Friday, August 2, 2019


The third week of July has become one of my favorite weeks of the year.  It is the week that Robin and I celebrate our wedding anniversary...and the week that we continue a super cool tradition of surprising  each other with an anniversary trip.  This year, it was Robin's turn to plan the trip...and what a wonderful, lovely, (and nerdy) trip it was.  Robin put together an adventure that took us to central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.  Our four day celebration included good food, tours of the homes of four U.S. presidents, one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever taken, and an excursion through the awe-inspiring Luray Caverns.

David and Robin Raymond at the entrance to James Madison's Montpelier. -- July 20, 2019

We arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia just in time for the 100+ degree heat that was blanketing the East Coast last month.  Fortunately, the extreme heat didn't prevent us from doing anything that we had planned.  The first stop on our journey was the home of James Madison, Montpelier.  Robin and I had been here once this time we took a tour that focused on Madison's most significant contribution to our nation...his role in drafting the U.S. Constitution.  The tour was excellent, but the most moving part of our day at Montpelier was our time at The Mere Distinction of Colour exhibit which is on display in the basement of the mansion.  Focusing on the lives of the enslaved people who lived at Montpelier, the exhibit was extremely moving and impactful in it's simplicity.

About to take the Constitution Tour at James Madison's Montpelier. -- July 20, 2019

Standing behind James Madison's desk in his study.  It is very possible that the backbone of the U.S. Constitution...the Virginia Plan...was devised at this very desk! -- July 20, 2019

Touring The Mere Distinction of Colour exhibition and learning more the realities of the enslaved population at Montpelier. -- July 20, 2019

Having a lively discussion with POTUS #4...James Madison! -- July 20, 2019

Leaving Montpelier, Robin and I headed for a evening drive in Shenandoah National Park on Skyline Drive.  For three hours, we drove from look out to look out to see the breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley.  By 8 o'clock, we decided to find a place along Skyline Drive to hike and watch the sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We chose a spot, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, that led us to a place known as Black Rock Summit.  The two mile hike to the summit turned out to me so much more than we expected.  We reached the opening in the summit just as the sun was setting...illuminating the sky and the surrounding landscape into one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.

Virginia's Shenandoah Valley seen from Skyline Drive. -- July 20, 2019

Virginia's Shenandoah Valley seen from Skyline Drive. -- July 20, 2019

Hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail to get to Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

Hiking to Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

Reaching Black Rock Summit as the sun is setting. -- July 20, 2019

Watching the sun set over the Shenandoah Valley from Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

David Raymond at Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

Robin and David Raymond at Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

The nerdiness didn't stop on the second day as Robin and I visited the homes of James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson.  I was eager to get back to James Monroe's, Highland.  Robin and I were here in 2012 to tour the home...only to find out in 2016 that the farm house that was presented as James Monroe's home wasn't actually his house.  Since that time, an archaeological dig has been instigated on the site revealing the remains of James Monroe's true home.  Three miles away, Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, never ceases to disappoint.  Because we have both been to Monticello, Robin and I wanted to tour the home from another point of we participated in the Sally Hemings Tour which presented the home from the perspective of Sally Hemings and the others who were enslaved at Monticello.  After the tour, as Robin and I were walking around Monticello, we began to hear thunder in the distance.  The winds from the approaching storm cooled the summer heat and made for a very memorable hike down the mountain and back to the visitor center. 

Getting especially nerdy with President James Monroe. -- July 21, 2019

Standing near the newly excavated foundation of President James Monroe's home. -- July 21, 2019

The flower were in full bloom at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. -- July 21, 2019

David and Robin Raymond at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. -- July 21, 2019

I was especially proud of this pic that I took of Thomas Jefferson's home reflecting in the pool near his house. -- July 21, 2019

A summer time storm rolling our way.  This pic was taken near Mulberry Row and Thomas Jefferson's gardens. -- July 21, 2019

That evening, Robin and I arrived at Steeles Tavern Manor near Staunton, Virginia.
Since we've been together, Robin and I have been to many Bed and Breakfasts...but this one, I think, is my favorite.  Our hosts, Dana and Trey were amazing, and the house was absolutely beautiful.  Robin couldn't have picked a more perfect place for us to stay on our anniversary night.  After breakfast at Steeles Tavern Manor, Robin and I headed out for the last day of our anniversary trip.  We decided to tour the birthplace of president Woodrow Wilson in Staunton, Virginia and then a captivating tour of Luray Caverns.   

