Monday, July 6, 2009

Westmoreland State Park

For the 4th of July weekend we headed out camping in Westmoreland State Park. The park lies on over 1,300 acres of land along the banks of the Potomac River and offers a wide range of activities for every visitor. We chose Westmoreland simply because it was about the only park in the area with campsites still available about 2 weeks before the long weekend.

On day 1 we setup camp in the C area and headed over to the pool to cool down. The pool is huge and included two diving boards and a slide.

After a couple hours at the pool we set off along the park's trails. There are a total of seven named trails winding through the forest and along the shoreline. Here are just some of the views from along the trails.

On day 2 we drove about 45 minutes to Caledon Natural Area. According to everything I've read, the best chance of seeing a Bald Eagle in its natural habitat is here in Caledon. During this time of year reservations are required in order to take the guided tour along the Potomac. This tour was $6 per person and well worth the money as we were able to see dozens of Eagles in flight, perched, and grabbing fish from the river. Here are just a couple of the pictures from the tour. One of a young Eagle and the other a more mature Bald Eagle most commonly recognized as our National Bird.

We capped off the weekend by taking in the fireworks from nearby Colonial Beach, VA.

All in all, it was a great way to spend my birthday weekend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Busch Gardens, Williamsburg

Another 2+ months since our last update...but for good reason. We've both been busy, Sandy with ALS, me with school, and both of us with the house. Any free time has usually been spent hitting a movie or simply relaxing together. No amazing travels or unique experiences to speak of. This all changes now as Sandy is set to head to Qatar later this month. Less than 22 days to enjoy our Virginia Summer this year, we'll do our best.

Busch Gardens is one of the parks which honor men and women in the armed forces by providing one single-day complimentary admission annually. They call it "Here's to the Heroes". Since we're both military, our plan is to use my pass for Busch Gardens and then hers for a trip to Water Country USA maybe next week. We'll see how that works out.

First ride, Escape from Pompeii. It was going to be a warm one so why not start the day by getting wet.

Up we go...and out we go.

After getting a little wet, it was on to Apollo's Chariot roller coaster. It wasn't bad as far as coasters go. Just seemed short I guess. The best coasters in the park are Griffon and Alpengeist. Griffon stops 200 feet above the ground over the edge just to lake you take in the scenery...and then plungest you straight down at 70 mph. Now a roller coaster. (I'm the only one with his hands in the air below)

I created a recap of the entire trip with iMovie. All in all, the project took about 15 minutes and didn't turn out half bad. I'll certainly be doing more of these in the future. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cherry Blossoms in our Nation's Capital

It has been almost 4 months since we last updated our blog. Rather than 4 months spent doing nothing to write about, we've been putting 100% of our spare time into becoming homeowners. Having painted 5 rooms, furnished almost a dozen, and spent every weekend seeking a routine to take care of all this new stuff...there just hasn't been much time for seeing sights. Sunday marked our first change from the norm though since the cherry blossoms are in bloom and D.C. is under 3 hours by car from our house.

We decided to utilize the free weekend parking at the Franconia-Springfield Metro Rail station and rode the Metro all the way to Union Station where we started our 9 mile walk through the major D.C. landmarks.

First stop at the U.S. Capitol.

Next, we walked down to the Washington Monument...which Sandy was able to hold in her hand.

A quick swerve out towards the White House...I only wish my lawn looked that nice.

Continuing down the Mall we passed the WWII memorial, stopped at the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and the Wall. Then it was off to walk under the cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin around the Jefferson Memorial. Having lived in northern Japan...gotta admit the cherry blossom aspect was a letdown.

We then walked to a nearby Metro station and headed to Arlington. Having been to Arlington a few times over the years, I didn't expect this trip to be any different than the ones before...yet somehow...the area becomes more powerful, inspirational yet solemn, and even more moving than the trip before.

We will be making several trips to D.C. over the years here in VA I'm sure. As we start to settle into our home, it's becoming much easier to get out and enjoy everything Virginia has to offer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Atlanta Thrashers and the CNN World Headquarters

Since we were authorized 2 days of travel from Misawa to Langley we decided to take full advantage of it. The night of our Atlanta layover the Thrashers were playing host to the Penguins so we went online and found the best tickets we could find for a reasonable price. Based on the map of the arena I thought we would be about 3 rows back from the glass...but I was wrong.

