Written by Cathy Finnegan Sunday, November 18, 2012 12:00 am
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On the road again. That’s right, Ron Denney put together another trip in a series of educational excursions sponsored by the Exchange Club of Ocean City to military training facilities.
After months of planning it was a clear, crisp fall morning when Irene and George Reeves picked up Jim and I, along with our luggage, and we headed uptown to the Ninth Street bus terminal where Betty Ray, Mary and Warren Hughes and Carol and Will Evans were already waiting. As soon as Fernando Patino arrived with our Senior Tours bus, Irene and I boarded to select our seats while our husbands stored the luggage. Curt Gronert and Jesse Ruch carried on a large cooler filled with bottled water while Linda Gronert passed out identification tags on purple lanyards. Since it was color coordinated with my outfit, I put it on. A quick roll call by Admiral Denney and it was “wheels up” at 10:30 a.m. as everyone settled back reading newspapers and books. Ron regaled us with his dry humor every time he picked up the microphone to make an announcement. Jim and I enjoyed chatting with Carol and Bill Dotts sitting in front of us, who enjoy volunteering at the museum, and found we had lots of mutual acquaintances. Winnie Piriano made sure everyone was well nourished as she circulated containers filled with Johnson’s Popcorn around the bus. A rest stop at the Maryland House on Interstate 95 allowed us 30 minutes for lunch. We caught up with John Petrycki and Fred Marcell checking out the soup, salads and sandwiches at the deli then joined George Onufer and Bev Denney for lunch.
We made great time and checked in at the Crowne Plaza for our two-night stay in Alexandria, Va. overlooking the Potomac. Barb and Phil Perri and Donna and Joe Mohr, who opted to drive down in their car, met us in the lobby to join in the tour. With several hours to kill before dinner, Jim and I joined Irene and George Reeves for a stroll along the Potomac with views of the Washington Monument and the Capitol. The Denneys and Dotts had the same idea as we ran into them along the way.
Back at the hotel, a quick stop in the lounge for happy hour we caught up with Pat and Carl Waterman, then it was upstairs to change for dinner. All dressed up for our three-hour dinner cruise on The Nina Dandy, as we boarded the bus for our short ride to the pier, we noticed all the guys were wearing navy sport jackets. Everyone posed for pictures as we boarded the boat, then settled in at tables offering an unparalleled view of our nation’s monuments.
As we cruised along the Potomac, we enjoyed dinner then whirled around the 465-square-foot marble dance floor. My husband was delighted to take a break when George Onufer asked this columnist to dance. Many went up on the outside deck on this clear evening for a better view of the Washington Monument and Kennedy Center in all their splendor. Back at the hotel, I left a wakeup call for 6 a.m. as the next day was a full day of touring.
At 7:30 a.m. we headed for the FBI Academy at Quantico. Staff Sgt. Jesus Cuellar boarded our bus for our tour and when we stopped at the gate and two officers boarded the bus to check each person’s ID, two of our group, Carolyn Lothian and Amelia Batastini, didn’t bring any ID and had to exit the bus for an FBI check. Finally cleared and back on the bus, we entered the compound to begin our walking tour that included a replica of a small town street with post office, bank, dry cleaner, restaurants and shops where intensive training takes place. We checked out the main auditorium, Hall of Honor, gymnasium, library and atrium. The Washington, Madison and Jefferson dormitories are named in honor of the three presidents that are Virginia natives. Bob Blevin felt right at home as he is a graduate of the FBI Academy.
After a short ride on the bus, we arrived at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, a training base, where we had lunch with student officers. Brian Barry from New Hampshire and Nicholas Hanson from Illinois ate lunch with us and answered all our questions about their training and future plans. Following a walk around the grounds, we headed down the road to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The Leatherneck Gallery provided a sweeping overview of the Marines on land, in the air and on the sea in the centerpiece gallery from the birth of the Corps in 1775 defending the New Republic through the turmoil of the Civil War.
From 1866 to 1917, Marines were in small wars in Central America, the Caribbean, the Pacific and China. Marines were more than a match for the Germans in World War I and the amphibious warfare developed by Marines allowed for success across the South Pacific during World War II. Diane and John VanStone snapped my picture with my head showing on top of the World War I Marine uniform and sent it right to my e-mail.
A stop at the Tun Tavern for a beer on the second deck was a must for my husband. The museum store was another important stop as my husband needed a new Marine jacket, golf shirt, hat and other Marine memorabilia.
Marines Bob Blevin, Ed Vekony and Carl Waterman also enjoyed shopping. Denise Ruch just rolled her eyes when her husband, Marine Scott Ruch, was the last one to board the bus loaded down with several large bags filled with his purchases. On Friday night, many enjoyed dinner at the Chart House. Ron Denney asked for a show of hands whether we wanted to tour Mt. Vernon Saturday morning or sleep in and enjoy shopping in the quaint shops in Old Town. Sleeping in and shopping won. While Bev and Ron Denney went biking, many ate a leisurely breakfast then checked out the farmers market in the town square and shopped along King Street. I spotted Denise Tumelty and Curt Gronert checking their e-mails on computers in the hotel lobby before boarding the bus for our trip home. We all enjoyed watching a DVD on the famous Marine Corps Band compliments of Scott Ruch. As we pulled into Ocean City, Ron Denney thanked Linda and Curt Gronert for helping with reservations and keeping everyone informed via e-mail. He also thanked Bill Parker, who coordinated our transportation with Senior Tours. As everyone exited the bus and thanked Ron for another delightful tour, we put in our suggestion to make the next one a trip to Normandy.
Colony Club welcomed Ed Quigley from Shore Medical Center to their regular meeting. Ed spoke to the ladies on “Taking Control of their Health.” I enjoyed chatting with new members, Bonnie Hyson and Fran Kenny then joined Nicollette Mirra, Mary Lee Shannahan and Gerri Cusato at their table. Karen Morelli was busy taking orders for cheese cakes, a Colony Club fundraiser. Linda Gronert invited members to the Colony Club tea while co-presidents Evelyn Hanly and Denise Potter encouraged members to make reservations for game night. June Peterson handed out Colony Club yearbooks to members while everyone enjoyed light refreshments.