Surviving Our Wishes - SunGlo Photo

Surviving Our Wishes

It was our first winter after moving from Texas. My wife Ann and I had faced down cold weather, snow, and even ice while living there, so we were not the slightest bit nervous about our new home being in the “cold north”.

During our chats with some of the “local” people, we learned the DC area did not receive heavy snows on a regular basis, something about the mountains blocking the storms. So, I guess in our own naive way, we were looking forward to our first real snow, not the beasty, snow-covered ice we were accustomed to fighting in Texas, but instead its tamer, fluffier, northern relative.

In addition, the “locals” left us with the impression Virginia’s winter temperatures would not affect us quite as bad as the nasty cold in our old location. In that part of Texas there was ALWAYS wind, lots of wind, and in the winter that wind made it feel as though you were living in a subzero freezer…I’m shivering just thinking about it.

Oh, I guess I should mention so you don’t get too awfully confused, we currently live in Herndon, Virginia and my office is located in Arlington. Because of it’s proximity to the Nation’s Capital, this whole area is typically referred to as the Washington D. C. area, or colloquially as the “DC area”.

It’s an interesting place and we are located in a small town within easy reach of two very different worlds. In one direction, it’s a short drive out into the beautiful Virginia countryside with its rolling hills and amazing mountains. In another direction, it’s a relaxing ride on the METRO to reach bustling downtown DC with all its neat historical sites.

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The trees were in their glory during the fall months, so we made several trips to both Great Falls National Park and Shenandoah National Park to get the full effect of the seasons change. About the only thing I can say is wow. We are now headed into the Christmas season and still no sign of snow. Maybe we’ll get lucky and have a white Christmas…that would be pretty cool.

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Christmas came and went and it definitely had not been white. I am guessing our names were not on Santa’s “nice list”, since the snow we had wished for never made an appearance. It is now the first part of January and we were hoping to see some of the white stuff any day now. So far, it has been a nice winter with sunny days and chilly but tolerable temperatures. It sure would be nice to see some of that tame, fluffy, snow though.

Between my work and all our weekend sightseeing, the days seem to be flying by and suddenly mid-January was just around the corner. According to the “locals”, there should have been some light snow by now. Hmmm, I wonder if all that hot air coming out of DC is keeping it from snowing. Heck, at this point, I think we would even settle for some of that beasty, snow-covered ice from Texas.

As we sat down to supper, I reached over and turned on the television to catch the latest news and of course the weather forecast. Yeah, yeah, I know, shame on us for watching television while eating dinner. The weather segment was winding down and still no sign of that magic word we dearly wanted to hear. The weatherperson was nearing the end of the forecast when all of a sudden there they were, those magic words, they came winging right out of the television speakers “…and a slight chance of SNOW flurries tomorrow…” I looked at Ann and said, “Did he just say what I think he said?”

“If you think he said snow flurries, then yes, he said what you thought he said only with the caveat of a slight chance of it happening.”

I spent the rest of the evening jumping up every so often to see if it had started to snow, only to be sorely disappointed when no flakes were in sight. I was driving Ann crazy and she finally had enough of my shenanigans and headed up to bed. Ugh, are we ever going to see some of that tame, fluffy, white stuff…I wish it would snow.

It was getting late and I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. Even though it was Friday and I did not have to work tomorrow, I still headed to bed. I just could not stay awake any longer. I was truly disappointed, no snow…maybe, just maybe, I will wake up to a white surprise…then again, maybe not. I was beginning to wonder why both of us were so fixated on this snow thingy.

The next morning, the smell of coffee brought me back to the land of the living, well that and the urgent call of nature. I needed my coffee, so it was a mad dash to finish my morning routine and head down to the kitchen and get my fix. I had one thing on my mind…coffee, not snow, not anything else, only a steaming cup of that awesome wake-me-up liquid.

As I started to drink my coffee, Ann turned to me, and with a strange smile on her face, asked, “Are you happy now?”

“Yeah, I love my coffee and definitely needed a cup this morning.”

“No, are you happy now that you got what you wanted?”

“Aaaaa, yeah, and I’m fixing to have a second cup, maybe even a third.”

