Day 16 – Fort Lee, Virginia

OK, folks. It really happened. We bailed out of Washington, D.C. and headed south to Richmond even though predictions for hurricane Matthew were not in our favor because it was heading north to meet us.

If you’ve been following this you will already know that our visit to Fort Lee was scheduled to be for one night only so we could visit Cedric. Well, bad weather in the Caribbean required us to cancel our intended visit to Myrtle Beach, SC, and interesting liberty rules on Fort Lee, for brand new military men conspired against us for a quick visit with Cedric.

First, the weather.

If you’ve been watching the news you’ll know that Hurricane Matthew is scheduled to crash right in to Myrtle Beach on Friday and create havoc in that area through the weekend. Because of that, all the lanes on all the freeways on the East Coast from Myrtle Beach south are only going west. All lanes. Because of that we would have found it difficult to buck all that traffic. So, Diane called Hilton and cancelled our visit and was able to wipe the slate clean even though cancellations less than a week before scheduled occupancy result in loss of all money paid, or all points used. The lady Diane spoke with ignored that rule and credited our account for everything we used to secure a spot in the Anderson Ocean Club for the coming week because we weren’t at fault.

Got that?

That was bad news, you’d think, because we only booked one night at Fort Lee and had to cancel our accommodations that would keep us indoors until we head for Virginia Beach on the 12th. After last night we were technically homeless. Where in the heck were we going to stay until the 12th?

We got to the Fort Lee Lodge early, around 2 pm, because it’s really not very far from Washington D.C. We were a bit stunned when we saw the place because it’s quite intimidating due to its enormous size. It so enormous that I could only capture bout 1/4 of it in this photo.

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The young lady who greeted me at the reception desk was all bright and cheerful and said our room wouldn’t be ready until 4 pm after checking our name to confirm that we actually belonged there. While I had her attention I asked what the possibility would be for us to extend our stay through the weekend because we’d just been kicked out of Myrtle Beach since the hurricane was going to get real busy there in the next few days. Then I played the “homeless” card.

She looked at her computer, conferred with a co-worker and they shared some conspirational activities, pointing at the screen, nodding, and said they could do that. “When to you want to check out?” she asked.

“Ah, Monday?” I offered, not wanting to push my luck, then pushed it anyway by changing it to, “Tuesday?”

When she kept looking at me, as if waiting for something more in the form of a definitive statement, I became concerned that I’d exceeded the limits of her good will. “Sure,” she said. “We are OK until the 24th when we’ll be fully booked.”

When she said the 24th, I got all giddy and immediately said, “Wednesday! I want to check out Wednesday.” There. A definitive statement.

She still sent me away asking that we return at 4 to check in, so I left. I was happy, smiling, and was excited to share this news with Diane who stayed in the vehicle. She always stays in the vehicle when we check in to a hotel.

During our absence from The Lodge we found the BX, the Commissary, and the Gas Station. Those are places to be familiar with when visiting any military base.

At the BX we discovered the same Philly Cheesesteak sandwich joint we liked on JBAB and decided to give it another try. It was even better. Things were looking brighter all the time.

After eating our sandwiches we drove back to the hotel and parked in the lot where we sat and waited for the clock to slowly tick around toward 4 pm. Finally, at 3:58 we cautiously re-entered the hotel to get the key to our room so we could unload the car.

We made it to the front of the line and a young lady finished with her customer and beckoned me to her station. As I headed toward her the young lady who had helped me two hours earlier said, “No! I’ve got this one!” which kinda surprised me. So, I moved to the left, out of the way, so the Army Captain behind me could move on to the lady who have waved me over.

At the counter, the young lady, whose name I shamefully forgot to get, asked for my Military ID and a credit card. Anticipating this, I had them both in my hand and presented them to her. She got us logged in then stood there looking at her display while conferring with another co-worker who nodded when she referred to something on her screen. The nod was apparently approval for her unspoken query because she hit a key on her keyboard, turned to me and said, “There. I have a room for you on the 7th floor and I upgraded your room. For no charge.” That surprised me because it’s an Army hotel so why would there be upgrades available?

Not having anything clever to say, because I was totally not expecting this, I said, “works for me.”

She smiled and gave me all the stuff people at reservations desks have you sign. I did so, then she handed me the keys for room 7105. It’s a 7 story building so we were on the top floor. Diane’s favorite place to be. No one could dance on our ceilings during the night!

We took the keys and headed for the elevators. They have four of them just off the lobby. We had to dance around some young fellows who were scrubbing the marble floor in the short hall to the elevators. There were six of them. One on a scrubbing buffer, one with a mop, one with a mop bucket, one with a little grout scrubber, and two on either end working folks who were there, I think, to keep any of them from leaving. Kidding, of course. They were all working and very friendly and moved things so we could get to one of the elevator doors without stepping in puddles of soapy water.

An elevator. What a treat. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised because this hotel has 1,138 rooms. That’s true. I asked. I said the place is enormous already but it bears repeating. Just look up 2301 Mahone Ave, Fort Lee, VA on Google Maps then switch it to the satellite view. You’ll see for yourself.

While on the way up in the elevator both of us were wondering just what kind of upgrade we had received, and what kind of room we would have received had we not received the upgrade. It was with bated breath that Diane put her key in the little lock, watched it turn green, looked at me, then cautiously opened the door.

When the door finally opened all the way we were absolutely amazed to discover that our complimentary upgrade was from a regular room, with which we would have been totally happy, to a suite with an actual bedroom and a kitchen area with a large refrigerator, a dishwasher, and an actual garbage disposal in the sink that works. And, it’s got a Keurig coffee maker sitting right there on the counter with a lot of little Keurig cups in a nifty sliding drawer beneath it. How cool is that? It’s just beautiful. We want to live here now, but I don’t think they will let us. I haven’t asked yet.

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Anyway, we’re gonna live in style until next Wednesday. Then we have to discover if Virginia Beach is accessible so we can take up residence in an undoubtedly inferior room at some ocean side resort. Whether or not it’s still there after Matthew does it’s work is still up in the air because no one really knows which direction he will turn once he churns up the coast and out to sea when it hits the Carolinas.

OK. That’s it for the room. Now let’s talk about Cedric, the reason we’re here. I texted him, and his Mom, when we saw the sign for Fort Lee.

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Then again when we hit the gate.

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He finally responded about 5 to say he wouldn’t be able to go on liberty to see us this evening because his Battle Buddy bailed on him. Battle Buddy is an “Army Thing” Cedric said which means no one goes on liberty alone. He was really bummed but got over it when he learned that we were going to be here through the weekend. He can’t see us tomorrow, either, because he has duty. So, we has Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to catch up. It’s going to be OK.

Now it’s time for bed. Diane said.

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