Tag Archives: Washington D.C.

“Travel America” and Me

20 Feb

The other day, we were flying to Arizona, and I picked up a magazine to read on the plane. Travel America lists over 250 places to visit in the United States. As I skimmed through the pages, I began to count all of the ones that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to travel to all 50 states and have seen some great stuff. This is a list of places that Travel America and I have in common.

Wait, here is a picture that I took on the trip to get you in the mood. It is in the Superstition Mountains.img_2279

Massachusetts

Paul Revere House

Old North Church

USS Constitution

New York

Central Park

Madison Avenue

Statue of Liberty

Empire State Building

Broadway

Niagara Falls

Pennsylvania

Independence Hall

Liberty Bell

National Constitution Center

Rhode Island

The Breakers

Florida

Walt Disney World

Kennedy Space Center

Everglades National Park

Miami Beach

South Beach

Georgia

River Street

Buckhead

Georgia Aquarium

World of Coca-Cola Museum

Kentucky

University of Kentucky

Louisiana

Garden District

Lafayette Cemetery

French Quarter

Louisiana State University

Mississippi

Ground Zero Blues Club

Delta Blues Museum

Natchez Trace

North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Biltmore

South Carolina

Harbour Town Golf Links

Tennessee

Beale Street

B.B. King’s Blues Club

Graceland

Ryman Auditorium

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Hermitage

Union Station Hotel

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Alum Cave Trail

Cade’s Cove

Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery

Old Town Alexandria

Mount Vernon

Illinois

Michigan Avenue

Indiana

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Michigan

University of Michigan

Missouri

Gateway Arch

North Dakota

Badlands

Fort Mandan

Ohio

Progressive Field

Warehouse District

Oklahoma

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Cattleman’s Steakhouse

South Dakota

Badlands National Park

Wall Drug

Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer State Park

Saloon #10

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Arizona

Tombstone

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Goulding’s Lodge and Trading Post

Sedona

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Montana

Billings

Pompeys Pillar National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield Indian Memorial

Beartooth Highway

Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Nevada

Death Valley National Park

Luxor

Excalibur

Venetian

New Mexico 

Carlsbad Cavern

Palace of the Governors

Inn of the Anasazi

White Sands National Monument

Texas

Sixth Floor Museum

South Congress Avenue

Sixth Street

River Walk

The Alamo

Utah

Bryce Canyon

Temple Square

Wyoming

Snake River

Grand Tetons National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone Lake

Old Faithful

Lower Falls

Yellowstone River

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park

Denali National Park

California

Universal Studios

HOLLYWOOD sign

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Walk of Fame

Rodeo Drive

Golden Gate Bridge

Chinatown

Redwood National Park

General Sherman Tree

Sequoia National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

Pacific Coast Highway

Hawaii

USS Arizona Memorial

Lanikai Beach

Volcanoes National Park

Waimea Canyon

Oregon

Haystack Rock

Columbia River Gorge

Mt. Hood

Historic Columbia River Highway

Crater Lake

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

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Get Away From Magazines

14 Jul

I have to stop going to the grocery store because I always buy some “Special Edition” magazine. “Special Edition” is the code for something that costs more than a regular magazine. Yesterday, I got one called Great American Getaways that was put out by LIFE.Getaway

I read it and decided that the money spent meant that I should do more than that. Therefore, we have a post.

This is going to be simple. List the getaways. Write if I have ever been to them. Yes or no answers will suffice.

