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The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Alyssa in DC: 2016

I must admit to having an (arguably) bad habit; I place my personal photography behind my work photography.  That's not a bad thing; the bad thing is how far behind I place my own work.  In something that's become almost as much a tradition as a Summer vacation with Alyssa, this is the second time in a row I've taken more than 8 months to edit the photos I shot on Alyssa's trip to DC.

This time around I insisted that we take things a little slower than the previous year; doing something every single day for a week in 2015 really wore me out, so 2016 was a more relaxed trip.  Plus, that allowed us to catch some of the Rio Olympic Games!

We didn't do anything worthy of photos the first two days (it was mostly spent fixing her computer), so this blog starts on Day 3!

Day 3: Luray Caverns • Skyline Drive • Stony Man Mountain

Luray Caverns, Luray, Virginia

Alyssa is always jealous of my hiking pictures when she sees them, so we always plan at least one hike when she's here; since I thought Luray Caverns would be something she'd enjoy, I planned our entire day in the Shenandoah Valley, starting with Luray Caverns.

It'd been a few years since I'd been to Luray Caverns, but of course Alyssa had never been.  Things have clearly changed since the last time I'd visited; of all the times I've visited, I've never actually been given a tour before.  Actually, I've never even had to stand in line to get in.  Every time I've been you've just paid for entry and you're given free reign to walk around the cavern at your own pace.  Not this time though; we actually had to wait in line, and once inside we were part of a guided tour with around 30 people.

A very different experience than my previous visits, but still enjoyable.  I've previously taken the audio tour, but I found the guided tour more educational and much more enjoyable.  The only reason I can guess for getting a guided tour this time and not my other visits is this is the only time I've been to Luray Caverns during Summer, which is of course peak tourism season, plus all those students are out of school and available to intern at the Caverns.

Something that really, REALLY bothered me was that the intern bringing up the caboose of the group had a serious disrespect for the nature and longevity of Luray's formations.  On several occasions I spotted him touching the stalagmites and stalactites with his bare hands.  He clearly knew he wasn't supposed to be doing it because he stopped when he noticed me watching him and our eyes met.  Incredibly disrespectful to the 64 acre underground natural phenomenon.  Just touching the mineral deposits that compose the stalagmites and stalactites leaves skin oil and other contaminants that halts their growth.  Currently most of the formations in Luray Caverns grow at a rate of 1" every 120 years, but that permanently stops when contaminants destroy the fragile conditions required for the formations to grow.  It has been argued that it's bad that (a small) part of the caverns has been opened to the public - I mostly disagree with this because I think more-or-less sacrificing only a small portion of the cavern is the best way to display and educate the public about the natural phenomonon.  That being said, it makes me angry that Luray Caverns staff themselves can be found palming the formations and at one point even dragging his palm against the wall while walking.

But let's get back to some positive.  Luray Caverns is home to The Great Stalagpipe Organ.  Although it's called an organ, the instrument is actually a lithophone; that is, a percussion instrument using rock to create tones.  The "organ" was designed and installed by Leland W. Sprinkle, who found two in-tune formations, and shaved down an additional 35, to create the instrument with 37 notes spread across 3.5 acres, making it the world's largest musical instrument.  Each limestone formation is fitted with an electrically actuated rubber mallet and electric pickup (similar to an acoustic-electric guitar pickup), and the tones are amplified through a PA system.  Performances of the organ are live, but automated / pre-arranged just like a player piano.  The organ keyboard itself is locked-out except for special occasions such as weddings and other events.  The Great Stalagpipe Organ can be heard on Pepe Deluxé's album Queen of the Wave played by Paul Malmström.

The organ has a playlist of songs it can play at random; here is my video of the organ playing during our visit.  If you know the name and composer of the song, please let me know in the comments!

