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  • Writer's pictureKandy Thietten

Stress, Art, and Sacrifice

I've found it's really hard to write when I'm stressed, and I spent a few days with my stress at it's limit. Driving around the northeast in a 36 foot motorhome is not for the faint of heart, even as a passenger. I don't think the city planners were considering future RVs when they designed the roadways in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Northwest New Jersey was so gorgeous. Possibly the prettiest place I've seen with farmland breaking up the forests, which were thick but light on the undergrowth so you could easily walk through them. One and two century old barns and farmhouses dotted the landscape, and green pastures held grazing cattle. The narrow roads weren't fun, but the scenery was beautiful. Then we drove through an old town that was barely designed for horses and buggies. The roads were laid mere feet away from houses, especially on the corners. It would have been so easy to take a corner just a little too sharp and take out a corner of a historic building. That made the stress levels jump a bit.

And then, we tried to cross into Pennsylvania using Google Maps. Google doesn't consider overpass heights or bridge weight limits. We were redirected countless times because of signs warning of overpasses under ten feet tall or bridges with a four ton weight limit. We're thirteen tons and twelve feet high. We must have tried for at least an hour before I thought to download a trucker map app. That worked great to keep us on roads with enough height clearance and strong enough bridges, but it also kept trying to take us through toll roads. That turned into a fun game of me looking at the trucker app and Abe looking at Google Maps, comparing the two so we'd follow the trucker map until Google said we were heading to a toll. We did manage one wrong turn that led us over a $10 toll bridge, but fortunately the toll was only for one way so we didn't have to pay it again when we turned around.


We finally found our way out of New Jersey and from then on, if it wasn't narrow, windy, rough country roads, it was cities. Big cities with narrow, rough roads and lots of traffic. The worst spot was in Philadelphia. We ended up taking a slight wrong turn that led us through the narrowest roads ever, with no shoulder on either side and tight curves. This is where I'm pretty sure I saw an angel, or at least God put a trucker in exactly the right spot at exactly the right time. We're entering this spot that we have no business being in, and cars still want to pass us even though there's no way Abe can stay completely in the right lane. I'm praying, something I've been doing a LOT while Abe drives, and a trucker no doubt sent from God turned in front of us. He went way under the speed limit so Abe didn't feel like he had to try to push the limits of a safe speed, and he drove right down the middle of the road, blocking both lanes until we got out of the turns. This stopped the cars behind us from trying to pass. As soon as we got out of the mess and were back on wider roads, the trucker turned and drove away. That man was one hundred percent an answer to prayer.


Finally, we got to our destination in Virginia where we had reserved a spot in an RV park for two nights so we could see Abe's brother Jesse, Jesse's wife Erica, and their kids. Sunday, we met Jesse at the Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington DC. That was fun. While we waited for Jesse, we walked around a bit. We got to look at a bunch of super cars that were parked nearby. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Audi R8s, MacLarens. The kind of cars almost never seen in Idaho unless you're near Sun Valley. After eating the best brunch buffet ever, we walked around a bit more, looking at a giant metal sculpture and at the boats docked in the bay, right next to all the businesses. We spent most of Sunday with Abe's family, playing with the kids, watching football, and eating pizza.


Monday morning, we drove the RV to Mount Vernon where we parked for the day and rode our bikes into DC. We tried so hard to see everything we wanted to, but there was just no way. We finally made it to the National Art Gallery, but we only had thirty minutes to make a mad dash through it and glance at the paintings. And we didn't make it to the Arlington Cemetery. Knowing that once we were gone, neither of us had any intention of ever going back to DC, we found a casino in Maryland that let us use their parking lot for a couple nights, and Tuesday morning we Ubered back to DC.


I don't know if all the Uber drivers in DC are like this, but the two we got were awesome. They gave us so much history and information. I feel like we lucked out for both trips. Anyway, the driver that took us to DC dropped us off at Lincoln's Waffle Shop (a really good diner that has surprisingly good prices) across the road from Ford Theatre where President Lincoln was assassinated. We learned from the driver that took us back that the house where President Lincoln was taken to after he was shot, and where he died, was just down the road from the restaurant.


After breakfast, we went to the National Art Gallery. WOW! I didn't take pictures because you can see prints and photos of everything there, but the prints don't even come close to the real thing, but Abe took a few. We started off in the West Building, looking at Italian artwork from the 14th century. I couldn't believe how vibrant the colors were. And the details in some of them were incredible. So much beauty. The sculptures, carved out of marble, had such perfect detail that they could have been a plaster cast. How were those artists able to get every line of the face, strands of hair, perfectly detailed ears, and soft folds of cloth out of hard marble? Most paintings didn't even have glass covering them, so you could see every single crack in the paint, and every bump and groove from the brush strokes.


We worked up through the time periods until we got to the Van Goughs and Picassos. I could hardly wait to get to Van Gough, and Abe was anxious for Picasso and Pollock. For both of us it was a dream that we never expected to come true. As excited as I was for Van Gough, I think my favorites were two by Monet: Rouen Cathedral, West Facade, and Rouen Cathedral, West Facade, Sunlight. When you stood up close, you saw a vague shape of the cathedral in a mass of paint, but when you backed up the detail showed up and they came to life! The way he captured the lighting at different times of the day was perfect. I've never seen anything like it. The West Building was classical art and I wish everyone had the chance to visit it at least once.


The East Building was modern art. It was interesting. There were several paintings and sculptures that we liked, and the artists had real talent. There was also a rectangular cube painted peach called "Flower". Call me low brow if you want, but really? I'm pretty sure you can buy colored cubes in any Hobby Lobby. We had fun laughing at some of them. "How much do you want to bet that someone has painted a canvas white and called it modern art?" Abe asked me that, and minutes later, guess what we saw! Sure, the white paint on this one had a bit of shimmer to it and was laid on in large squares, but really? Someone paid thousands if not millions of dollars (it is in the National Art Gallery, after all) for a giant white canvas. Suffice it to say, we were both way more impressed with the West Building.


After the National Art Gallery, we grabbed a couple of Lime Scooters (which I don't recommend because the speed is governed very slow and you pay by the minute, so it would have been cheaper to Uber) to Arlington to knock an item off my bucket list. Just once, I wanted to see the Tomb Of the Unknown Soldier, and witness the Changing Of the Guard. The cemetery is massive. Every direction you look, as far as you can see, headstones are set in perfect rows, the final reminder of those who have fought to protect our country. We saw President Kennedy's memorial, and General Robert E. Lee's house, and eventually we made it to the Tomb Of the Unknown Soldier. The guards change every half hour, and the crowd grew quite large as it got closer to 4:00, but you could hear a pin drop (or the crinkle of the kid's water bottle behind us). The reverence was palpable. I am not an emotional person, but that one got to me - the ceremony, the respect, and being surrounded by the evidence of so much sacrifice. I knew it would.


This morning we started heading west for our next destination. We are finally leaving the crazy traffic, construction, and chaos of large cities. I need the peace of the country. I feel like I need nature for my sanity more and more as we go.

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