I’ve fantasized about a vacation for a long time – but I didn’t really think it would ever actually happen.
Back in March, a friend of mine sent me information about Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness. They provide free accommodations for wounded veterans. I checked their reservations information and noticed that they had dates open in May. We immediately applied and were accepted the next day. The dates we had selected were the two days immediately following Mother’s Day. I decided that we should break up the five-hour drive and stay somewhere Mother’s Day evening as well, because…um…YES PLEASE?!?!
So Mother’s Day morning, we finished packing and dropped Ezra off with the in-laws:
We were stressed, Russ especially. We both had been having very anxious thoughts about something bad happening while we were gone, either to us or Ezra. I kept trying to calm Russ down, but we were just struggling to not feel scared.
Then God did something really neat.
About three miles out of town, we passed a vehicle stopped on the side of the road. A few hundred feet up was a man walking toward the nearest exit.
Russ immediately pulled over. This is one of the things I love about him. He loves to help people. And he chose to take time out of our vacation to start by making sure this man was okay. Come to find out, this man was a Southern Baptist preacher on his way to speak in a local church – and he had run out of gas. He had “just happened” to find 1 gallon antifreeze jug on the side of the road as well (another God thing). We picked him up and took him up to the exit to rinse it out and fill it up with gas. Then delivered him back to his vehicle.
The whole way he preached to us. Preachy? Yes. But regardless…it was a neat experience.
After the man put the gas in his vehicle, he and Russ stopped to pray together.
Somehow, our fears about the trip and about Ezra sort of melted away.
We drove about 2 1/2 hours and stopped in Central Virginia to do some sight-seeing, starting with lunch at the Pink Cadillac Diner. At first, Russ wasn’t so sure…but I told him that it’s not every day you get to eat at a Pepto-Bismol-pink restaurant!
We wolfed down food and then headed over to Virginia Safari Park – where we fed animals, got to hold budgies, and I got in a fight over a bucket with a psychotic camel (and lost).
I loved seeing Russell start to relax. (I’ll explain the cow in an upcoming post.)
After the safari – we thought about seeing the Natural Bridge (which was close by) – but decided not to spend the $36 and head straight to our bed and breakfast. We were doing great until we saw this:
We had to stop and take a few pictures:
And as we meandered down this “highway” along the river, we finally found another place to stop where we could get out and do some exploring.
To start, we crossed a bridge that went across the James River:
…then we headed into the woods on the Appalachian Trail, where I saw flowers up in a tree and Russell decided to be the hero and climb the rocks and get one for me!
More pictures on our hike:
One thing I loved about hiking on this trip was how it helped Russ. Sometimes he would get in precarious situations and his anxiety levels would rise. But instead of panicking, he practiced breathing techniques and focused on problem-solving to get back down. It was great exercise for him and so neat for me to watch him conquer fears there on the trail.
We hiked up to the Snowden Dam on the James:
Then back to our car:
We got to Harmony Hill Bed and Breakfast about 7. We ate instant oatmeal for dinner, I got a bubble bath while sipping on a mixture of fruit punch and sprite in a wine glass, and Russ vegged out watching Duck Dynasty. It was so relaxing, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Mother’s Day.
The next morning, we woke up and found Doctor Who on TV…can it get more perfect than Ten and Martha?
Got in the car and started heading toward Boulder Crest (another 2 1/2 hour drive). We stopped along the way to take more pictures at some more scenic views:
Lunch at Chick Fil A, a stop by Starbucks. We decided to do some sight-seeing in Harrisonburg, but got way-laid when Russ saw a Volvo dealership and service center off of the highway. He deals with Volvo dealerships on a daily basis for his job but had never been in one, so we stopped and one of the parts managers gave us a tour. The men talked trucks and I just watched. I loved seeing Russ enjoy talking about his job. I know it’s not the easiest job, well-paying, or best job for him, but it’s what we have now – so I am glad that there are even some small elements of it that he can enjoy.
I also got to get inside a few cabs – did you know that some of these trucks have BEDS in them?!?!
By the time we got done at the dealership, time was getting on and we didn’t want to be late for check-in at Boulder Crest. So we stopped for some groceries and went straight there.
Boulder Crest was absolutely beautiful:
We got settled and changed for more hiking nearby at Bear’s Den. This time we went seriously off-trail:
We scaled down this entire hill of rocks:
If that wasn’t enough to pack into one day, we went back to the retreat and got cleaned up and then went out for a fancy dinner at Magnolia’s at the Mill in nearby Purcellville!
(again, I’ll explain about the cow in my next post)
Tuesday morning, we were really exhausted so we opted for an easier day at Harper’s Ferry.
We did some light trail walking and explored along the Shenandoah River, which was beautiful.
We headed back around lunch time because it was hot, the gnats were horrible, and we were just wiped out. For the rest of the day we just chilled out watching TV, eating macaroni and spaghetti, watching dumb movies on Direct TV – you know…vacation stuff.
The next morning we woke up early, checked out, and drove straight home in time to pick up Ezra from school.
I am so glad that we had this amazing chance to get away for a while, have some much-needed kid-free couple time, and reconnect as a couple. We had some great talks both in the car and while we were exploring Virginia – and most of all, we got to relax.