Stony Man Mountain

Next stop was Stony Man Mountain.  You of course have to take Skyline Drive to get there, so I hopped on at the Thorton Gap entrance, and more or less drove South to the trailhead, stopping here and there for the occasional overlook; I've seen pretty much all of them, but Alyssa of course hasn't seen any.

Years ago I hiked Little Stony Man, so when we went up Stony Man I was very surprised how much shorter and easier the trail was to get to the summit.  Stony Man's summit trail is pretty much a straight shot up the mountain, taking very little effort or time from the parking lot.  The trail is lightyears easier than the Maryland Heights Trail in Harper's Ferry I took Alyssa to in 2015 - that one's difficulty, despite my warning her, really caught her off-guard.  This one was much easier than I'd planned on.  Beautiful overlook at the top, and by chance we found some cool rocks on the edge of the trail that made for some awesome outdoorsy portraits as the fog began to roll into the valley below us.

And thanks to Alyssa for catching this photo of me.  (Edits are mine.)

Skyline Drive

We still had a few hours of daylight left, and before continuing South on Skyline drive, we dropped in on the nearby Skyland Lodge to check out the gift shop if anything caught Alyssa's eye - I eyeballed a marbled coffee mug that I ended up getting a few months later during my annual Fall trip along Skyline Drive.

We went for a leisurely drive as the fog got thicker, running through the gears with the windows down in the beautiful, and surprisingly dry, weather that day.  I've never seen fog on Skyline Drive before (maybe because I've only visited in Fall before this?), and between that, the thick tree cover, and golden setting sun, it was a very surreal drive back by time we decided to turn around and head back.  I insisted on stopping at one overlook just after sunset to catch a cool toned photo of my car - it's much easier to do this sort of thing in the Summer when there are practically no other people and cars to contend with.

Day 4: International Spy Museum • National Portrait Gallery • PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard at The National Postal Museum • Washington Nationals vs San Francisco Giants

International Spy Museum

Oh, the International Spy Museum.  A museum I've walked past more times than I can count, yet had never visited.  I'd even been to the now-closed-for-relocation Crime & Punishment museum, which, by the way, I can't recommend enough.  Day 4 was the longest day of our adventures because we squeezed the most in, beginning with a reservation to Operation Spy at the International Spy Museum... unfortunately we arrived 2 minutes late, and they wouldn't let us into that or rebook us to a later time even being 2 minutes late!  With a little, um, prompting... they at least refunded us.  The day didn't start off very well, but that was the only hiccup for the rest of the day.  We did get into the rest of the museum, and frankly I'd like to go back, because even after spending hours exploring, I'm pretty sure I still didn't see everything or get to read and learn as much as I'd like since it was packed with Summer tourism.

The second half of the museum is whatever rotating exhibit they have visiting; it was the spy tech from the James Bond universe.  Really cool stuff, being a Bond fan as most people are.  The only suggestion I'd make is better separation between fact and fiction; all of the "artifacts" are fictional, and I'd have enjoyed seeing more explanation of how the fictional items tie into factual technologies; there was a little bit of that, but I was still left with a little unease knowing that a lot of the people visiting probably thought some of the movie props were real-world artifacts.  Awesome Bond collection exhibit nonetheless.

National Portrait Gallery

Next we went a few blocks over to what has always been my favorite museum in DC; the National Portrait Gallery.  I unfortunately missed the portrait of Colbert over the water fountain a few years back, but one of my couples was fortunate enough to see it; that's actually where James popped Danielle the question!

PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard at The National Postal Museum

We spent a good portion of time in the National Portrait Gallery, but we didn't dilly dally too much since I was making sure we had enough time to make it to the National Postal Museum.  Visiting here was a complete surprise for Alyssa, because I'd eagerly been awaiting the exhibit's opening, and I had purposely never mentioned it, waiting for Alyssa to get into town before seeing it.

I've followed PostSecret since Frank Warren began the project from his Germantown home in 2005.  I don't look up the newest secrets every Sunday they are posted, but I do read them once or twice a month; Feedly catches everything for me to read later on.

