Sunday, June 05, 2011

100,000 Miles!

I remember hearing the family story about the day that my grandfathers car turned over 100,000 miles and he was so excited he pulled off the road, found a hotel and spent the night.  I don’t know which car of his it was or what year or any other details, just that he was super excited about it.  My grandfather was quirky man, but it made me think about the day my car would reach 100,000 miles. 

My first car, a 1986 blue Volvo station wagon was within 10,000 miles of the magic number when it was totaled in “The Great Alpha Phi Omega Car Accident of 1996”.   I was very sad to lose that car, because we’d had some awesome adventures in it, but I was almost sadder that it never saw 100,000 miles. 

The next 2 cars that I owned, a green Volvo station wagon and a white Chevy Cavalier, I’d bought used and were never really mine.  I have no idea of their mileage either when I bought them or when I sold them. 

Then in 1999 I bought my 1st Saturn.  It was a blue sedan and it had 7 miles on it when I drove it off the lot in Edmond, OK.  I was going to drive that car till the wheel fell off.  Well, or until Saturn gave me a good reason to trade it in!  

Just about a year after I bought my Saturn sedan, Saturn introduced the VUE it’s lineup and I wanted one! I was a bit disappointed that my car was so new and it would be ages before I could get a VUE.  In December 2005 I got an offer in the mail that I couldn’t refuse.  I don’t remember the details, but I remember getting more for my trade in than it would have cost to fix some of the problems that had developed and I got a $500 Target Gift Card – that’s like cash!

My Sedan was close to 100,000 miles, but not quite there yet.  I can’t remember the actual mileage but I’m guessing it was around 80-90,000. 

So, my VUE hitting the 100,000 mile mark was a milestone I’d been looking forward to for a long time!

When the car turned over 90,000 miles a few months ago I started calculating how many miles I drove each week to estimate about when we’d hit 100,000 and I knew it was coming before the end of the school year.   I was extra excited when I saw that it was within 150 miles the day before I was heading to Shenandoah National Park with Penny!

I was prepared, I’d googled the distance so I knew it would happen on Skyline Drive.  As we drove I perfected the art of taking pictures of the odometer while driving so I record the big moment!

It all went down on Saturday May 28, 2011 between Mile Marker 20 and 19, I was heading north on Skyline Drive!


One of my new favorite songs, Michael Franti & Spearhead’s I’ll be Waiting, was playing on the radio!  Oddly enough I haven’t heard the song all week!


I pulled off into the first overlook I came too, luckily it was within the same mile, and got a picture of the car with the view…the VUE with the view! LOL!

There she is! :-) You can see Penny curled up in the front seat, sound asleep!

The car no longer has a “good side” there’s body damage on the front and the back, all my fault.  I hadn’t gotten it fixed because I thought there might be a major issue with the transmission, but there’s not.

I took a few more pictures to record the moment:

The Skyline Drive Mile Marker that just happened to be right across from the overlook for convenient picture taking!

Mile marker 19! I reached 100,000 somewhere between 20 and 19.

The sign indicating the name of the overlook:

This was the sign for the overlook I pulled off into.

And several pictures of the view:

The view from the overlook! P1100256 P1100257 P1100258 P1100259

I think I’d make my grandpa proud, even if I didn’t stop and spend the night!

As I was driving to and from the park that day I was thinking about just where all those 100,000 miles have taken me.  Sadly most of those miles were accumulated driving to and from work.  I drive about 20 miles each way, 40 miles a day, 200 miles a week…it adds up fast.  Throw in weekend trips to Fredericksburg to see friends, Williamsburg & Richmond to see family, and the mountains to hike and it’s no wonder my 5.5 year old car already has 100,000 miles on it!

There have been a few epic road trips though…

In August of 2006 I drove up to Duncansville, PA to visit my friends Drew and Brenna at their new house! They’d moved in earlier in the summer and their oldest son was a year and a half and Brenna was newly pregnant with their 2nd. 

In October of 2007 I drove to Western Maryland for my friend Rachel’s Wedding! I also saw Drew and Brenna and Alex and Evan! Read about that trip HERE.

In December 2008 I took a New Years Road Trip to Canaan Valley, West Virginia. That link is to the 1st day, there are 4 total posts about the trip!

In February of 2009 I returned to West Virginia with Susan and Mike for “Blogfest 2009”, when I finally met Russell, Amy and Annette!

June of 2009 brought us the most epic of all road trips…Susan, Amy, Russell, Leah and I took a day trip to NJ to meet Janet Evanovich!

In December of 2009 my parents and I went to the Great Smoky Mountains after Christmas – it was an 8 hour trip and this remains the farthest I have ever driven this car! Hard to believe that I have accumulated 100,000 miles with 1 long distance road trip! I didn’t blog about that trip at all though. 

