The year 2011 did not get off to the best of starts for me.
In November 2010, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the ripe old age of 52. Fun. I opted to have that pernicious prostate surgically plucked from my pelvis in early January 2011 to get rid of the cancer. My recovery had a significant setback when I developed an infection and wound up back in the hospital. When it was all said and done, I pretty much spent January through March imprisoned in my house or delicately walking around the workplace. By April, I was ready to go someplace. Any place.
My choice: Yet another one of my make-it-up-as-I-go road trips, with a couple of planned stops along the way.
Needless to say, I was a tad nervous about the trip because I really wasn’t sure how my freshly realigned internal plumbing system would react to being in a car for so long. I thought the road trip would be a good trial. It would be a stepping stone to perhaps a flight across country before taking a leap to fly nine hours across the pond once again. If problems arose, I could simply turn the car around and head home.
One of the planned stops was to see some friends in the Washington, D.C. area, but I was letting my body be the judge of the timing of the trip. I didn’t want to overdo anything.
I left my home with the idea of heading into Kentucky on my way to the little town of Harrogate, Tennessee. Why Harrogate? Well, being originally from Illinois, I was interested in checking out the Abraham Lincoln Museum on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University.
It was a small but very-well curated museum, with many artifacts related to Lincoln and the Civil War. There was even the walking cane that he had with him the night he was assassinated in Ford’s Theater. To be so close to something that was related to an event that changed the course of our history was quite moving.
While in the area, I also checked out Cumberland Gap National Park.
The visitor center helped tell the story of the western migration over the Appalachians through Cumberland Gap, but I was more interested in being outside on a perfect April spring day, so I didn’t spend much time there. I drove up to Pinnacle Overlook to gain a grand view from the point near where Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky come together. The early leaves and blooms on the trees made for a strong sense of rebirth and renewal, which is something I was feeling after my surgery.
I can’t say that I necessarily planned it this way, but this trip was turning into a trip of presidents and architecture. My next stop: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Jefferson and Monticello always held an interest for me, but even though I had gotten close on previous trips, I never stopped. I was really glad that I did this time.
First being there in mid-April with everything in bloom was a pure spring delight. Redbuds, cherry trees, tulips, you name it. Walking around his estate, it was pretty easy to get inside the mind of Jefferson with his broad interests in agriculture and architecture.
Docents led us through the home itself and seeing some of Jefferson’s innovated designs was interesting. Plus, knowing that I was walking through the same rooms as the author of the Declaration of Independence was pretty inspiring as well.
Washington, D.C. was home to an old college friend and his husband. I hadn’t seen Dave in years, so it was good to stop and get caught up with him over dinner. Unfortunately, his husband was out of town, so I didn’t get to meet him. I was also able to spend some time with Kim and Chris. Kim used to work with me in Indiana but had recently taken a job in D.C. We spent some time at the National Museum of American History on the Mall, and we also took a little day trip over to Annapolis the following day.
Fallingwater is the name of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic masterpiece home near Mill Run, Pennsylvania, and it’s something that was always on my bucket list of things to see.
Again, docents led our timed group through this incredible piece of architecture, letting us know about each room. One of the things that struck me was the fact that there were no velvet ropes blocking us off from wandering through the rooms. However, it was made very clear at the beginning of the walk that we were not to touch anything and absolutely no photos of the interior would be allowed. Period.
One gentleman in my group did manage to snap a photo, and a security camera caught him in the act. Within seconds, there was a security person in the room assertively reminding him about the no photos policy. A few rooms later, he did it again, and he was caught again. This time, the security person was in full-blown admonishment mode, threatening to confiscate his camera and to hold it until he left the premises.
All in all, it was a successful trip from a managing my new biology perspective, as well as seeing some of the friends and things that I wanted to.
[Note: This was written in April 2015 in an effort to get caught up on some of my more recent travel tales. Something to occupy the time while laundry is running.]