Steeles Tavern Manor Bed and Breakfast in Steeles Tavern, VA. -- July 21, 2019

Happy anniversary to David and Robin. -- July 21, 2019

My beautiful wife and I headed out for our anniversary dinner. -- July 21, 2019

Touring Woodrow Wilson's birthplace in Staunton, VA. -- July 22, 2019

Saw this super cool "velocipede" at Woodrow Wilson's birthplace. -- July 22, 2019

David and Robin Raymond touring Luray Caverns. -- July 22, 2019

The ceiling of Luray Caverns being reflected in a pool of water directly below.  Super cool! -- July 22, 2019

The Great Stalacpipe Organ in Luray Caverns, VA -- July 22, 2019

I love traveling with my wife...we do it well together...always finding fun and adventure wherever we go.  Thank you, Sweetheart, for planning such a lovely, and equally as nerdy, adventure.  I'm sure that year seven will be just as wonderful!  I love you!

Enjoying an anniversary dessert at the Split Banana in Staunton, VA. -- July 21, 2019

Life is a journey...not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- August 2, 2019

Happy 6th Anniversary, Robin....Here's a look back at our adventures over the past year. 

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Here are the GARMIN maps and data from the hikes featured in this post.  #OptOutside

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Sunday, July 14, 2019


1989.  It was the summer of BATMAN, INDIANA JONES, and (if you are really nerdy) Weird Al's movie, UHF.  It was the summer that Guns N' Roses, Milli Vanilli, Prince, and the B52's were played over and over again on my favorite radio station...GO106 FM out of Cumberland, Maryland.  I had just finished my Sophomore year of high school, my mullet was in full growth, and I had a dresser drawer dedicated to my spandex shorts.  The summer of '89 was also the year that my mom and dad drove my younger brother and I halfway across the country on a trip that I completely under-appreciated at the time...but now I would call nothing short of epic.

This cool kid is a 15 year old me...standing on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas, Texas -- June 17, 1989

Mom and Dad were pretty brave...packing my brother and I into the back seat of our Ford LTD station wagon and driving hundreds of miles and hundreds of miles in the summer heat.  The plan was to drive from Bedford to Denver, Colorado to spend a few days with my Uncle Jim and Aunt Jane.  Then drive south to Arlington, Texas to spend time with my Uncle Dan and his family.  Not that any of this mattered to me at the time.  I was a pretty self-absorbed teenager who was more interested in Guns N' Roses "Lies" album which was playing in my ears through my Sony Walkman.  

I don't remember how many days it took us to get to Denver...two...maybe three...but I have three distinct memories about the first leg of our trip. One...Mom loved Shoney's Restaurant.  We ate there a lot!  Two...Kansas was freaking flat.  Three...the ride to the top of the Arch in St. Louis was scarier than hell.  I've only been back to St. Louis 2015...for about half an hour but I would love to go back again.  I seem to remember a museum about the Lewis and Clark Expedition underneath of the Arch...something that a nerdy adult me would really appreciate and love to see again.  Then there was the trip to the top of the Arch.  I don't know if the ride up to the top has gotten any better in the past thirty years...but I remember sitting, with my family, in an "pod" that slowly ground it's way to the top.  It was like being on the worst fair ride, ever.  Once there, the view was awesome.  I remember seeing old Busch Stadium on one side and the Mississippi River on the other.  Yeah...the view was great...the ride to and from not so much.

My mother, Kathy Raymond, at the St. Louis Arch.  At the base of the Arch you can see me (yellow top) and my brother, Jake. -- June 11, 1989

The view of the Mississippi River from the top of the St. Louis Arch. -- June 11, 1989

Kansas.  It was flat.  -- June 12, 1989

I don't remember anything about the city of Denver except that it sat in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.  I, unfortunately don't remember much about my Uncle Jim and Aunt Jane's house except that they had a cute dog named Muffin (which, to this day, is the only dog that I ever really liked).  I do, however, remember the excursions that my Uncle Jim took our family on.  I know that we visited the Denver Zoo because I remember being amazed when I saw my first live bison which happened to be my high school's mascot.  I remember visiting a place called Winter Park and riding an ultra cool alpine sled down the mountain.  I would do something similar with Robin in 2013 while we were honeymooning in Montreal. I remember passing the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado on our way to a town named Central City.  I remember going to Clear Creek Canyon and stopping at the Continental Divide.  We also toured the Air Force Academy and visited the Garden of the Gods. much as 45 year old me would love, love, love to see all of this again...15 year old me was  more excited when my Aunt Jane gave Jake and I some money and drove us to Mile High Comics in Denver to buy some back issue comic books.

