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A Pictorial Look At Washington D.C.From My Esoteric 
Oh, So Much To See!!
AS MOST SHOULD KNOW, WASHINGTON D.C., is jam-packed with history as well as current events, being home to both the Smithsonian Institutes and the seat of Government. First, if you didn't know, Washington D.C. or the District of Columbia is named after two people; George Washington, obviously, and Christopher Columbus who initially named his new found land, Columbia.
We tried to keep the itinerari manageable for a pair of 60+ and an 11-year old. On Day
- we saw the Air and Space Museum, a little bit of the American Indian Museum, and had a personal VIP tour of the Capitol from our district's representative's intern
- we rented a car and drove out to Dulles Airport to see the rest of the Air and Space museum out there and then came back in to see the Arlington Cemetery
- Instead of going to Monticello and the Fredericksburg Civil War battlefield, we went to the National Zoo (bad move)..
- we went to the Pentagon Memorial and the Pentagon itself
- we took a Gray Line Tour around the National Mall and got soaked in the one downpour of the week on the one day I said not to bring umbrellas.
Oh, by the way, we took Amtrak from Jacksonville, FL to D.C. and back; about a 13 - 14 hour trip each way. Having done it before by their small private car, I don't recommend that format as it is simply two small for two adults, at least large ones. This time we took coach, about $700 cheaper than by air for the three of us. That mode is doable for one night. While the bed in the small private room is better than the seat for sleeping, the seat is much better than the private room for the rest of the trip, even a multi-day trip. Our next trip will try out the much more expensive large private car, which is probably the only way to take multi-day trips by train.
DAY 1 CONSISTED OF TAKING MY GRANDSON to see the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the National Mall and take a tour of the Capitol building. We had tried to get a ticket to get into the White House but was too late in asking our Congressman, Representative Ted Yoho of Florida's 3rd District. He did, however, arrange a personal VIP tour through the Capitol building with the gracious help of his assistant Codeye (pronounced Cody) Woody, from Gainesville, FL, (the actual pronunciation is with the emphasis on the 'dy' in Cody, with the 'y' said as a long 'e'.; go figure.) The tour was led by an energetic young intern named Andrew Johnson, from Lake City, FL, who added a lot of color to the tour we normally would not have gotten; we thank the three of them..
I am always impressed by the Air and Space Museum. It is a new experience each time you go because they are always changing it, keeping it fresh. Of course our eleven year old was impressed and excited about the planes and rockets on display was well as the flight simulator. But, I am not sure how much he got out of the rest of it; he is a smart kid with an orientation to science but is challenged, as many boys seem to be today, with a short attention span and a lack of curiosity; but then again, he is 11 and I am 66 with different expectation.
After the Capitol tour, we headed back to the Air and Space. Because it supposedly stayed open until 7:30 PM and the American Indian Museum didn't, we took a quick detour there only to find out the Air and Space closed at 5:30 due to a special event.
I apologize ahead of time for the poor quality and selection of photos. I neither know how to take good pictures nor know what to take pictures of; so what you get is what interests my esoteric soul.
Day 1 - The Capitol and Air & Space MuseumClick thumbnail to view full-size
DAY 1 SIGHTSEEING
ON DAY 2, WE RENTED A CAR INTENDING ON GOING TO the Air and Space Museum Annex at Dulles Airport, the Arlington National Cemetery, and the Mt. Vernon home of George Washington. Unfortunately, we only made it to the first two because we are late risers and finding the rental car company at Washington National Airport was a chore. Mt. Vernon will have to wait for another trip.
I don't refer to the airport near D.C. by its legal name of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport because 1) I do not think the airport should honor two Presidents, only the original one, George Washington, 2) Reagan's name should not be first in any case, and 3) the underhanded way the Republicans (I was Republican when Reagan was in office) pushed it through. To me, it was, and always will be the Washington National Airport; but I will use Reagan's name for the other 10,000 things named after President Reagan.
I lost an hour trying to find Advantage Rent-a-Car company at the airport. At all other airports where I have used that company, they were on the airport proper; I didn't see it being any different here. Metro dropped us off at the far North end of the airport between the air terminal itself, and the North parking garage. So we followed the rental car signs into the parking garage heading South. We walked and walked and walked (it is a long garage) and walked until it dawned on me the rental cars were in the South parking garage. I left my wife and grandson in the dust and darted ahead finally arriving at where the rental car companies were ... no Advantage!
Back to the North garage I went to retrieve the wife and grandson, now they were gone; they thought I went into the terminal and went there. Fortunately they wandered back out and I told them to stay there and I went in to find the ubiquitous rental car counters. I forgot Washington National doesn't have any, they are in South Parking; they don't even have a phone back with the rental car names on them. I tried looking on the Internet but their website didn't like my confirmation number or my e-mail address and it didn't have a phone # ... what business doesn't put phone number on their web site?
Finally, I found an information desk who informed me I had to go outside and stand on the second curb and wait for an Advantage shuttle. Now I had to get my wife and grandson from the second floor to the first floor where I had gone. Did I just take the elevator back up and grab them? No, I called them and gave them directions (they were only about 200' and one floor away). Fifteen minutes later, I took the elevator up.
