Operation Caracal

December 21, 2016 – January 3, 2017

Trip mascot

The year 2016 was very hard for the family. A lot of plans had to be curtailed or dropped, and several ideas went up in smoke. Even now, it looks like things are going to be difficult for a while. So we decided to end the year on a high note and take a trip.

When we started planning this, the future looked bumpy. By this time I knew that my job with the Library was coming to an end, and that the full extent of ADHD’s havoc on my life was worse than I first thought. As for Lisa, her future was going to get increasingly busy, because she was going to be returning to the work force after being a stay at home mom for almost ten years. With all of this in mind, we wanted Caitlin and Michael to have a good sized helping of fun before life’s troubles closed in with a vengeance.

As with some previous trips, this one had a silly animal name: Operation Caracal. This trip closely followed the route of an earlier trip, Arapaima. The primary destination was Hammond, Louisiana, where Lisa’s parents live, and not far from where Lisa’s sisters live. Partially because of this, we also decided to scope out this area for possible places to live and work. Because of the family connections, the greater New Orleans area would be a logical choice for us, should the upcoming life changes require us to relocate.

The plan for the trip was a very simple one. We would drive down, be total vegetables for almost two weeks, and drive back. We considered side trips to attractions in Atlanta and Chattanooga, but for largely financial reasons we stayed on the straight and narrow path.

Days 1 and 2: December 21-22, 2016

We left home on the afternoon of December 21, after dropping Dr. Watson at his pet resort. Our target for the night was Bristol, Virginia, roughly five hours away. On the whole this first leg of the trip was easy, except for some bad traffic on I-81.

Bristol is famous for straddling the Virginia/Tennessee state line. The state line runs right down the middle of one of the main streets, where there are little brass plaques every few yards. They read Virginia on one side, and Tennessee on the other. Geico recently featured these plaques in one of their commercials. We decided to have a little fun with them.

Bristol also has this historic rail station. In addition to still being a functioning train station, this building is used as an event venue, dance hall, and meeting location.

Front view

Back view

There are some other interesting sights around town. Bristol figures prominently in country-western music. My own musical interests lean toward folk and classic rock, but there is a certain amount of overlap. I would be curious to explore this town in greater depth at some point.

This is supposedly the largest (or one of the largest) playable guitar in the world. I don’t know how one would actually play it, though. It’s located in front of the chamber of commerce building, on the Tennessee side of town.

 


This sign straddles the street that serves as the state line. If you look carefully, you can see Caitlin and I near the base. This sign is pretty big!

As we continued southwest, we climbed in altitude, and the air became increasingly brisk. The stretch through Tennessee is the highest part of the route.


Lisa managed to grab this lovely image of the interesting frost effect that occurred in the high, cold Tennessee mountains between Bristol and Knoxville.

Not long after crossing the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, the altitude drops rapidly. Once out of the mountains, the route enters the long coastal plain of the Southeastern United States.

This part of the trip, the stretch through Alabama and Mississippi, has to be the dullest piece of road I have ever been on. I’m sure there are nice things to see and do along the way, but we were weren’t making any unnecessary stops. In hindsight, perhaps we should have. It might have broken up the monotony.

By the time we finally reached the Louisiana state line, it was after 9:00pm, and we were all good and truly sick of riding in the car. Also, my Adderall had worn off, so I was coming unglued. The last few miles were arguably the worst. When we reached Lisa’s parents house around 11:00pm, we were beside ourselves.

Once safely encamped in the guest rooms, all of us, even Michael, slept like logs.

To be continued.


We decided that for future trips we would try to time things differently. This drive, under the best of circumstances, takes roughly fifteen hours. Doing five hours one day, and ten hours the next sounded good on paper. In practice, not so much.

Caracal travelogue:

  1. Operation Caracal
  2. Louisiana down time
  3. Driveabout
  4. Michabelle Inn
  5. Arrival 2017AD
  6. Dems good eats
  7. First transition

Arapaima Travelogue

ArapaimaRoute

Operation Arapaima, continued.