For the uninitiated, PostSecret doesn't need much more introduction than this: people across the World anonymously send in handmade postcards bearing their secrets and their souls.  Usually the cards have original artwork or photographs, other times they're relevant imagery that highlights location or timing.  And on some occasions, entire items are mailed, such as wedding rings, dolls, and other mementos leftover from past relationships and events.  (Full Disclosure: The Museum of Broken Relationships in LA is in my top five of locations I want to visit on the West Coast.)  Mailing a secret is an outlet to creatively share your secret when you may not have the strength or ability to share it with anyone else.  PostSecret quickly amassed a worldwide following and subsequent support community, as it unites everyone with their own personal struggles through shared humanity.

Fun fact: every single postcard Frank has ever received, all 500,000, was present at the exhibit.  So, if you've ever sent in a secret, you can rest assured it is somewhere in the photograph below...

I captured most of the secrets on display, and I've included a small gallery of some select secrets you can scroll through and read below.

Washington Nationals vs San Francisco Giants

After a long day of museum hopping, it was time to sit back and relax with some half-smokes and "doughboys" at Nats Park.  I neglected to tell Alyssa that I'd gotten us seats in the N-A-T-S-NATS-NATS-NATS-WOO! section.  The Nats beat the Giants 5-1, so section 313's reaction caught her off guard the first run or two.  Those were pretty great seats, right on the rail.  That said, the only seats I've had at Nats park I didn't like were in the outfield; Nats Park provides a great view of the game pretty much anywhere you sit, regardless of level.

After the game we went over to check out who was playing at The Bullpen on Half Street.  People were playing soccer, inspired by the Rio Olympics, in front of Jeff from Accounting performing.

Day 6: Imran and Hina's Wedding • Brine Oyster Bar

Imran and Hina's Wedding

The next morning was Imran and Hina's wedding in Virginia; the weekend before I'd been in Houston for their wedding based there.  The wedding here was much smaller as usual.  I just relaxed and enjoyed with Jake and Alyssa; I'd referred Imran to Eddie early that year to shoot his wedding.

Imran Hina Wedding.jpg

Brine Oyster Bar

After the wedding, Jake, Alyssa, Eddie, and I head over to Brine in Mosaic District and met up with Loreal for our own little wedding after-party.  I ended up trying raw oysters for the first time, and found that I love them.  I'd had steamed oysters plenty of times, but never found a raw bar I trusted and been in the mood to try it at the same time until then.  I'm looking forward to next time I get them; maybe the next time Natalie is in town we'll have to go back to the oyster bar in National Harbor since that's the place we first met each other.

Dramophone: Summer of 2016

Some fun backstory here is that at this point Eddie had been brainstorming his proposal to Loreal with me.  He pretty much had it planned out at this point, and just an hour earlier while shooting the wedding, he pulled me aside to show me a picture of the ring he had for her.  He popped the question a few weeks later on a trip to Hawaii, and the rest is history!  Now I’m hearing all the wedding planning brainstorming lol.

Day 7: Stone Tower Winery • Departure

Stone Tower Winery

For Alyssa's last day, I *had* to take her to a winery.  She'd been begging me the entire trip, and we kept putting it off and putting it off.  So with just a few hours before her flight, we made it happen; I took her to my favorite winery around here, which also happens to be probably the classiest and closest to a Napa vineyard in the Northern Virginia Region (Potomac Point Winery is a very, very close second in my book, if you're curious).  Alyssa's the biggest lightweight I've ever met, so after just a tasting she's tipsy in all these pictures.

But give her just one glass of wine on top of the tasting and she was... super-tipsy?  Tipsy enough that she zapped herself on an electric fence while petting the horses in a neighboring pasture.  At least she wasn't naming them like Patrick famously named the goats at Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn...

