| May 9th - 12th, 2011 - |
Based on this photo you might guess this to be different from our usual walks. That would be an understatement! After all, how often do you find yourself strolling past Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's digs?
This, my first visit to our nation's capital, came by way of a true act of kindness from my cousin, who not only uses his saved up flier miles allowing me to accompany him on a business trip, but books me for "first class" baby! And this, mind you, on the same flight that he flies coach with the rest of the normal folk!
Next thing I know I'm here kicking it with good ol' Albert Einstein in Washington D.C!
I didn't walk far before crashing smack dab into one of those many somber moments to be had here. The picture says it all. My own reflection on the wall reminded me that the draft only just ended in my first year of high school.
58,000 U.S. killed.
No kidding, seeing the Washington Monument in D.C. is like spying buffalo in Yellowstone... you just can't help but get use to it. Everywhere you go, there it is! And its awesome every time!
Look closely enough here and you'll see the U.S. Capitol Building far across on the other end of the National Mall.
Okay, now are you ready for this?
Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865. 16th president of the United States (1861–65), who preserved the Union during the American Civil War and brought about the emancipation of the slaves.
"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves."
Nearby awaits another one of those somber, and in this case eerie, moments I spoke of.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial.
We kept walking and walking, and then walked a little more, in the direction of that tall pointy obelisk shaped thing, before getting to the National World War II Memorial.
Unfortunately I didn't get great photos here, but what I can tell you is that it includes the "Freedom Wall" which has 4048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. That equals 404,800.
From there we soon found our way to the OAS. The Organization’s four main pillars––democracy, human rights, security, and development––support each other and are intertwined through political dialogue, inclusiveness, cooperation, and legal and follow-up instruments that provide the tools to maximize its work in the hemisphere.
So now it has been a long afternoon of walking and gawking and with every next step I continue to see more beautiful, and significant buildings.
Just as I was about to say "Show me to the Metro," we stumble upon the piéce de résistance!
I couldn't believe it! There I was practically standing on the front doorstep of President Obama's house. Next thing I know I startle as I come out of a daydream. The gracious First Lady was inviting me in for a game of cards with the family. What? It could happen!
Thinking that I probably had enough, my cousin decided this would be a good time to teach me how to ride the Metro, so that's what we did. I didn't take any pictures as I was too busy trying to understand the ups and downs, ins and outs and backs and forths of these speedy underground trains. Tomorrow I was going to be all on my own!
Day two of my "walk," after getting sufficiently Starbucked, I take the Blue line from the Foggy Bottom Station, near our hotel, to the Smithsonian Station on the Mall. A great place to start don't you think?
The Washington Memorial, by the way, built to commemorate our first President, is the world's tallest stone structure at 555 feet 5 1/8 inches.
I was amazed by just how tall the monument was, then equally surprised by how long a stretch of grass I saw before me on the National Mall. That was clearly foretelling of just how much walking I had in front of me today.
But before making my way to that illusive little official looking building that appeared so close and so far away at the same time, I stopped to spend a few hours at the nearby American History Museum.
I lost myself in this place for hours!
Did you know that many people wanted George Washington to be king. That makes sense because he was a great man and leader. But, fortunately, he was so good that he knew that that was not what this was all about. This great man was so good that he actually "stood down" and relinquished his power to "civilian authority." How cool is that?
So as I'm all swelling with patriotic pride, the fact that all of this took place just a few hundred years ago right in this part of the world sinks in.
It's like I'm walking in history! It's all around!
After the museum my next stop was at the National Archives. My goal was to get a glimpse of the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately for me, the security was so thorough, and the line of field tripping students so long, I decided to write that one off for a future visit.
Meanwhile, I kept on trekking down the trail spying one important building after another until, before I knew it...
...I reached that illusive important-looking building that was always looking so small and far away.
The U.S. Capitol Building is sure much bigger when you finally get to it!
Next stop: Library of Congress.
It was such a beautiful place, outside and in. I was so excited to go up and see Thomas Jefferson's Library and I did.
Good news... I saw Jefferson's library!!!
Bad news... No Photography Please!
So I followed the rules and refrained from taking photos there.
Especially given that I was so close to...
...The Supreme Court!
"Wouldn't be prudent!" (in Dana Carvey's imitation of George H. Bush's voice.)