“You haven’t looked out the window have you?”

“Aaaaa, no…oh, oh, you mean it happened? We had snow. Oh man and I slept through it.”

I ran to the window so fast that I created enough wind to blow coffee out of my cup onto my clean shirt, I did not care, it had snowed and I wanted to see the result. I knew I would be in deep doo-doo when Ann found the stain, but right now, all I was interested in was the snow. As I looked out the window, I was in my glory. As far as the eye could see, a white blanket covered everything. It was snow, not that beasty, snow-covered ice from Texas…nope this was its tamer, fluffier, northern relative. There was not a lot of it, but it was our first snow in our new home. I wish next time the snow would come down a little heavier and last longer than half a day before it started melting.

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It was neat seeing our first Virginia snow, but at the same time we were somewhat disappointed…kind of like when you eat the last potato chip, you want more but no matter how hard you search, the only thing you find is the bottom of the empty bag.

So once again, we found ourselves wishing for snow. Maybe this time it would be a wee bit heavier and last longer…white, fluffy, snow is neat, but melting snow and slush is downright ugly.

We waited patiently for our wishes to come true, but alas, it did not happen. There were a few additional “dustings”, but not enough to see Frosty the Snowman come down through the village. The “locals” were happy, saying it was “a mild winter” and “any mild winter is a good winter”. That kind of talk elicited a “bah humbug” from me. We still wanted to see a decent snow not a bunch of little teasers that melt in a matter of hours and create a sloppy mess.

Spring, summer, and fall, came and went. We did a lot of sightseeing and took a bunch of pictures, but that’s a whole other story, one I can ramble on about in my old age, while I’m sitting in my rocking chair remembering all the good times.

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Once again, that magic date that declares the season to be winter was crossed and once again, Ann and I were hoping to see a decent amount of snow float down from the sky.

When I accepted my current company position, I only committed to a period of two years before I intended to hit the retirement trail, so this was our last winter to see a good accumulation of that northern, fluffy stuff. Unlike last winter, maybe our wishes will come true this time. Hmmm, maybe we should have worked for the railroad since both of us seem to have one-track minds.

Over the summer, we made several trips to Florida to visit my brother and start the ball rolling on building our retirement home. The area where he lived really appealed to us and in no time at all, we found ourselves closing the deal on a chunk of Florida real estate…we were landowners and had roots again. No place to hang our hats yet, but we did have a piece of ground to sit on…well, that is, if you were careful to check for fire ants before you plopped your butt down. On our next trip back to Florida everything seemed to fall into place and suddenly, we had a builder, a house plan, a signed contract, and the building process with all its normal aggravations was underway.

It was now in the early part of December, and to be honest, we were so busy worrying about our new home construction that both of us totally forgot about our desire to see a decent snowstorm.

We booked a flight to take us to Florida so we could spend three days tying up loose ends and completing our required “framing inspection” on the pile of building materials that were starting to look somewhat like a house. Our scheduled departure time was seven o’clock in the morning.

Everything was moving along smoothly and I had just taken our luggage downstairs when the phone rang. I assumed it was the cab driver calling for us to activate the remote gate opener so he could enter the complex…boy was I wrong. It turned out to be the cab company dispatcher calling to inform us they would not be able to get a cab out to pick us up because of the snow…“SNOW, WHAT SNOW?” I ran to the sliding glass doors and yup, our wishes had come true, it was indeed snowing…at the most inopportune time and now I was wishing it would stop. Aaaaa, did I mention I was not fond of driving in snow?

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Did you ever have one of those days where it starts out oh so nice, then all heck breaks loose? Well trust me when I say, that would be a welcome change from the morning we were having. Our flight was scheduled to leave the gate at seven sharp…after two flight cancellations and three tries at deicing, our third flight pulled…er, a…skidded away from the gate at ten. Everyone on the flight was talking loudly as the plane edged out onto the taxiway…not from the excitement of finally getting under way, nope, far from it. Everyone was having trouble hearing because their ears were still ringing from the noise of the deicing cannon trying to blast the ice and snow off our plane…three times in a row. Oh why, oh why, did it have to snow today? All our wishes were coming back to haunt us.

