It was time for my randomly booked vacation week, and while I waited and waited for the DC Bloody Mary Fest to announce a date, so I could change my week and try to go at that time, they take forever and I finally gave up and just booked a trip to visit Cassie during my already booked week. So I went Thursday night til Monday night, and it wouldn’t be one of my vacations unless it threatened rain the entire time and was cool and gloomy. It ended up only in the 50s most of the time, but I didn’t get really rained on until leaving for the airport to go home. And really, 50s is ok, it’s not hot and unpleasant, and not freezing.
Arrived Thursday late afternoon and basically just hung out, with the intent to go to bed fairly early so we could get up early to make the trek down to the Williamsburg area. The main reason to go down there was to try to visit the field of President heads that was featured in Smithsonian Magazine a few months ago. From our recon, it looked like it wouldn’t be too hard to just drive by the farmhouse and keep going, because it looked like a normal road. When we got there we found it was a private road, which we went down anyway, but there was a ton of construction going on on the property, and no way to drive past the house toward the heads. Lots of people were around and looking at us as we turned around, so sadly, no President head photos. Since we were down that way, and we didn’t have an interest in spending $50 to visit Colonial Williamsburg reenactment site, we passed that and went to the real historical site of the Jamestowne colony. When you approach the area of the colony, you come to this fancy building, and for $17 you get to go through the site and see reenacters and exhibits, and learn about the colony….we bought tickets, but then looking through the map brochure, I noticed that this wasn’t really where we wanted to be. We had planned to visit the actual site, where they’re still doing archaeological digs, and was part of the National Park system. So we asked the ticket lady and she said no, that wasn’t where we were, we had to keep driving past that area, and gave us a refund. We almost got fooled into another “silly” reenactment area!! (Ok it’s probably nice, it’s part of the Virginia Museum system or whatever, but it’s not the National Park). Cheaters. Stealing the park’s tourists. We got where we wanted to be, and spent a few hours walking around the original colony site and seeing some of the current digs still being worked on. It was neat. Grabbed some food, got a speeding ticket 🙁 and headed back to Reston for the night.
Saturday was still gloomy, but had a better forecast (no rain) than Sunday so our goal was the National Arboretum in DC. Grabbed some brunch (even if I didn’t attend a bloody mary fest, I made my own, with 4 different places), and on the way to brunch passed Arlington Cemetery, and decided to detour and go visit since I hadn’t been there before. It was really nice, and we had perfect timing to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Spent a few hours walking around there, and decided to go to the Arboretum anyway, though it was late. I was hungry by then, and another potential bloody mary stop I had mapped out was on the way so we stopped at Union Market to grab one. Union Market is a really cool place full of all kinds of different little lunch counters set up. Very hipster lol. All the food offerings looked really good, if I lived there I’d definitely frequent it. It’s sorta what the new Expo Market in Buffalo is aspiring to be, but 4 times as big. My bloody mary from Buffalo and Bergen came with a bagel sandwich with lox, cream cheese, onion and capers. Dear lord it was ridiculous, and it was a good lunch. Eventually made it to the Arboretum with an hour to go, and checked out just a little bit of it. It would be a cool place to visit again, lots of trails to investigate. Saturday night we went to see Cassie’s friend play jazz at a cajun place in Manassas.
Sunday was supposed to storm so we chose that day to go to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum in VA so I could see the space shuttle Discovery. Gah. I’d been to the DC Air and Space a few times, and I’m really not an airplane person, but space craft is a different story. It is so amazing, and I wasn’t sure I’d not cry (I wanted to, but I managed to keep it in). All the other air craft at the museum is nice too, some really cool looking planes, the Concorde, plus the ridiculously awesome SR-71 Blackbird spy plane (the other centerpiece of the museum after the shuttle). But the shuttle!!! They did a super nice job with the hangar they built for it, and your initial impression of it when you walk in, it’s awesome. That’s the only word for it, used the appropriate way. Full of awe. I get amazed sometimes about what humans have accomplished, this was one of those times. They have a whole host of other space craft, like the various Mercury capsules (they had John Glenn’s Friendship 7 in the restoration hangar, which was awesome), and an area of hanging satellites which were super cool. Just so much awesome. Highly recommended. (That night, we looked up where the other shuttles ended up and Atlantis is at Kennedy Space Center, in an equally awesome display, so now I have to go there, and one ended up in LA and their eventual permanent display is going to have it displayed vertically with the rocket boosters, which will also be amazing). I managed to only spend $50 at the gift shop, and $12 of that was to become a member of the Smithsonian (suggestive selling at work). I got a mug in the shape of the bottom of a rocket, a neat 3-d metal puzzle/model of the shuttle, a shuttle pen (not an astronaut pen, those are $30) and a memo holder that looks like Sputnik!!! So cool, so nerdy.
