Alexandria- Here we are!

After a year of general planning and preparations, we are finally settled in at the first major hub of our trip, Alexandria, Virginia.  Why Alexandria? There are several reasons, below are a few:

*It is convenient to DC via the Metro and to various Civil War battle fields and sites.

*There is a lot of history here.  For example, the 1770’s Tavern (Gadsby’s), where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison & James Monroe frequented is still in business!

*This city is full of great walking, biking and outdoors activities.

*There are great restaurants, art galleries, etc.

*Several of our best friends have either lived here or live here now and highly recommend it.

Be sure to check out the link on Alexandria at the bottom of this story.


Lead upAfter a combined 75+ years of government service, we both wanted to take some time off and travel around the country. Louise and I rarely took “big” vacations. . .but mostly took several 3 day trips throughout each year, and always to the same places! We believed that by taking an extended trip, and parking ourselves in 2-3 month regional increments, we’d enjoy ourselves by blending in with local cultures and living with the locals. This way we could truly enjoy seeing parts of the country we’ve never really been able to enjoy, and at a leisurely pace.  We do not at all consider this to be a vacation, but more of a diminutive pause to just “smell the roses” for a while!


Trip idea. The idea for this trip pretty much evolved over the past year or two, but was initially sparked by Lynne Martin and her husband Tim’s “Home Free” lifestyle.

They recently wrote a book and have been interviewed on popular TV shows. Here is their website: Read her article on packing. . .it’s on their front page and is very interesting and at times witty.

To put it in baseball terms, Lynne and Tim are in the major league of travel, the true artisans of the sport. They are genuine craftsmen who have honed their trade very well. It’s fun to just follow their path and observe how skilled they are at what they do.


The Trip. This past 3 months has really been a whirlwind for Louise and me. After officially retiring from government service on December 31, 2013, I was finally able to dig in and start  the details of preparing for this trip. During this time, Louise continued to work with her sister Kathy and her nieces (in Coronado real estate).

We left San Diego on the 15th of March. The blogs prior to this one describe some highlights and the route we took to get here.  We’ll write some more blogs soon regarding trip highlights  (our NASA visit, New Orleans, etc.). The first phase of our trip consisted of exploring various sites on the way to Alexandria, and then staying in Alexandria, VA (next to DC) to see the museums, civil war battlefields and learn the local culture for 3 months.  After June, we’ll continue our travels, but that phase is not fully planned yet.

What a wakeup call it was to drive through the 70-80 degree temperatures of Arizona and Texas, only to be greeted here by a snowman melting in front of our first lodging here in the DC area!

Settling in. As I mentioned in a previous article, we arrived here 5 days early due to a medical issue. We stayed at the NAS PAX River Navy Lodge in Maryland until we moved in to our apartment on the 1st of April. NAS PAX is the Navy’s main aircraft test facility. One of our fond memories of that stay was actually attending the base chapel!


                                                   The ST. Nicholas Catholic/Protestant chapel

The ST. Nicholas Catholic/Protestant chapel is a truly beautiful and historical place of worship. I believe the historical plaque in front mentioned that there has been a continuing congregation at this location for upwards of 200+ years. This congregation is like a big family and spent at least 15 minutes just doing greetings!

Our present apartment is right next to the Huntington Metro, which is in Alexandria at the end of the yellow line. It takes us only 5 minutes to get to Old Town Alexandria by bus and probably 15 or so to get into DC.   

          Our living area and kitchen


      Some beautiful flowers from our good friend Connie.

Connie lives in Alexandria and worked with me in the early 90’s when I was a flight instructor at NAS North Island. Each training squadron was assigned an “EDSPEC” (Educational Specialist), who, on paper, conducted oversight of all classroom training and curriculum activities for pilot training for each specific type of Naval aircraft. In truth, she was actually the adult in the room in charge of the instructor pilots who hated doing their paperwork!!!!

IMG_0740                                                                     The famous TV

With this TV we discovered the world of ROKU, HULU, CRACKLE, TED and NETFLIX! Our free evenings included a marathon viewing of all six seasons of “Breaking Bad.” It was so much fun to see a school teacher go awry!


Padres! The San Diego Padres were recently in town to play 4 games against the Washington Nationals. These were the only games the Padres are playing in Washington this year. Louise, Connie and I went to the Sunday 1:35 game on the 27th of April. Believe it or not the Padres won 4-2. It was a beautiful, sunny day with blue skies as far as you can see!

         Louise & Smitty

Louise & Smitty


Note:  If you go to a Nationals game, DO NOT sit in Section 309, row F! Row F backs up to a 5’ wall and you will be continually showered by peanut shells and who knows what else by the kind fans right above and behind you!

In speaking with the locals, fans that live in and around DC are glad that major league baseball is back in town after a 33 year hiatus. Apparently there had been 2 Washington Senator teams in the past. The first moved to Minneapolis and became the Twins and the second Senators moved to Texas to become the Rangers. Rumor has it that when this current team moved here in 2005 (ex Montreal Expos), they decided not to call it the Senators. . .apparently one reason was this- because Washington DC doesn’t have representation in Congress, calling them the Senators was considered inappropriate!

           Connie & Smitty

Connie & Smitty

It was a great day at a beautiful semi-new ballpark!


One closing note. The men and women from my last position at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Reserve Program gave me some very nice farewell travel gifts. One of which was a flight in a P-51 Mustang WWII fighter! This was truly the gift of a lifetime! On January 25th we took off from Camarillo airport just north of Los Angeles, flew to Carpinteria, turned down the coast towards Malibu, then turned inland and “buzzed” the Reagan library in Simi Valley! Wow, what a marvelous and generous gift this turned out to be!!


Side view picture of P-51 Mustang “Man O War”

A funny incident during the flight occurred when the 77 year old pilot made a very “geriatric” 2 g turn after Carpinteria and asked me if I was “doing OK” (i.e. “Junior, you passing out on me back there?”). I never did tell him I had been a Navy pilot for 20 some-odd years!

OBTW: You can see our great friend Mark on the left taking pictures too!


Great rear view picture!


Our next blogs will highlight and grade some of the DC excursions we’ve been on, such as: Mt Vernon, Phillips gallery, Holocaust museum, Sackler gallery, Freer gallery of art, Jefferson Memorial, Embassy row, The Athenaeum – (General Robert E. Lee’s bank), and our favorite little hide out, the Village at Shirlington on Quincy street in Arlington.

Cheers! Smitty and Louise



1. Alexandria link

2.  Lynne Martin’s home free adventures link

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3 Responses to Alexandria- Here we are!

  1. k g cupp says:

    OK now you are rolling.

  2. Mike Kirkpatrick says:

    School teacher gone awry…finish the Breaking Bad series yet!?

  3. Smitty says:

    Mike, I’m embarrassed to say that yes we did like in 2 weeks and are half through it again! Not recommended for young folk or folks with tender souls! ~Smitty