After we left New England, every mile we travel brings us closer to our beloved home in The Villages, Fl. Hang on fellow travelers. We are almost there!
Diane and I wrapped up the final long stop on our trip with a stay in Prince William National Forest RV Park about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C. We lived in Northern VA outside of Washington DC for over 36 years and have friends and lots of memories here.
Our first full day in the area we visited with our good friend Jerry Wilkowski at his home in Vienna Va. Jerry and I worked together years ago. We stayed in contact even after we both moved to different jobs. We’ve been good friends for decades now. Diane and I went out to dinner often with Jerry and his now departed wife, Sue. We met Jerry at his place just before lunch. We talked, laughed, and then went to the infamous Vienna Inn in Vienna VA for lunch. Diane and I each had one of their legendary Chili Dogs.
Jerry then took us on a tour of Vienna to show us all that had changed since we were last there. It is stunning. Small ranch homes are being bought for their lot, torn down, and replaced with Mc Mansions. Original residents could reap a windfall if they sold their places but then, where would they move to? It’s a story being repeated all over Northern Virginia because of the billions of dollars of Federal money being pumped into the area in the form of ever-expanding Federal payrolls and programs.
Jerry, Diane and I basically hung out together and caught up on each other’s lives most of the afternoon. For dinner, the three of us went to Nata Thai. This is a great Thai restaurant that Jerry, Diane, and I have been going to for over a decade. We used go there with Jerry and Sue. We try to visit it whenever we are in town. The food was reliably great. We spent the night at Jerry’s, shared coffee with him in the morning and then took off. Diane and I had a Casa Lancione memorial tour planned.
Diane and I first moved to Washington DC in 1973. We were still newlyweds, still figuring out and trying to make our way in life. A job relocation took us away to Lexington, MA outside Boston in 1989. However, in 1994, I was heavily recruited for a job back in the Washington D.C. area and we moved back to Northern VA. Altogether, we lived in the DC area for 36 years. We owned five different homes during that time. Our plan was to visit each of them just for old time’s sake and take pictures of them while we were in the area. We had some really pleasant surprises.
When we visited our first single family home in the Herndon, VA area, the current owners were outside in the yard. When we told them we had been the first owners of the home, they invited us in and showed us around. While we lived there, I had installed a fancy white enameled wood stove, built a deck, had a shed built, installed parquet floors, and made a series of other improvement. They were still there. Well, they had put a new floor over the parquet, but they assured us that our floor was still underneath it. They were gracious and welcoming. We really appreciated meeting them and seeing our old home. A similar surprise awaited us at the last property we owned in Northern, VA, our townhouse in the over 55 community of Potomac Green.
Diane and I were convinced that we would retire in the Northern Virginia area. With that in mind, as I approached retirement, we decided we would move to our “retirement home” so that we would be all settled in when retirement day finally came. We loved the idea of an over 55 community and there was a great one in Ashburn, VA. It was still reasonable for me to commute to work from there until I finally retired, and it had a ton of programs and amenities targeted specifically to retirees. In the end, health reasons led us to relocate to Florida and The Villages. But, we really enjoyed Potomac Green and our wonderful home and neighbors while we did live there.
When we pulled into our old neighborhood, our only thought was to stop and take a picture of our old house. Instead, our neighbors across the street, Sue and Bob Benning, were in their drive. As soon as we got out of our car to say hello, there were big hugs and smiles all around. They invited us in and caught us up on what had been going on with our mutual friends. Then, we accompanied Sue to a card game she was scheduled to attend at another our friends’ home. There we met another group of neighbors we had not seen since our departure seven years earlier. It was a gratifying and heartwarming experience, one we will not forget for a long time. But, we still had two more sets of friends to touch base with, before our visit to the DC area was complete.
We had planned to visit our friends Bob and Donna Tap in Alexandria, VA while we were in the DC area. However, Donna's doctor recently advised her to strictly quarantine until she receives a COVID vaccine booster shot. Undeterred, we visited Bob and Donna from our campsite via Zoom. It was a long and really fun visit, even though it couldn’t be in person. We caught each other up on what was going on with family members and mutual friends. Bob has traveled extensively within the US and so he was very interested in comparing notes with us on places we had both visited in the West. The only thing missing from our visit was a real hug at the end. Bob has been a close friend to Diane and me since we first met him in Boston in 1989. We have celebrated many, many family holidays together and spent time together in Loon Mountain where we had our condo. He is an important part of our life and we were glad to have this time together with him and Donna, even over Zoom.