Monday Cassie had to work and I had the whole day to be a tourist before my flight home, so she dropped me off at the subway and I went downtown. My plan was the National Zoo, and then I figured I’d stop by the monuments for a bit because I hadn’t gone to them since the 8th grade class field trip in 1994. Then there was a fog advisory, and I thought, holy crap that’s probably awesome looking so I flipped my plan and went to the monuments first (the fog had lifted mostly by the time I got there but there was still a bit hiding the top of Washington, so it was neat). I started with the Einstein statue on the way to Lincoln, where I spent 5 minutes watching a bird fight. It was so weird. Einstein is a little pudgy and cute. Onto Lincoln and the reflecting pool. I thought about renting a bike share, because I knew it was going to be a bit of a hike to get from Lincoln to Jefferson, but I didn’t know what I’d do with it while I went into the monuments, since I had no lock so I just walked. FDR was one of my goals because I’d never been to that monument, and along the way was the Korean War monument (new since my last visit 22 years ago lol) and MLK monument (new in the last few years). The Korea monument was really very nice, no one was at MLK because it’s sorta in between the reflecting pool area, and the tidal basin, and if you’re walking the signage isn’t fantastic to get to the tidal basin. I had to back track a bit to find where I needed to go to get to MLK and FDR. Lots of people at FDR because there were buses. FDR, my fav president! He had a nice memorial with lots of waterfalls, lots of great quotes, and everything had braille which I thought was neat. One area of these bronze columns and bronze panels could have used some interpretation, I really couldn’t figure out what it was representing, and I tried to listen into one of the field trips but couldn’t quite hear. Since I had already made it that far, I continued walking to the Jefferson Memorial, which we had only driven by on the bus in 8th grade. He has a nice fairly simple memorial, with a nice view across the tidal pool. I was ready to move on to the zoo, so I googled the closest metro stop, and walking there took me past Washington (which I also haven’t really been to, but am not really interested in). So I saw them all except Vietnam, which I’ve been to twice, and there was no need to visit again (I have no family attachment, and you only really need to look up Thomas Fox, the guy who’s name my childhood street was named after, once.)
The National Zoo was fairly nice, though not my favourite zoo ever. They have giant pandas, including a baby, which is the main draw to the zoo at the moment. It is an Olmsted designed park/zoo (it seems like they all are!), and I actually hated the layout. It wasn’t really a loop, so I ended up missing things, having to back track to areas 3 or 4 times, and when I decided I was done and it was time to leave (skipping Amazonia because I wasn’t backtracking AGAIN), I had to walk through the entire zoo again to get out and get back to the metro, which was a mile away. The sun finally came out while at the zoo and it got pretty hot, and I got sunburned of course. The pandas were nice to see, tho I’d seen some, and a baby, in San Diego with the Foos. Buffalo Zoo has a nicer bird house, with a ton of birds, where DC’s had a parrot a duck and 2 peacocks….I thought I was missing something. They had 2 sand cats, which were super cute (they look like house cats, but live in the desert), and 2 adorable baby fennec foxes. They had a bunch of big cats, lions, tigers, cheetah. A whole group of elephants. It was nice, just not mind blowing. The Phoenix zoo’s monkey enclosure where they run around you was one of the best zoo things I’ve been in, nothing like that here.
So I headed back to the subway, and to Reston and Cassie picked me up at the station. Grabbed dinner, and relaxed before my flight. Enter giant thunderstorms and torrential rain. My flight was delayed, but then not delayed. Of course, the exact time we had to leave for the airport was the worst of the rain, and I had to run to the car through rivers of water running down the sidewalks, and step into a pond in the parking lot to get in the car, where the water was over my shoes and my sneakers filled with enough water that I had to pour it out. So my flight home I had soaking wet freezing feet, but at least it wasn’t cancelled like my normal luck flying. Then I get home to find my furnace has broken and it was 58 in my house, so I couldn’t even get warm lol. Life.
Had a great time, saw so much stuff. I bought a jawbone fitness tracker a few months ago, and this was my first vacation with it, and I had been wondering how much walking you/I do on vacation. In my normal life, though I walk a lot at work, I rarely get over the 10,000 step goal unless I’ve jogged 2 miles and/or went shopping somewhere. The Arlington day measured almost 12,000 steps, 5 miles, but Monday…dear god I got almost 28,000 steps, which was 12 miles LOL. My feet were hurting so bad at the end when I had to walk all the way back through the zoo, and I was so hot, but no blisters, so that’s good. I’d not have made it if there were blisters. The other 2 days hovered around 6-7k, which seems kinda low. I chalk it up to the tracker not being good at measuring “slow walking”, which there was a lot of at the museum. Suuuuper sore now though, I think I’ll be just fine sitting on the couch all day waiting for the furnace guy.
- DC is a good place to take a family because all of the Smithsonian related museums are free. So if you’ve got a couple and a bunch of kids, you aren’t spending $100s to get entry into each museum. I guess parking is expensive ($15 flat at Udvar, hourly at Arlington, $25 or something at the zoo), but if you stay in the right place, a lot is walkable.
- I know that we were probably equally obnoxious to other visitors when we went in 8th grade, but we didn’t all have our heads in our phones, taking tons of selfies with selfie sticks, etc. I do remember a teacher scolding me and a friend for imitating a statue of a nurse holding a body (WWII female/nurse memorial or something), and I didn’t understand it as disrespectful at the time, but it was, and these kids were the same…taking photos behind the men standing in a bread line at the FDR memorial…but here, their teachers were taking the photos, not scolding them.
- I had to pee at the Lincoln Memorial, and the bathrooms are ground level to the left if you’re looking at the front. I mention this because there is also a small museum on that side, with photos of the construction, different events and protests there, and it was really cool and probably not many people know it’s there. THEN you can take an elevator back up into the memorial instead of going back out and taking the stairs again (because I wasn’t done shooting it).
And now a political aside. All these Presidential monuments feature quotes from each one, profound, inspiring statements from speeches and writings. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you are on, these quotes and these accomplishments are inspiring. Then you think about what this election has become, and the things that get said, and wonder….in 2050, or 2100, what is President Trump’s memorial going to look like? (Who am I kidding, President Trump will start building his own monument as soon as he takes the oath.) Something gold and phallic I’m sure (yes I know all obelisks are phallic, but it will be the greatest, the most phallic obelisk). Epic quotes like, “I have the best words” and “bleeding out of wherever”…”I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”…”The beauty of me is that I’m very rich”…”My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
What have we become?