution” (an historical euphemism for slavery meant to defend its use despite the Declaration of Independence proclaiming that “all men are created equal”).

College of Wooster Women, Bambi and Hannah

College of Wooster Women, Bambi and Hannah

Having seen Bambi maybe once in the 40+ years since they graduated from college in Ohio, Hannah reconnects immediately as if they are just down the corridor at Wagner Hall. Just as active as we are, Bambi arranges a walk in Richmond to satisfy our neurotic urge to exercise any day, every day.

Winding our way by car past a recycling and waste treatment center on the James River, in shirt sleeves we pull into the parking for the Slave Trail on this mid-October day.

ST 5 Slave docksThe Slave Trail chronicles the history of the slave trade from Africa to Virginia.

It begins at Manchester Docks, a major port in the massive downriver Slave Trade that made Richmond the largest source of enslaved Africans on the east coast of America from 1830 to 1860.

The trail begins with the James River in the distance

The trail begins with the James River in the distance

Parking for what seems to be for 50 cars leads us to this river front trail. Along the trail are 17 explanation markers about this despicable time in American history.  From my brief exposure to the trail, it seems like these trail signs are not sanitized to absolve the white Southerners of the 18th and 19th centuries or demonize them.

ST map 2

From Explanation Three.

We were handcuffed in pairs, with iron staples and bolts, with a short chain about a foot long uniting the handcuffs and their wearers in pairs.  In this manner we were chained alternately by the right and left hand; and the poor man to whom I was ironed wept like an infant. Charles Bell, 1854.

Hannah and Bambi along the trail

Hannah and Bambi along the trail

Across the river from Richmond, we three spend the time catching up. Bambi was a sociology major in a time when a liberal arts education was held in high esteem (At Wooster, I majored in political science and Hannah in physical education.)  Service was at the center of the lives for many of us Flower Children of the Sixties.

ST 2F D on ST

A VCU Ram in Richmond, the home of the Rams

Winding along the James River, we are in a rural setting in the Richmond metropolitan area where 1.3 million people live and work.  As you would expect, the three mile river trail is level and tree covered; accessible to all ages, shapes, and sizes.  The dirt trail gives way to concrete sidewalks in front of massive flood walls along the James. Here the trail is wide enough for the three of us to walk side by side.

Along the concrete trail in front the flood walls

Along the concrete trail in front the flood walls

Built in the late 18th century, the Mayo Bridge was the access over the James for slaves and slave traders. Today, we cross on a crumbling sidewalk to the side of its four lane highway into the heart of Richmond.  In the past, the James River was an industrial river that no one loved. Why in the mid-20th century, public access to the river was prohibited given its status as an open sewer. Today Richmond area residents are rightfully proud of the area and take full advantage of its multi-use trails and recreation opportunities.

VCU banner at the Irish Pub

VCU banner at the Irish Pub

The climate in Richmond begs New Englanders to head south.  Average highs are in the mid-40s in January and by April highs are in the low 70s.  Snow?  Even a snowy first winter by local standards for our son Will and his fiancee Laurel still meant that Will never shoveled once!  It snows, it melts, and it’s gone.  Sounds like a dream world.

The temperature does rise inside VCU’s Siegel Center where Coach Shaka Smart has led the Rams to the NCAA basketball tournament each of the last four years. Fifty-two straight sell outs are testament to the appeal of VCU’s fast break offense and swarming “HAVOC” defense.

Al fresco

Al fresco

Being close to three in the afternoon, we lunch al fresco at the Sine Irish Pub in the Shackoe Bottom section of bustling downtown Richmond. With no one about, we have a private “room” watching the world go by. Forty years of lives unfold as we share our journeys and Bambi shares hers.

Heading home

Heading home

It’s a delightfully warm three mile walk back to the trailhead as we enjoy the sunshine, the exercise, and especially reconnecting with a new “old friend.”

Dan Hikes with Will and Laurel on the Moorman River in Virginia

Richmond Virginia image

There are so many reasons to love RVA (Richmond, Virginia):

  1. It’s a small town city with neighborhoods of homes.
  2. Mild winters; springs and falls in the 70s and 80s
  3. Virginia Commonwealth University with Shaka Smart and Will Rothermel
  4. Friendly people where “Ma’am” and “Sir” are commonplace, heartfelt, and genuine

Add to those starter set ideas a #5 – Hiking in the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains is a mere two hours away.

