Last night I watched the news from Washington, the capitol- Jackson Browne, Lawyers in Love
The Russians escaped while we weren't watching them, like Russians will
My new job sent me to D.C. for a week. My wife had some time off to use before the end of the year so she was able to accompany me on my first trip to the Capitol.
After landing my first real introduction was the city's train system "the Metro". The Metro runs all over Washington in confusing different twisted lines that are color coded. The trick to manuvering the system is figuring out the right color line headed in the right direction and determining how much to put on a the paper fare card.
Additionally, there is a trick that I did not master while in town, and that is figuring out when the escalator's down into the bowels of the Metro stations were actually working. Much to our dismay, we found that the escalators were quite often broken leaving one to have to walk up or down a very long and steep escalator toting one's suitcase. Thanks, Metro.
On Monday afternoon, after completing my day's training, we set out for a walking tour of Washington's Mall area. We road the winding multi-colored Metro system and then walked several blocks and magically the Lincoln Memorial suddenly appeared on the horizon.
The Lincoln Memorial is awe inspiring. The shear magnitude of the monument is overwhelming. One one massive wall is an engraving of the entire Gettysburg address. On the opposing wall is an engraving of Lincoln's entire second inagural address.
From there, we walked to the Vietnam Memorial. The walk along the wall of names of the fallen soldiers is overwhelming. The wall stretches on to what seems forever with people kneeled making etchings of the listing of a loved one who gave the greatest measure of devotion.
As I walked along the wall, I could not help but wonder how many lives have been lost in the War in Iraq and when our current President would make good with his campaign promise to bring our boys home. On Friday, I learned he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize which seems ironic in the face of him sending more and more American troops to Afghanistan and still not withdrawing our troops from Iraq.
We then made our way to the World War II Memorial which was not contructed until President Bush was in office. Having had two grandfather's who fought in World War II, one of which was decorated three times for his service, it was very important to me to visit this particular memorial. I could not help but wonder why it took so many years for this memorial to be constructed.
From these memorials, one can clearly see the Washington Monument. If you look carefully at the Washington Monument, you can clearly see the different color limestone about one third up from the base. The construction ran out of money during the build. When it was resumed a different source of limestone was used, and it is clearly detectable.
As the day was quickly giving way to night, we began making our way back towards our accomodations at Dupont Circle. On the way, we discovered the Daily Grill.
After enjoying a well prepared steak and a refreshing beverage, we made our way back to our hotel for the evening.
We quickly discovered that the trendy, art-deco hotel we were booked in was right against the Dupont Circle which never sleeps. Alnight long drivers honked their horns if someone did not accelerate the exact moment a stoplight turned green. Every 15 minutes an ambulance and fire truck or a couple police cars escorting an foreign ambassador to the local Embassy Row passed by with screaming siren. It made for a long night of disturbed slumber.
I had never really focused on how anti-trendy that I am. But our stay illustrated that I lean more towards functionality versus trendy. Our hotel room was quite fashionable per modern standards, but I found the tray sink less than optimal for brushing teeth or shaving.
And, the open shower (no door, no shower curtain) looked very nice with its frosted glass exterior, but it left the bathroom floor and toilet quite wet with over spray if it was used to acutally take a shower.
For years I have heard about the Smithsonian Museum. For whatever reason, I had always assumed that it was housed in a single building. Much to my suprise, we discovered that the Smithsonian is a collection of museums that are located all over downtown Washington. And, much to our suprise, entrance to the Smithsonian museums is free.
We made our way down to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art. We spent two hours taking in the portraits of Presidents, Generals and American figures.
Apparently, Washington is still celebrating defeating the South during the Civil War. They have named many of their Metro train stations after Generals from the Civil War, and had many large portraits of the Generals who led the Union forces during the war. My wife walked into one room of the Portrait Gallery as I gave the finger to a particular portrait and asked, "Who is that?". I replied, "That's the bastard that burned Atlanta."
We had about four hours to kill on Friday between my last session in the conference I was attending and our flight home. So, we manuevered the Metro's twisting lines and different routes and made our way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This museum is worthy of the trip to DC in and of itself.
After feasting on a $7.50 Quarter Pounder combo from the McDonald's outside the museum, we began to tour this fascinating display of aircraft and spacecraft.
I was stunned to see this aircraft which once belonged to Amelia Earhart which was in the process of completing a restoration and preparation for being put on permanent display.
The collection includes one of the lunar landing modules and a copy of the modules used in the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft that docked in 1975.
The magnitude of the contents of the Air/Space museum escapes my ability to describe. But, I was like a small child marveling at the old Eastern Airlines DC-3, World War II fighters, and even a display of the Wright Brothers.
We then toured the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History which was the setting used for the filming of the "Night at the Museum" movies. One could spend endless hours touring this museum which houses numerous displays and IMAX presentations.
DC is a city that has addressed commuting in numerous ways including the Metro which I have already mentioned as well as being a walking city and a bicycle busy city. I also noted motorcycles parked all over the city.
Including some soul who evidently rode this Triumph.