Our last evening in the DC area, we had dinner with Jessie and Ledi Gares at their home in Woodbridge, VA. Jessie and I worked together when I was a VP of Operations at my last company. He was the lead manager on one of our most important programs. The two of us teamed up and together handled unbelievably difficult workloads and work challenges. We have the kind of bond that soldiers who have been through war together and survived, barely, to tell the story. Now that I am retired and he has a different type of job, both of us revel in the joy of having a life outside of work.
Jessie and I are great friends and frequently keep up to date on each other’s lives by trading e-mails, pictures and messages. I have stayed at his home numerous times in the years when I was traveling alone up to DC for annual health tests at NIH. When we visited this time, he paid me the high compliment of telling me that his two girls, Jessica and Daniela, think I am his brother, since they have seen me on visits to their home since they were very young.
We had a wonderful evening with Jessie and Ledi. They told us about their recent visits to Disney World and Virginia Beach. We shared stories and experiences with them from our trip. It was one of those great evenings that you hope never ends. However, Diane and I finally had to say goodbye and head back to our RV park so we could prepare to leave in the morning.
As we were settling down for the evening, Diane and I talked about the fact our dinner at Jessie and Ledi’s was the last official stop on our three-month, 10,000 mile adventure. After we leave DC we begin a three day, roughly 300 mile per day sprint that will finally bring us to our beloved home in The Villages, Florida. This has been an incredible trip, an incredible adventure. But, now both of us are focused on getting safely, but quickly home. It’s time. Thanks for riding with us!
Diane and I first moved to Washington DC in 1973. We were still newlyweds, still figuring out and trying to make our way in life. Our first home there was a walk-up apartment in Arlington, VA. After a few years, we got our first townhouse, a 16’ wide two story with a walk out basement in Reston, VA in a section called Sawyers Cluster. Reston was considered so far out from DC where we worked in those days that Diane’s supervisor at the time remarked: “I only drive that far when I am going on vacation.” No matter, we were thrilled to have a place of our own.
After a few more years, we graduated from our tiny townhouse to a stand alone single family home in Herndon. We traded extra hours of commuting for a chance to own a real home. Gary and Dian, the young couple that now live there, graciously showed us around our old place. I installed that white woodstove in the background when we lived there.
In 1994, I was recruited by an old boss of mine to come back to DC. I jumped at the chance.
The relocation package that came with job was hefty and we moved into what turned out to be the biggest house we would ever own. It was on a cul de sac and had four bedrooms. It was 3,900 square feet, and had lots of special features like oak bookshelves and fancy appliances. It was a wooded corner lot with a screened in patio and a huge deck. It had just about everything you could ever want.
Big things were happening at Reston Town Center. They built a whole new section of in-town housing. It was a chance to try something new. We were especially attracted to a block of housing that was going to be the gateway to the new area. It was called Park Place. It was a series of four-story brick and limestone townhomes that were based on a similarly designed neighborhood in the city of Chicago. The designs were classy and the site we were interested in was situated right across from a small park with a fountain. It felt like the opportunity to do something fresh and experience urban in-town living.
As I got closer to retirement, we started thinking about moving to an over 55 community so that we would already be in our final home when retirement happened. There was a terrific over 55 community called Potomac Green in Ashburn, VA. We could move there and I would still have a reasonable commute for work. We built a beautiful town home on Island West Square near what is today the One Loudon town center in Loudon County Va. It was two stories, a corner unit with tons of windows and space, with large wooded areas and beautiful views. We built a terrific hardscape patio outside and got to really enjoy our life there. All was well for several years, until medical issues that were exacerbated by cold winter weather became a big problem. In the end, we ended up moving to The Villages, Florida full time.
The water you see in the background is the view from the lanai of our home in The Villages. The whole back of our home is windows and faces out onto a pond. We missed this view and our life here in The Villages so much that we couldn't end our return day without taking this picture to celebrate. We have seen mountains, deserts, hoodoos, canyons, black hill, badlands, the Devil's tower, even a road to the sun. Many of these marvels are world famous. But, tonight, they are no match for the view from our own back yard. Dorothy had it right in The Wizard of Oz. There's no place like home! There's no place like home!
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