Monthly Archives: July 2008

Road Trip — Day 4 — A LOT of driving

Clare had two schools on her list in Indiana, on the way to Iowa, and we visited both of them today, but didn’t stop. Neither were a school she felt she’d be comfortable it. I guess that’s what this trip is all about — finding places she wants to live for 4 years. If the architecture is not to her liking, then why stop?

It was not really a wasted day — we stopped at Target in Champaign-Urbana and bought some traveling music and purses and a cooler. I guess we needed a rest from visiting colleges — at least Clare got to rest. I had to drive!

We’re in Galesburg, Illinois now. We’ll visit Knox College tomorrow morning, then head to Mount Vernon, Iowa and hopefully get to tour Cornell College. She’s got another school or two in Iowa, so we’ll probably scoot by those and then head to Elgin for a couple of days before heading back home (by way of a few more campuses).

We had a nice dinner of non-road food, recommended to us by a Dean at the college (we bumped into him outside the college when we were looking at it and he told us where the better hotels were as well.

Oh, and here is what we are missing by being away from Bethesda:

Note received via our neighborhood email list:

If you live in the area of [street names] and have found that the whole area reeks recently, here’s the reason: there’s a dead deer in my backyard. I don’t know where the deer came from, how it died, or why it was I was lucky enough to have it die in my backyard. We first smelled the odor on Tuesday, I discovered the deer on Wednesday (it’s in a hidden area in my backyard), and called Montgomery County Animal Control Wednesday afternoon. They say it will take them one to two days from the time of my phone call to remove the animal from my property. I’m happy they agreed to remove it at all, as otherwise I would not have known what to do. …

Road Trip, Day 3 — Rejection, Fear and Love

Today we left the hotel a little earlier than yesterday and headed out to visit the first college of the day — Denison.

When we left the hotel, I got into the right turn lane, then remembered we should get gas in town because we only had 1/4 of a tank and there was a Shell station nearby for which we have a credit card that makes the price a tad cheaper. To get to the gas station I’d have to turn left. When the light turned green I made the first stupid decision of the trip — to wait to get gas later on.

Again, we didn’t have a reservation at the school, but hoped to get at least a tour. The drive to Granville was not too bad, good roads most of the way, but it did begin to rain a little, and rain worries me when I’m driving on roads I don’t know (you know, the whole hydroplaning issue). Nevertheless, we got to Denison safely and, after getting slightly lost in finding a way on campus because of road construction, followed the directions to the admission office and visitor parking. Clare will tell you that I was not altogether calm at this point because I needed to use the bathroom, but think I dealt with it well enough.

We walked from the visitor parking to the admissions office, a plain white building and entered. Clare wanted me to repeat what I said to another admissions receptionist — that we were on a whirlwind tour of colleges in the midwest and wondered if we could have some literature and a map of the campus to show ourselves around, but the receptionist immediately asked Clare her name, thinking we were registered, along with the several other teenagers milling around the admissions office.

I explained that we didn’t have a reservation, but hoped we could have a tour if possible. The receptionist, a thin, harassed looking woman, said Clare could fill out a form, but she couldn’t guarantee us a tour. Clare filled out the requested form, then picked up a few pamphlets about the school. After about 15 minutes the woman approached Clare and asked for her name again, then said, loudly, “Oh, you were just the walk-in.” Clare replied that she was a walk-in, and then the woman asked if we were “all set”. We took that as a dismissal and left the building. We started to walk around campus, but wondered if it was even worth it, especially since we had other places to go. We both felt a bit embarrassed about the encounter.

Clare still likes the campus, but I figure that if they are that unwelcoming to visitors, then they might be worse with students.

We went back to the car and plotted our next destination into the GPS.

A word about the GPS. Early in the journey Clare decided that the Yoda voice would be fun to have as a navigator. I agreed and soon grew used to his backwards talk. For instance, instead of saying “turn right ahead” the Yoda voice says, “ahead, turn right, you must” and instead of “bear right ahead and join the motorway” it says, “Ahead, bear right and join the motorway, you must”. It was fun, and occasionally made us giggle, especially when we made a wrong turn and it sounded like it was drowning. “Turn around when po — bbbarevae.”