Laurel, Will, and Dan selfie

A Laurel, Will, and Dan selfie

While Hannah is away with girlfriends in Vermont, today I am in Virginia with Will and Laurel cruising out four lane I-64 from Richmond towards Charlottesville and points west.  Sitting shotgun, I think how sweet it is not being the one in charge or having to be the responsible adult.  I am literally and figuratively along for the ride.  For one who is a planner, organizer, and a make-things-happener, this is a relaxing and welcome change.

Past the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, we take to the country route 250 and then on to Old 3 Notch’d Road which becomes the Brown’s Gap Turnpike.  These are not turnpikes in the sense of the Massachusetts Turnpike, but rural roads that twist and turn and are hardly wide enough for two cars to pass.

MR9H curvy road sign

Our WAZE GPS says we have 10 miles to go in 31 minutes; that must mean hairpins aplenty.  It’s farmland with poor man’s horse ranches (at least compared to the affluent horse country north of here in Loudon County, Virginia).  We pass the Pony Academy advertising horse riding lessons and come to Wyant’s (General) Store which advertises PowerAde for 99 cents.  Though Virginia has not had the brutal winter of the Northeast, on this late April weekend the trees are still not fully leafed out.

Crossing a one lane wood-planked bridge, we are now on Sugar Hollow Road on the way to the Moorman River hike.  The last 9/10 of a mile is a dirt road which ends at an informal trailhead beneath the sugar maples.

Beginning the hike along the North Fork of the Moorman River, we first pass an older couple and then a father and daughter pair who both say they turned back once they hit the river crossing.  The dad talks about high water.  Hmmmm.  Last night it rained so hard in Virginia that water was flowing from Will and Laurel’s driveway through their backyard patio.

Will, Otter, and Laurel hiking the Moorman Trail

Will, Otter, and Laurel hiking the Moorman Trail

The Hiking Upward website is the go-to website when Will and Laurel want to hike in Virginia.  We learn that this five mile round-trip hike has a number of swimming holes with a fifty foot waterfall at the end.  Though it’s a toasty 80F in RVA this midday, it will be a delightful 70F hiking through the woods of western Virginia.

Laurel crossing the Moorman River

Laurel crossing the Moorman River

From start to finish the trail gently rises 460’ in elevation over the two and half miles to the falls.  At three points on this spring day, we will cross the river on rocks, stepping carefully through the snow-fed stream.  Will and Laurel have breathable mesh low-cut Merrell hiking shoes; though being a ten on the cool scale, they unfortunately let the water in when these Virginians cross the river.  My clunkier all-terrain to-the-ankle hiking boots don’t let the water seep in at all as I cross in two to four inches of water.

VCU crossing in styel

VCU crossing in style

The rounded river stones have a sheen of algae so I step cautiously from rock to rock.  As I cross tentatively, Will extends his hand to steady me and keep my picture-taking iPhone out of the drink.  Later a fisherman (the Moorman River is stocked with rainbow trout) does the same to support me as I cross the river again.   Virginians!   Got to love them.  My hiking poles in Maine would have been just the ticket to steady myself as I forded the Moorman River.

Heading to the falls

Heading to the falls

 

The Moorman River hike is the kind of hike that Will and Laurel can take their friends on, even if they aren’t hikers.  The rushing, running water provides us with soothing  background music.  Throughout our time on the trails, their Golden Shepard Otter seemingly covers fifteen miles through the forest while we hike five on the trail.  Otter does collect ticks that Laurel picks from his fur on our drive home.

Trails end at the falls

Trail’s end

Arriving at the waterfalls in just under an hour and a half, we have made it a leisurely, side-by-side walk through the Virginia woods.  Though the water is chilly, you can see that this gentle hike is one families and teenagers alike will love.  The swimming hole at the falls is fifty feet across and just perfect for cooling one’s jets for an hour or two on a steamy summer day.

