Thursday, October 31, 2013

DC day 2

The next morning we decided against the 0600 wake up and slept in an extra hour or so.  We had also decided, after a long and crowded ride on the train, to just drive into DC and park.  The multiple wrecks on I-95 though, got us back on the train. 

This time we got off at a different stop...

This is someplace I have wanted to visit for a long time.  There is so much going on here it is really hard to take in all at once.  We took a few minutes to explain to the kids what this place was and that it wasn't a good place for running around and screeching like the wild monkeys they are.  Somehow it seemed to take and they were really good kids for the whole time. 

One of the big draws for me was the Lee-Custis house, officially it is the Arlington House.  But on the way up we had a few things worth seeing. 

The first of many Medal of Honor awardees. 

With the Arlington House in the background.

The Eternal Flame was actually undergoing repairs.  They had a temporary one going off to the side.
Bobby Kennedy, probably the best of them all. 

The first of three panels with transcriptions of Bobby's speeches. 
Aside from the poignant and notable graves it is just a beautiful setting worthy of a much better photographer. 

Eventually we made it up the main hill to the Arlington House.  This house was the reason that Arlington National Cemetery was placed here.  The house belonged to Mary Custis, a descendant of George Washington.  She married an up and coming officer in the U.S. Army by the name of Robert E. Lee.  When the civil war broke out Lee was offered command of the Army of the Potomac for the Union side.  He reportedly paced about his house for three days considering what to do.  On the night before he had to have a decision, he reportedly sent his wife and daughters downstairs where they sat all night listening to him pace about the bedroom overhead.  In the end he felt more loyalty to his state of Virginia than to the country and resigned his commission to join the confederacy.  It is largely believed that it was his brilliance that gave the outmanned and outgunned Confederacy any chance at all.  One has to wonder what the war would have been like had Lee sided with the Union.  

So, during the war, a need arose with the mounting casualties, for a new national cemetery to bury the dead.  After much deliberation, the government essentially took the Custis-Lee property and made it into a cemetery so that Lee could never again reside there as it would be hallowed ground.  

Right outside the front door is the grave of the designer of D.C. 

What is the view from the steps of the Lee house?  The Lincoln Memorial of course. 

Mr and Mrs Lee were married under the middle arch. 
This is the room where Lee paced all night deliberating. 

What game is set up in the back room of a famous general?  Chess, of course. 

After touring the house, we had one more stop to make before we could leave.  On the way over though, we stumbled upon this. 
Surrounded by hedges, we ducked under and walked in.

Which was a fitting prelude to the next stop.  Again, we had a little talk with the boys prior to going up to watch and they seemed to get the gravity of it if not the meaning.  

You can see the wear marks on the concrete from the changing of the guard ceremonies.

Some Marines came by to pay their respects.
We arrived in time to see the changing of the guard.

We made our way out to the street.  Michael and Max had a ton of questions about what they had seen and why anyone would bother to guard a tomb anyway.  I did my best to explain things as I understand them.  It was difficult because I think everyone sees something like this through such a personal lens that there is so much more meaning than I can convey.  I did my best though. 

Then we walked across the bridge to the Lincoln Memorial. 

Along the way, there are some pretty cool statues.

The Hiker

DC after the zombie apocalypse. 

Title Sacrifice.  Presented to the US by the government of Italy.  A matched one was behind us.

We were tired from walking.  But we were finally there.  This was another of those places that I have always wanted to go and I think Nana did too. 

Nana said, "Take one from right here."  Good eye Nana.
We read the speeches on the wall, we wandered around like the tourists we were and we soaked in some more solemn gravitas.  Then we walked down the steps and started walking toward the White House. 

Speaking of solemn gravitas.  Along the way on that end of the mall...

On to the White House!

And that was as close as we got.  By this time everyone was starving and cranky again and we were only a block or two from the Ronald Reagan building where we knew of a delightful little food court.  So we packed it in to rest our weary legs and refuel.  While we finished our food, we planned the next move.  It was almost 4pm.  There wasn't just a ton of time left and some of that would be used to walk wherever we were going.  Oh yeah, and we weren't really enjoying all that walking too much either.  But, it is bucket list time, so...

'Of course we went.  We had to.  By the time we got there, there was only and hour left before closing.  So we skimmed and hit the high points.  I figure we might make it here again someday.  I hope we do, there is so much still to see. 