Departure

I did a stupid on the way to the airport.  Alyssa had gotten a wine glass from Stone Tower to take home with her; it was wrapped up, placed "safely" on the back floorboard where nothing could get to it.  Well, after Alyssa was done scrolling through the pictures on my camera, I reached back and dropped my camera onto the back floorboard... where "nothing can get to it!"  *CLINK!*  Well at least it sounded pretty when I shattered it!

Stone Tower's wineglasses are oversized, laser cut and engraved, and most importantly for this story, they're crystal.  I don't know of any other vineyard that uses crystal wine glasses.  The winery was closed; there was no time to go back even if they were open.  I told her to relax; I had one of their glasses at home and I ended up mailing it to her... along with the bag of broken wine glass shards, just to screw with her.

The sun set as we arrived to the airport.  We got there early enough to get dinner before her flight began boarding - I think I've turned her on to Five Guys - I'm a bad influence I guess.

Alyssa has a bit of a granola obsession, which I learned the first time she came (I was finding granola wrappers and crumbs in my car a month after she'd left 2015!) but this year wasn't as bad.  I still found granola!... but at least everything I found was unopened, and the crumbs were relegated to the passenger side leg bolster.  Improvement!

Who knows what our next set of adventures will be, but I'm looking forward to them!

Alyssa in DC: 2015

This post is overdue.  Long overdue.  Like, almost a YEAR overdue.  I even got our New York pictures up way sooner!  It's all my fault; honestly the pictures from Day 2, hiking in Harper's Ferry, just left me reeling.  They were so uncooperative, and left me frustrated as a perfectionist.  This is a personal post; I put my paid work before it, perpetually backburnering this and other personal work.  But it's here finally, for Alyssa and all my friends who hear all about "that Rhode Island friend of mine."

Day 1: Arrival • Annapolis, MD

Alyssa was due to touch down at BWI in just a few hours; I was coming from Rachel and Andrew's wedding shoot from the day before and drove direct to BWI in time to get her.  Leaving Rachel and Andrew's, I photographed one of their horses grazing in the dawn fog.  On the way to BWI I passed a convoy of various military equipment.

This was the first time I'd met Alyssa in person after about two years of long-distance friendship thanks to iMessage and FaceTime.  We happened across one another on the Internet mid-2012, and found we had a lot in common, as we're both photographers.

I hadn't planned anything in particular, so I chose to take her to nearby Annapolis for lunch and a bit of exploring through Old Town.  Annapolis is one of the region's most charming cities; it's a place I've explored a little bit, but not to the extent I'd like to.  Every time I visit Annapolis I can only think of how wonderful it must be to live there, right on the Chesapeake Bay.  I'm desperate to continue my love affair with Maryland's capital city.

It was a hot day; I took Alyssa to a tavern on the shore for authentic Maryland crab cakes, and eventually we gave in and got ice cream, which we devoured because it was melting quickly!

After this, Alyssa got her first taste of a DC traffic jam; it took several hours and a thunderstorm to get us back to Fairfax.

Day 2: Hiking in Harper's Ferry, WV / MD

Harper's Ferry is a little Civil War town at the crossroads of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland.  It is where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers converge, and is the only point where all three states can be seen at the same time.  The town itself is in West Virginia, right along the Appalachian Trail, with the popular Maryland Heights Trail physically in Maryland, not West Virginia as popularly thought (it's in the name, people!).

Alyssa had seen the pictures of this hike from several other trips of mine, and wanted to go to "the bird hike," which I am just now noticing I never blogged - one time I went, I photographed from above a variety of birds circling the cliff face - it's a perspective not often seen with bird pictures.  The cliff face itself is ~650 feet above water, and less than 1/4 mile from the West Virginia Shore directly, but the height makes for crazy perspectives especially when paired with 400mm lenses even at f/8.

Harper's Ferry also is home to several active and defunct rail lines.  Because of the frequent rail activity, Harper's Ferry is a popular location for train spotters, both on the peak and at different points below.

