A little over a week ago, we were listening to the NBC national news while eating our dinner at our home along North Carolina's Crystal Coast. My wife and I both got up out of our chairs when we heard Brian Williams do the lead-in for a story about shopping from Reston Town Center.
By the time we got to the television, the cameras were rolling in front of the skating rink in Reston. It was pretty neat to see a place that has figured so prominently in our family's lives over the years on national television.
I still remember visiting Reston for the first time in 1987 when people still thought Dulles Airport would never make it. I wonder if any of those who doubted the success of the airport are still around to see all the construction of the new rail line.
Later in 1992, I moved the base of operations for my Apple higher education team to Apple's Reston, Va office which was on Preston White Drive for many years before moving over to Town Center. There were numerous times that I stayed at the Hyatt in Town Center. I cannot even count the number of meetings and dinners that I survived in and around Town Center. I can even remember being snowed in there one Friday in a December long ago.
I decided to stay in Reston that night rather than risk the long drive back down Interstate 81 to Roanoke, Va. I was excited until I figured out that all the shops and services in Town Center had closed because of the snow. I made my way out of town early the next morning.
It was not unusual during my many years of working out of the Reston area for my wife to accompany me for at least one trip during the Christmas season. She enjoyed being overwhelmed by the Reston and Northern Virginia shopping experience.
My oldest daughter and her college roommate from Sweet Briar stayed at the town center Hyatt using some of my travel points after they graduated and embarked on their first job hunting experience.
Of course over the years I have done a fair amount of shopping at Town Center. In a certain metaphorical way, it is the center of North Virginia shopping located between Tyson's Corner and all the more western based shopping. It was certainly an appropriate spot for the national news to talk about Christmas shopping.
It is funny that even by 2006 which was the last year I worked in Northern Virginia, I had stopped doing my Reston Town Center shopping trips. Though I was staying not far off of Wiehle, it was still quicker and easier to head over to Tyson's Corner if you knew exactly where you were headed. Tyson's Corner also generally had more convenient parking, not to mention LL Bean's, Levenger, and the Apple Store.
Still if you are interesting in shopping, the Reston area has just about everything that one could imagine. There is still no LL Bean's, but I used to joke that if you couldn't find it near Reston, it probably wasn't being built anywhere. We still enjoy visiting our grown children who live in the area. We still hit some of our favorite spots like Trader Joe's and LL Bean.
The five years since I last worked in Reston have taken us to the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is much more peaceful on the coast of North Carolina than it is in Northern Virginia. As I am fond of mentioning, our parking spots are designed for extended cab trucks pulling a boat not a Toyota Prius with a bike rack.
The twenty minute trip to the shopping area in Morehead City is nothing like a run to Tyson's Corner. While we find Belks, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and most of the smaller national stores, we still haven't gotten a Target.
Most of the truly local shopping has to come from Ace Hardware, Lowe's Home Improvement, Walgreen's. or some of the cute local shops in Swansboro. It is a totally different shopping experience especially during the holiday season. I am a little more geared to the laid back shopping experience now than I am to fighting for a parking space by Best Buy in Reston. While we have a Best Buy in Morehead City, it is a baby one compared to the Reston one.
Every place has its good point, and shopping is one of Reston's which is why I guess it was featured on the national news. Peace and quiet what you find at the beach in December. The beach in the winter is about as far from the commercialism of the season as you can get. Instead of extended hours, it is not unusual to find shortened hours.
The different environment helps you to focus on what is important which happens to be the people in your life. It also allows for the season to bring back some memories of Christmas trees from the past which is my favorite part of this time of year.
If the cold weather holds for December 26, we are hoping to make some peanut brittle which is a tradition that my mother kept up for most of our life. Somehow doing peanut brittle seems a little more natural overlooking the mountains than within ear shot of the Toll Road. Still I am sure there must be some great Reston Christmas traditions, maybe even some very good peanut brittle. We are a lot closer to fresh peanuts.
The warm early winter that has made the east coast so comfortable has made for a very nice December at the beach. In fact the whole fall has been very pleasant.
There have been some stellar days over on the beach with shorts weather being very common. It has been a season of where the signs of the changing season have yet to pan out. Sometime the weather has been so good that I have been afraid that it would just disappear or that it was actually a dream.
Still I love to come visit Reston just because being there puts you in the middle of everything. By the same token, I also enjoy being on the side of a mountain high above the city or down on the coast where the nearest mall is 18 miles away. Actually I really prefer having fish in my backyard to having a Target or a Walmart.
It is interesting that some of what made Reston unique has migrated to other spots. We recently found a Trader Joe's just off Highway 64 in Cary, North Carolina. We even heard Wilmington, NC about an hour and a half from us is getting a Trader Joe's. However, I think it is going to be a while before Reston is replaced as the epicenter of shopping.