The Government Can’t Even Get a Food Court Right

Yesterday, we drove to DC specifically to see the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Just the two of us and eight billion school children. Shouldn’t school be out by now? Shouldn’t all these kids be at Disney with their families? For the most part, they were well behaved, but you get that many in one space and the noise is unbelievable.

The most memorable time I had happened as we headed out of the museum to eat lunch. We were trying to get past a gaggle of graduating 8th graders that were blocking the entire sidewalk. The teachers were shouting for them to move against the building so passersby could avoid having to walk in the very busy street. No sooner would they get one section to move then the other section would wander back into the fray. There was no way to keep them all together against the wall without a sheep dog. The teachers gallantly tried, but it was a useless effort. I smiled internally knowing I never had to take on the role of sheep dog again.

I’d like to discuss the government today, though. Specifically, their ineptness in the realm of the “food court.” Since my diet is restrictive, eating out can be a challenge. We tend to lean toward actual sit-down restaurants. If we need something quick, we are most apt to go to Panera or something similar. The process for finding a restaurant is a time-consuming process. We check the area first, in maps. From there, I cross reference choices on my Gluten Free app. Lord help us if we take the dog with us, because that requires a separate app. Once I think I’ve found a place, I go to their website to see the menu. This is where I look for the vegetarian options and any nutritional information to check on soy inserted in some bizarre place. (You would be shocked to know where soy ends up. Things you would think would be easier to create without it, have soy in it.)

Any hoo, we found an Au Bon Pain and they had a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. We just had to get to it. The Google (OMG! I just did that old lady thing where I put the “the” in front of something that doesn’t need it. I have lost my mind.) said we should immediately cross the busy four lane road and enter the Environmental Protection Agency building. Cars were whipping in front of us and we decided to divert a half block to a light that would give us approval to cross. If we got hit there, at least our heirs could righteously sue and wind up on Easy Street.

We made our way past the EPA building with only a smattering of cruel words on my lips for those in charge there. We found a walkway basically split the building with this nice path in between that had signs for the food court which presumably housed the Au Bon Pain, but no directions to it. The buildings apparently housed more than the EPA, but all we wanted was the food court. We wandered for a while and came across a seating area. Google said we had arrived. We presumed the food court was just inside the doors. Doors that were currently surrounded by a hoard of teenagers and their harried teacher. They seemed to be hanging out, so we passed them and headed inside. What we came upon was a checkpoint. They were not pleased we were there. We were told we had to come in with the kids. We knew we were in the wrong spot, so we headed out the door we came in, which was now filled with kids coming in. If you’ve ever tried to walk against the flow in a city, you know what we were up against. I put my head down and my shoulder out, just skating into the fresh air before I would have been swept back in. This is when we noticed all the people at the outdoor tables seemed to be eating sack lunches. We decided “the Google” was incorrect.

We wandered further down the walkway. Food court signs spotted the area, but we saw no such animal. Why would a restaurant be in an invisible food court? Not much money in that. We started to double back, deciding we should just find a suitable restaurant on line, grab a cab if needed, and get to it ASAP. As a last-ditch effort, we headed into another part of the building right by a sign in the hopes we would find nicer guards that might tell us where this elusive food court was hiding. We were told to “go under the arch, then to the left, through security, past the checkpoint entrance to the EPA’s innerworkings, and down the escalators.” We walked out of the building, couldn’t see an arch and had to go back and ask. The guard was kind enough to take us around the corner to point out the arch. We were on our way to salad goodness!

Our luck was changing. We headed into the building just prior to another school group. My purse got felt up again by security and we asked which way to go. We were pointed down a hall to a set of escalators. Low and behold! Au Bon Pain. That’s it. Au Bon Pain. No other choices. Nice food court, huh? We walked into an area that had pre-packaged sandwiches and salads and a long line to checkout. It was so tight in there it made my skin crawl. Rick ventured a little further and called me to the counter where we could get a freshly made salad. We got in line there, got in line to fill our cups, got in line to check-out. All in all, a very disorganized set up. We retraced our steps to get out, as there was no seating inside. Up the escalator, down the hall to security, out the exit, back down the walkway to the outdoor table and chairs to eat. While we ate, we marveled at how our government could screw up something as simple as a food court. Good Lord! It’s an easy concept. Easy access to a wide array of fast food. Let me say that again. Easy. Access. To. A. Wide. Array. Of. Fast. Food. Period. That’s it.