Mount Desert, Maine – No

The Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts – Yes

Franconia, New Hampshire – No

Block Island, Rhode Island – No

Mystic, Connecticut – No

Sag Harbor, New York – No

Tanglewood and Williamstown, Massachusetts – No

Stowe, Vermont- No

New York City, New York – Yes

Cape May, New Jersey – No

Cooperstown, New York – No

Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, No

The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. – Yes

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Yes

Niagara Falls, New York – Yes

Sea Island, Georgia – No

Walt Disney World, Florida – Yes

The Florida Keys – No

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia and North Carolina – Yes

Horse Country, Kentucky – Yes

Columbus, Indiana – No

Mackinac Island, Michigan – No

Nashville, Tennessee – Yes

Chicago, Illinois – Yes

New Orleans, Louisiana – Yes

Ozarks, Arkansas – Yes

Sand Hills, Nebraska – No

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota – Yes

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Yes

Land of the Anasazi, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico – Yes

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – Yes

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Yes

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona – No

Alta, Utah – No

Glacier National Park, Montana – Yes

Las Vegas, Nevada – Yes

Death Valley, California – Yes

San Diego, California – Yes

Yosemite National Park, California – Yes

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada – Yes

Oregon Wine Country – No

Mount Rainier, Washington – Yes

Big Sur, California – Yes

San Francisco, California – Yes

San Juan Islands, Washington – No

Redwood National Park, California – Yes

Volcano National Park, Hawaii – Yes

Lanai, Hawaii – No

Glacier Cruise, Alaska – Yes

The Brooks Range, Alaska – No

That is 29 visits out of 50 places.

Now, I promise myself that I will not buy more “Special Edition” magazines…until I go back to the grocery store.

 

National Parks and Me

27 May

On our recent trip to New Mexico, we visited several places under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and those visits made me wonder how many I have visited.Park

This post is simple. It is a list of the ones I have visited with a short comment about each. Oh yeah, they will also be listed by state.

Alaska

Denali National Park – a beautiful view of Mt. McKinley

Glacier Bay National Park – eagles, bears, whales and calving icebergs.

Arizona

Canyon de Chelly National Monument – an interesting ride into another culture

Grand Canyon National Park – a big hole in the ground

Montezuma Castle National Monument – cliff dwellings by the river

Petrified Forest National Park – trees of stone

Saguaro National Park – the insects make a weird sound, but the cacti are awesome

California

Death Valley National Park – hot does not describe it

Golden Gate National Recreation Area – the bridge is not golden

Redwood National Park – a bunch of big trees

Sequoia National Park – another bunch of big trees

Yosemite National Park – one of the most beautiful places on earth

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Monument – it is a heck of a climb to the top

Mesa Verde National Park – unfortunately, I had to correct the park ranger

Georgia

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site – Plains never had it so good

Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – we visited before they started erupting

Louisiana

New Orleans Jazz National Historic Site – it is a room behind Cafe Du Monde

Mississippi

Natchez Trace Parkway – it is a cool drive but do not speed

Vicksburg National Military Park – this is what a siege looks like

Missouri

Harry S Truman National Historic Site – my favorite president to visit

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial – otherwise known as the Arch

Montana

Glacier National Park – it is my heading on Twitter

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site – a real ranch is better

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument – my favorite battlefield to visit

Nevada

Lake Mead National Recreation Area – made famous by Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson

New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument – climb the ladders

Carlsbad Caverns National Park – walk in and take the elevator out

Chaco Culture National Historic Park – kivas are everywhere

El Morro National Monument – the most awesome collection of autographs ever

Fort Union National Monument – not much left of the fort

Pecos National Historical Park – exists due to the generosity of Greer Garson

Petroglyph National Monument – a victim of urban sprawl

White Sands National Monument – it is like visiting another planet

New York

Statue of Liberty National Monument – she has big feet

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park – bluest water I have ever seen

Lewis and Clark National Historic Park – this is where they stopped before turning around

Pennsylvania

Independence National Historic Park – they signed some sort of document around here

South Dakota

Badlands National Park – it took some bad people to survive here

Mount Rushmore National Memorial – where are the rest of their bodies

Tennessee

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site – it does not matter that he was impeached

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – it has some great hiking trails

Shiloh National Military Park – the tragedy can be felt in the air

Stones River National Battlefield – it is right down the road

Texas

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park – remember the Alamo

Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park – walk among the hoodoos

Virginia

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial – it looks down on the eternal flame

George Washington Memorial Parkway – we had a nice lunch along this road

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park – you do not want to be around when it erupts

Washington, D.C.

