The Fourth of July fell on Friday this year, the perfect day of the week if you ask me. It has been in the mid-90’s the last few days but the heat wave broke and was in the low 80’s for July 4th. Combine that with a good breeze and the day was perfect for being outside.
We decided to BBQ ribs at the house and with Will and Sondra driving up from North Carolina, we gathered the family for an old fashion BBQ. Like most of my stuff, my BBQ books are packed in a box so I searched the internet for a new rub and sauce recipe. Not long after I put the ribs on the grill the smell was amazing. It had this spicy notes to it and with the hickory smoke, the combo was a good one. I modified the rub a little to add some more kick and I think it was a good idea in the end. When the rest if the family showed up to the house, Will said he could smell the ribs as they drove down the street. So far so good on cooking them.
The rest of the afternoon we hanged out on the deck. Greg and I smoked cigars and everyone sampled a myriad of beers that I purchased the day before. I love days like this. Days I get to sit back, smoke cigars, drink good beer and chill with family.
After four hours on the grill the moment of truth was reveled. For the first several hours I was able to keep a constant 225 temperature in the grill. The last few hours were a little tougher but for the most part all afternoon I had a constant low heat. To me, this is the critical part of BBQ. Anyone can make a rub and put it on meet. To cook it at the right temp for several hours is what makes you a BBQ master. With Matt’s help I pulled off the ribs from the grill and they looked amazing. One rack I had trouble getting out so I was pushing on one of the bones to free it and the whole bone just popped right out. All indications pointed to perfectly cooked ribs. A sample a few minutes later confirmed, I had an exceptional set of cooked ribs. With all the family gather I felt some pressure to perform and I came through with flying colors. Everyone agreed they were amazing.
After dinner Will, Sondra, and Maggie packed up their gear and headed to Washington, D.C. Will and Sondra wanted to catch the fireworks before heading to North Dakota. I thought about going but I was in a really good groove so I stayed with everyone else at the house. We light off a few roman candles and watch the fireworks on PBS instead. I know it is not the same as being there, but we didn’t have to fight the crowds to see the show.
It was a long day but a good day with the family. The weather was absolutely perfect all day with cool temperatures and a good breeze. The ribs came out amazing and all the sides hit the spot. I hope next year to have the Forth of July party at our new house and invite everyone over there to celebrate.
Since I will be gone over Thanksgiving I have been trying to see my family to celebrate early. Early in November Nancy and I went down to my mom’s house for a Sunday afternoon turkey feast. She cooked a turkey breast in the crock pot with all the fixings and it was fantastic! I was tasked with a cranberry dish and desert which I hit out of the park. When I showed up with my apple cranberry bake and ultimate pumpkin pie my mother was astonished. When I cook I go all out. I didn’t get some frozen pie you stick in the oven, this was completely from scratch all the way down to the crust. And the cranberry bake was a huge success. My mother ate that first and immediately got up for seconds. We spent about 5 hours over there catching up. I don’t get to see my mom and Norman to often so when I do, I like to talk. Nancy even mentioned I was Chatty Cathy over there.
For most federal holiday they happen on Monday or Friday and often the government shifts around the day off to fit this ideal model. So having Veterans Day in the middle of the week just felt odd and out of place. On top of that Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast and decided to sit on top of Virginia ALL day. I was planning on getting outside to do a little hiking but that got washed out, literally. So when my dad called saying he was going to DC to visit the Vietnam Memorial, possible Arlington National Cemetery, and the Smithsonian’s American History Museum I decided that was a better day spent than inside my house.
We got some what of an early start, I went to his house around 10am so we could take Metro into the city. I was not overly concerned with high traffic today, middle of the week and rain would keep most people away. Plus the more people I talked to it was about a 50/50 split on who had off. Needless to say there was plenty of parking in the garage and seats on the train.
When we got to the Smithsonian stop and took the long escalator ride up we got our first taste of just how miserable the weather was going to be. I was hoping that the further north we traveled things would improve, but of course that was wishful thinking. The wind would howl blowing cold moisture soaked air, layers of warm cloths were the only defense against this onslaught of mother nature. A good rain jacket or umbrella was a must too. My dad’s umbrella decided to break down and provide only minimal defense against the rain, but for today it would do the job well enough. The rain falling was never heavy, just a steady, even, rainfall. Enough to make it not fun to be outside.
The walk from the Metro stop to the Vietnam Memorial is about a mile and half, not that far, but no fun in the rain. We made the most of it and I was able to get a couple nice shots considering the day. We passed the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial before we reach our destination. Around the memorial were a ton of veterans mingling and reminiscing about days of old. The cold and rain were not enough to keep these guys from honoring the memories of their fallen brothers. It was inspiring really, I imagine many of them dealt with much worse in the jungle to let a little rain bother them today. We tried to get close and walk along the wall but police had it blocked off to the public. An officer said they were preparing for a ceremony at 1pm and we should come back around 3pm if we wanted to get closer.
We spent a good amount of time standing around looking at the wall talking about Vietnam and the current war. The conversation around the memorial was definitely different than the one on the train ride up or the walk over. My dad was in country for 17 months as a MP at a southern airfield. He has never talked about it and I never bring it up. But I know it affected him. We talked a little about what the American public was like back then and again now. To me it is eerily similar now as it was back then. The public is loosing patience with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, just like in the late sixties with Vietnam. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years. Will history repeat itself?