So, we plotted the next destination and took off. About 3 miles down the road I remembered we needed gas. The tank was near empty (but no red light yet) so we used the GPS to find a “petrol” station. It found one, 3.5 miles behind us and could not find on ahead of us. I decided to turn around and go to the BP station. We followed the directions, happy to be getting gas soon since by now the red light was on. We saw the green and yellow colors of the BP station, but the station had closed for good sometime ago, by the look of the building.

I asked Clare to plot the next nearest station, and we set off to find that, by now in a slight panic. We were on tiny country roads with little traffic and few houses. I figured that we could ask a local where the next station was if this one didn’t pan out.

Which it didn’t. There was no Sunoco station nor building at the “destination you have reached” as GPS-Yoda put it.

I admit having a bit of a breakdown at this point, telling Clare our plan if we ran out of gas. (I’d go for gas, she’d stay in the car with the doors locked and most of our money and the phone). She asked me the worst case scenario, and wonderful, caring mom that I am, I told her we could be murdered. Well, she asked…

So, we found one more gas station on the GPS with the unlikley name, Superamerica. Since the GPS also provides phone numbers for the gas stations, I called the one listed for Superamerica. A woman answered.

Woman: Superamerica
Me: Hi. Is this a gas station?
W: Yes?
M: Good. I’m nearly out of gas and my GPS has led me to two places that are no longer gas stations. I just wanted to make sure.
W: Ok
Me: OK. I hope to see you soon. I hope I don’t run out of gas.
W: Ok, bye.

We followed GPS-Yoda’s directions and prayed not to run out of gas. Clare patted my shoulder and reminded me that things had turned out all right when we ran out of gas in Wisconsin. I reminded her that DAD WAS WITH US THEN! Then GPS-Yoda said, ahead, right turn you must. This was a street clearly marked “Dead End” and at the end was a grain elevator or some other farm-related building.

I drove past it, nearly turned onto a road called “connector road”, but drove past and pulled off the road and called Superamerica again.

Woman: Superamerica.
Me: Hi, I called before — I was running out of gas?
W: Yes?
M: Well, my GPS has gotten me lost. I am on [and I read the exact location that the GPS gave me when I chose “help me…my location’].
W: Are you at a 4 way stop?
M: No. I’m on a road next to a cornfield.
W: [calling to someone else in the room] Can you give this woman directions?
New woman: Hello?
M: Hi. I am on [again I read the location as given to me by GPS-Yoda]
GPS-Yoda: Turn around, you must
Clare grabbed GPS-Yoda and tried to muffle the voice, so as not to let the woman on the phone think we were crank calling with Star War Voices
NW: Are you on [she named a route]
M: No, I’m sitting next to a cornfield. I’m from Maryland… — oh, I’m near the St Peter and St Paul retreat center [reading a faded, rusty sign behind me]
NW: Well, you need to get on Connector road…
M: Connector Road! I saw that!
NW: You know that? Good. Now take a right (or left) and go down Connector Road, then take [named route]. When you get to a stop light we are on the left.
M: Thank you! Hope to see you soon.
NW: You’re welcome. Bye.

So, I turned around and followed the directions. We got there and I very nearly kissed the ground. After getting gas ($57) I went in and thanked the women who helped us. They were very nice and said they were glad to help.

New rule — never get below a quarter tank.

Then we set the GPS to Gambier, Ohio and drove. And drove. And drove. We drove on medium roads and tiny roads and finally when we were on gravel roads we began to worry. We suspected GPS-Yoda was getting us back for muffling his voice when I was on the phone. How could these directions be right? Were we going to get lost? Were we already lost?

Finally we rounded a corner and saw a sign that said Gambier. I drove a little farther and saw a sign that announced we were on Kenyon College’s campus. We parked, asked where admissions was, were given directions and found the building.

After the Denison experience Clare and I were a little wary about Kenyon. Clare coached again me on what to say. We needn’t have worried because were welcomed warmly and asked if we wanted a tour. I told the receptionist about what happened at Denison, and she said that Kenyon always had open tours and was surprised, but not really, about the Denison experience. “Besides,” she said, “we have a prettier campus.”

