On the way down, we went along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, planning an extra day for the diversion; it's a beautiful drive, and we slipped in a hike up to Stony Head Peak too. The Blue Ridge Mountains are indeed well-named; beautiful vistas to be seen both East and West, with mountains fading into the haze in layers.
No border troubles, but we did notice that there were far fewer Canadians visiting than we've seen in previous years, which is especially striking given the strong Canadian dollar. It doesn't take a lot of people getting thrown in jail for being a foreigner and getting a speeding ticket to make tourists edgy, I guess.
Richmond was generally hot, which was somewhat miserable one night when the power was cut by a tree which fell in a thunderstorm. Rain down there can be a bit more intense than it is up here: one evening, driving down the highway, the rainfall was heavy, as in, I've had less water hitting my windshield in a car wash. Most people just slowed down and put on 4-way flashers, so I followed suit, and it all worked out, but it was a new experience for me, at least.
I went to an aikido dojo for a 1.5-hour class while I was there, and can now boast of having trained in Richmond, in the summer, without air conditioning; much sweat was produced. I'd been there once before a few years ago, since which time they're changed affiliation (aikido, like many martial arts, having multiple federations which govern policies, training styles and grading rules). They're now with a different federation than my home dojo, so I found myself a little more out of place than previously, but was nevertheless welcomed cordially enough. Some of their training customs agreed with me better than others, but I learned a couple of neat new tricks to use with the jo, and got some different perspectives on the philosophy of practice, so I'll count it a win.
The week at Nag's Head (a sandbar off the coast of North Carolina) was fantastic. The weather was milder than it was in previous years, so we relied more on the breeze than on air conditioning most of the time. I went boogie-boarding 4 days, the first and last being fairly easy going, the second having the biggest waves (about 8-foot breakers), and the third being fairly rough-and-tumble, with complex wave patterns generated by a change in the wind. Took a decent spill or two, and narrowly avoided a few others, including one or two that could have been fairly significant. As it was, I just scraped a knee and had a sore back for an evening after coming "over the top" of a tube and dropping most of its full height into the leading trough.
S. has been getting into birding, so we took a few excursions for that purpose, seeing a variety of birds (primarily waterfowl) and other wildlife at the Pea Island Wildlife Sanctuary. We also went for a dolphin-watching expedition on the Sound (between the sandbar chain and the mainland) with a group of independent researchers who fund their work through these tours, seeing a loose gathering of about a dozen dolphins, including a mother with a couple of young. We also saw quite a few osprey in the sound, since nesting platforms have been built for them on most of the channel markers.
Coming back and returning to work was inevitable, of course; still, it's nice to be able to think that I do enjoy what I do, having gained some perspective. It's also flattering to find out that I'm fairly important to the project: of the things I suggested others could look after in my absence, relatively few were completed. Flattering, but somewhat irksome, though, since I now have to settle them before or while moving on to the new issues which have arisen. I suspect that I will become more involved in the software architecture, since this is revealing itself to be the 800-pound gorilla beating up our schedule, just as it seems to be in almost every project in which there is any significant software.
I do regret missing the finale of ms_danson's role-playing game; we had hoped to reach it before my departure, but it was not to be. I suppose I'll have to drown my sorrows in ancalagon_tb's upcoming Star Wars rpg, right?
I'm also planning to do a general games day and plan a session for a longer boardgame soon... stay tuned!