Tag Archives: winter

Birthday Road Trip, December 2015


My birthday comes between Christmas and New Year. It’s a difficult time of year for a birthday – often people aren’t around, or places aren’t open, and you don’t really feel very much like celebrating again while you’re still recovering from the Christmas turkey, puddings, cake, and chocolate. In the past I’ve embraced it – Christmas cake is way better than birthday cake in my opinion, and a good turkey sandwich makes an excellent birthday lunch. But when you’re celebrating Christmas in a less than traditional way, with family, Christmas cake and turkey sandwiches far away, a Christmas birthday doesn’t seem as jolly.

So we did what we always do when we’re feeling a bit down – we hit the road!

R knows me really well, so he suggested an itinerary that very much appealed to me. We would be starting by driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Delaware – one of the states I hadn’t visited yet – and having lunch and some tastings of beer at Dogfish Head Brewery, which happens to be one of my favourite beers. Then we would drive to Ocean City, MD, and spend the night there; I love being by the sea in the winter, on a good, wind-swept beach.

Day 2 we would drive to Charlottesville, probably via a Chik fil A (I mentioned this trip was designed to fit in my favourite things!).  Here we wanted to see the University of Virginia campus, designed by Jefferson, and Jefferson’s house – Monticello. We thought we might do that on the morning of Day 3, before we drove up the Shenandoah Valley to stay, for our final night, near Little Washington, in Sperryville – where there just happened to be another brewery, and a distillery, as well as a nice restaurant.

On our final day we planned to head up to Skyline Drive and get in a short hike before driving back to DC.

It was a pretty full schedule, but it turned out to be a nice little road trip, which fit nicely into the time between Christmas and New Year and didn’t break the bank.

Read on in my next post


When will it be Spring?

I’m tired of the cold. Tired of having to bundle up in layers, coat, hat and scarf before leaving the apartment. And I’m tired of the snow – picking my way over re-frozen slush to the supermarket in my walking boots. I’m tired of the conversations about the cold and the snow, and checking and rechecking the forecast for any hope of future warmth.

I’ve grown accustomed to the sound of snow shovels scraping the sidewalk outside my apartment. I meticulously plan my laundry to ensure the necessary cycling of thermals and big jumpers. My cupboards are stocked with soup and instant noodles/pasta for when I can’t get out, and I regularly fill the kettle and Brita filter in preparation for when the pipes inevitably burst again.

My shoulders are so used to being tensed against the cold that on the rare day (one so far) that the temperature rises above 2 or 3 degrees centigrade it took me a while to recognize that the happy, light feeling I was experiencing came from my muscles suddenly being relaxed.

And of course, we really shouldn’t complain here in DC; we have it comparatively easy. We’re laughing stocks for allowing our 2–4 inches of snow (central DC) to shut down the metro, schools and the government. Boston has had something like 7.5 feet of snow since Christmas and when the public transport system struggled, criticisms were so great that the metro chief had to resign. People there are really sick of the snow – having to dig their cars out of the snow multiple times in a day, attempting to clear their driveways and sidewalks when there’s nowhere to put the snow. Coming from parts of the UK where snow is unusual and – when it does settle – short-lived, I’d never appreciated quite what a physical problem snow could be. If the temperature stays below freezing and every weekend brings more snow, that is actually over 7 feet of snow piled on the ground. Clearing sidewalks by throwing the snow to one side results in walls of packed snow – effectively as hard as cement – towering above the streets. The challenge is not simply to ‘clear’ the streets, it’s where to put all the snow – as it’s not going anywhere on its own. Construction vehicles have to be pressed into service along with the snow blowers and cutters, to take the snow to ‘snow farms’ or – controversially – dump it in the Charles river.

Snow cutter in Boston before the storm

The snow in DC is far more like the snow I’ve experienced in London of Wales. It’s just the duration of this snowbound season that’s longer. We have the same issue as Boston of temperatures not getting above freezing for long enough to clear our – admittedly paltry – inches of snow from the sidewalks, or do more than cause streams of meltwater and slush which then re-freeze to ice when the sun disappears.

Apparently this is a bad year in DC – apart from last year most people can’t remember winter being this cold for this long. I’m taking comfort in the fact that when we arrived here at the end of last March I only had to wear my winter coat once before it was well and truly spring. Hopefully it won’t be long before I can consign my hat and scarf to the closet for another year.