We spent 13 days in DC, the longest we have spent in any campground anywhere. We
stayed at Cherry Hill Campground in College Park, MD. It is a very nice campground
with a cafe/clubhouse with a big screen TV. We arrived from Williamsburg in time
to watch the next World Cup game on their screen.
Our first place to visit was the White House. Months ago I had asked my congressperson
for tickets to the White House, the Capitol and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. We
got the first two but not the last through her.
And the White House tour was the next morning. The bus to the Metro station stops
inside the campground and we took it early in the morning with all the rush hour
folks. We had no idea at this time what the travel time would be to DC. As it happens
we got there way early and went hunting for breakfast. We arrived at the White House
security entrance at the appointed time and went through four separate clearance
checks. You cannot take anything in except your phone, keys and wallet. No bags,
food, drinks, weapons, packs, cameras, etc, and there is no place to store anything
until you get back out. No pictures are allowed inside, even from your phone. The
first two checks are your photo ID against their name list. Then past the drug sniffing
dog and lastly the metal detector. Finally inside you get to walk a pre-set path
through the ground floor at your own pace. There are guides in each room explaining
the room and its artifacts. Then you exit on the other side of the building from
the portico shown above. It actually took longer to go through security than the
tour, 45 minutes to 30 minutes. We could have stayed longer because it is at your
own pace but we saw each room and heard each guide so there was no point in loitering. We
then walked around the area and parks near the White House and returned to camp.
That was Friday; we had just arrived after having spent the last three days walking
all over the Historic Triangle for three days. We decided to take the weekend off. We
were tired and didn't feel like crowding in with all the weekenders at the monuments
and museums. We have a tour of the Capitol scheduled for early Monday.
Monday morning we arrived at Senator Murray's office on time and met with her aide
who would be our tour guide. Senator Murray was back home in Washington State. We
got to ride the underground train the Senators use to get from their office building
to the Capitol and then had a tour of places one does not get to see if they just
show up for a "public tour" of the building. Between the congressperson tours and
the public tours the place was packed. We had only seven in our group so it was
easy to hear the guide. The building is mostly marble and the guide's loud voices
echo constantly making it very difficult to converse with anyone. This tour took
over an hour and then we were on our own. The Rotunda was highlight with all of
its statues and paintings.
After the tour we went to the nearby Postal Museum, a part of the Smithsonian collection
of museums. It is in an older building that has had the interior courtyard glassed
over. In it are hung several early Air Mail planes. The rooms on the lower floor
are full of interesting displays of the history of the Post Office. It was much
more interesting than I had thought it would be. There were early land based delivery
vehicles too, including the Pony Express, stagecoach, train and trucks as well as
displays on sorting, Zip code history and delivery problems. Delivering over a billion
pieces of mail a day is a daunting task.
It is a smaller, for Smithsonian standards, museum and we got back to the campground
in time to watch the next world cup game.
Tuesday was the Natural History Museum. This is an all day, one museum day. And
we didn't see all of it!
This museum has displays of anything to do with life on and the formation of Earth.
Including the Hope Diamond on display (behind heavy glass).
Several of the Smithsonian Museums line the sides of the Mall. The Mall is the long
grassy strip that runs from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. While we were
there the Smithsonian was having their annual "Folklife Festival", this year featuring
Kenya and China. As it was in-between the museums we stopped and watched artisans
and performers from these countries as we walked. It also made a good spot to get
a cold beer on a hot day. We stopped twice and had Kenyan beers during the several
days we spent visiting museums.
On the left is Chinese folded cloth flowers. Each petal is a small piece of cloth
folded and sewn in place. The whole thing is 8" across. The man on the right is
carving native African animals out of wood.
A Henna tattoo was available for a small fee. On the right is recycling. The carved
animals are made from worn-out foam flip-flops. The soles have been glued together
into blocks of multi-colored foam and then carved and sanded to form the animals. They
even had two Giraffes that stood six feet high made out of old flip-flops.
The next day we did the Air & Space Museum. This was an all-day visit. The museum
is huge and the air was full of planes, satellites and space modules. These are
real planes hung from the ceiling, including the actual "Spirit of St. Louis" that
Lindberg flew across the Atlantic.
They also had a replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer from their 1903 flight. The
original of this plane no longer exists.
Then it was on, the next day, to the American History Museum. This is chock full
of tidbits of history from the USA's past. Things like Dorothy's ruby slippers from
the movie "The Wizard of Oz". There were cars, trains, trucks, Presidential dinnerware,
a dress from the opera star that sang the National Anthem at the 2013 Super Bowl,
and lots more stuff both practical and weird.