Can you tell I'm pretty proud of these seats? Right on the glass! High scoring game with the Pens winning by a final score of 6 to 3. The last goal coming on this empty netter from Evgeni Malkin.

The hockey game was a great time made even better by the fact that we were sitting so close to the action.

The next morning we woke up early and headed down from our hotel in the Omni at CNN Center for the Inside CNN tour. CNN gives a great military discount! Unfortunately pictures aren't allowed during the tour but the main area is really something to see. Below is the tour ticket booth and right behind the booth is the start of the worlds largest freestanding escalator.

The escalator takes you up into a 50 foot globe and then it's off on a walk through the studios and learning what all goes on behind the scenes of a 24 hour news network. During the tour we watched Robin Meade from CNNHN as she did her daily podcast and CNN anchor T.J. Holmes live during the Weekend Edition broadcast.

All in all, the tour is worth the time if you're in the area. From here it was on the MARTA and back to the airport for our flight to Newport News.

Next stop Virginia!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Goodbye Misawa

With our time here having come to an end, we've spent the last week or so getting our last fill of everything we enjoyed here in Misawa. It has been a "Best of Misawa, Japan" kinda week and we figured we'd put up a post to give family and friends an idea of where our dinner and lunch outings take us and what exactly Misawa looks like on a day-to-day basis.

Food in Japan runs up one side and down the next. Everything from the obvious sushi and noodle shops, to the less likely Indian restaurant. The following were our most visited establishments over the years and a quick explanation of why we liked them.

Cafe Live Forever
We only found out about Cafe Live Forever a few months ago but it hooked us immediately. Sandy always had the friend chicken set and I loved the mushroom chicken pasta. What really makes this place a must visit are the scones though. At ¥90 each, they make a delicious quick breakfast in the morning and in conjunction with my weekend coffee...nothing comes close.

Karinba's Chinese Restaurant
If sweet and sour is what you're looking for, there is none better than Karinba's. A staple of the lunch special menu, you can't go wrong with either sweet & sour pork or chicken.

Cheese Roll House
More popularly known as simply, Cheese Roll, this is the best yakisoba in all of Misawa. The cheese rolls themselves aren't bad, but something changed about a year ago and they've never been the same. Certainly not the most obvious restaurant in Misawa, nor the most modern, but a large serving of the beef Yakisoba will satisfy anyone's appetite.

Grill Omiya
Known as Pizza & Curry by American's in Misawa, this is my favorite restaurant. On every visit, the B set, pork, 5. That translates into curried rice set with pizza toast, fried pork cutlet on top of that rice, and 5 is the scale of spicyness that runs from mild through 5 and 10 and so on...up to special 3 and beyond. My body only asks for 5 and I respect its wishes. Sandy always has an order of cheese rolls, bowl of corn soup, and some chicken fried rice. We will always remember Pizza & Curry as this is essentially where our relationship began over an hour and a half long meal.

Ram Tei
Yakaniku at its best. His 15 secret spice seasoning is the best i've ever had. Now in this new building, Ram Tei has been the type of place where you rally up 6 to 8 of your hungriest friends and set off in an effort to eat all the meat he has. This is you cooking your own meat, however you like it. Nothing less...but oh so much more than can be described.

Ankur India Restaurant
Two words, "butter chicken." This was already one of our favorite places to eat with the all you can eat buffet of nan, safron rice, and various choices of curry...then came butter chicken curry. Seeing it for the first time we gave it a test and it hooked us. Lately, twice a week even. We're both going to miss the delicious nan and butter chicken curry.

Tonight we do have reservations at Yoshino's, (the best steakhouse in Misawa and likely beyond) but that will be the end of our off-base dining binge we've been on for the last 3 weeks. Something that will abruptly come to an end once we arrive in Virginia. We will both miss the area, base, and especially the food. The last thing on our "must do" list was visit the Komaki Onsen for one last time. It just so worked out that I was the only person on the mens side and was able to snap off quite a few shots to give everyone a better understanding of what an onsen looks like. I think they're all pretty self explanitory, so enjoy.

Well that's it. We'll be on a plane here in about 17 hours. Next stop Atlanta and then on to Virginia. So long Misawa.