Friday, June 30, 2017


Neil and I took our grandpeeps Shelby and Elijah on a week-long trip to Washington D.C. Instead of the long drive from here to there--9 hours, 588 miles--Neil opted to fly. This was a first for Shelby and Elijah. Excited yet terrified all at the same time. 
I think Shelby was in silent freak-out mode at this point πŸ‘€πŸ™πŸ˜³
Ditto Elijah
But after the plane started to roll and we left the ground, I think they both realized and were relieved to discover that this just might be fun after all.
That face you make when your plane isn't on the ground any more and you lived to tell the tale
Two hours and one time zone later, our little American Airlines American Eagle jet set us down safely at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in D.C.
First order of business after luggage retrieval: buy Metro cards because that's how you get around in Washington D.C. --you ride the subway when you don't have a car or maybe a limo driver to come get you and take you places. These two got a kick out of watching Neil figure out the card purchasing machine πŸ˜‚πŸ˜œwhich he did eventually. To be fair, he wasn't the only one.
Waiting for the Metro 
Riding the Metro
L'Enfant Plaza Station--our beginning and ending destination each day.
FYI:Charles Peter L'Enfant was a French-born American military engineer who designed the basic plan for Washington, D.C.
Our home-away-from-home at the Holiday Inn was right across the street from this place. 
Shelby called it 'the source of all evil.' 
Elijah, much to his aggravation, doesn't have a cell phone at this time, so he brought along a camera and took a lot of pictures during our time here, and some of them I borrowed from him like this one he snapped as we stashed our stuff in the room.
We enjoyed a late lunch at the First Amendment Cafe inside the Holiday Inn Capitol. 
After lunch, we walked (and walked) to the National Mall to check out the monuments and memorials. One of the first places we saw was the Capitol building. We didn't venture in that direction since we were saving a visit there for another day.
FYI: Between the Capitol steps and the Lincoln Memorial, the Mall spans 1.9 miles
We headed toward the Washington Monument--impossible to miss from anywhere in D.C. It doesn't look all that far away, does it? However! Everywhere here is far away when you're walking.
FYI: Between the Capitol steps and the Washington Monument, the Mall spans 1.2 miles
Right before we got to the Washington monument, we stopped for a cold treat along the way. I've never seen so many food vendors/trucks. They were everywhere, parked along just about every street, each one offering different fare for the mass of international humanity visiting D.C. this first week in June.
Neil and I visited Washington twice--in 1992 and 1994--with our daughters. It's truly an amazing place that every American should visit at least once in his/her lifetime. Things have changed in those 23+ years since we've been here. The food vendors for one thing. The enormous crowds of people for another. And of course the security measures on steroids since 9-11. Back then we rode the elevator to the top. It was closed for repairs this time.
FYI: When it was completed in 1884, 555’ 5/8” high, it was the tallest building in the world.
Back in the distance behind us is the WWII memorial and the Lincoln memorial
WWII Memorial
The World War II Memorial is relatively new--opened April 29, 2004, so it was new to us. One side of the curving memorial honors those who served in the Atlantic theater of the war. Each individual pillar has the name of a U.S. state carved on it and is topped by a wreath on both sides.
Facing the Atlantic side is the curving Pacific theater memorial, also with each pillar engraved with the name of a state and a wreath. In the center of it all is a beautiful sunken fountain.
My failed attempt at a panoramic view. It is placed between the Washington and Lincoln monuments and is really quite beautiful.
The Atlantic Victory Pavilion
Inside each victory pavilion is a sculptural canopy called a baldacchino. These baldacchinos are actually four eagles holding a laurel victory wreath suspended above an enlarged victory medallion set into the floor below. The eagle is the symbol of the United States of America. The laurel wreath is a symbol of victory going back to ancient Greece. So, the sculptures symbolize American victory in the Atlantic and in the Pacific theaters. The eagles have wingspans of 11 feet and are perched on columns 18 feet tall. Each of the laurel wreaths weighs 5,000 pounds and was designed by Ray Kaskey of Maryland.
A little FYI brought to you by the U.S.National Park Service
Elijah and Shelby posing in front of the Tennessee state pillar

Lincoln Memorial--photo by Elijah
Reflecting Pool--photo by Elijah. From the WWII memorial we walked to the Lincoln memorial alongside the reflecting pool. We were forced to walk through massive swarms of gnats all along the way, coming off this pool. Unpleasant to say the least. I kept thinking, We're breathing these things. We couldn't escape the gnats. 
Learned later that the National Park Service announced it will drain and clean the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, after a water-borne parasite killed approximately 80 ducks there since May 20 (2017).
Quite possibly the reason for all those gnats.

By the time we finished at the Lincoln Memorial, it was getting late and we were exhausted. We did walk by the Vietnam Memorial on our way out of the Mall. So many people there and everywhere. We didn't expect the busloads of school kids visiting this week. Heads up: don't go to D.C. in June. Too many class trips and groups of school kids. They always seemed to be a step ahead of us.