With our sole searching done we trudged along towards the American History Museum. They recently remolded the museum and opened it back up to the public, plus we wanted to get out of the rain. Walking along Constitution Avenue we quickly noticed that the roads were blocked off, not even pedestrians were allowed to cross the road. We knew it was for someone important, and we assumed the President. A few minutes later we see police motorcycles drive by followed by three heavily armored limousine and 10 or so black SUV’s. The motorcade even had an ambulance thrown in for good measure. One of the SUV’s looked like it could have communicated with Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. That’s just the way he rolls.
Getting to the museum we made a quick stop at the cafe on the first floor for some lunch and much needed hot coffee. It felt good to be inside and out of the rain. Next we got a map of the museum and started exploring. The guide we talked to recommended the Star-Spangled Banner, Julia Child’s Kitchen, and American Presidency. But before we saw any of these we started with America on the Move since it is on the first floor. My dad loves trains so it was an obvious first choice. It is pretty amazing to see how far we have come in this country. But when you considering how massive it is, it’s no wonder we love to travel.
Next it was up to the third floor and work our way down. The big attraction here is the Price of Freedom display which shows every war America has been in. From our countries the little known wars in our early history all the way up to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we are bravely fighting. We took our time especially walking through the Vietnam section. I am pretty sure it brought bake memories for my dad. He pointed out on a giant map the place he was stationed in country which was pretty neat.
On the second floor is the Star-Spangled Banner, this is the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what eventually became the national anthem of our country. When I was a kid the flag use to be displayed so when you walked in from the Mall entrance it was the first thing you saw. As time went on they covered it and would only display it for a brief time during the day. Now, it is entirely encased in a environmentally controlled chamber away from people and light. Throughout the flags history people have not taken the best care of it. Large sections were cut out and sold and at one time it was displayed outside on the museum wall.
We had time to check a few other section of the museum in our limited time. Of course we couldn’t see everything in the few hours we had, but we saw everything we wanted to. It was great spending the day with my dad in the city. It reminded me of my youth when he would take my brother and I up regularly to check out the museums. Even in my thirties going to the museums with my dad is a lot of fun.
Being only 25 miles from DC I was looking forward to going to the city to see the fireworks display on The Mall. I have seen it several times in the past, last year in fact I made the trip up. But I have never been able to get Nancy to go with me. Yeah it might be a small trip and there are a TON of people that attend it each year. But how often do you get to participate in something as extravagant as this, right in your back yard?
I had Nancy convinced to go to the city to enjoy the celebrations, but not because of my doing. Her brother and wife were coming up from North Carolina to visit and they wanted to see the fireworks on The Mall. Unfortunately at the last minute they couldn’t make it because of work so the plan of going to DC got scrapped. Instead we headed to my Dad’s house to celebrate our nations birthday. I certainly knew we were going to eat well if we came. Matt mentioned a week earlier that he was planning on smoking some ribs on his brand new grill. Yum.
When we arrived Matt was almost finished smoking the ribs, the smell coming off the grill made me want to dive right in. I had not eaten all day so I was definitely hungry for some food. After he took the ribs off the grill and let them rest he cut a rib for himself, my Dad, Nancy and I. Sometimes it pays to hangout with the cook, normally you get to try stuff that “falls off the plate” before anyone else.
With the ribs finished and plated, we headed to a neighbors house in my dad’s culdesac to party it up with a few friends and lots of family. In fact half the people at the party was our family, we certainly brought the troops. Walking through their kitchen and out onto the deck we passed a full spread of food, enough to feed a small army. At least enough to make everyone in attendance stuff with good food. After the mandatory mingling the hostess opened the flood gates for everyone to grab a plate and start eating. There was so much food I was a kid in a candy store. I didn’t get a lot of any one particular things, but I made sure to sample everything that was offered.
It was wonderful sitting down talking with everyone and catching up with my family. Bobby and Tracy brought over both kids so half the time they were chasing Ellie around while the other one had Ty. Nancy did some baby holding and even I got in on the fun. He is so tiny and I am so big I was afraid I would cruse him or possible drop him. But Tracy said not to worry, kids are pretty durable. I must have held him for 3o minutes, most of the time he was awake and staring back at me. Cute kid. Very animated too. He was smiling and laughing the whole time and I didn’t have to do much. Tracy was saying he doesn’t do that often so it felt good that I could get him to smile. You know we bro’s got to stick together, I certainly look forward to him getting older and then we can have some real fun.
After everyone was stuff and desert was served it was getting pretty late and about time for the adults to have a little fun. We didn’t have a large collection of fireworks that shot into the air, to my disappointment. But we did have more bottle rockets and fire crackers then we knew what to do with. So for about an hour Matt, Bobby, Nancy and I are firing these things off as quick as we possible could. We even started to get crazy with them and hold onto them or throw them, crazy stuff that no one should be doing when handling high explosives. Fortunately by the end of the evening everyone had all their fingers and toes with no extra holes in our body.
As the night started to wind down I headed inside for a few minutes to catch A Capitol Fourth on PBS. Every year in addition to the huge fireworks display there is a concert and big production put on next to the capitol building that is televised. All I cared about was the fireworks display. I certainly got my fill of fireworks and when it was over it was back outside for more firecrackers. The show stopping finally Matt had was a giant roll of two thousand firecrackers. He set it up in the middle of the culdesac and let things rip. It took about 60 seconds for the entire roll to go off and it was pretty cool. What was not cool was cleaning the giant mess afterwords.
After a long day of great food and company it was time to head home down 95 where Nancy and I were treated to more fireworks from people that lived next to the highway. For a state that outlaws fireworks that shot into the are, there certainly was a tone of illegal fireworks around. But one day out of the year to do your civic duty and celebrate the birth of our nation, I think the cops can over look. But if you loose an eye don’t come crying to me, your an idiot.