Needless to say, we got the car and the rest of the day was uneventful, except at the end; which I will get to after the pictures.
DAY 2Click thumbnail to view full-size
The last photo in the series is one of a Marine in a glass case in the center of the Arlington National Cemetery Visitor Center, After we left and headed back to the hotel, an interesting conversation broke out between my wife and grandson that lasted most of the way home.
Both my wife and grandson spent a long time staring all around and up and down at the display. It seems my wife thought the statue was alive, you know one of those living mannequins you see on streets covered in silver and gold standing perfectly still. She kept trying to figure out where the air was coming into the inclosure was,or how he even got in and out of there. She kept looking closely to see if she could see signs of wax, but came away unconvinced. She still isn't quite convinced it was a wax likeness.
My grandson, on the other hand, thought the Marine was quite dead, literally. He also didn't think the statue was wax, so good was the artwork. Instead, he thought it was a dead Marine that was stuffed, like a deer head. He pointed out various features like the eyes that convinced him.. He even worried about what the parents of the Marine would think if they knew their son was there.
DAY 3 - The National Zoo
ON DAY 3, WE WENT TO THE NATIONAL ZOO; for those who take the Metro there, the Red Line, be ready for a long walk to the front gate. Actually, the walk up Connecticut Ave was very nice, I wish I had walked slower to enjoy the sights; it is a nice neighborhood. When we got in the Zoo, I found it had changed quite a bit ... for the better ... from when I was there a decade or so ago.
The only disappointment, really, was that too many of the animals were sleeping or hiding. Enjoy.
DAY 3 - The National ZooClick thumbnail to view full-size
Day 4 - The Pentagon
DAY 4 WAS AN EASY, BUT POIGNANT DAY. Today, we visited the Pentagon Memorial and the Pentagon itself, which I hadn't been back to since I left in 2008; boy was I in for a surprise. I had visited the Memorial a year or so ago and wrote a Hub about that; but now I wanted my step-grandson to experience and understand it; it was one of the few things he took pictures of.
While their was great controversy over the construction of the memorial, as their was over the Vietnam Memorial, and problems getting funding, it ended up being a very simple yet extremely powerful statement honoring those who died that awful day. I knew one of the 184 killed on September 11, 2001, Bryan Jack; he died serving his country aboard American Airlines Flight 77 heading to the West Coast for a project for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Bryan and I worked together for two years from 1992 -1993 while I was career-broadening in OSD, and then kept in occasional contact after that.
LAYOUT OF THE MEMORIAL
As you see, besides the wall that lists the name of each person who died in the attack, there is an individual memorial placed in the park located below the face of the Pentagon where Flight 77 struck it. They are shaped in the form of benches, pointing either toward or away from the Pentagon. If they are pointing away, then the name inscribed on it is that of a passenger on Flight 77 and if it is pointing toward the Pentagon, then the name belongs to someone working there. Below the name, in the pool below the bench, are names of any relations who also died in the attack; their benches are located elsewhere.
On top of the wall, the Age Wall, closest to the Pentagon running in front of the Memorial are dates, spaced evenly along its length; one inch equals one year. Each date represents the birth year of the victims aligned diagonally with the date and a plaque on a back wall listing their names. It starts with 1988, Dana Falkenberg - age 3 aboard Flight 77, to 1930, John D.. Yamnicky - age 71 who worked in the Pentagon.
I apologize for the lack of pictures of this impressive place, but for obvious reasons, I wasn't allowed to take any.
I worked inside or in offices no more than 1/4 mile away from the Pentagon from 1988 to 2008, During that time, I was never ceased to be amazed at the sight as I crested a hill, driving slowly north on I-95 each day, of the Pentagon laid out below before me with the White House, Jefferson and Washington Memorials more or less straight-ahead across the Potomac, the Capitol Building the right, and the Lincoln Memorial the left. On a clear day, I almost wanted to stop my car right there in the middle of the freeway and stare (I think I did once, for I was in a 5-car rear-ender near there, but I wasn't the lead car).
Then you walked into the Pentagon and the vision quickly disappeared. Except for a few public areas where the tours were taken, it was one ugly building with miles of puke yellow to puke green corridors with thousands of closed doors to the left and right opening to similarly colored offices; although generally they were a bit happier than the corridors. Beyond the hussle and bussle, of which there was a lot and which tended to liven things up a bit, it really was a depressing place to work. Until you got to the A-ring and looked out to the central garden. The central garden was were employees went out to relax ... and smoke; there were no smoking areas inside "the Building". In the middle of this well-kept wonderland of flora was "ground zero", a walk-up fast-food service establishment that really should have had one of those white and red set of concentric circles painted on its roof; for that is the FIRST thing I thought of when I laid eyes on it in 1985 - you know the Soviets have a nuke pointed right at that spot; it was really eerie!
