"Work that crack!"

Matthew's Package Paul & Barry are joining us for a weekend of hiking and wine tasting in and around Shenandoah National Park with Matthew & Jim. This is the first time we meet Jim; we are all very excited and hope that we behave ourselves. Turns out Jim is quite fabulous! We love him, and we hope that he loves us cuz he's stuck with us at least for the weekend. Matthew has the whole weekend planned: hikes, dinners, wine tasting, etc. Our debriefing package details it all. Yes, we all get a package complete with the schedule and maps. Go Matthew!

Cracking It Up The main hike, Old Rag Mountain, kicks our asses. It starts out as a nice trail, albeit quite steep, thru The Jenkins' Burnscaping business -- it is a Virginia thing -- and thru a beautiful dense forest full of trees with brand new chartreuse leaves. Gorgeous. But then, a few miles into it, it turns super bouldery! Matthew hops around like a mountain goat in a puffy, down vest. The rest of us, not so hoppy! There are lots of cracks to work, and boy, did we crack it up or what! We have the summit all to ourselves and the views are fantastic. Matthew, our super thoughtful super-Martha host, produces a whole array of lunch items and fruit out of his backpack. So nice!

Oh Shenandoah! Our second hike (the following day) is a short little hike to Stony Man Mountain, but with great views. The thing that is interesting about Shenandoah NP is that it is hugged by civilization. Most National Parks we've been to have buffers of National Forest, National Prairie, National Grassland, etc. around them. Not Shenandoah. So even though the views are amazing, you can see the town of Luray, not to be confused with Sperryville, right there. What makes Old Rag's views amazing is that you see very little civilization.

"We are totally flexible today!" Next on the agenda is wine tasting. Virginia wine country is very unknown to us so we are very curious. You don't see the rolling hills and acres of vineyard; it is more of farming countryside with wineries here and there. (By the way, Virginia countryside is very pretty, with green farms and photogenic barns. Unfortunately we are on a schedule and not allowed to stop for photos!) On our first night in DC we had dinner with Scott Steen (of American Forests). Upon hearing that we are going to the wine country he turns to us and says, point blank, "The wine is really bad!" Doh! So of course now we are really curious. As one can imagine they have varietals that we don't have in CA, or at least that we are not familiar with. We find it not as sophisticated and complex, but it isn't bad, per se, just simple. We have a great time winery-hopping with the boys, and that is what matters. At the last winery of the day, Desert Rose, we relax on the porch while sharing a bottle of wine and harassing Matthew about his Costanza wallet and keychain. He is such a good sport!

And talking of Desert Rose, we owe one of the nicest surprises of the weekend to the them. The owners strongly recommend we go to the same restaurant they are going to, Flint Hill Public House. This restaurant in the middle of no where turns out to be one of the best places we ate this whole weekend! Thanks for the recommendation Desert Rose Ranch folks.

Dark and Phony Paul & Barry head back home at the end of the weekend and we spend a few days in DC, Assana's first time. DC, as a city, is very airy. There are plenty of greenery and no high-rises, so it is light and fresh. But man, it is full of stuffy dark suited politicians and lobbyists. Everywhere you look there is a fake smile, a what-can-you-do-for-me handshake, or a dude in a polyester suit wearing an earpiece... just standing around. Blah. Our hotel, though amazingly nice, is right across Lafayette Park and The White House. So it is a major see-and-be-seen center. For example one morning we come down to the lobby to find secret service doggies all over the lobby sniffing anything and everything. Turns out Michelle Obama is coming over for breakfast. Alright then.

Powering Through Of course three days is no where enough time to see everything DC has to offer, especially when it pours rain one of those days. But we are super-tourists and in just short time we have we pretty much hit all the major site: The White House, the length of National Mall from Lincoln Memorial to Capitol Hill, a tour of the Capitol, The Botanical Gardens, The Library of Congress, etc. One of our unexpected highlights is the temporary Geology Exhibition at the Natural History Museum. We go to see The Hope Diamond, which is quite nice, but nothing compared to the rest of the crystals on display: amazing naturally formed geometric crystals in a bjillion colors... truly spectacular. And what is a trip without Assana stumbling? She takes a pretty good fall tripping over a pothole in the middle of a street under pouring rain. Even the ripped and water-soaked jeans, bloody knee and elbow doesn't slow us down! Power-tourist taken to a new height!

Matthew & Jim, thank you so much for hosting us . We had a fantastic weekend and can't wait to see you guys again! Our turn next time! xx.

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