From here I decided to get back to the White House area again, maybe for that game of cards with the President I had been fantasizing. So I hopped the metro to McPherson's square which landed me here at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I found my way from there to Lafayette Square, directly across from the White House, which turned out to be all buttoned up tighter than a Redcoat's jacket! It appears they were having some sort of security drill so, oh well!
Next best thing?
Why the U.S. Treasury of course!
For some reason they didn't let me go in there either.
A lot more walking and I end up at Union Station where I meet up with the Cuz who just returned by train from Baltimore.
We hopped the Metro and zoomed over to...
...you recognize it?
Yes, you are correct. It is a memorial!
And it memorializes an American Founding Father who was also our third president.
And his Memorial has an excellent view of that tall pointy thing I keep seeing.
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
His statue was breathtaking...
...talk about LARGER than life!
Then we "Metro-ed" ourselves back to the hotel, and walked down the road to Georgetown where we found a good meal before calling it quits for the day.
Big day ahead! Later on I'm going on a personalized, one-on-one tour of the inner sanctum of the Pentagon! But first I have just enough time (have to admit I slept in a bit this morning) to venture out to another significant location.
But it's a sad location!
Ford's Theatre is where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
Next my goal was to find my way to the Metro. So, once again, I'm walking. I pass a few more important buildings (go figure!), like the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Services Headquarters. Those qualify as important enough don't they?
So, how is it that I'm getting a tour of the Pentagon? It's all about cousins! You see, my wife as a few cousins who live out this way, both of whom, for some strange reason, wanted to do nice things for me. So it comes down to "acts of kindness" once again, though I surely did nothing to deserve as much!
It is the Blue Line, this time, that gets me to the gates of the Pentagon. The visit began with a significant dose of high security (that's putting it mildly), after which I received a visitor's card that allowed me to march through the 17 1/2 miles of corridors, as long as I was accompanied by someone important enough to take responsibility for me. An unfortunate reality here, is that I wasn't allowed to take pictures, and I saw so much that it would require at least a small essay to convey even half of what my eyes and ears did consume while there. One particular treat was walking down the hall where the Joint Chiefs of Staff offices reside. Incredible!
After touring the U.S. Department of Defense where over 23,000 employees work in the largest office building in the world, based on its floor space of 6,500,000 sq. feet, I don't think I'll ever look at office space the same way!
While exiting we walked to the west of the building where the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial stands honoring the 184 men and women victims of the attack.
That great day with my "Pentagon" cousin was followed up with another awesome day of walking, with yet another cousin. How cool is that? We began by visiting Arlington National Cemetery and stopped to pay respect at the grave site of their father and mother.
Only a stone's throw away George Washington's nephew and niece are buried.
While we were there we also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb Guards were there, on duty, as they have been, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week since July 2, 1937, even in bad weather.
We were lucky enough to be there to observe the changing of the guard, which takes place every half hour during summer days, and every hour during daytime in the winter. The precision in how each and every detail of this ritual is conducted is simply amazing!
Our next stop was George Washington's home where we began with a tasty lunch at the Mt. Vernon Inn Restaurant. A unique, "must-try" specialty dish of theirs was peanut soup, and I highly recommend it. Next thing I know, President Washington's Mount Vernon Estate is begging me, "please do come in!"
History was jumping out at me from every inch of the inside of his home, but I had to save all the photos in my head since pictures weren't allowed. I was pleased to be able to get this shot of his "sweet ride" though!
According to those who would know, Washington picked up up a severe sore throat and, within 36 hours, died at the age of 67. Per his directions in his will he and his wife, Martha, had their remains entombed at this spot.
When we found our way onto this beautifully wooded, Mt. Vernon Forest Trail, I felt kind of like I was cheating on Wilson... getting a little "trail" on the side. But, after all, its not my fault he's afraid of flying! I decided to forget to show him this picture once back in San Diego.
The trail eventually led us back to the new museum they have on the estate. Among the many significant artifacts they had there, we found these portraits of two of Washington's relatives, with the same names of those on the two headstones we spied in Arlington National Cemetery.
We bid farewell to the Mount Vernon Estate and drove back toward D.C.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the iconic United States Marine Corp Memorial, more commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. The statue depicts five marines and a navy corpsman raising the American flag after capturing Mount Suribachi on the Island of Iwo Jima in World War II. About 6,800 Americans and 23,000 Japanese died in the battle of Iwo Jima.
At the end of this epic 4-day "hike" in Washington D.C., way "beyond" San Diego, one thing was obvious... four days was not enough!
Another Great Hike!!