I wonder what we taxpayers paid to the contractor to build the food court area of the building? Ugh! I’m not going to think about it. It will inevitably give me indigestion.

The Potomac Opens Its Mouth

We have this bell on the starboard (right) side in the lower helm station that came with the boat. It looks nice and all, but it seems not to serve a real purpose. It’s nowhere near the galley so can’t be a legitimate dinner bell. (As a side note, in my childhood I always thought I’d have a bell to call my family to dinner. It never happened and I’m kinda bummed about it.) This boat bell would be worthless to warn other boats we’re in the area as it’s on the inside. Besides, I always doubted it made any noise. Through thousands of miles, evasive action towards sport fisher boats, and running aground, it has never made a sound.

I learned its use on Monday when I heard it ring for the very first time. It’s a wave warner. As in “CLANG! Holy moly these waves are close together! CLANG!! Yeah, that’s gonna hurt!” In fact, for what seemed like a lifetime, but was actually slightly shorter, we had a whole symphony of warnings. The banging of the medicine cabinet, like the constant tap of a snare drum, as the clasped door flew open and smacked against the head door. It in turn, would have slammed closed if the edge of the cabinet hadn’t gotten in the way. The thump of the books, one by one falling onto the breakfast bar. (Okay, I exaggerate here. There was one. One book fell. But it SEEMED like many more and mane toppled on their sides creating their own thump.) And all the other sounds as things tumbled around the various parts of the boat. I heard tinkling as glasses fell in cabinets designed to make sure they don’t fall. Vitamin bottles flipping from one shelf to another, their contents making a rattling noise like that wooden fish in grade school music class I always got stuck playing when I really just wanted the tambourine. Most nerve-wracking was the free-standing air conditioner that kept sliding between the wall and the couch. Each time it smack the wall with a loud BAM, the dog would squat lower on the floor.

I stood to get to him, but was knocked back off my feet. Rick’s captain chair rocked forward forcing him to his feet, then flipped backwards hitting the floor with a loud SMACK. He grabbed his travel bottle just before it went flying.

I slid to the floor then crawled to the pup. He climbed into my lap. We sat that way, listening to the cacophony, wishing we were somewhere else.

After hours, okay maybe ten minutes, I realized I needed to stop the noise in order to calm the pup. Using the ladder up to the fly bridge to steady myself, I made my way to the air conditioner. I grabbed virtually everything we were hiding behind the couch to lodge against it. (I just realized I told our dirty little secret—we stash a lot behind and under everything. Dang it!)

I lurched my way to the aft head, slammed the cabinet doors shut then did the same to the head doors. I secured a few things that were rolling around and double checked the things we usually secure.

Once I was back on the couch, Banjo refused to leave my lap. That is until he suddenly jumped down and literally crawled away from me. Once he was removed from both of us, he tossed his cookies. Twice. That lurch lurch puke that pets seem to all do when they get sick. I crawled over to comfort him while grabbing for Kleenex to clean up. I thought he had already lost his entire breakfast, but we repeated this three more times. My poor sweetie. We sat on the floor FOREVER, waiting for it to stop. Being down low actually made things worse. Seeing the horizon helps with sea sickness, so Rick scooped up the mutt and held him to give him a view. It seemed he was doing better. I, on the other hand, was sick to my stomach, not out of sea sickness, but from nerves. I stayed where I was on the floor, breathing deeply, since looking out at the water heightened my worry.