Because of the bad weather and all the confusion, our in-flight meal consisted of “all-you-can-eat” peanuts and a beverage of our choice. To make matters worse, our arrival at the Florida airport was originally scheduled around suppertime but because of the delays, we pulled up to the arrival gate at ten…that’s ten, it’s really, really, dark outside, at night. By the time we picked up our rental car and made it to the motel, it was pushing midnight…have you ever tried to find an open restaurant at midnight in a sleepy, little, town. We gave up and hit the sack with our stomachs protesting rather loudly.

The next morning, our departure from dreamland came earlier and noisier than anticipated, not from the alarm clock as one would expect, no, it was our stomachs screaming for food.

Therefore, once our normal morning routines were complete, it was a quick dash over to the restaurant next door to feed the noisy beasts, our stomachs. While waiting for a table to become available, I contacted the construction supervisor to let him know what time to expect us for the framing inspection. After consuming a really big breakfast, we headed out to the site of our “almost house”.

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Everything went well in Florida. We had found a few discrepancies with the house, but nothing that would halt construction, so things were moving along at a good pace…well, a good pace for Florida where it takes nine months to build a house. Our next visit will be our acceptance inspection.

We had no snow delays flying out of Florida and everything went smoothly. I can tell you though, we were definitely NOT wishing for snow for our return to Virginia. However, we were wishing for normal road conditions so the drive home from Dulles Airport would be uneventful. Sure did not want any of that dadgum snow messing up our travel plans again.

As our plane broke through the clouds on final approach to Dulles, we panicked as the ground came into view totally covered in a blanket of snow. As the plane reached a lower altitude where we could get a better look, both of us let out a sigh of relief at seeing clear roads and traffic flowing at a normal pace. Our apartment was only five miles from the airport, so it was a quick trip home and once in the front door we relaxed and finally quit worrying. Because of our recent experience, we certainly were not anxious to see any more of that darn white stuff.

After a good night of worry-free sleep, we arose fresh and ready to face the day…well, Ann was fresh and ready, me, I needed my morning coffee first, then I would be ready…forget about being fresh though.

Since the roads were still clear and we both needed a breather, we decided to head over to Great Falls National Park and take in the scenery. The snow covered park and falls were beautiful, just like one of those fancy Christmas cards.

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Since the fiasco on our Florida trip both of us now have a healthy respect for snow and the negative affect it can have on our everyday activities. We no longer spend time wishing for snow, since those very wishes can definitely come back to haunt you. There are a lot of our wishes still floating around out there…I just hope we will be able to survive our wishes.

The Christmas holidays were quickly approaching…no, I know what you are thinking, but it did not happen. We had learned our lesson and as much as it would really be neat to see, there was no way either of us was going to take a chance on uttering those words…“I wish it would…”

The first half of Christmas day was going to be a quiet celebration with just the two of us, followed by Christmas dinner at one of the local restaurants. Yeah, I know, boring, but that is what we wanted. Things had been a bit hectic lately and we just wanted a chance to relax and unwind…BUT plans have this funny way of unraveling.

Ann woke me early Christmas morning and as my eyes slowly opened, I noticed she had a serious look on her face. “I think you had better come downstairs.” Now, as you know by now, I am not a morning person and it takes a while for my brain function to reach the level of mature dodo bird so my response was “Huh?”

“I think you had better come down stairs, you’re not going to believe what’s happened”

“Aaaaa oh, ok…Aaaaa, is the coffee pot on?”

“Yeah, I’ll see you down stairs.”

I felt like a zombie and as I went through my morning routine and dressed, I wasn’t paying attention to anything around me…I really wanted to go back to bed but I knew that wasn’t possible. As the cloud of sleep slowly began lifting, I remembered Ann’s words and started worrying. Did someone break in and rob us? Did the Christmas tree catch fire? Did a water pipe burst? Oh no, did Santa not realize we had a gas fireplace and die from the fumes? Ugh, I guess our plans for a quiet Christmas were going to wind up in the trash along with all the ripped-up wrapping paper.