We went on a damp day, and the greenery was in full bloom!

That face when she reached the peak...

As usual, I'd packed lunch for the trail, and we ate at the peak.  Much to her dismay, there weren't any birds flying.  She did, however, get to spot quite a few trains.  This was on a weekday, so we had the entire trail and peak to ourselves.  It was very calm; the quiet was only disrupted by the occasional train, and a few trucks in the distance.  I've never heard this trail so quiet before.

400mm lets you really zoom in on things, even at great distance.

It was finally time to turn back; down is always quicker, but we were racing to catch the last shuttle back to the visitor center.  We'd have to explore the town another day; the next time Alyssa visits.  At the bottom we found the only wildlife we saw all day - two geese and their goslings.

Day 3: Washington Dulles International Airport • Steven F. Udvar-Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Washington Dulles International Airport

The next day, I had a photoshoot scheduled, but that was only for a few hours, so I brought Alyssa along to see how I photograph commercial images of food and concessions for marketing.  In this case I photographed mostly menu items for an airport restaurant.

After the shoot, I showed Alyssa around the airport I've called home for 11 years.  Our first stop was a complete surprise to her, and a place very few people can visit.  The historic, now out-of-use, Air Traffic Control Tower in the center of Eero Saarinen's Dulles Main Terminal Building.  It was another rainy day, so not the prettiest or best visibility, but still awesome nonetheless.

Now it was time for a bit of a drive around the airfield.  Alyssa got to stand under the two largest commercial aircraft in existence; Lufthansa's 747-8i, and British Airways' A380.  Most people only get this close to aircraft of this size when boarding through a jetbridge - standing on the ground next to them will leave you awestruck at the engineering and physics that even allows these birds to fly.

Next, I brought Alyssa over to Airport Operations; to her surprise there was ANOTHER tower: the midfield OPs / Ramp Tower that actively controls all the taxiway and gate area ground traffic.  Operations is a great group at Dulles, and they know how to give a great tour.  They explained how aircraft interface between them and the FAA ATCT (which controls all taxilanes and runways), how mobile lounge traffic is directed, and shared stories from some of the interesting and historic events the controllers have been a part of throughout their stay at Dulles.  Sometimes the controllers will hand over the headset and dictate the radio commands, letting guests give actual live commands to ground traffic; I'm a little disappointed they didn't let Alyssa do that, just because... how many other people (who aren't controllers) can say they've done that?  Even I can't say I've done that.

The Ramp Tower is a little closer to the heart of activity at Dulles, so it offers a the best view for planespotting of all the towers at Dulles.  And yes, planespotters who follow me, I even think it's a bit better than the FAA ATCT, just because the Ramp Tower is a little more diversified in its views.  Yes, the FAA Tower is twice as tall, but you can't see any ramp operations, and you only get a clear view of arrivals on R/W 1R, 1C, and departures on R/W 30 (which quickly grow into ants as they close the two mile length of runway in a few seconds time).  That said, on a clear day you can spot the Washington Monument and air traffic at DCA from Dulles FAA Tower... so there's that.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Since it was kinda a dreary day, with patches of blue sky and sunshine, but mostly rain, I thought it would be a good opportunity to use the rest of the day at the Udvar-Hazy Center and complete the aviation theme of the day.

I still have never been up the Udvar's Observation Tower.  We just came from two of Dulles' actual towers, so of course we skipped that and checked out the exhibits.  Unfortunately we only had a few hours before the museum was to close, so our visit felt a bit rushed.

It still doesn't feel like that long ago, but it'd been three years.  Three years (four years now) since all the Space Shuttle events that so dramatically changed my career.  Looking back, even though it doesn't feel that long ago, it's still be long enough for my photographic style to refine a bit.  Still though, the photo of Enterprise departing on the SCA... I feel it's probably the best photo I've ever taken.  And here she is, Discovery, safe at home.