Exhausted, we made our way back to the train station.  We were done with DC for a little while. IT was back home for a day of rest before heading back to work for four days and Nana had to go back to the real world.  It was a real neat trip with some things that will stick with me for a long time. 

And here are a couple of pictures that I liked that didn't seem to fit in the narrative. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Adventure Nickel goes to Washington - Day 1

We chose this contract in Richmond largely for the history of the area.  A huge part of that was the proximity to the nation's capital.  Since we only had my mom in town for a little bit longer and the government finally decided to get its act together, we made the trip up to D.C.

Being the big old nerds that we are, our first stop had to be...

Mr. Smithson?  You would think, and you would be wrong.  Mr. Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian.
Yup, the Smithsonian.  Oddly enough, we never made it inside the old building pictured above. It is now the visitor's center and we just went straight to the first place on the bucket list: The Natural History Museum

The kids below a full model of a Right Whale.  Damn they grow conservatives big here.

Danny loved dinosaurs.  He wished he could play with one.

Zombie T-Rex wants your brains!

We looked and looked and looked around at everything, there is just so much interesting stuff there to see.  We checked out the oceans exhibit, dinosaurs and then made our way upstairs to see some more spectacular exhibits.

The Hope diamond.

Of course, all the gems and minerals bored the kids to tears.  We drug them through the geology areas and then succumbed to the calls for a potty break.  I'm pretty sure the potty break was a ruse to get us to go somewhere more interesting to the grade school set.

The Hall of Mammals.  I usually don't like taxidermy, but I know good work when I see it.

Saving it for a midnight snack.

Always reading.

The Hall of Mammals was a big hit and ended in a little movie theater where I got to snuggle up with a distant relative.

Why are you always so cold to me?

This ancestral snuggle led us into the display on evolution, which was great.  The fossil record depicted here is awesome and it also explores some of the other evolutionary offshoots that weren't as successful.  Interesting things for the kids.

After all of this, it was finally time for lunch...way past time actually.  We had been up and running since 0600 and it was near 2 in the afternoon.  We left the museum and started tracking down reasonably priced food in the DC downtown.  We ended up in the basement food court of the Ronald Reagan International Trade building.  If in town on a budget, I do recommend it.  The walk let me take some scenery pictures. 

Still in the museum, neat stairs

Dum dum gimme gum gum.

Those halls of power you always hear about.

Then we went back to the bucket list and went to the American History Museum.  Michael wanted to see one last thing in the Natural History Museum, but we convinced him we would probably be back. 

The American History Museum was cool, even if half of the building was closed.  They were renovating the West half of the building with an expected completion of 2015.  There was plenty to see on the East side though and we didn't really have enough time to see it all anyway. 

Harry Potter's robes, they stole them while he was in the shower after Quidditch.

Old school RV'ing

Not a great picture, but I love this clock

This was made in time before electricity and indoor plumbing.  It is amazing.  Google it and be amazed.

Lincoln's life mask, watch and a medal.

Hi Ho, the original Kermit the Frog.
Archie Bunker's chair. 

Dorothy's ruby slippers.

There is just soooo much cool stuff there.  The coolest thing though, was something they wouldn't let us photograph. 

It was the Stars and Stripes.  Yes, THE Stars and Stripes.  They have the actual flag that was hanging over Ft. McHenry during the bombardment that inspired the national anthem.  It was much larger than I thought and just took my breath away for a moment. 

Progressing through, we got to yet more historical artifacts.  The gunboat Philadelphia that was built and launched and then sunk in 1776.  They raised it in the 1930's. 

 You know, this town was named after someone.  Turns out they kind of admire the guy and saved a lot of his stuff. 

He wore this outfit for ceremonies, paintings and special occasions.

So they saved it.

Notice the sword he is wearing in the painting.  So freaking cool they have this stuff.

Eventually they kicked us out.  Yup, we closed down the Smithsonian.  Don't care where you go, you just can't stay here.  That was the end of day 1.  We walked back to the train station and rode the train back to the car where Max promptly fell asleep and missed our IHOP dinner.  That was OK though because the next day was an early wake up to head back and do it all over again. 

We were tired, but happy to have seen all this stuff.