King of the Mountain

King of the Mountain

Logs crisscross the trail at the falls to clearly indicate the trail has ended.  Like a young mountain lion, Will skims across the water rocks like it’s home.  Climbing the far canyon wall, he is king of the mountain at the top of the falls.

Looking downriver from the falls

Looking downriver from the falls

As we look down the Moorman River valley, we snack on apples, oranges, and trail mix and know we have hit the hiking jackpot.

I do enjoy hiking with young ‘uns like Will and Laurel for they keep up a good pace.  I have never been a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of hiker.   A let’s-rock-and-roll kind of hiker.

Further down the trail with their hiking shoes and socks soaked, Will and Laurel say what the hell? and barefoot it across the river that is born in the mountain snows of the Shenandoah National Park.

Barefooting

Barefooting

At our final river crossing we talk with a young female teacher and her husband.  They have brought two of her school girls, one of which who has won a school auction to hike along the Moorman River with her teacher.   I am so impressed that she is taking her Saturday to make this an experience of a lifetime for these young girls.

The Virginia teacher takes our picture

The Virginia teacher takes our picture

After years of educational philanthropy and research, the billion dollar Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has concluded that it is excellent teachers in classrooms that make for successful students.  We need bright, caring teachers who want to change the world for our students.  Bravo to this young Virginia teacher!

Outside at the Mellow Mushroom in Charlottesville, Virginia

Outside at the Mellow Mushroom in Charlottesville, Virginia

After arriving in Charlottesville, we three, with Otter at our feet, sit outside and feast on pizza and a pitcher of beer at the Mellow Mushroom on West Main Street; we watch the cars and people pass by on this main campus drag of the University of Virginia.

With a relaxing California vacation vibe to my Virginia hiking day, I vow that next winter Hannah and I will be spending more time collecting vitamin D (the sun) traveling south and west where we can hike and sit al fresco, most appreciative of our blessings.

Dan Golfs and Grocery Shops in the Commonwealth of Virginia

Virginia map

Once Hannah scheduled a weekend to Vermont with girlfriends in late April, it got my wheels turning for some time away myself.  After this winter from Hell, I’m thinking warm.   Playing golf with our son Will in Virginia seems a natural.  Delta Airlines flies from Boston to Richmond non-stop, round-trip for a sweet $118.

Twice the space I had!

Twice the space I had on my Delta flight!

But let’s take it down a notch.  $118 on Delta doesn’t get you much more than a safe trip to and from the one-time capital of the Confederacy.  I understand that arriving safely is of paramount importance.  That said, a bit of comfort at 30,000 feet would be nice.  The plane feels like a 1930s two-seater bi-plane when in fact it has 90 sardines masquerading as adults and families packed into a space the size of a railroad car on a diet.  When I stood up, I banged my head on the aforementioned overhead compartments.

My two carry-ons

My two carry-ons

Hold on.  Do not despair.  Do I ever have a primo travel tip for you if you never check bags when you fly!   Typically, airlines allow you to carry on a small suitcase and one additional bag.  Keep the small suitcase as lean and mean as possible so it is not pulled out by the ticket agent at the jet bridge gate because she feels it won’t fit in the compartment above the seats.  In our case, we stuff our canvas bag to the gills.  The airlines will never take an open air canvas bag for checked luggage.  Brilliant Dan, I hear you thinking.

10th hole at River's Bend Golf Club

10th hole at River’s Bend Golf Club

Within thirty minutes of landing at RIC airport in Richmond, Will has us on the golf course at River’s Bend Country Club on the James River in Chester, Virginia, some 15 miles south of the airport.  Check out these prices.  Two of us played 18 holes with a golf cart for $36 total.  Only 36 simoleons!  Locally here on the Seacoast, one-of-me pays $22 to walk nine holes at Sagamore-Hampton Golf Club in New Hampshire.

With those prices the South will rise again!

Hitting out of the rough again.

Hitting out of the rough again.

Golfing?  Do you play?  I began playing golf in my twenties on the flat, palm tree-lined courses in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area summers during the years I taught elementary school kids in Tempe.  Learning the game for the first time, I got to be “okay.”   Then I took twenty plus years away from the game to focus on our family and because of the expense of golf in the Northeast.