Korean War Veterans Memorial – truly haunting at night

Lincoln Memorial – covered with people

National Mall – it is bigger than you might think

Vietnam Veterans Memorial – touch the wall and feel the loss

Washington Monument – they play softball all around it

White House – it does not look as big as I thought it would

World War II Memorial – try to find Kilroy

Wyoming

Devil’s Tower National Monument – did not see any alien spacecraft

Fort Laramie National Historic Site – several broken treaties signed here

Grand Teton National Park – what does that name mean in French

Yellowstone National Park – the jewel of all national parks

 

D.C. Road Trip – Virginia is for Troopers

26 Jul

On Sunday morning, we pulled out of Washington, D.C. and headed toward our home in Tennessee. Obviously, this meant spending quite a bit of time driving the interstates of Virginia. Along the way, I learned quite a bit about that state.

The state troopers are serious. We saw a motorist pulled over as soon as we left D.C., and we saw another one pulled over a mile from the Tennessee border. In between, we saw a ton of state troopers sitting on the side of the road just waiting to get someone. Seriously, we expected to see blue lights around every bend.

I also noticed that these state troopers caused a trend. When they were not around, the traffic flowed smoothly. When one of them appeared, the traffic congested as people hit their brakes and tried to get into one lane. In short, I think everyone would be better off if there were fewer of them out there.

Another Virginia revelation. People like to drive down the interstate with their arms hanging out the window. This is something you might see someone doing on a city backstreet or a country backroad, but you rarely see it on the interstate. Not in Virginia. There were arms dangling everywhere. When I am on the interstate, I like to keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle.

Oh yeah, James Madison University has a nice football stadium just off the interstate. It would have been cool to go over and check it out.

Anyway, those are a few of the things I noticed while driving home. However, I also spent some time looking back on our trip. When I started this series of travelogue posts, I wrote that I was nervous about the trip.

First, I was not sure about the timing of our stops. This is a crucial aspect for any road trip. It turns out the distances worked out well. We got to Lynchburg in time to have a relaxing dinner in town. We even got my stepdaughter to the hotel in time to watch her favorite show only to discover that they did not offer that channel. The best laid plans and all of that.

It was the same thing going into D.C. We arrived at the same time as the people we were meeting. It also gave us time to unpack; have a nice dinner; and stroll to the White House. Unfortunately, we cancelled the Virginia Beach part of the trip and do not know if the timing would have worked. I think it would have, though.

Second, I was not sure about sightseeing for three days in a major city. I had never done it before and was not sure how to do it. We saw a lot of cool stuff, but I am not sure we planned it well. The walking idea was good for a while but quickly turned tiresome. We also crammed a lot of things into the three days. Looking back, I would have cut out the museums and spread everything else over the time.

Third, I wanted my family to like the experience. I think they liked the places we saw and the things we did, but it tired them out. They would like to have had some lying around time built into the agenda. Removing the museums would have accomplished that. Hopefully, they did not get too tired because there is a lot of cool things to see out there in the world, and I want them to see it all.

That wraps up our D.C. Road Trip. You will get some regular posts for a while, then I fly to the great Northwest. There is no telling how many posts I will get out of that one. In the meantime, I leave you with one of the last pictures we took. It also happens to be one of my favorites.image-25

I hope you enjoyed reading about our Washington, D.C. adventures.

D.C. Road Trip – A Long Day at the Museum

25 Jul

Going into the trip, we had not settled on what day we would visit the Smithsonian, but the decision was made on the road to Lynchburg. Through social media, my wife found out that some old friends were going to be in Washington, D.C. on Saturday and were planning on taking their daughter to a couple of the museums. It would be the perfect day to see them and see some artifacts.