We had our own tour guide, Maya, a sweet and very positive upperclassman. She obviously loves the school.

Clare fell in love with the campus. The buildings are beautiful and in a wooded setting. She’s put it on her YES list along with Chatham.

After Kenyon we drove to Otterbein College in Columbus, but it was too late for a tour. Clare had it on her yes / maybe list, so she decided she’d visit another time if she was still interested.

We drove to Springfield, half way between Columbus, Ohio and Richmond, IN (where the next college is located). We drove to the downtown area of Springfield for dinner, but got a little nervous about the boarded up houses, so went back to the hotel area and ate at a Cracker Barrel (big ick) instead. The other place was probably much better.

Road Trip!! Days 1 & 2 (recovered post)

I just deleted a long post I wrote last night detailing our adventures so far and talking about our upcoming ones, but accidentally deleted it when I was approving a comment. I guess I shouldn’t blog while in strange hotel rooms before my first cup of coffee.

But, because I am a little geeky I was able to recover it, but not the comment…

Clare’s decided what colleges to visit and the majority seem to be in the Midwest…

So we’re off! We left at 9 am Monday and drove to Pittsburgh (with a pit stop in Breezewood). Clare’d shown an interest in Chatham University, after learning how beautiful the campus is, so we stopped by Chatham for their 2 pm tour.

She loved it, as expected. The campus in a secluded, woodsy, hilly area of Pittsburgh. Some of the dorms are in converted mansions and the administration building (which is attached to the dining hall) is in a mansion that, upon entering, you wonder where the butler is hiding.

The only worry Clare has is the woman’s college aspect. She’d like to go somewhere where she can meet a guy, and Chatham itself would not be that place. My thought is — she’ll have lots of chances to meet guys in the surrounding area. She loves Pittsburgh, so I think Chatham is a good match. She’d even be elegible for a couple of merit scholarships.

We spent the night in the Wyndam in Oakland. This experience was better than the last, Sponge Bob, one, but the hotel is run-down and expensive, even with a college visit discount. We had dinner at Primanti Brothers in Oakland and both ordered one of their famous sandwiches which contain, besides the normal sandwich ingredients, cole slaw and French fries.

We also visited Dean and my old neighborhood, Shadyside. We walked past the house where Dean and I rented the third floor. It was being completely gutted and fixed up and I talked to three of the construction workers who were curious about what the place was like 25 years ago. They asked if the roof was shot back then and if anyone moved in after us. I would have asked to see the third floor, but I noticed, over the head of one of the construction workers (on the second floor) that I could see daylight over his head.

We left Pittsburgh this morning around 10, after a filling and delicious breakfast (and the above mentioned drive around Shadyside) and headed to the next school on Clare’s list: Washington & Jefferson in Washington PA. We got a little lost and ended up in a run-down neighborhood just outside the school. The few gothic style buildings we passed by didn’t erase the slums we drove through to get there, so Clare didn’t even want to stop.

From there we drove through West Virgina to get to Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio. Clare talked to a very nice admissions counselor and had a tour. The school grounds are attractive and there are many pluses, but Clare’s worried the school is too much in the middle of nowhere. Marietta is a beautiful old town, but very tiny.

We thought we’d visit more than one college a day, but our mornings are not as organized as they should be. Tomorrow we plan on visiting Dennison and Kenyon — they are pretty close together and not too far from here. We’re staying in Cambridge, Ohio tonight — Clare said it is like her vision of Hell, but she was a little hungry when she said that.

Our hotel room is clean, cheaper than the Pittsburgh one and convenient. We have a view of a hill, which is better than the freeway. We ate at Ruby Tuesdays down the road, and have retired for an early evening.

Home again

We returned from our Irish adventures on Wednesday. The trip was a huge success and we have lots to share.

I’ve begun a new blog dedicated to the trip at

I’m also slowly uploading photos on our flickr account.

Either today or tomorrow morning Clare and I head out to visit some colleges, so my posting might be limited on all blogs.