By this time, we had wandered far far away from our hotel and couldn't locate a Metro station nearby. We were dreading the walk back ahead of us, when this young man suddenly appeared beside us and said, "Let me give you a ride." His ride was a bicycle with an attached buggy, kind of like a rickshaw. We hesitated. His buggy was a two-seater and there were four of us. Not to mention the fact we couldn't imagine this guy pedaling us so far away back to our hotel. But he persisted saying he hadn't had any riders all day. We were hot and exhausted and the thought of having to walk another step was unbearable at that point. So we squished ourselves into his buggy, with Elijah sitting on Shelby's lap, and he took off.
Now here's something we don't get to do every day. Or any day for that matter.
He skillfully maneuvered us through traffic on the streets of D.C. gliding between cars, in front of cars, around cars, talking to us the whole way, hauling 400+ pounds of humans for probably three miles back to Holiday Inn Capitol. Crazy. I asked him how long he'd been doing this and he said Long enough to become really sarcastic.
We were all relieved and thankful just to be off our feet! It was actually a fun ride, something I'm sure we'll never forget.
His name is Alex. He's from Serbia. He dropped us off right at the entrance to our hotel. We all thanked him profusely. Neil asked him how much for the ride. He said all he'd like was a generous tip which Neil happily gave him. Then he asked us if we believed in God. I told him Oh yes and that I was pretty certain God had sent him to us at that moment when we couldn't walk another step. He asked us to keep him in our prayers. I still do. God bless you, Alex!

L'Enfant Metro Station photo by Elijah.
Photo by Elijah. Hopped on the Metro and headed across the river to Arlington National Cemetery.
We picked the hottest day of our trip to visit Arlington it seems. Along with scores of class trip kids.
Endless in every direction
Photo by Elijah. Big crowd to view the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Photo by Elijah. Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Myer, Va.
21 Steps

As we were leaving the Tomb, I heard the sentinel on the walk loudly reprimand the crowd, demanding their silence and respect. Sad that people need signs and scoldings for these things in a cemetery. Any cemetery.

A quote from Horace's Ode III, 2, 13 is etched above the west entrance of the Memorial Amphitheater. 
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,
Translated from the Latin it reads:
"It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." 

Photo by Elijah. Arlington House. General Robert E. Lee's home
SEPTEMBER. A. D. 1866.
The remains were found scattered across the battlefields or in trenches and brought here. This monument was the first memorial at Arlington to be dedicated to soldiers who had died in battle, and who later could not be identified. Because in some instances only a few bones or a skull were recovered, it is assumed that the vault contains the remains of Confederate soldiers as well as Union troops. 
Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs ordered that these bodies be gathered and buried on this particular site, knowing that the presence of graves here would prevent the Lee family from inhabiting their house again.
As it turned out, the Lees would never return to live at Arlington again. Whether influenced by Meigs’ efforts to make the mansion uninhabitable or not, Robert E. Lee and his wife decided not to pursue regaining the title to the mansion after the War.Instead, the former Confederate General and his family settled in Lexington, Virginia where he spent the last five years of his life as the President of tiny Washington College. While the family was later compensated for the estate, the Lees would never again reside on the property. Meigs got his wish and the Cemetery became a permanent feature at Arlington.

Photo by Elijah

The Arlington House Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara) is significant because of its large size, its longevity, and its association with the post-Civil War development of the grounds at Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Shelby and I just thought it would be a cool tree to climb into and read a book.
The view of Washington D.C. from Arlington House. A nice fellow tourist offered to take our group shot. At this point, we're all about to melt in the heat and tired from the walk up the hill.
Restoration of the house is in the works
Photo by Elijah who snapped a picture of the Pentagon

The Kennedy graves are on the hillside below Arlington House
On one of his visits to Arlington National Cemetery in March of 1963, just 8 months before his assassination, President Kennedy paid a visit to Arlington House, which was recently renamed the Robert E. Lee National Memorial. The president was a big history buff and he relished the chance to walk in the same room where General Lee had decided to resign from the army that he had served for 30 years. Upon leaving the house, Kennedy soaked up the spectacular view of the cemetery as well as the capital city, purportedly stating, “I could spend forever here.”
President Kennedy’s two deceased children — Patrick Kennedy, who died in infancy a few months prior to the assassination, and Arabella Kennedy, whose grave marker simply reads “Daughter” as she was stillborn and did not receive a birth certificate or an official name — were interred alongside their father. Jacqueline Kennedy was interred after her death in 1994.
The cremated remains of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law were buried at sea.

Our next stop after the cemetery was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I think of it as the zoo for dead animals. First thing you see when you walk in is this big old African elephant. He's hard to miss.
Jaws. Or what's left of a giant great white shark.
Elijah and Neil really loved this place.
We were disappointed to learn that the dinosaur exhibit was closed for renovations. Major bummer for Elijah who had been looking forward to seeing some dinosaur bones.
I am the walrus. 

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