It turned out to be, in my mind, an imperfect day. We started with a visit to Starbucks and a cab ride to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a place that we definitely wanted to see. Then, we were informed that it would take almost two hours to get in. I could sense that, by this time, my wife had tired of getting tickets and hanging around for a while to see something. When she asked if we should stay or go somewhere else, my gut told me that we should go somewhere else. It would not be the last time that my gut spoke to me that day.

With plans to tour the National Museum of American History with our friends, we bypassed that one and went to the one next to it, the National Museum of Natural History. This is one of the most famous Smithsonian buildings and begins with the iconic stuffed elephant.image-23

That proved to be the first of many stuffed animals. It was cool to see, but, honestly, I thought it was kind of creepy. We have a collection of stuffed animals on campus that I do not find creepy, and I kept trying to figure out the difference. It could be because the Smithsonian is in the business of protecting information about the world, and these animals were far from protected.

The Hope Diamond was the highlight of the museum. I thought it was cool and could tell that my family thought it was more cool.

When we walked out of the building, we were looking straight at the Smithsonian Castle.image-24

I could only think that the secret headquarters for Sigma Force were underneath. Never heard of Sigma Force? It is a team of government agents whose exploits are chronicled in a series of books by James Rollins. I have been reading them forever.

I do not need to be a secret agent to know that my next decision was my worst. I already had the feeling that my wife was done walking and sightseeing, and I suggested going to the National Museum of the American Indian. The decision was made for two reasons. First, I thought it would be a cool museum. Second, it was time for lunch, and the restaurant in the museum was supposed to be the best around. I had seen it on television, and our contact in our congressman’s office said it was great.

As we walked toward the museum, my gut spoke up. It told me that this was an awfully long walk, and no one else was happy about taking it. It also told me that we were next to the National Museum of American History, and we were getting further from it by the minute. Funny thing, my gut was speaking to me more than my wife. In fact, she was not speaking to me, at all.

We get to the museum, and the restaurant is packed. Apparently, everyone was the same television show that I had watched. On top of that, it was all traditional food of the American Indian. I do not think my family found it very appetizing. Luckily, our friends arrived as we finished eating. Hopefully, that would make the day go better.

We toured the museum, and, to me, it was a disappointing experience. There were not as many artifacts as I expected, and there looked to be a lot of wasted space. The worst part? They displayed pottery from the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. Everyone knows that they should have displayed pottery from the San Ildefonso Pueblo.

Then, we made the trek back across the Mall. I must say that it went quicker because we had more people to talk to. However, it did not make it any shorter. By the time we got to the museum, my family had done enough. They went through a few rooms but, eventually, found somewhere to sit. We saw some cool stuff, though.

Dorothy’s ruby slippers.

Archie Bunker’s chair.

Abraham Lincoln’s hat.

Thomas Jefferson’s writing desk, which we heard about at Monticello.

However, it was not enough. At some point, my wife and I discussed the idea that we should have left some things out. In my book, those things would have been the museums of the Smithsonian. Look, the Smithsonian is a national treasure, but it does not rank with the other places we visited. That could be because I am not a big fan of museums. I would rather visit the places where history happened rather than a place that holds objects. Sure, they have some interesting items, but George Washington never walked through their halls.

Also, we went to the Smithsonian after a couple of days of continuous activity. We were all tired and ready for something else. If I had it all to do over, then I would skip the Smithsonian and continued our trip to Virginia Beach. However, we live and learn. That is what history and historic sites are all about.

D.C. Road Trip – A 70% Chance of Sunshine and a 100% Chance of Hills

24 Jul

In the days leading up to this trip, my wife was obsessed with the weather. She was always looking at the weather app on her iPhone and trying to figure out what climate conditions we were going to face. I reckon this was because it rained a lot when we were in Cancun.

As my wife scanned the weather, she kept saying that it was going to rain. When I asked the percentages, she said that there was a 30% chance. I replied that it meant that there was a 70% chance of sunshine. This became a running joke on the trip, but, honestly, that is the only way I know to look at it. Now, if it had been 70% chance of rain I would have been worried.