We’re Off! With lots of rain gear


Windy tonight with further outbreaks of heavy, possibly thundery rain. Rain will ease off later in southern parts, with winds moderating here as well. Lowest temperatures of 10 C to 13 C.


Showers or longer outbreaks of rain in most areas again on Saturday with some heavy, possibly thundery downpours. A few bright or sunny spells also. Windy, with highest temperatures of 15 C to 19 C.

3 Day Outlook

Scattered showers and longer spells of rain over Sunday and into early next week, but, there are signs that it may become warmer in the middle of next week. There will be scattered showers and longer spells of rain over the country on Saturday night, and into Sunday morning. Sunday will be a wet day, with widespread rain and heavy downpours, particularly in the southwest. It will feel quite cool on Sunday, with temperatures only in the mid teens, in the fresh to moderate northerly winds. The rain will die off overnight. Monday will be a better day, with some sunny spells and scattered showers throughout the country. Feeling fresh with highest temperatures again only in the mid-teens, in a fresh to moderate northerly wind. Heavy spells of rain in Connacht and Ulster on Tuesday, while the rest of the country will be showery with some sunny spells. Becoming warmer on Tuesday with highest temperatures reaching the high-teens.

See you July 23!

Review: Mrs Lieutenant

A couple of weeks ago I received a google alert for Elgin, Illinois. I get them several times a week, and usually read them, then delete them. This one, however, I not only read and saved, but I took action that I don’t regret.

The alert was about an author, Phyllis Zimbler Miller, who grew up in Elgin. I’d not heard of the author, but found her on a site I’d been to before, The Author’s Den.  I sent her a message, telling her I was pleased to see that Elgin produced talented people and that I’d also grown up there. I also found her on twitter and found her weblogs. In fact, this woman is all over the Internet.

I added her to my twitter feed and we exchanged a couple of twits and messages on The Author’s Den. She offered to send me her book to read and review here. I accepted, so here we are.

I have to admit, when I looked at the cover of the book and read the blurb on the back, I was a little worried that I was not going to like it. After all, I was a knee-jerk anti-war teenager (and am a more thoughtful anti-war middle-aged woman). Why on earth would the story of four vastly different women who happened to be married to budding army Lieutenants in the 1970’s interest me in the slightest?

I was mistaken. Mrs. Lieutenant was an interesting read. It kept my interest and I came away from it more enlightened about life of military folk during the Viet Nam war. The book has romance, drama, drama, sex, and conflict. I cared about the characters and hated a couple of them. What more could I ask for?

The premise of the book is that four young women from different US cultures are thrown together for a couple of months on a military base while their husbands complete some needed training. Although backgrounds and pasts differ, their futures seem to all hold at least one near-definite: the possibility of their husband’s going to, and possibly dying, in Viet Nam.

Sharon Gold, the main character, is a Jewish anti-war protester from Chicago, Illinois. Donna is a Puerto Rican married to an “Anglo”. Kim is a white woman from South Carolina who doesn’t like Jews, Puerto Ricans or Blacks. Wendy is a sheltered Black woman from South Carolina.

While I believed the tension between Kim and the other women, I had a hard time understanding the tension that Sharon felt. Maybe I’m too young to remember tension between Jews and non-Jews, or perhaps I’ve lived in a community with a lot of Jewish culture for so long. Although, I do admit to not knowing anyone Jewish in my hometown until I got to high school, but it never seemed to be an issue — in fact I might have known them, just didn’t know they were Jewish.

I think this book might even appeal more to women that lived that life — even if they lived it during other wars, or during times of peace (have we actually had those?)

While Ms Zimbler Miller’s writing style occasionally felt awkward (possibly because she was writing in language of the 1970s), there were some spots of brilliant writing:

“Don’t lie to me. I know you were with a man.”

Jim’s face flushes with the ugliest shade of purple she’s ever seen. His eyes will pop out of his face any minute, landing at her feet and rolling away, becoming marbles for Squeaky to chase.

She sinks to the floor as her knees fold under her. “I swear Jim, I swear on my sister’s life, that I was home all day alone. That I was not with another man today, or ever before, or ever in the future.” The tears plop onto her hands.