This was one of those times I only brought one lens with me.  Like usual, I selected the 85mm f/1.2L.  Anytime I do something for fun like this, I travel with only one lens, usually a prime, and challenge myself to get great photos with a set focal range (the hike was a different circumstance; I always bring a telephoto on that hike because I know I can get great bird pictures from that peak).

Day 4: Washington, DC - The White House • WWII Memorial • Lincoln Memorial • Vietnam Memorial • Washington Nationals Baseball Game

Washington, DC's Mall and Monuments

So on Day 4, we spent the afternoon touring around DC's Mall area; pretty basic stuff if you live here, but must-see stuff if you've never been.  Alyssa will surely return for another trip, so let's introduce her to DC's basics.  Because we were carrying our cameras, I opted to drive in and park at the Ronald Reagan Building rather than take the Metro; even though our cameras would be allowed in the baseball park, I never bring mine because I'm happier downing half-smokes, beer, and peanuts than looking through a lens for 9 innings.

I didn't realize that the Ronald Reagan Building was home to a few exhibits, and the Global Entry offices; I'll have to pay another visit later on.

Outside, I spotted a wrapped Jaguar XJ L RS with New Jersey HQ plates - pretty cool to see a production tester out on the streets just a block from the White House.  The car had all kinds of equipment inside and stuck to the windshield (cameras, telemetry, GPS?).

The White House

I didn't tell Alyssa where we were going.  I simply led her through the streets, following the ever-growing crowd until we reached the clearing showing the unmistakable home with the unforgettable address.  For what it's worth, this was the first time I've visited the South Lawn side of the property.

For good measure, I also took her up to the North Lawn, but we weren't there 1 minute and the Secret Service closed off Pennsylvania Avenue, Lafayette Square, H Street, and 15th street for a VIP movement.  Thanks, Obama (Obama wasn't home though).  This was the first time I'd seen the additional fence added after the fence jumping incident earlier in the year.  I snapped this photo as everyone was being pushed back.

World War II Memorial

The way we were pushed several blocks away by the Secret Service kinda put a kink in our plans, especially since Alyssa's one request was to go see "the sitting guy."  Uh, you mean Lincoln?  "The sitting guy!"  You don't mean FDR do you...  "The sitting guy!"  Uh, ok...

So we had to book it back to the Mall and start heading West in a hurry if we were to go see Lincoln and still make it to Nats Park before opening pitch.

Along the way we passed through the WWII Memorial, and got Alyssa her picture with Rhode Island.  We also spotted some DC duckies, for which the Reflecting Pool is famous for.

Lincoln Memorial

Finally we got to the Lincoln Memorial; it was a lot more packed than I was expecting, even on a weekday.

Vietnam Memorial

On our way back to the Ronald Reagan Building I decided to surprise Alyssa once again, and take her to the Vietnam War Memorial ("The Wall") and The Three Soldiers statue since it's so close and so impacting.  Several months later in New York we'd visit the 9/11 Memorial together, which very similarly displays the names of the fallen.  The 9/11 Memorial would have a much larger emotional impact on me than I ever could have expected.

Washington Nationals vs Chicago Cubs

Baseball is my favorite sport.  I watch almost every Nats game - I'm usually editing photos with the game on.  This was a last minute decision - I purchased the tickets just that morning; I wasn't sure what the weather was going to do that week, but everything worked out!  We were seated in nosebleed, but I really don't mind it as long as you're somewhere along the infield, because it gives you a great overview of every play.  That said, PNC Diamond seats are amazing because you get a view of every pitch (and can tell when the umpires make a bad call - I took my Dad to a game behind home plate, which happened to be the one where Papelbon hit Machado with a pitch; only the beginning of Papelbon's troubled stay with the Nationals.  Please, go back to Philly.).

Tanner Roark went on to win this one for the Nats 7-5 against Tsuyoshi Wada of the Cubs.  As we left, we watched part of Nats Xtra being filmed live, which is always pretty cool.