The car has also taken me on many days to Shenandoah, Catocin Mt, George Washington National Forest, Liberty Mountain PA for snow tubing, Sky Meadows State Park, and more…just check out the blog archives!

And before I go, one quick story about the 1st day I had the car!  I took delivery of my car on a rainy weeknight in December 2005.  I carefully drove home in the dark, unsure of myself in the new car.  It was about 35 degrees and raining.  The next morning I woke up and checked to see if we had a delay, nope.  The weather was still 35* and raining. I headed out.  At the intersection of Mohican and Old Bridge the back tires skidded on the ice, but the car handled it and all was fine.  The drive to school continued uneventfully as I enjoyed a Christmas Concert on the pops station on my brand new XM radio (Springing for the satellite radio was the best decision I’d made in years!!!!).   When I passed Hayfield HS though I knew something was up – the parking lot was empty!  Usually the High School is well into 1st period before I come through, hmmmm…did we have a delay I didn’t know about?  I was really close to school so I kept going.  When I arrived at my school and saw the parking lot empty, I figured that we must have had a delay.  I went in and saw one of our custodians and he informed that yes, we had a 2-hour delay and I was 3 hours early for school! It had been a late call and had I not been listening to my XM radio I would have heard the announcement! Oh well! Even if I’d heard when I was on my way to school I probably wouldn’t have gone back home!  In the 9 years I’ve been teaching that has only happened once though!

My VUE has been a great car and I’m looking forward to the next 100,000 miles! :-)

Penny’s First Hike

In March Penny, Susan’s and Mike exchange student from Thailand, came and spent the night with me so I could take her to Fairfax in the morning for her TOFEL test.  As we were eating breakfast she was admiring the photographs of my trips to Alaska, Maine, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons that are on the walls in the living room & dining room.  As I described hiking she was a bit incredulous about why anyone in their right mind would climb mountains and walk miles for fun.  But she was also interested in seeing some of these places for herself.  We made plans for me to take her out to Shenandoah National Park to see the mountains!

Last Saturday we headed out!  I’d decided that we would go into the park through the Thorton Gap entrance then drive down to Big Meadows and go for a quick 1.4 mile hike to Dark Hollow Falls and then drive up Skyline Drive from Big Meadows to Front Royal and then take 66  back to Alexandria to drop Penny off with Susan’s sister Judy. 

Susan dropped Penny off about 9:45 and it was about 10 when we headed out.  My car was just about to turn over 100,000 miles and in an attempt to have an idea of where we would be when that I happened I’d google-mapped the route to the park so I could see the milage.  In the process I discovered a new route to get to the park that cut 10 miles off the trip! YAY! As we were driving through rural Faquier County VA we saw a random sign, in Thai! I was going to fast for Penny to read it, but she got a chance when I realized I’d missed a turn and we had to go back! Turns out it was a sign to a temple and the Thai words were just the name.

Soon we made it to Warrenton and stopped at the Sheetz to pick up lunch and get gas.  Turns out Penny LOVES Sheetz and was thrilled that we were stopping there!  While I was checking out the snack options I discovered a bag of Chex Muddy Buddies.  I’d never seen pre-made Muddy Buddies before, and they are Penny’s favorite so I had to get them to try them.  Turns out they are more powdered sugar than peanut butter or chocolate and neither of us ate more than a handful. 

I love making the trip down 211 into Sperryville and up the mountain to Skyline Drive because almost as soon as you leave Warrenton the mountains become more and more visible and there’s lots of anticipation.  I was hoping to share than anticipation with Penny, however Mother Nature had other ideas.  The mountains were totally covered in low clouds.  Low clouds that got thicker as we got closer.  Hmmm…it was not supposed to rain.  In fact it was supposed to be sunny and in the 80s.  I was worried about being hot. 

After we passed through Sperryville and were heading up the mountain the sky opened up and we were in a torrential downpour!  It was a quick downpour and by the time we got to the entrance station for Skyline Drive it had stopped raining, although it was cloudy and cool.  When it was raining Penny asked what happens to people when they are hiking and it starts to rain – not sure she was satisfied with my answer of “They get wet”.   When we passed through the entrance station I asked the Ranger what was up with the rain and she simply shrugged her shoulders and said “the forecast was for scattered showers.”   I pulled into the Panorama parking area because I knew I had 3G service there and checked the radar – there were just 2 tiny green spots, so I figured it would be fine. 

We made our way down Skyline Drive and Penny, who is a afraid of heights, was in awe of how high we were!  We stopped at the Pinncles Picnic area and broke out our Sheetz Picnic.  My first stop was the “comfort station”. I walked in and discovered that there was a lady who was stuck in one of the stalls and needed a screwdriver to get out.  I was pretty sure I had a screwdriver in the car so I walked back to get it.  It was a Phillips Head but I hoped it would suffice.  By the time I got back to the comfort station though the woman had jiggled the lock until it released! It was only then that I remembered I had my “picnic knife” in my backpack and the knife blade would have doubled as a flat head screwdriver!