Here is the day by day travelogue. Some days are omitted because nothing really big happened. Hey, some days you need to just kick back and relax.

Day 1: December 20, 2014
The first phase of this trip was to Durham, North Carolina. I have an uncle and aunt who live there, and I haven’t seen them in several years. We used this opportunity for a quick visit. As a bonus, one of their two sons was home this Christmas. This was the first time any of them met Caitlin or Michael in person. We spent the night in a rather nice hotel a short drive from their house.

trex
Tyrannosaurus Rex statue, Doswell, Virginia.

durham1
Thomas, Michael, Joshua, Caitlin (being a goofball), Muri, and Lisa

Durham2
Thomas, Michael, Joshua, Muri, me, and Caitlin (still being a goofball)

Day 2: December 21, 2014
We left Durham around 9:00am, for our next stop of Evans, Georgia. Lisa has an aunt, uncle, and cousins who live there that she hasn’t seen for many years. This was another case of opportunity knocking, so we paid them a visit. We spent a few hours with them, and had dinner at a local restaurant, and generally had a good time. Caitlin was especially happy to have people close to her own age that she could hang with for a while. After this visit, we traveled an additional two hours to a suburb of Atlanta, where we had hotel reservations for the night. This particular piece of travel was very difficult, because it was pitch dark and raining most of the way. Still, we made it to our hotel just after midnight, and quickly crashed. This hotel was quite a contrast to the one we had in Durham, but we were too tired to care.

Evans1
Uncle Conrad, Caitlin, Chloe, Michael, Aubry, Aaron, and Aunt Pat.

Evans2
Aunt Pat, Uncle Conrad, Aubry (being a goofball), Donald, Connie, Chloe, and Aaron.

Evans3
Aunt Pat, Precious, Uncle Conrad, Lisa, Michael, Connie, Aubry, Caitlin, Chloe, Aaron, and me.

Day 3: December 22, 2014
We got a later start than we had planned, because after the previous night we decided that the extra sleep was a necessity. We left the Atlanta area around 10:00am (Eastern Time), and made a bee-line toward Louisiana. Fortunately, traffic was light and the weather was co-operative. We opted to spend the night in Atlanta so that the Atlanta rush hour traffic would all be behind us when we continued. Given the congestion on the other runner, this was a smart move on our part. The trip through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana was smooth and without incident. Well, it was without incident if you discount Michael’s little adventure in the restaurant where we stopped for lunch. Catching a toddler that doesn’t want to be caught can be quite a challenge! We reached Hammond, Louisiana, around 6:00pm (Central Time). The three day outbound drive was now complete.

vtree1
The Vedeckis Christmas Tree, 2014

Day 5: December 24, 2014
Christmas Eve included a traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve dinner at the Vedeckis home. Sadly, it also included the loss of one of Michael’s special shoes during a last minute gift acquisition run, which was itself a complete and total failure.

Day 6: December 25, 2014, Christmas Day
A large gathering of Lisa’s extended family filled the Vedeckis house for several hours. Presents were opened, photographs and news were shared, and lots of food was consumed. It was one heck of a party!

Day 7: December 26, 2015
This was another low key day, though we were able to replace Michael’s missing shoes.

Day 8: December 27, 2015
The plan was to visit one of Lisa’s sisters, and allow our various children to play. However, this did not happen. In mid-afternoon I learned that I had to return to Northern Virginia.

We hastily packed and disembarked. None of the additional visits to family in Hammond took place, not did any intended visits to New Orleans or the surrounding area. Unfortunately, this is how life goes sometimes. No matter how well plans are laid or preparations made, if Fate and/or the Almighty has something else in mind, then the gig is up.

We drove straight through the night, and through one of the worst rainstorms I have ever experienced. We had originally planned to stop for the night at some point, but I wasn’t willing to wait. In this particular case, time was far too precious.

