December 4, 2022

Williamsburg and a Cruise on the Elizabeth River

For my 65th birthday, the two main ladies in my life, Melanie and Meghan, decided we were going to spend the weekend in Williamsburg.

As you may, or may not, know Melanie and I are building a house in Williamsburg, so this would be a great opportunity to explore some more and just get to know the area. They decided to book rooms at the Marriot Manor Club at Ford’s Colony, which is literally 2 blocks away from where the new house will be.

One of the things I did in advance was book a ride on the Victory Rover Naval Base Cruises for Saturday morning.

So, per our usual trips to Williamsburg, Melanie and I got up early, were packed and in the car at approximately 7 a.m. and headed down. We took Melanie’s MDX versus the SC430, as we knew that Meghan was going to meet us down there and we would be riding together. There’s definitely not enough room in either her or my car for a real adult in the backseat.

Our first order of business was meeting with Kirsten at “The Cabinet Company of Virginia“. TCCoV is doing the cabinets in our house, and we wanted to bring Kirsten the latest changes in the house layout. We’re not to a point of wanting to order the cabinets yet, but we don’t want to get caught out by timing when the need arrives to order.

TCCoV is in Smithfield, VA, about an hour from Williamsburg. On our way down we went the southerly route, through Newport News and across the bridge to Smithfield. Newport News is always such a stark transition from Williamsburg. Williamsburg is kinda sleepy, slow and having a certain elegance, with Newport News having none of those qualities. We definitely won’t be spending a lot of time down here. Reminds us much too much of Northern Virginia.

We were early getting into Smithfield, so we stopped at Q Daddy’s BBQ in Smithfield for lunch. Q Daddy’ is our kinda place, very local, very family run, very good. We like supporting local businesses and Q Daddy’s is the definition of local.

About the time we got to Springfield, Ian decided to join us with the rain beginning around noon and to continue throughout the weekend, luckily easing up on Saturday as to not ruin the whole weekend.

As usual, we had a wonderful visit with Kirsten, we got in the car, and as there was evidently some sort of significant contretemps on I-64 heading back through Newport News, Google directed us north, eventually to take the ferry across the James River. We’ve done this before, but last time the weather was much less unpleasant. So we sat lazily in the car as we crossed the river.

All this took appreciably longer than Google predicted as the ferry only runs twice an hour, but truth be told, we really didn’t have anything pressing to do.

Pulling up at the Marriot to check in, Meghan pulls up behinds us. What great timing! Checking in, the rain has really started to come down, so we get ourselves to the rooms and just kinda collapse for a while before dinner. It’s a nice room, with a big two person jacuzzi which I made note of for later. We grabbed a short nap, and then headed out to Peter Chang restaurant for dinner. We had eaten at the Peter Chang’s in Richmond when we were there a couple of months ago. It was very good and we were looking forward to this one.

The first sign should have been that at 6:30 on a Friday night, there was only one table occupied. H’mmm. Ignoring that, we sat down for dinner. I’m guessing that most of their business is take out, because it really seemed like they didn’t know what to do with us. We got through all that and ordered dinner.

Honestly, the food wasn’t bad, but it was nothing compared to the Richmond store. Nothing whatsoever. Unfortunate. Oh, well, Williamsburg hasn’t overwhelmed us with epicurean delight thus far. What we have experienced has been serviceable, but nothing special. We’ve been going back and forth there for some 6 months, and there are only 2 places we have eaten at more than once.

We retired for the evening and I thought I’d give the jacuzzi a trial. First problem is the water valve has a mixer on it, so the water coming into the tub is lukewarm at best. And then of course it starts to get cold as the tub gets filled. H’mmm. Getting the tub sorta full, I get in to realize the thing has been designed by the Torturer of Prague. OMG. I genuinely don’t think it’s possible to make a tub more uncomfortable than this thing is. It has built in “seats” which slouch down in a “reclining” position. Well, there is no friction in the water, so the tendency is to slip down with your head going under the water. To keep from drowning, you have to wedge yourself in with your feet on the opposite wall. I tried other positions, but it was a waste of time. So, instead of a nice laize in the tub, I got out after 15 minutes or so exhausted from attempting to keep my head above the waterline.

Shortly before going to bed, we got a message from Victory Rover Naval Base Cruises, that our cruise was cancelled due to weather. No huge surprise there as it was raining cats and dogs outside.

We got up in the morning and headed to The Southern Pancake and Waffle House for breakfast. I have to admit, we liked this place. Hustle and bustle, full of people, vibrant, friendly, just awesome. The food was good and the prices reasonable. If you are in Williamsburg, check it out.

During breakfast we discussed what to do with the day with the cruise cancellation. The weather was clearing, so just for fun I checked the Victory Rover Naval Base Cruise website, and the afternoon tour was still scheduled. That would put us much later for dinner, but we decided to go anyway.