As I made my way down stairs, I only had one thing on my mind…coffee. I needed a cup before I could make any sense out of whatever it was that happened overnight. As I crossed the floor, my eyes were focused on the coffee pot…I looked like Frankenstein taking his first steps in the lab…“Coffee, me want coffee.”

Knowing me as she does, Ann waited until I finished my first cup before she spoke. “You might want to look out the sliding glass doors.” That was it, short and to the point. As I headed over that way, second cup in hand, I’m thinking someone broke into one of our vehicles, but as I neared the doors it was obvious what had occurred and I nearly choked on the coffee I was swallowing…SNOW, snow on Christmas day, how cool is that? If the weather follows its normal pattern, we will get a “dusting” and it will not mess up our plans for the day. Just enough snow to put us in the Christmas spirit…“Jingle bells, jingle bells…” wow, what a neat Christmas present, thanks Santa.

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We were both thrilled and yes it did indeed give us the Christmas spirit…well, that is until I started singing Jingle Bells, that made Ann cringe and she not so politely told me, “Shut up, you’re spoiling my Christmas spirit”. So, since it was a no-no for me to sing, I turned on the gas fireplace, lit the Christmas tree, and finished up by playing a Christmas CD on the stereo…now it really felt like Christmas and Ann did not have to put up with my singing, only my muted humming along with the music from the stereo.

After a special breakfast and another cup of coffee, we sat around the tree and exchanged gifts. What a great morning, well, it was until both of us looked outside.

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Uh oh, looks like some more of our wishes have caught up with us. That, not so nice white stuff, was really coming down heavy now and it is getting close to noon. Our dinner reservation is for three o’clock and I was beginning to think we would not be able to make it over to the restaurant. I think it is worth mentioning again, I really, really, do not like driving in snow.

Afraid to ask, I finally got up enough nerve to pose the question, “Aaaaa, do we have anything we could cook for Christmas dinner?” Noting the panicked look on Ann’s face, I knew we were in trouble.

“With everything going on, I didn’t have a chance to do any shopping. Let me check to see what we have and we’ll improvise from there.”

I heard the freezer door on the refrigerator open and close and then several cabinet doors. As long as it was taking her, I was sure we would be having “push and grits”…that’s push away from the table and grit your teeth cause there ain’t nothing worth serving up.

I was debating whether or not to risk driving over to the restaurant, when I heard the words “How’s a tossed salad, baked turkey breast, corn, and mashed potatoes sound?” “Oh, and cake and ice cream for dessert.” I just stood there with my mouth hanging open. I thought for sure we were going to be eating Coco Puffs floating in hot chocolate with marshmallows served on the side. This was great news, so I quickly called the restaurant to cancel our reservation. I was thrilled we would not have to go “sledding” with our vehicle…did I mention I am not fond of driving in snow.

That nasty white stuff continued to fall until mid-afternoon then abruptly stopped. With the turkey breast in the oven cooking away, we opted to go for a walk around the complex to take in the snowy scene. It was quite cold so, needless to say, it was not a very long walk. Even though snowstorms were beginning to annoy us, I have to admit it sure makes everything look neat…well, until it starts to melt.

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Christmas dinner was an overwhelming success and we really enjoyed ourselves. The rest of the day was uneventful and we just sat around listening to music, made some phone calls to distant friends, and chatted about my retirement and our move to Florida. Oh, and the fact that there were only three more months left to worry about our naive wishes…maybe with a little luck we’ll have an early spring since this has definitely not been a mild winter.

A few days later, like a thief in the night, it happened again…SNOW. It snowed overnight and played havoc with morning traffic. Normally, snow does not affect my travel time to and from work because I use “mass transit”. I just sit back, relax, and let someone else do the driving…and cussing.

Since there was no additional snow and the roads remained clear, the following Saturday we were able to take a ride out into the countryside to snap a few pictures of the funky white stuff.

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A week later, there was another snowstorm and once again, it was just in time for the weekend. Snow removal crews had the roads clear in no time at all, so it did not take long to decide that another sightseeing trip was in order. Since the sky still looked a bit threatening, we were not about to stray too far from home.