18 hole layout at River's Bend Golf Club

18 hole layout at River’s Bend Golf Club

Since I didn’t play as a kid, I never developed golfing instincts to fall back on as an adult.  Ergo, I hit some good shots and then some rather sad and pathetic ones, too.  I can hit pin-seeking irons of 140 yards as well as top the ball so it skims the fairway into traps or the woods.

River's Bend scorecard cover

So given my modest golfing skills, how do I keep from being that guy who is  obsessed by his score?  I want to enjoy the time on golf courses, especially the few times I golf with Will, now that he lives nearly 600 miles to the south.  What sort of company or role model am I if I bitch and complain about my lousy golf score?

River's Bend scorecard by hole

And then it hit me, the worst score I will mark down on the golf card is a double bogey (two over par).  If I am destroying a hole with poor shots, I can just relax and work on my game around the green without a scoring care in the world.  Then move on to the next hole without any baggage from the last one.

Will off the tee

Will off the tee

Fact is, no one cares what score I get.  Will bombs his drives and shoots in the 70s and 80s.  I am not competing against him.  When I hit the inevitable poor shot, I’ll chalk it up to That’s just what once-a-week or once-a-month golfers do, DanGet over it.

golf ball in grass

So today I chill.  There are few on the course this mid-day Thursday so we leisurely motor around eighteen holes in a little over three hours.  Sunny and 65 degrees on this spring day in paradise, I have some pars, a few bogeys, and some really big numbers, that I never record on the score card.   I stay in the moment and focus on the father-son time with Will.

Will shopping with Dad

Will shopping with Dad

And then the second part of my win/win afternoon comes at the Kroger Grocery store near Will’s place in Bon Air, VA.  That’s right, a grocery store.   Hear me out.  One of the true joys of retirement when we visit our children is buying an overflowing cart of groceries for them.

Grocery line image  (Identify the Corona, Sam Adams, and Gluten-free beer, Redbridge, pita chips, Tostito chips and salsa, gluten-free crackers, Ritz, watermelon, Dunkin’ Donuts Decafe coffee, peanut butter, bananas, milk, Corn Flakes, Cheerios)

Including Redbridge (a gluten-free beer), pita and Tostito chips and salsa, cheese and gluten-free crackers and  Ritz, watermelon, Dunkin’ Donuts Decaf coffee, peanut butter, apples, oranges, Cheerios, and Corn Flakes)

Before we get to the house that Will and his girlfriend Laurel are renting, we stock up at Kroger’s with snacks, fruit, beer, and cereals for the coming weekend.  You might wonder where cereals have a place on this list of party foods.  Read below under Bonus.  Sharing some of our good fortune with our kids adds continued joy to our longitudinal (never-ending) parenting life.

I’ve added a bonus thought for you and a “be careful” one.

Will and Laurel's place on Buford Road

Will and Laurel’s place on Buford Road

Bonus when buying groceries on the road – As a big cereal eater, I add a gallon of 1% milk, boxes of Corn Flakes and Cheerios, and bananas to our grocery cart.  By including these items I can have cereal anytime at Will and Laurel’s place without feeling like I am depleting their supplies.  As one who thinks cereal is about as good a dessert as it gets, I am set for the next four days in Virginia.  (You got to be thinking, Dan, my man, you know how to live!)

choice privileges visa card

The “Be Careful” – When traveling long distances from home, call your credit card company before you leave and tell them about the places and dates of your travels, even if you live in Maine and are just going to Virginia.  When it comes time to pay for the $122 of groceries at Kroger’s in Midlothian, VA,  my Choice Privileges Visa card is rejected not once, not twice, but three times.  A major bummer for me, as Will then has to use his credit card to pay for the groceries.  Of course, I will write him a check for the amount, but the “treating the kids” moment is slipping away.

Life is so good in VA

Immediately, while still at the checkout line, I get an 800 call from fraud protection at VISA.  I appreciate the credit card company looking out for me, I do.  Thanks to the patient customer service folks at Kroger’s we clear up the confusion with Visa in 25 minutes.  I am able to get the credit back on Will’s credit card and the charge on mine.

So a first vacation day ends successfully with a win/win.  Virginia is my kind of place.