On the way back to the car, we had some fun in a fountain, and I tried the iPhone's slo-mo (high-speed) function out.  It's pretty cool if you have the right thing to film!

Day 5: Katie's Cars and Coffee • AOPA Fly-In & Airshow • Wine Tasting

Katie's Cars and Coffee

If you've even briefly followed my pictures, you know I shoot a lot of cars - cars are a love of mine, so I shoot car events for fun when I go... which is quite often.  Seeing these pictures from me for years, she wanted to go to the car show and meet some of my friends.  It wasn't long before Patrick arrived (barefoot as usual).  Our cars look good together ;-)

You should also know that I have a serious lust for Porsche.

At one point, Alyssa wanted to try my camera, so I let her at it, to compare my 85mm f/1.2 to the 50mm f/1.4 she had just gotten (on her crop body the FOV is roughly the same, but with less DOF).  Here are a few she shot that I pulled out and edited.

And here she is ruining a picture.

This was that one day everyone got their food except Jake.

AOPA Fly-In & Airshow

That afternoon we had all planned on meeting up with Ellen at the AOPA show in Frederick, MD, which is basically like Katie's car show, but for aircraft (so it's not every weekend ;-)).  Unfortunately, she couldn't make it this year, and we missed meeting up with her Dad, who owns a glider and aircraft tour business in New Jersey (still haven't gone to check it out yet).

This year Europe's Breitling Jet Team was in town performing in their Czech L-39 Albatros trainers.

They're quite a sight.  Their precision flying is definitely not to be missed.

I was very shocked at how close they let the public get to the aircraft.  Working at Dulles I am used to it, but every other airshow I've been to has had a lot of separation; at the AOPA show the jets just taxied right up to the crowd standing on the taxilane.  After that you were free to just walk up and stick your head in the aircraft - crazy!

Next performance was the Goodyear / Whelen stuntplane.  I actually took a bit of video of him too - it's shaky; 400mm handheld will do that.

After that, we browsed the parked aircraft for a bit, picking up free swag along the way.

Wine Tasting

If you know me then you know my other love, beyond cars and baseball, is wine.  All wine, as long as it's dry.  After the air show, we went back to Virginia wine country to vineyard hop.  The first vineyard we planned to visit was closed for the day for a wedding, so we went a mile up the road to The Barns at Hamilton Station; ironically the local vineyard I've visited the most, but not one of my favorites.  Although their wines aren't my favorite, they do have a cozy atmosphere, and they have a cat!!!  The last time I was there, it just hopped in my lap and cuddled until closing time!  I've actually been back there several times since Alyssa, Patrick, Jake and I went.

If you want more photos, you'll have to bug Alyssa for them, because I was more focused on tastings than taking pictures - left my camera in the car so I could enjoy the vino.

After Hamilton Station at the Barns, we headed over to Fabbioli Cellars; a place none of us had been, but I'd like to go back and try again.  They were interesting to me because they really focused on pairings - they actually give you a paired bite of food with every wine you taste.  If you're new to wine, you'll be in awe the first time you try a great pairing - compare a bitter red to how it tastes after a bite of certain food, and just see how it will open up into a robust, rich flavor with no negative traits - pairings are an exciting part of your wine journey, and are one of the most fun things to experiment with.

Day 6: Departure

I don't have any more photos to share.  Her last day in town, Alyssa and I spent with some family she has living here, and her grandparents who drove up from Mississippi.  We spent the day lounging by the pool and enjoying a nice dinner before I had to drive Alyssa back to BWI to fly home.  The flight to Rhode Island isn't that long; we raced home, me in my car, and her in the plane.  Even though I grabbed a donut at Dunkin before getting lost in the parking garage searching for my car, I still beat her home by a few minutes, all the way from BWI to Chantilly.

One of these days soon we'll plan another trip together.  We already met up again in New York since the trip in this post took place.  Til we meet again...