Getting closer to land, things calmed down. The balance was a fairly pleasant trip with sunshine leading the way. As we passed marker 24, Rick called the marina for instructions. Just as we got our dock in site, the marina called to say we were on our own with docking. They were floating docks and I saw pilings. That meant I could snag a piling from the dock and we could adjust once we landed. Then we got closer and I realized the pilings were on the opposite side. There was no way to cleat the boat without jumping off. Rick said he’d get close, then jump to tie. He’d done this a few times before and I always envisioned him missing the line and me floating away. But every time I do the jumping I injure myself. (I’m truly a liability in this life we’ve chosen.)

I looked stern where he would need to jump, to give him an indication of the point where he could safely do it. I glanced forward and realized the bow was headed straight for the electrical box. We were at an angle to the dock. The box was too low for Rick to see.

“You’re gonna hit in front!”

“That’s why I asked you how far away I was,” he replied.

Almost at the dock, I looked up to see two boaters heading to us to help. If they got there fast enough, they could stop the forward motion to keep us from the electrical box. Rick adjusted to try to miss it. I handed the forward line to the first guy to arrive and we simultaneously clip the top of the box.

At this point, multiple things happened. Rick was out the door but the stern was too far for him to jump off. The second guy arrived and Rick grabbed a line to hand him. The midship fender got wedged between the side of the boat and the electrical box. As the boat continued its forward motion, the fender had nowhere to go but into the box. As if in slow motion, I watched the fender slowly push the box further and further to its side until it was completely on the ground exposing its innerds, a large jumble of wire, nuts, and bolts.

The beast finally came to a halt and was easily tied off. The fenders should have been pulled in when we headed out. Dangling over the rail to untie them with the rough ride would have been a disaster waiting to happen, however. So we left them and had to pay the price. (Actually, when we checked in and fessed up, they didn’t charge us anything.)

One of the guys that grabbed our lines was a native Chesapeake Bay cruiser. We told our tale and were wondering about those waves we encountered. We check multiple marine forecasts prior to setting out each day, so it was a bit perplexing. It happened at the mouth of the Potomac. He explained that the receding waters coming down the Potomac meet the rising tide in the Bay, causing those violent waves. We’d heard nothing of this phenomenon. Add to it higher water levels due to rain. He said it’s the worst area on the Bay and it was exceptionally bad this year. I believe that was for my benefit since I was none too happy about our day.

We were invited for “dock-tails,” as boaters call them, to smooth over our day. Rick went, but I slept.  I’m not a napper, but I napped until it was time for bed. I needed my rest. This lifestyle was supposed to keep us young, but my gray hair has something to say about that.

Well, We’ve Improved the Boat But Not Our Luck

I got up the other morning and was immediately in my own head, as is often the case. I’m not sure what I was thinking about, now that it is post-incident. I’m sure it was trivial; it usually is. Nonetheless, it’s important enough at the time that I block out my surroundings. This gives me hyper focus on my internal conversation, but it leads others to think I’m aloof or rude when I pass by and don’t say “hello.”

This particular morning, I sauntered into the galley on autopilot to get water going for my tea. I have an old camping coffee pot that I fill halfway with water to get exactly three cups of tea. Because the marina water can be sketchy and I’m particular about my drinking water, we have two and a half-gallon jugs with spigots sitting above the refrigerator. I reached up to fill the pot. I can’t see how much is in without shutting the water off and lowering the pot. I can tell about how full it is by listening, though, assuming I remember to listen. This particular morning, I did not. It took a second for the feeling of cold water to clear the fogginess in my head. It rushed down my sleeve and continued flowing down my leg to begin pooling at my foot. I love my onesey PJs on cold mornings, but it held no stop gap for the water flow. As I hopped around, unzipping to dry myself off, I noticed the floor was covered as well. I had filled the pot to the overflow point and what couldn’t make it down my PJs just spouted around me.  To dry my legs I had to pull the onesy down. So I was standing there wearing only a pair of socks and underpants with the only light on being the one directly over my head. It was five o’clock which meant time for the local rowing club to pass by doing their early morning run. I heard them before I saw them luckily, so I was able to cover up. It never occurred to me to shut the curtains. Sigh. Not an easy start to the day.

