Soule family trip to Antietam 22 - 24 Sept

Day 1 (22 September)


Pam came through the breast cancer surgery just fine and we got the best possible answer we could have received from the surgeon. Her cancer has not spread beyond the membrane (thus no need to remove lymph node(s)) and he "got it all" as evidenced by a small sliver of normal tissue around the removed tissue (thus no need to go back in and get more). Pam starts her radiation treatment 5 October and this trip was just a way to get her out of the house and change her focus to more fun things. Radiation treatment will continue to 21 November and we will decide about ten days before that if we still want to go to Europe.


After getting the good news that Pam won't need more surgery, we wanted to go camping with Beau since it is not so humid now (Pam's precondition for going since we have lived in Virginia). Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate (scattered thunderstorms forecast). We adopted an alternate plan to visit the Antietam battlefield and areas nearby (with no specific plans, my favorite way to vacation, I just don't get to do it very often). I have wanted to tour Antietam ever since I toured the Gettysburg battlefield last year. We drove to Sharpsburg, MD (where the battle was fought) yesterday, but got there after the visitor center closed because Pam got stuck in traffic coming back from the dentist (somehow this became my fault). We stayed at the Bavarian Inn,, across the Potomac River in nearby Shepherdstown, WV (the oldest town in WV) and walked around the historic downtown area near Shepherd University, dining at the Inn's Rathskeller restaurant. Shepherd University is every parents' worst nightmare, a school that claims that it caters to "life-long learners" and does not really emphasize graduation/degrees. It claims to have a student body of 5000, which seemed impossible on our first pass through the town, but we later saw the dorms that are on the opposite side of the main road from the historic district and what appear to be the classroom buildings. There is even an elderly crossing guard (the first I have ever seen for college students) that controls when students get to cross from the dorm/athletic fields side to the classrooms side. Pam thinks this probably gives the students a new excuse for being late to class ("the crossing guard would not let me cross"). The Bavarian Inn is modeled after alpine lodgings in Germany and was an unexpected treat.


Day 2 (23 September)


From 10-1600 today, we toured the battlefield with an audio CD narrating the tour, something I highly recommend. I did this when I took my parents to Gettysburg and it made a big impression on me after doing the self-guided tour only with Pam and Beau months earlier. After stopping at the national cemetery, we drove on backroads to Harpers Ferry (Beau was convinced we were not going to get there and I would end up driving off the twisty, hilly road), but arrived after the national park had closed so we pressed on to historic Charles Town. I suppose Harper's Ferry has its charms, but other than the Appalachian Trail information center/shack, we though Shepherdstown was a lot more interesting. Charlestown is just down the road and has many more restaurants and hotels. We intended to explore its historic district tomorrow morning before heading back to Norfolk for the weekend.


This trip was something of a mini-rehearsal for our trip to Europe, should that come to pass after Pam's radiation therapy. I think it worked out well. One of the big family events on this trip was teaching Beau to pack and operate like we were on our possible European trip. It was something of a dress rehearsal and that worked well. I also taught Beau to shave (he only gets hair in the mutton chop area, from his side burns to under his jaw). He has been reluctant to shave so I taught him how, all the time hoping like heck he did not suffer a bloody facial cut and scar himself for life because under the jaw near the ears is not an easy place to shave.


After we decided to press on from Harpers Ferry to Charles Town, we struggled to decide which hotel to choose since there was an absence of recognizable chain hotels (not a problem per se). Pamela and Beau successfully resisted the desire to choke me for spending fifteen minutes in a parking lot seeing if Trip Advisor, Expedia, and Travelocity. According to TripAdvisor, there is no such pace as Charles Town. The other two sites kept recommending hotels 15 or more miles away. We finally settled on the Turf Motel, so named for the proximity to the race track, but I expected to find grass instead of carpet in the room.


We ate dinner at the Jumbo Buffet (Chinese food, of course) that looked like it was in a converted Shoney's. Pamela surprised me by coming back from her first trip to the buffet with bright orange and red jello. She seemed to think it went well with her General Tso's chicken and I knew better than to argue. Beau accused me of sabotaging his dessert by not volunteering the availability of Oreo ice cream.


Day 3 (24 September)


We had planned to check out some of the historical sites in Charles Town, but the museum did not open until 1100 so Pamela, the "driven woman," wanted to press on toward home. The rain made things a little more challenging, the biggest impact was when we pulled over for lunch outside of Staunton. We had to drive all over the exit area trying to get to the Cracker Barrel with Beau and I wildly yelling "go left" and Pam yelling back, "I can't see." We tried a few more rounds of "go left" "I can't see" before Beau and I gave up. As Pam pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot, she acted like the five mile detour it required was part of her plan all along and Beau and I just complicated matters, but the two males were not convinced. Not that it mattered, we were still wrong.


Another key stop along the way was at the nearest REI to where we live, Shortpump (what kind of town name is that?), Virginia. We got some minor items for the possible European trip and I had to resist the temptation to buy another pack towel (I have something like 5 already), but am fascinated by the latest space age fabrics they use and how small the fold. The next innovation will be a towel that just sucks the moisture off your body without even touching you. I also resisted the temptation to buy a $3 mini cheese grater, one of the many camping gadgets that are hard for me to resist. Pam was pleasantly surprised that she could exchange her well-worn hiking shoes for a larger size (her two feet are not the same size). She had some difficulty understanding why should could not just exchange one of her shoes, but I assured her the store would have little use for two shoes in one box that were different sizes.


With the driven woman back at the wheel, we headed south to Petersburg so we could take 460 back to Norfolk and avoid the Friday evening traffic on US 64. It also had the side benefit of allowing us to stop for dinner at the Virginia Diner in Waverly, VA. The highlight of the meal was the peanut pie, similar to pecan pie, but sweeter on top and not as sweet below the nut level. I also ran into a Naval Officer I know, CDR Jason Lloyd, as we came into the restaurant. He was heading to a bicycle race in Pennsylvania with a friend.