.The Pentagon, for those who don't know, is composed of five massive rings, A through E, arranged in five floors. Each side of the pentagon is split in two, with a corridor running from the middle of one E-ring to the A-ring and then out again to the middle of the next E-ring. The result is an ugly pentagon divided into ten ugly sections with even uglier sub-basements. To make it worse, the fifth floor was an afterthought; put on years later. For whatever reason, and although you can't see it from the outside, it feels slightly off-center from the four floors below. That means, it is if you enter a stairwell from the north side of a corridor on the third floor going to the fourth floor, you end up on the north side of the forth floor corridor. In some cases, however, if you continue on up to the fifth floor, you get out on the south side of a much thinner corridor; in twenty years, I never got used to it.
Imagine my surprise then, when Richard Snow, my replacement from the last position I held and who graciously agreed to escort us around, led us in and showed us a totally renovated Pentagon that was bright and cheerful! It was not only this way in the public areas, it was EVERYWHERE. From were some of my old offices were, to the cafeteria for everyone (the executive dining rooms had been removed), to the multitude of new display cases highlighting the history of the Department of War and Defense. I was simply stunned. Gone to were the rings, as I knew them. In my time, as I walked up a spoke, when I came to a new ring, I could turn right or left to go down more corridors to enter the various offices, like the ones I worked in. Now, there were no more corridors, just doors that lead into massive work areas; one of the pre-renovation problems is the lack of office space.
In any case, I had a great time there. One note of warning. If you want to go yourself, call or go online ahead time, you have to make reservations for a tour at least two weeks ahead of time ... another change I wasn't aware of.
DAY 4 - THE PENTAGON MEMORIALClick thumbnail to view full-size
DAY 5 - THE LAST DAY, BACK TO THE MALL
WE WERE GOING TO COMPLETE THE TOUR OF THE NATIONAL MALL before catching the train home that night ... it didn't go quite the way we had planned. We took the Metro to Union Station, a sight to behold if you haven't seen it, and bought tickets for a Hop-on, Hop-off Gray Line bus tour around the mall; we were done walking! Our first stop was the Washington Monument, which we had hoped to go to the top in the elevator.
HINT: You have to get the free tickets on-line or get their before 9 AM, if you hope to get in; same for the U.S. Mint Printing Office (that one we knew about.)
From there we were going to circle 'round to the Jefferson Memorial, without stopping, the Korean War, Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials, and finally the Museum of Natural History. We figured it would be time to get back to the hotel clean up and get ready to catch Amtrak home after the Natural History Museum.
We got off at the Washington Memorial obelisk, being informed by the tour guide we weren't going to get in (I tried anyway), we walked on up to the base of it to snap a few pictures. From that vantage point, depending on which way you turn, you can see parts of about all there is to see in the Mall area; from the Capitol Building to the East, the White House to the North, Lincoln's Memorial to the West, and Jefferson's Memorial to the South. Over Jefferson's Memorial is the Pentagon, in front of Lincoln's Memorial is the Reflection Pool and so on. It was flat gorgeous!
From there we hopped on another bus and headed off to the Jefferson Memorial and passed the FDR, WW I, D.C War (bet you didn't know there was one, did you). and MLK Memorials, getting off at the Lincoln Memorial. First we went to the Korean War Memorial, which was a first for me, given all the times I have been there; the pictures I took do not come close to doing it justice. Then we wandered over to the Lincoln Memorial, one of my favorites.
It had been awhile since I had been there and they had added a front entrance at the base which led to 1) an extremely nice exposition and, more, importantly for us old people, 2) an elevator. I don't remember when they put the inscription of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech at the point on the steps where he gave it, I don't think I have seen it before, but in my opinion, they did a terrible job. It can't have been all that many years and you will be able to see by the picture, it is already faded and worn from people walking on it. A guide had poured water on it to clean some mud off as he talked about it to his group.
We never made it to the Vietnam Memorial Wall or the Museum of Natural History. When I was taking pictures of Mary and Greyson at the Lincoln Memorial, over their heads and not that far to the West were terrible looking thunder-bumpers that weren't supposed to be there. I had checked Weather Underground and it showed basically clear skies all day, so we didn't bring umbrellas for the first time this trip; we didn't use them the other times of course. The prediction was almost correct, except for the next two hours.
The last picture from the Mall is one of a book of names of those who died in Vietnam; it is turned to a page of one of the people I went to college with in ROTC who didn't make it back. As I was taking the picture, it began to rain, and then pour. All we had for cover were a lot of trees. That actually would have worked if the rain had lasted only five minutes or so; it didn't. We huddled there for ten minutes and then made a lope for a store way across the street. We couldn't jay-walk because there was an iron chain decorative fence running along the sidewalk Mary couldn't get over into the muddy river running between the sidewalk and the street. So down to the intersection we went. Our goal had been right across the street, back up the street we went the same distance until we found cover in the store, where we picked up some ponchos to fend off what now had become LIGHT rain!
The ponchos did become useful later on as the rain picked-up again on our ride back (only the open upper deck of the bus had room, you know) to Union Station; Mary was NOT going into an air conditioned museum soaking wet. We also had to skip getting off near the White House to walk around it.
Anyway, we were still wet by the time we got back to the hotel but after that, things got pleasant again and we were on our way home.