One of the local parks had some wooded trails, so we thought it would be neat to take a leisurely stroll…with threatening skies…in the cold…in the snow…what were we thinking.

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Our walk started out okay, but halfway up the trail…you guessed it, down those nasty white flakes came, BIG white flakes. There was no choice we had to turn back, especially when it was getting hard to see because of that dadgum white junk. With snow already starting to cover the roads, it was a very nerve racking ride home. I was ready to move to the Sunshine State, like right now…I was really beginning to dislike that ugly white stuff. As much as I did not want to say it, I was so upset the words just came tumbling out…I WISH IT WOULD STOP SNOWING!

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It was a long drive home traveling at twenty miles per hour…did I mention that I really, really, hate driving in snow. All I kept mumbling was “It’s time to move south…It’s time to move south.” Each time I said it, Ann would start laughing and then eventually responded with, “Just think, you only have three more months left to enjoy the snow.” That pretty well killed any more conversation and the rest of the way home, neither of us uttered another word…I mean there was total silence.

The snow continued the rest of the day and clear through the night. I was beginning to wonder if this was punishment for raiding the cookie jar and the sentence was forty days and forty nights of the miserable white stuff.

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That horrible junk continued through the following day and into the night. Both of us began wondering if we were extras in the movie “Groundhog Day”, today was a repeat of yesterday…I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow will bring. With each passing hour, both of our vehicles were beginning to disappear under a mound of snow…ugly, miserable, rotten, snow.

I had taken several walks outside, but when it just became too dadgum cold, that practice quickly ended. If I had a burning desire to see that nasty white stuff coming down, I could do it through the sliding glass doors with a cup of hot coffee in my hand and the gas fireplace cranked up to high.

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The next morning it was quite evident that mother nature had finished her tirade, and boy, she must have really been mad. She did a real good job of throwing a monkey wrench into everyday activities. After my morning coffee, we both bundled up, then bundled up some more, and headed out to see how bad things were. Our first sighting was indeed a bad omen, the snowplow that normally cleared the roads and parking areas of our complex was not moving, I mean it was stuck in the snow. It must have happened sometime last night and the crew apparently gave up trying to get it back in operation.

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Both of our vehicles were in the same boat as the snowplow, they were not going anywhere…to say they were snowbound would be an understatement. I certainly was not in any big hurry to go anywhere…ugh, do not tell me you forgot, here’s a clue, I really, really, hate to drive in snow.

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We wandered…er, a…slid out to the front gate so we could check the condition of the main road. Our purpose was to determine if there was any chance it might be safe enough for a devout coward, like me, to navigate with a vehicle. As I watched some fire trucks cautiously make their way up the road, it was clear even to the most casual observer, ain’t no way I was going to be doing any driving today.

In addition, there were snow-covered vehicles parked haphazardly along the roadway. I guess we could thank Mr. Snowplow for doing a good job of piling on to an already existing problem.

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As we continued to take in all the sights, I began feeling, as thought there was some beauty in the old beast. Some of the snow-covered landscape was quite breathtaking, but then reality raised its ugly head as the cleanup began…nope, I am not changing my mind, snow was still a beast, a nasty, miserable, beast and I wanted no part of it.

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Two hours, that’s right, two hours, it took two back braking hours to clear away all that heavy snow from just one of our vehicles…we’re not happy campers. Hey, I hear you chuckling. It’s not the least bit funny. Our other vehicle is still waiting patiently for us to dig it out. We were not the only ones unhappy. Many people around the complex with snow shovels and sore backs were not exactly smiling. I think most of us were hoping the sun would make an appearance and melt all that white junk, but that did not happen.

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During the remaining days of winter, both of us were walking around on eggshells while keeping a close eye on the skies. We pressed the remote mute button whenever the weather forecasters on television were doing their thing…we truly did not want to hear that nasty four letter word that began with “s” and ended with “w”. Our hope was that all of our snow wishes were either stamped used or had finally met their expiration date. We kept our fingers crossed hoping that we were beyond the days of that miserable white stuff, and edging closer, and closer to springtime.