I write all of that to write this. My wife decided that the weather was too shaky to make the drive to Virginia Beach. After all, the beach is no fun if it rains. Of course, it had not rained since we left Tennessee, but that did not seem to be the point.

With that decision behind us, we proceeded with the day’s activities. We got our vehicle and took a short drive across the Potomac to Arlington National Cemetery, a place that was high on my list to visit. I had been there many years ago with my parents and remembered how inspirational it was and wanted my family to experience that feeling. I also remembered that the popular points in the cemetery were on hills. I just did not remember how steep those hills were.

After a nice little hike, we found ourselves at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the place that contains the remains of soldiers who died in battle and were never identified. They represent all of those who were lost in a similar way. While the tomb should be the focus, many people go to the site to see the changing of the guard.image-19

The monument is constantly guarded by a lone soldier, and the changing of the guard is a regimented and symbolic ceremony. As we watched the guards go through their routine, I could not get over the precision of their movements. I could also not get over the fact that someone is guarding the tomb at all times and in all kinds of weather. No matter what is going on around them, the guards never break their routine.

That made me wonder what happened on September 11, 2001. Did the guard flinch as a plane streaked toward the Pentagon just over the hill? What did the crowd watching the ceremony do? What was going trough his mind as smoke billowed over the horizon and the rest of the country was in chaos?

After the ceremony, we made our way to the grave of John F. Kennedy, which sits on another hill. This spot is also inspirational to many people, but I must confess that it did not affect me as had the Tomb of the Unknowns. Kennedy’s assassination was tragic and one of the darkest days in our history, but I have never held him in the esteem that others have. People view him as a great president, but I view him as someone who never got the chance to determine where he would rank. Would he have been a great president, or would he have had a bad second term? We will never know. I think people who go to his gravesite mourn what might have been or a lost innocence more than anything.

As we stood at Kennedy’s grave, I looked up the hill at the home of Robert E. Lee.image-22

When Lee chose to fight for the Confederacy during the Civil War, the United States military seized the property due to its commanding position over Washington, D.C. To punish Lee, they buried soldiers around the house, and that is how Arlington National Cemetery began.

Walking through the hills and dells of the cemetery was tiring, but we had one more place to visit before returning to the hotel. Along the way, we drove through historic Alexandria, Virginia and could immediately sense that this was a high rent district. The homes were well-manicured. Shops and restaurants lined the sidewalks. If we were going to eat, then this was a good place to start.

We found a place called Society Fair, and I immediately knew what this place was all about. It is one of those “lunch lady” places where women of leisure eat sandwiches and cake for a couple of hours. Of course, it does not take that long to eat a sandwich and a piece of cake. That means the rest of the time is filled with idle chitchat. The food was fine, but I could feel the testosterone dripping out of my body by the second.

Finally, we got out of there a arrived at Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. This was also a place that I definitely wanted everyone to see. Washington accomplished a lot, but nothing was more important than his management of the colonial army against the British. Walking in his footsteps is a must for anyone visiting the area.image-21

We watched a short film that had a guy from one of my stepdaughter’s vampire shows playing Washington. Then, we walked up the hill to his house. Did I mention that these guys liked living on hills? I guess it was a way to look over their vast holdings.

Anyway, Washington had a beautiful home with the Potomac River flowing behind it.image-20

The docents presented a great history of  Washington’s family and their home. However, I have a complaint about Mount Vernon, Monticello and most other plantain home I have ever seen. They still have a hard time dealing with slavery. Obviously, it is a tough subject, but, in these times, they need to go ahead and talk about the reality of it.

 

D.C. Road Trip – A Lot of Statues and One Chandelier

23 Jul

We rose bright and early on Thursday because we had an appointment to keep. We were scheduled to meet at the office of our congressional representative, Diane Black, and a member of her staff was going to lead us on a tour of the Capitol. After a short cab ride, we found ourselves at the entrance of one of the several congressional office buildings. I was expecting a long wait through security, but it was easier than I expected. There was a metal detector, but that was about it. Heck, I thought it was harder to get the elevator to work at our hotel.