Since then, the weather has warmed and we’ve been quite productive. Our aft deck is pretty much complete. By complete, I mean the aesthetic changes we wanted to make have been completed. There’s still the problem of living with piles of supplies for other projects. We’ve become adept at hiding things in plain sight. If you look closely you might see some of the wood pile behind the sectional, or forward of the lower helm (around the garden). Still, I’m quite excited at what HAS been accomplished. There would be more photos, but the internet is sketchy here and I’m trying to complete this quickly. Since we’ve purchased the boat, in the aft deck, we have:

—added a new header (wood with cross beams that holds recessed lighting)

—replaced the ugly, ill-fitting mini-blinds with curtains and a valence

—installed new wood floors (added when we purchased the boat)

—installed new lighting, including some cool blue lights for nighttime.

A panoramic view of the aft deck.
A panoramic view of the aft deck.
A partial view of the ceiling, valance, and curtains in the aft deck.
A partial view of the ceiling, valance, and curtains in the aft deck.
A closer look at the aft deck curtains.
A closer look at the aft deck curtains.

This was all done with a minimum of cost and a minimum of legitimate tools, since we did the work ourselves and can only store so much. Some consulting work funding led to adding new electronics including an autopilot. Rick is very excited!

Look, Ma! No hands! The beauty of traveling with a new autopilot.
Look, Ma! No hands! The beauty of traveling with a new autopilot.

We also had an invertor put in to allow us to run electrical appliances when en route without having to run the very noisy and very expensive generator. I’m very excited!

The main salon was given new floors when we did the aft deck. Along with that, a breakfast bar, shelving, and storage replaced a hideous built in dining area (I’ve shown that before). The live-edge counter top is my favorite part of that build.

A panoramic view of the main salon prior to the change in window treatments.
A panoramic view of the main salon prior to the change in window treatments.

We also added new curtains there, as well, and they are even lined.

With the mini-blinds removed, I added these curtains. Each can be all the way down for privacy or rolled up out of sight behind the valance. I prefer them like this.
With the mini-blinds removed, I added these curtains. Each can be all the way down for privacy or rolled up out of sight behind the valance. I prefer them like this.

Finally, the stairs leading into the main salon were refinished.

We moved the boat name up since the original spot was now covered by the dinghy.

Seriously? You take my picture while I'm dirty and scrubbing the old name off the boat?
Seriously? You take my picture while I’m dirty and scrubbing the old name off the boat?

Rails got added varnish for good measure while we stripped and varnished one door frame, swim platform stairs, and both thresholds. The other door frame is next in line, but the weather hasn’t been cooperating. We’ve also almost finished the fender covers. I whacked most of them out in one day.

Fender covers.
Fender covers.

I used leftover material to cover the line holders so they wouldn’t scratch our wood rails.

The covers on our line holders keeps them from rubbing the wood rail.
The covers on our line holders keeps them from rubbing the wood rail.

We made a cover for the upper helm area to keep the rain out.

A panoramic view of the fly bridge including the cover for the helm station.
A panoramic view of the fly bridge including the cover for the helm station (on the right).

Finally, the aft head has been totally refurbished with tile floors, paint, new lighting, new countertop and sink with a backsplash, new curtains, and a curtain to replace the leaking shower door.

A disgusting "before" of the head floor and the rotting wood surrounding the shower.
A disgusting “before” of the head floor and the rotting wood surrounding the shower.
Taking out the head's old sink.
Taking out the head’s old sink.
Hello, 1980s? Come get your light fixture and take those ugly curtains with you, while you're at it.
Hello, 1980s? Come get your light fixture and take those ugly curtains with you, while you’re at it.
A panorama photo of the "after" head. Because of the size, it is difficult to get all the work in the shot. The photo does not do it justice.
A panorama photo of the “after” head. Because of the size, it is difficult to get all the work in the shot. The photo does not do it justice.
Rick even added a little shelf for the baby wipes. Yay!
Rick even added a little shelf for the baby wipes. Yay!

The best part about this room are two hand built cabinets, one on each door, to give some much needed storage.

You cannot imagine how exciting it is to have more storage in the head!
You cannot imagine how exciting it is to have more storage in the head!

