Thursday, March 22, 2007

KING TUT - Up Close and Personal

Our intrepid travelers were last seen straggling back from the White House Tour (see last post). As you may recall, the tour was fantastic but very tiring, especially for a certain 75 year old who shall remain nameless to protect the infirmed.

Never ones to let moss grow under our feet, we decided to visit Philadelphia the following day; the better to see Tutankhamun, otherwise known as King Tut. The Texas contingent of our group decided to skip the exhibit when they learned that King Tut was dead. Instead, they planned to spend a full day sight seeing in the historical area.

But first we had to get there. We began hearing ominous news of an impending snow storm, but since we had spent a king's ransom on tickets, we decided to try, anyway. The usual three hour trip took almost eight hours. The aforementioned 75 year old, an obstinate control freak, insisted on being the designated driver, and refused all appeals to turn back. As the snow continued to fall and driving conditions worsened, he appeared to spent most of his time looking for "potty break" opportunities.

Our plan was to have dinner with Claude's family in Philadelphia. We were a little embarrassed when we missed our arrival time by 3 hours and even more embarrassed when we learned that 10-15 of Monica's relatives were among those waiting for us to arrive. Mindful that we still had to reach our downtown hotel, we finished dinner, said our goodbyes and departed. The stress of driving through the snow, combined with the weariness engendered by the White House tour a day earlier, left me exhausted. We finally made it to the hotel, registered, and fell into bed, wondering if we would be able to climb out again the next morning.

As the new day dawned, our spirits brightened. Nancy, Asher and I took a taxi to the Franklin Museum to check out King Tut while Bob, Sue and Luke did their own thing. The museum steps were very interesting (only the front of the steps were painted, revealing King Tut's image there). I then made what can only be described as a brilliant move; I asked for, and received, a motorized wheelchair. The combination of riding instead of walking and standing around, and Asher's skillful navigating saved the day. I was especially impressed with his assured and confident manner as he maneuvered the wheelchair from one great vantage point to the next. I saw all the exhibits, up close and personal. Later, we had lunch and spent more time in the museum

Thrilled to have accomplished our goals without a heart attack or a stroke, I again sought the comfort and security of the hotel bed for a nice long nap. I left orders to be notified when food was available. We had dinner in a fine tavern and retired for the evening.

The next morning featured breakfast in bed, ordered by that quintessential gourmet, Asher Thomson-Jones. I don't remember him picking up the tab, but I'm sure he did. We spent a little more time with Bob, Sue and Luke before they left for the Airport. Nancy, Asher and I had a much easier trip home than expected. All in all, a very pleasant ending to an memorable week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The White House is "our house."

My brother Bob, his wife Sue, and grandson Luke are visiting us from Texas. As part of their trip, Bob had arranged for my wife Nancy, grandson Asher and me to join them for a tour of the White House. I had little in the way of expectations, except a vague feeling of apprehension. Truth be told, I expected to be herded, along with 20 or 30 other people, through a few nondescript rooms, and shown the door. The reality was quite different.

The day had started with me depositing Bob, Sue and Luke to the local Metro Station where they were wisped away for a day of sightseeing in our nation's capital. Nancy, a 6th grade teacher, continued her relentless attack on ignorance in the public schools. I remained at home, hoping to justify my self proclaimed title of trip coordinator. Surprisingly, I managed to get myself, Nancy and Asher to the parking lot of the agreed upon meeting place (ESPN Zone), without a single accident. We turned out attention to the tour.

Mindful of my condition (75 year old PWP -Person with Parkinson's), we took a taxi to the NW gate of the White House. Not so fast, Tourist. I should have said we told the driver to take us to the NW gate. We soon discovered he had dropped us off at the opposite side of the White House, instead. We walked, and walked and walked. I began wishing I was somewhere else. Eventually, we found the proper gate, met our guide and entered the White House Grounds. Although very happy to have made it, I noticed that my backside was dragging.

Thus began one of the most wonderful and, at the same time, draining experiences of my life. Our group consisted of the tour guide and the 6 of us. He was extremely knowledgeable with respect to the White House and the Presidents, as well. He was very personable and made us feel right at home. Indeed, we were constantly telling our two grandsons not to touch anything, and he simply reminded us that this was "our house". And despite the current environment of heightened cynicism and sarcasm, we found ourselves actually believing it.

My only regret was centered around the limitations imposed on me by Parkinson's, and to a lesser extent, my age. Although I wouldn't have missed the tour for the world, the walking and standing required made the tour extremely difficult. I should have brought or rented a wheel chair, and will do so when taking other tours. Another low point was when the batteries in my camera died and I hadn't remembered to bring spares. I like to think that wouldn't have happened a few short years ago. But all things considered, and after a day of rest, I'm ready for my next challenge. Tomorrow we go to Philadelphia to see the King Tut Exhibit at the Franklin Museum.