My brother, Jake, and I with Uncle Jim -- June 13, 1989

Denver Zoo -- June 13, 1989

(Bedford) Bison at the Denver Zoo. -- June 13, 1989

Jacob and David Raymond at Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado -- June 14, 1989

If you look closely, you can see the arrow pointing to me riding the alpine slide at Winter Park, Colorado -- June 14, 1989

The Rockie Mountains. -- June 14, 1989

Air Force Academy Chapel at Colorado Springs. -- June 15, 1989

My brother, Jake, at the Continental Divide. -- June 14, 1989

My mom and Uncle Jim at Red Rock Park. -- June 14, 1989

Jacob and David Raymond (I'm slightly mortified that I am the one on the right with the spandex) at the Balancing Rock in the Garden of the Gods -- June 15, 1989

After three days with Uncle Jim and Aunt Jane, Dad had the Ford packed and we headed back out on the heading south towards Texas.  I really wish I remembered more about this leg of the trip, but I don't.  At one point, in New Mexico, mom pointed out Capulin Volcano National Monument.  I don't recall much about the volcano...but I do recall that the directions we had to my Uncle Dan's house were somehow screwed up and my mom had to somehow figure out the correct route.  No easy feat in the days prior to GPS and cellphones.  

Driving past Capulin Volcano National Monument, New Mexico -- June 15, 1989

Uncle Dan had a trampoline in his back yard.  That really impressed my brother and I. Somewhere, there is a VHS tape that my Uncle Dan shot of my brother and I having a height contest.  Jake and I enjoyed hanging out with our younger cousins Jared and Jayme.  During our stay, Uncle Dan took us into Dallas to Dealey Plaza to see the spot where John F. Kennedy was assassinated.   I stood on the Grassy Knoll and climbed to the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository.  I wish I could remember more about it...but all that sticks with me is that I was there.  We also spent a day Six Flags (which gets it's name from the six flags that have flown over Texas:  The French, Spanish, Mexican, Texan, American, and Confederate flags. Yeah...I'm a nerd)  and a water park called Wet-N-Wild.

Uncle Dan Raymond. -- June 17, 1989

My father, with my cousins, Jared and Jayme. -- June 17, 1989

Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.  Spot of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. -- June 17, 1989

Me, standing on the left...along with my brother, Jake, my dad, and Suzanne and Jayme Raymond.  Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. -- June 17, 1989

The Sixth Floor of the Texas School Book Depository. -- June 17, 1989

The Texas School Book Depository. -- June 17, 1989

Dave (Dad), Jared, Dan, and David Raymond.  Six Flags Over Texas. -- June 17, 1989

My mom, Kathy Raymond, at Six Flags Over Texas. -- June 17, 1989

Me carrying my cousin, Jared, while waiting in line at Six Flags Over Texas. -- June 17, 1989

Wet-N-Wild in Arlington, Texas. -- June 18, 1989

We left Texas behind as we began to make our way home to Pennsylvania.  This is the part of the trip that I honestly don't remember anything about.  Because I have pictures, I know that we drove through Jackson, Memphis, and Nashville, Tennessee.  I also have a pic, taken from the car window, of the Great Smokey Mountains.

Caney Fork River, Tennessee -- June 20, 1989

I'm serious when I say that I really didn't appreciate what I was seeing and experiencing on that trip thirty years ago.  But the fact of the matter is that the trip across the country with my family really stuck with me.  There are parts that are still so vivid...seeing the Rocky Mountain and hanging out with my cousins.  There are parts of the trip that, even today, I reference when talking to my history students.  I mean...what an epic journey my mother and father took me on.  We saw the Continental Divide...I took a one man sled down a mountain slope...I saw a volcano...toured the Air Force Academy...saw the place where President Kennedy was tragically killed...ventured to the top of the Arch...rode roller coasters...and yes, ate a lot of french toast sticks at Shoneys..  I've been on many epic journeys over the years but this one, in the summer of 1989, has stood the test of time.  Thanks Mom and Dad. 

David and Muffin -- June 15, 1989

Life is a journey...not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- July 14, 2019

We had the old photo taken in Central City, Colorado.  Left to Right:  David, Kathy, Jim, and Jacob Raymond.  Seated is my father, Dave Raymond, and my Uncle Jim's dog, Muffin. This pic hung in my parent's living room.  Now it is hanging in my house. -- June 14, 1989

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