Another World Cup game and the USA is out, but we are still rooting for Germany.
Finally it is the 4th of July, Independence Day in the USA.
On the Mall the crowd is huge. The Capitol building is about half a mile in the
distance, out of sight behind the Folklife Festival grounds. Behind me, a quarter
mile away is the Washington Monument. The fireworks are beyond it. Then there is
more crowd down by the Lincoln Memorial. An amateur acrobatic team is performing
nearby. They were very entertaining to watch, and so was the crowd around them. Not
long after they were done than there was a line of young girls waiting for a turn
to try the stunts with him. That was even more entertaining.
About 9:15 in the evening the fireworks started and everyone ooh'ed and aw'ed as
the display went on for about 20 minutes. We had a pretty good view where we were
dead center in the mall. Some of the shots were doubles and we could see one on
each side of the Washington Monument.
When it was over the crowds left and the subway was packed. We walked a little extra
to a station that was a direct shot to our campground stop, without any transfers. The
escalator from the sidewalk was packed, the paystations were packed, the train platform
was packed at the bottom of another escalator. We moved along the platform to where
the front of the train would stop and had almost no competition for a seat. Everyone
was too lazy to walk far from the bottom of the escalator to the front or back of
the train platform.
Another trip the next day through the Folklife Festival and we saw the "Chinese Dragon
Cart". The dragons "live" in the cart and are pulled out on ropes strung along the
pole by the men in yellow outfits. They are able to pull the various ropes to make
the dragons dance forward, backward and side to side to the music. There were a
total of nine dragons of various sizes either under or on the pole. There was a
group of kids facing the front of the cart and the operators would have the dragons
leap with open mouths that would snap shut about 2 feet from the front row of kids. They
leaped back in fright at first but soon were trying to touch the dragons.
DC has special parking for motorcycles in the downtown area each with its own meter. But
at $2.00 an hour and a two hour maximum it was not worth it to ride in and park and
having to come back every two hours to feed the meter.
t the Metro entrance a man would hand out a free daily paper. One of the articles
in the paper was about an Allstate Insurance Co. study that put DC at the worst of
all the states driving ability. The study took the number of miles and divided it
by the number of accidents and DC came out absolutely last with the lowest number
of miles between accidents. Although we have ridden in cities famous for danger
(Naples and Rome, Italy; Paris, France; Guadalajara, Mexico to name a few) I see
no reason to push our luck when there is a safer alternative.
Mt. Vernon, President Washington's home is a half hour ride south of the DC area. We
could have taken a bus/Metro/bus but that would have been about three hours with
transfers. And we didn't have to ride in DC, we went around the southeast side on
the freeway and avoided DC itself.
While there we visited his home and gravesite (the sarcophagus on the right) and
walked around some of his farm land. The 16 sided barn in the center was two story
and had a floor with spaces between the floor boards. Wheat was strewn on the upper
floor and a horse was led round and round the barn. His walking through the wheat
would knock the wheat off the straw and the wheat would fall through the spaces to
the floor below where it could be easily shoveled into bags.
When the wheat was ready he would grind it in his own gristmill. It had two different
grinding stones and was able to handle all kinds of grain. His mill ground grain
for farmers all over the surrounding area. George also had, next to the gristmill,
his own distillery. He brewed his own beer and made his own whiskey. He made enough
that he supplied the whole area with whiskey for sale.
Our last day we toured the Monuments along the Mall. The Jefferson, Lincoln, Korean,
Vietnam, WW II, and Washington Monuments are all within a walking distance of each
other. But we started by going to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to get the
tickets for the afternoon tour. Then we made a large loop along both sides of the
Mall and Tidal Basin. We were too late to get tickets to go up the Washington Monument. We
had allowed five hours to walk the loop but did it in three. So to kill the last
two hours we went back to the Natural History Museum and visited the parts we had
missed from our prior visit. We hadn't been able to cover it all in one day. Now
we saw the rest of it.
Then back to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving which does not allow any pictures
inside. The outside is plain, so no pictures. You'll have to take our word that
we watched $100 dollar bills being printed by the hundreds! The uncut sheets stacked
chest high on a pallet totaled $64,000,000 (sixty four million dollars) according
to the sign on it.
We have had a good time in DC. Cherry Hill Campground is a nice place to stay. The
weather was hot with some thunderstorms but we survived. We walked 4-6 miles on
each of the ten days in the city. We are ready for some rest. We will be going
to Gettysburgto tour the battlefield and for Bike Week next. If the music isn't
too loud we'll get some rest.