Field Trip for a Class of Two

Ok, I know I promised that Monica was going to write the next blog post, but she has been up to her ears in a book on the 100th anniversary of a local organization, so I’m going to keep driving this rig. She’s got something coming soon though.

After we left Cape Hatteras, we set our sites back on the nation’s capital. But before D.C. we had another stop planned. Earlier this summer we bumped into some friends who liked Pocahontas State Park in Virginia so much they went twice. We really wanted to check it out because the park has a museum dedicated to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (offering private tours during the pandemic).

Just one problem:

While we drove through that big clear area from the coast of North Carolina into Virginia, it rained on Pocahontas State Park. A lot.

Our friends told us about miles of hiking trails and a beautiful lake. But the trails were all flooded, we never even saw the lake, and the staff was so consumed with cleaning up storm damage that our museum tour was cancelled. We rolled with it, played lots of cards and watched movies. It was still very pretty and the campground was spacious and quiet. We managed to find enough dry trails to know that we’ll come back at a better time.

There’s no mercy when our family plays Uno. Our daughter is the most ruthless of the bunch. It’s too bad they don’t have Uno in casinos, because she’d get rich. As for the Uno emojis, after about 1,000 washes, Monica’s favorite pajamas border on PG-13.

Monica got some trail running in and taught a little PE.

With Pocahontas washed out, we set our sites on D.C. and a chance to redeem ourselves after our experience the previous month. Our last visit was a brief disaster in which I almost killed myself, so it wouldn’t be hard to improve upon. It was a short drive back to our favorite “guilty pleasure” campground, Cherry Hill Park in College Park, MD. (pool, splash pad, minigolf, huge laundry room). But before we could get there, the highway was lined with interesting brown signs.

Interesting brown signs?

Yes. Those brown signs indicating historic sites at each exit. Battlefields for battles we’ve never heard of. Birthplaces for familiar names and strange ones too. One sign read “Stonewall Jackson Death Site.” Death site? But looming greatest was the Fredericksburg Battlefield. This family is all about battlefields and cemeteries.

We know Gettysburg is a granddaddy of Civil War battlefields, but Fredericksburg is a great one to visit because of the compact area to see major elements of the battle and the old walls and houses riddled with bullet holes and marks from cannon fire. There is an old cemetery that was there during the battle where the brick wall was destroyed, but the original granite pillars still showed their battle scars. The cemetery is also the resting place of George Washington’s nephew (famous for being George Washington’s nephew). Our daughter, on a quest to turn our RV into a giant skill-crane game full of stuffed animals, favored the bear in the gray suit, but we insisted that only Union bears were welcome in our camper. (This made me wonder, do they sell stuffed Nazi bears at Normandy?)

After a couple of hours at Fredericksburg we were off to the D.C. area to spend a proper day checking out the sites that could be viewed from the outside. The weather was much more cooperative (no vomit inducing heat) and we bought trolley passes so that I wouldn’t have to risk my life on an electric scooter.

We obviously couldn’t see the inside of anything and the museums were all closed, but there’s a lot to see outdoors. I couldn’t get Monica to jump into the reflecting pool yelling, “Forrest!”

The FDR Memorial was a favorite and we mixed in a little economics lesson about how we spent more time and money in states with strong COVID-19 regulations. And we got to catch a glimpse of Marine One, presumably practicing for the inevitable trip from the White House to Walter Reed Hospital to deliver a ‘perfect physical specimen’ for heavy doses of mania-causing steroids.

In College Park we hopped on our bikes and took a scenic urban rail trail in search of sushi. We almost succeeded when we stumbled into an empty Japanese restaurant where you cooked everything at your table in a cauldron of simmering broth. The menu was reminiscent of the mystery meats and chicken feet from a Chinese restaurant we happened upon outside of San Francisco a few years ago.

Flashback to 2017 – we headed out of San Francisco with a craving for Chinese food. We happened upon a place in the town of Millbrae, where the seafood was kept alive in tanks until you ordered it. The menu was in Chinese and food was streaming out of the kitchen on carts for the taking. We just started pointing. Monica quickly selected the most familiar looking item, fried chicken. Our son observed that the chicken was shaped like a hand, and I realized that he wasn’t far off. I can attest that chicken feet taste like fried chicken, but little claws at the end were a little off-putting. We didn’t have the heart to tell the kids there was a Chipotle next door.

Mostly D.C. was about school. When we decided to homeschool this year, I assumed that I’d be doing the heavy lifting in the task. But Monica assumed the role of Homeschooler in Chief and I’m like the janitor/science/math teacher who also handles the administrative end of things. Monica is a great teacher and they are having a blast. It’s fun to watch. Our kids loved school and they miss their friends, but it simply wasn’t a safe option for our family. Teaming up on this task has been more rewarding for us as parents than I could have imagined.

“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Jon’s 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at Monica is a non-profit consultant, grant writer, marathoner, baker, tour guide, and prolific bath taker. Also, don’t forget to follow our Instagram feed for stuff that doesn’t make the blog.

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