Day 9: December 28, 2015
We arrived home on the afternoon of December 28. We were able to make a quick stop at Mrs. Rowe’s restaurant in Stanuton, Virginia. However, we didn’t have a meal, which was the original plan. We picked up some frozen take-home food, and moved on. Still, the restaurant was busy, and the smell of Americana food was strong and enticing. I was pleased to see that this local restaurant was still going strong.

It was an overcast and dreary day in North Central Virginia. This brought Operation Arapaima to an abrupt, premature, and sombre conclusion.

The next major family trip will be next summer, to the Chicago area. Caitlin and I have already code named this trip “Operation Bullfrog.” Hopefully it will be more successful.


Final route:

Total distance: 2359.6 miles.

Operation Arapaima

December 20, 2014 – January 3, 2015

Arapaima

This Christmas, the Pugh’s of Culpeper did something different: we took a 15-day road trip that I jokingly named Operation Arapaima. I chose that silly name because (a) Caitlin really likes those big fish, and we expect to visit an aquariums along the way, so we’ll probably see one. Also (b), I’m poking fun at military and government operations that have strange names which make little or no sense. In hindsight it might have made more sense to call this Operation Mud-skipper, given how the trip has been broken into a series of short jumps. At any rate, the ultimate destination is the home of Lisa’s parents in Hammond, Louisiana. Her two sisters and their families live in that same general area. We’re doing this trip for three reasons.

First, we were unable to visit with Lisa’s family during the summer. Most summers, my in-laws rent a beach house somewhere on the Gulf coast, usually Gulf Shores, Alabama, and we visit them there. We were all set to go again this past summer, until someone slammed their S.U.V into the side of our house! That sent just about every summer plan we had straight to the compost heap, so we arranged to do this instead. Actually, even this trip came close to being scrubbed, just a few days before we were set to start. I’ll talk about that somewhere else.

Second, back in the spring we bought a Prius-V, which gets amazing gas mileage for a car its size. Normally we would fly a distance like this, but airplane tickets are prohibitively expensive these days, especially around the holidays. But with this nice new car, driving is actually a viable option.

Third, it’s an adventure! Need I say more?

Dr. Watson will be spending the holiday at a pet spa in Rapidan, Virginia. That’s not a bad deal for him, actually.

ArapaimaRoute

Mind you, I started to feel differently on the third day of travel. When I was younger, family trips were always done by car. Using a plane or train was never seriously considered. So in some ways I’m accustomed to long car trips like this. But I didn’t always like them. I really don’t like to fly, but I’m pragmatic enough to know that for some destinations, and when time is a pressing issue, flying is the only real option. But if another method if available, I’ll look into it. Truth be told, my favored means of long distance travel is rail. But this time, the train timetables just didn’t co-operate with our travel windows.

Lisa wasn’t very taken with the idea, but seems OK with it as a one-time thing. She generally prefers to fly, and whenever we plan a long trip, flying is her go-to method. We’ll see how this driving thing goes. At first the kids were fine with the long car ride. But after two days of almost non-stop driving, the third day of driving (from Atlanta to Hammond) couldn’t end soon enough.

If there is one advantage to driving, it’s the ability to have a flexible timetable. That has allowed us to include some stops along the way, to places and people we normally wouldn’t get a chance to see. At present, the itinerary looks something like this:

  • Durham, North Carolina, to visit some of my family that I haven’t seen in several years.
  • Augusta, Georgia, to visit some members of Lisa’s family that she hasn’t seen in a long while, either.
  • Hammond, Louisiana. This is where we will spend Christmas and New Year’s, with members of Lisa’s family.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana. Hopefully, while in Hammond, we’ll get a chance to take in some fun in the Crescent City.
  • A favorite restaurant in the Shenandoah valley, on the final leg of the return trip.

Day by day travelogue.

This was the original itinerary, but this isn’t how it turned out. A few days before we left I was informed that my mother was very sick, and that it was the kind of sick you don’t recover from. The trip was almost cancelled, but we went anyway, with the proviso that if I needed to return home before the scheduled end of the trip I would. Sadly, that is exactly what happened.