After breakfast, we got in the car and headed to the lot to show Meghan. Still not much to see then, just a wooded lot, albeit in a very nice neighborhood.

It’s a bit of drive down to the dock to catch the tour. I dropped the ladies in front of the place and went and parked the car. This is a multi purpose dock with a cruise ship that was loading up for the next voyage. It was chock a block full of folks coming and going.

We were early, so we found a place to sit and watch the crowd come and go until it was time to catch our boat.

We meandered over to the landing station and boarded the Victory Rover. We were early, so we grabbed good seating and waited for departure.

There was lots to see, and I grabbed a lot of photos. I’m not going to present the photos with significant Naval ship detail here, as I just don’t think that is appropriate. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know.

You can see some of the folks queued up to board the cruise ship.

This was looking back in the direction of Norfolk. I had parked the car in the tall building here.

The Carnival Magic, capable of holding some 4,500 passengers.

A full view of the Carnival Magic. Melanie wants to take a cruise, but I genuinely cannot see myself paying the kind of money it takes for this, to be on a ship with several thousand other passengers. If I’m going to do a cruise, it would be a much smaller venue. Couple of hundred maybe?

Views out toward the James River. We cast off and began our journey. The Captain provided excellent commentary throughout the cruise.

On the Port side was Portsmouth Navy Shipyard, with various vessels in the state of rehabilitation. This one is of particular interest as it is the LPD-17, USS San Antonio, the first low radar signature vessel of her kind. I’m very familiar with her, as my company, Moving Parts, designed the stern gate for the vessel back in the early ought’s.

The Navy had initially waived the low radar cross section requirements for the door as they didn’t think it was feasible to meet them. We had a really good, small team of designers and engineers, and after carefully reading the requirements using SolidWorks, designed the door to meet the requirement. The Navy was very pleased with this, and the prime contractor, Huber, Inc., got special accommodation for meeting the requirement.

What we got at Moving Parts was a lawsuit from Huber alleging malfeasance in the performance of our duties. At the end of the day, the owner had not been particularly diligent about his accounting practices and couldn’t document his costs well enough to get fully paid. The solution, in his mind, was a lawsuit hoping an insurance company would write him a check. His critical mistake was filing the claim after Moving Parts was officially closed with the insurance coverage going with it. Had he filed it when the policy was still in force, he probably would have gotten what he was looking for. Interestingly enough he passed away a couple of weeks before Hurricane Katrina.

Some time later, when talking to a friend about it, he used the term “bite the snake” when it came to dealing with lawsuits. At the end of the day, this was probably the most effective advice gotten in the effort. Our initial lawyer was a hide and it will go away kind of guy. I now know that this is/was a fundamental mistake as opposing lawyers see that as a sign of a weak position. It was only having the initial lawyer quit the suit, as he was taking a real job, and us getting a lawyer that was a lot less timid that the tide began to turn in our favor.

The paralegal Linda that I was working with, was very sharp and we talked a lot about the case. I had some insider information about the whole thing that I knew would vindicate us if it ever came to court, but our initial lawyer wasn’t interested. Linda recommended wording all the information as questions and then submitting them for answers. These were questions I knew they couldn’t answer without incriminating themselves. A couple of weeks later, a settlement offer of pennies on the dollar was proffered, in which the insurance companies involved were willing to cover. Had we done this early on, it would have been significantly less stressful and time consuming.

Thus, it took some 10+ years, but we were eventually vindicated. In the end, it cost my wife and I some $10,000 in legal fees, but c’est la vie. We learned a lot about lawyers and lawsuits in that episode.

An aircraft carrier under refurbishment.

Heading out toward the James River.

On our way back in, we noticed that the Carnival Magic was preparing for departure.

This oceanographic vessel was of interest as it’s a layout that is very familiar.

And we returned back to the dock to disembark.

Melanie and Meghan found a place to sit, and I went off and got the car. We headed for Virginia Beach as we wanted to have dinner at Waterman’s Surfside Grill. Melanie and I had eaten there once before and enjoyed it. Last time we tried, which was admittedly during tourist season, we couldn’t get near the place.

It’s another hour or so to Waterman’s. Getting there, I let the ladies off at the door and found a place to park. We had an excellent dinner looking out over the ocean from our sea side table. Highly recommended.

In the morning, we packed up to head out and decided to try the Smokey Griddle Pancake House for breakfast. About the only reason I list it is so people can avoid going there. As wonderful as the Southern Pancake House was, this was the polar opposite. The service was off-putting and awkward with the food being only barely edible. We got a real feeling that we weren’t welcome there. Read into that what you might.

Getting on the road, we were home by 1:00 o’clock, ready to resume our daily lives.

Thank you Melanie and Meghan for a wonderful weekend with ya’ll. It was awesome and I love you both!

Next time, we’ll take an extended walk around the Manassas National Battlefield.

Until then,