He stides down the hall. In a moment he’s back.

He has the gun!

“I’ll kill you if you’re ever with another man. I promise you, Kim, I’ll kill you.”

So, as I told Ms Zimbler Miller in my first message — it’s great to see that Elgin, Illinois produced people with her talent. She spent time at the very same library I did as a young child — perhaps we read the same books.

I’m sending this book to my Aunt Ginny, who went to high school with Ms Zimbler Miller. I think she’ll even get more out of it than I did.

Thanks Mike!

I drove the 20 minutes to Gaithersburg this morning after feeding the neighbor’s cat. I was nervous the whole way, wondering how it would go. When I got there, I checked the car for the receipt — no luck, so I braced myself for an unpleasant time and walked into the store, showing the woman at the door my membership card, which I carried in my right hand. The SD card boxes were in my large purse.

When it was my turn at the returns desk, the gentleman who helped me was friendly and helpful. He walked me to the “cage” that carried cigarettes and electronic equipment and told the woman behind the counter what the problem was. She said we needed to talk to a manager.

The returns gentleman walked me to the service counter and told me I needed to talk to the “short woman in green”. There were two short women in green, but one had no vest, so I stood in her line. The other short woman in green asked what I needed so I explained the situation to her. She basically told me I was out of luck, that there was no way of knowing if I actually got the cards and then was bringing the boxes to get more. I told her I didn’t get the cards and that I figured that the woman in the cage would have taken the empty boxes when she gave me the cards. The short woman in green with a vest said that some people left them in their carts, so I could have picked them up from the cart and brought them in. I said, a little louder this time, “But I didn’t do that. I purchased these last Sunday and the cashier didn’t tell me the boxes were empty.” She said, “I can’t help you.” I said, “So you mean I’m out $60?” She said I was.

I was more than annoyed at this time and was not going to back down. I was about to say something like “I’m not leaving until I get what I paid for.” I was then going to ask for a manager (probably the short woman in green with no vest) and if I still didn’t get the cards I was going to cancel my membership.

I’d noticed a man in a blue polo shirt behind the short woman in green with a vest. His nametag said “Mike”. She turned to him and he said he’d help me. First of all he wanted my membership card. I looked for it in my wallet (taking every card out to do so) and in my pockets (taking my keys out do do so) and in my purse (thank heavens I’d just cleaned it out and only had a few tissues and my cell phone in it). I said I may have dropped it, but had just had it in my hand. He believed me, then asked for my name — to look up my membership number. After a few moments of him typing and me putting things back into my wallet, he asked the short woman in green with a vest to get me two packages of cards. The woman from the cigarette cage brought me the cards and asked if she should ring them up. Mike said no. He then gave me a piece of paper with my membership number on it, told me to put the cards in my purse so the guys at the door would’t question my not having a receipt.

I thanked him and went to the returns desk to see if my membership card was there. The returns gentleman held smiled and handed it to me. On my way out Mike smiled at me, seeing I had my card.

I imagine he’ll tell his family at dinner that he had a real ditzy woman at the warehouse today — someone who actually tore open fake box and wondered where the cards were, then lost her membership card and her receipt.

No matter — I’m an honest person, maybe it shows.

Where’s the Card?

In addition to packing, finishing laundry, finishing planning, cleaning the house and finishing some documentation for work and possibly more file conversions before our 19 day trip to Ireland on Friday evening, I need to run back to Costco to pick up some SD cards that I bought over a week ago, but didn’t realize that I just got two empty Styrofoam cartons. The outside of the package gives a lot of information about the SD cards, so I expected them to be in the package. The outside of the package says “Take to Cashier” — but nowhere does it say “This box is empty. Take to service desk for the actual product.

I think the cashier was supposed to tell me to take it to the service desk for the actual cards, but didn’t. I think that the guy at the door who checks your cart and marks on your receipt was supposed tell me to take it to the service desk but didn’t.

Now I need to waste an extra couple of hours and gas to run up to Gaithersburg to pick up the actual cards.

Oh, and I threw the receipt away.

I’m annoyed. Can you tell?