Penny and I enjoyed the cool, cloudy, but not raining, weather as we at our lunch.  She introduced me to Sheetz onion rings – YUM!  After our picnic we continued down Skyline Drive. 

The clouds were breaking up somewhat, and there were views from the overlooks.  We checked out Stony Man Mountain and Hawksbill and finally made it to Big Meadows.  The parking area and the overflow parking for Dark Hollow Falls was filled so we headed over to the Visitor Center first.  As we pulled in I noticed a HUGE, very dark cloud just south and west of where we were. 

I parked kinda far from the Visitor Center, but close to the trail that would take us down to the trail.  We went into the VC and were checking out the exhibits.  I was gave Penny the Cliff Notes version of the history of the park – wasn’t sure how much an 18 year old Thai student would truly care about the history of the park! Just as we were finishing up the rain started.  It was so loud we could hear it on the roof of the building!  We went to the window where we could watch all the folks hiking in the meadow getting totally drenched! It looked like someone had turned the shower on!  We checked out the gift shop and just as quick as it had started the rain slowed. 

We decided we needed to go to the Wayside and check in the campstore for a poncho for Penny.  Luckily for me my raingear happened to be in the car (not on purpose, it was just luck).  We found a nice $5 “rain insurance policy” for Penny and headed back to the car.  As soon as she got it on I told her that now that she’d bought that, it would stop raining and not start again.  She didn’t think that was funny.  (it did however turn out to be true!)

Back at the car I donned my rain coat (I was unfortunately dressed in all cotton otherwise I might not have bothered – it was cool, but not cold enough to be comfortable in a rain  coat.) and we gathered out water bottles and cameras and headed out. 

I’d hiked to Dark Hollow Falls twice before, once the 1st day I’d ever visited Shenandoah and once when Dad and I hiked the Rose River Falls loop.  Oddly through I remembered little of the trail so it was like seeing it for the first time. 

The trail is .7 miles down to the lower falls and then .7 miles back up.  The creek flows right next to the trail most of the way so there were plenty of photo-ops and things to look at.   We’d been walking about 10 minutes when the clouds began to break up and the sun came out.  Off with the rain gear! About 10 minutes later the clouds had completely broken and the sun was shining and the sky was blue!

We finally made it to the bottom of the falls! There were a lot of people there! Some had stripped down to bathing suits and were swimming in the pool, others were wading, and others were just vying for a good spot to take the perfect picture.  

Penny and I took the obligatory pictures of the falls and of each other with the falls, and then attempted to go down the trail a bit to get a better view, but better views were not to be had.  On the way back up I decided that I wanted to get to the other side of the pool to get “the perfect shot”.  This involved taking off my shoes and socks and wading in.  The water was cold, but not too cold!  I got in a good position and got a few great shots, however many of them had “idiot of the day” in them – a guy who was climbing the falls!

Soon we were on our way back up the trail.  About halfway up Penny declared that going up was better than going down! Spoken like a true hiker!

Once back at the car we headed back over to the wayside to replace the calories we’d burned with some Shenandoah exclusive blackberry ice cream! YUM!

As we entered the wayside we noticed the “Penny smasher” machine – Penny has been collecting these smashed pennies everywhere she’s been so we had to get her one.  In all  my travels I’d never smashed a penny so I thought my hike with Penny was a great place to start! It took us a try to figure out how to use the machine, so Penny ended up with 2 smashed pennies. 

Now for the easy part of the day – driving abut 50 miles of Skyline Drive! The sun was shinning, the clouds were gone, and the temps were still comfortable.  It was the perfect afternoon for a drive! We stopped at a few overlooks and took some pictures from the car, but basically just drove.  Soon Penny fell asleep.  She was out cold!

The car hit 100,000 miles at mile marker 19! I’m going to write a separate post about that, but Penny slept through the whole thing! She also slept through my pulling off the road to take some pictures of newly bloomed Mt. Laurel and me stopping at Dickey Ridge to check in on Foursquare – I was hoping to become mayor of Shenandoah, but I was still 1 day away.  :-(  Penny slept about an hour and didn’t wake up until we were on 66!

We spent the rest of the trip trying to find music in my iPod that Penny was familiar with. I realized that I listen to some obscure music, but  even the current “teen pop hits” that I have weren’t familiar to her! I told her she had to stay another year to familiarize herself with American Pop Music! After a quick dinner at Arby’s, one of the few fast food joints she had yet to try, I dropped her off at Judy and Lucas’ place in Alexandria and headed home myself!

Penny @SNP 5.28.11