All of that must have worked because we noticed some of the tree branches were starting to get a slight greenish tinge. Unless there was some rogue storm hanging out there waiting to surprise us, I’d say we survived all of our naive wishes and were no longer battling the beast of winter…oh happy days.

At the end of March, it was yet another trip to Florida only this time it was to complete the acceptance inspection on our new home. The flight down, the inspection and flight back all turned out to be non-events. Everything was now in place for our June escape from Virginia and the snow beast. Things are all set for us to spend our retirement days basking in the warmth of the Sunshine State. Oh, and the only time I have ever seen snow in south Florida was from a snow machine during a Christmas pageant.

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In early April, we rented a large truck and vehicle trailer. All the items we had in storage were loaded in the back of the truck and Ann drove her car onto the trailer. The next day we left for a two-week “working” vacation to get our new home in Florida set up, ready for our final move in June. Prior to leaving Florida in nineteen ninety-three, both of us had lived there for well over twenty-five years, so, as you can imagine, we were itching to return to Florida, our home state.

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The days ticked on and we continued preparing for our big move. We selected a moving company and a move date so we were all set. We had also notified the manager of our apartment complex of the intended departure date. So far, everything seems to be falling in place without a hitch…I just hope nothing snows on our parade.

The gang at the office held a retirement party for me on my last day at work. It was a lot of fun and everyone had a good time. Ann and I were happy to be starting a new phase of our lives, but I must admit I felt a little sad leaving behind the great people I had worked with for two and a half years…we all planned on keeping in touch, but you know how that works.

Finally, the big day arrived. The moving company “packers” had been to the apartment two days earlier and carefully packed everything in boxes, lots of boxes. The only items that remained were ones we were taking with us in our vehicle. Bright and early, a huge moving van pulled up in front and from that point on everything was a blur. Suddenly, we were standing in an empty apartment, with kicked in the butt looks, thinking, “Here we go again.”

Supper consisted of sandwiches and soft drinks and we spent the night sleeping on a queen-sized air mattress. After a night of tossing and turning, we awoke feeling as if we were in a twilight zone.

Ann, the early riser, was up before me and while I was taking a shower, she headed out to purchase a lifesaver…four mugs of coffee, one for herself and three for me. There was no way she wanted to be around Mr. Grump if he hadn’t had his morning coffee…standing up to a grizzly bear would have been easier than facing me without having morning coffee.

Both of us worked quickly to clean up after the movers and in no time at all, we were vacuuming our way out the door. With one last look at the place we called home for the past two and a half years, we headed out, pointing my SUV with its attached trailer south…yes indeed, we were finally moving south.

The trip to Florida was a blur with both of us in deep thought, remembering our time in the DC area. Although we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, it was not all smooth sailing and there were periods that were cause for concern.

We survived a brush with a “nutcase” who was sending anthrax laced envelopes through the mail, which were discovered by sensing equipment in the very post office facility that served the office building where I worked.

We survived 911 and the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, which I had seen burning as I looked out of the rear windows of our office building. Damaged and set afire by a passenger plane flying out of Dulles Airport, which was five miles from our apartment.

We survived a frightening period when the “DC snipers” were killing innocent people and terrorizing residents of DC, Virginia, and parts of Maryland. Most people, including us, only ventured out when it was absolutely necessary since no one, including the police, knew where they were going to strike next.

Most of all, we survived an encounter with the winter beast and our naive snow wishes that continually came back to haunt us.

I would be less than candid if I did not say we were glad to be away from all those negative events. In remembering our huge “bumps in the road”, we were also starting to “pigeon hole” them so we could concentrate on just the good times and all the wonderful people we had met along the way, people from many states and countries, people from all lifestyles, amazing people.

It was late afternoon when we arrived in Florida, we were back where we belonged, home in our beloved Florida.

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Another great adventure comes to an end. It doesn’t get any better than this…well, unless you’re talking about living out the rest of your life in paradise with nothing but sunny days and no worries. That might just be a step up from this story.

I guess as we travel the road of life, we can never be really sure which way the road will turn…one thing’s for certain though, be very careful what you wish for because your wish just may come true…or come back to haunt you.


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