We still have a few finishes to complete, but I think it’s really unique and quite beautiful!

Having completed so much, we are excited to get moving again. For those of you that follow along, here’s our itinerary (subject to change, of course).

  • 5/10: Left Norfolk,VA
  • 5/11-?: Deltaville, VA
  • At some point in time: Kilmarnock, VA
  • Onancock/Tangier, VA
  • Solomons Island, MD
  • Cambridge, MD
  • Oxford, MD
  • St. Michaels, MD
  • Galesville, MD
  • Annapolis, MD
  • Rock Hall, MD
  • Baltimore/Fells Point, MD
  • Georgetown, MD
  • Harve De Grace, MD
  • Chesapeake City, MD
  • Delaware City, DE
  • Cape May, NJ
  • Atlantic City, NJ
  • Brielle, NJ
  • Jersey City, NJ/Liberty Landing
  • Croton-on-Hudson, NY
  • Kingston, NY
  • Haughtaling Island, NY
  • Waterford, NY
  • Amsterdam, NY
  • Canajoharie, NY
  • Little Falls, NY
  • Marcy, NY
  • Sylvan Beach, NY
  • Syracuse, NY
  • Oswego, NY

That’s as far as we’ve planned. You’ll notice there are no dates. We’ve run into a snag with our A/C. It stopped. Had the A/C dude out Monday for a few minutes to troubleshoot. His guess is a loose wire in the control panel, which means pulling the panel and systematically checking it all, I guess. Our luck, it will be the last wire. The best guess is the electrician who installed the invertor probably jarred it while doing his work.

Anyway, the current electric dude was to come back Tuesday, but he was nowhere to be found. This is typical of boatyard workers and it frustrates me to no end. What frustrates me more is how Rick, who will get so mad at things that I find trivial, takes these guys in stride. It’s not even that every one of them is late, every time. Okay, if I’m being honest, it IS partially that they are always late, every time. But, I get that unexpected things come up. More than that, it really bothers me that our time is so unimportant to them that they can’t take a minute to call and update us. We’re sitting around the boat like stooges, waiting for nothing. If they don’t have time to help us until next week, they should be honest so we can decide if we should move on and try to get the work done elsewhere. Otherwise, we are merely captives. Paying slip fees captives.

And Deltaville, VA is not exactly a happenin’ locale. Sure, it’s nice once in a while to have zero TV channels. It’s quaint that we were told to go see all the awesome stuff the hardware store has in stock. And it’s very cute that the marina has a domesticated duck that comes ashore in the early morning to eat dog food with the marina dog (they are best buds, apparently). However, the only actual activity available for visitors is the Maritime Museum. Honestly, every little town on water has a Maritime Museum. Every. Single. One. How many paddleboat replicas can a person see in their lifetime without turning into Jack Nickelson in “The Shining”? This is a one night stop that’s gone horribley wrong.

This morning, Rick called to remind them of yesterday’s plan. The call was a partial success. It got the manager, Keith, to come down to us to rudely tell us that unless a guy agrees to work overtime, he has no one to help us. Rick made it clear we were not amused this wasn’t relayed to us on Saturday when we originally contacted them. Keith was quite snippy and suggested we contact our original electrician to see if he would come here to fix what he broke.

That was actually a good idea. Rick got on the phone to “Sparky” who said he was sure it wasn’t the panel and had Rick switch the splitter around and test it again. Sure enough the air came on and the rest of the boat didn’t work. So, Rick disconnected us to the shore power pedestal next to us and ran the line to the next pedestal. Voila! Power all around. We sweated for four days waiting on these guys because the electrician dude didn’t think to test the shore power coming onto the boat (of course, neither did we, but it isn’t our job). NOW, Rick was spitting mad. But I’m over it. We have air. We’re leaving tomorrow, assuming the weather holds out. And the manager comped us our slip fees for the days we were waiting on them (that’s $1/foot times four nights).

Our timing is off, so when we get a clue about our schedule I will pass it on. In the meantime, I’m going to the hardware store.