From the office, we made our way through the tunnel to the Capitol. People were hustling and busting, and I realized something. The vast majority were in their 20s. I came to the conclusion that our government is actually run by young people who have the drive and energy to do it.

The tour of the Capitol was awesome and was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We saw scars from where the British burned the building during the War of 1812. We also saw a chandelier that began its life in a whorehouse before being moved to a Methodist church. Finally, it made its way full circle to our nation’s Capitol. It started in a place where they screw people for their money and ended up in the same type of place.image-13

The old chambers of the House and Senate were also cool. I wanted to see the place where Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was almost beaten to death, and, suddenly, there we were.

The rotunda was interesting, but I really liked the statues scattered throughout the building. Each state submits two statues of people who are important to them. There were a lot of presidents, but there was also Helen Keller and a Native American leader. Tennessee’s entries are Andrew Jackson and John Sevier, two men who were not fond of each other.

However, there were also statues of other people who were important in Tennessee history.

Texas offered a statue of Sam Houston, who served as governor of Tennessee. Also, his first law office was in Lebanon.image-14

Nebraska had a statue of William Jennings Bryan, who died in Tennessee after serving as the prosecutor in the Scopes Monkey Trial.image-15

Without a doubt, the highlight of the visit was sitting in the gallery and watching the House of Representatives at work. As we looked down upon them, a few things went through my mind.

The room is a lot smaller than I imagined.

This is the room where Franklin Roosevelt made the “Infamy Speech.”

The House of Representatives is chaotic. We watched them take two votes, and hardly anyone was sitting down. They were walking around. They were standing in front of the speaker’s stand and talking. Kids were on the floor. Staff members were in and out. It was in complete disarray.

Most members of the House are anonymous. Most people probably know their own representative and others in their state, but that is about it. Heck, we sit close to the Kentucky border, and I could not tell you who any of their people are. Except for a few in leadership positions, no one really knows who these people are.

After watching them for a while, we decided to walk down the hall and watch the Senate. This is when we discovered why our government cannot get anything done. We had to leave our belongings in a room before going to the House chamber. However, we could not get to the Senate without first going back to get our stuff and turning it in again at the Senate holding room.

Understand? Me neither. We had to go back downstairs; get our stuff; turn it in at a different location; then go to the Senate. Ridiculous.

Then, we got to the Senate chamber and watched one guy give a speech to an empty room.

We left the Capitol and made our way to a sandwich shop for lunch. Then, we walked across the street to the Library of Congress.

Did I say walk? This is when we realized that walking to everything was not going to be as easy as we thought. The Mall is a huge expanse, and things that look close on the map may not be close in reality. With a busy morning behind us, we decided to take a cab to the hotel and rest up before dinner, which was at a cool South American restaurant. My wife and I both had mojitos with huge pieces of sugar cane sticking out of them. Nothing like a drink with a hunk of wood-like stuff.

After dinner, we walked to the Mall to see the monuments at night. We had heard that this is the best time to look at them. Several things stuck with me.

People play kickball and softball around the Washington Monument. I had never thought of it as a big recreational area, but that is what it is.

The World War II Memorial is amazing.image-18

The water in front of the Lincoln Memorial is huge, but it is also where Captain America met Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Tons of people want to see the Lincoln Memorial and will risk their lives for it. We saw one woman wreck a Segway. However, I can understand why. It is an inspiring experience.image-16

The Vietnam Memorial is behind a bathroom. We lost the people we were with when we thought they went to the bathroom. Actually, they were going to the Wall.

The Korean War Memorial is the one I most wanted to see, and I was not disappointed. Seeing the soldier statues glowing in the night was a haunting experience.image-17

With that, we caught a cab back to the hotel. My stepdaughter went to the room while my wife and I hung out in the lobby to make sure the rest of our gang made it back.