Overwhelmed – Part I

I don’t even know where to begin. Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to touch on the way I’ve felt the last three days. I normally write a page in my journal each day. I wrote four for DC.

But the whole experience has been awesome!

On Thursday, I started the day with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The reason for going there was pretty much because Ashley, from work, went on and on and on about how gorgeous it was. So naturally, I was curious.

It was beautiful. In the fall, it would have been amazing to see. It’s right on the point where the Potomac & Shenandoah Rivers meet with hills on both sides. There’s also a train line that runs through the area, across the river, and into the hillside. Just had a very “Mid-Atlantic town” feel to it. They’ve got a bunch of the buildings restored or rebuilt with stores, museums, exhibits, etc in them so that it still feels like a working town.

Before I went, I knew the name had sounded familiar but I couldn’t ever figure out where I had heard of Harpers Ferry before. It pretty much hit me like a brick wall when I got there – John Brown. It’s where he overtook the US Armory in protest of slavery in 1859. I thought it was a little ironic since Harpers Ferry and the surrounding area gives off the feel of a Northern state today but it’s the scene of one of the larger abolitionist events to take place. It was cool seeing the actual building that he overtook though. It was the only building to survive destruction during the Civil War.

It was freezing cold walking around outside, so I cut my visit short and headed back to the truck. It was time for the big city! If you’re going to do it, you might as well jump into the deep end to give it a shot, right? So with no plan, an address to the closest Metro station, my camera, and some time to spare before it was too late in the day, I headed to Washington DC.

I won’t lie. It took my some standing around and reading to get a handle on the Metro at first. So many stops, so many ticket prices, so many hours the ticket prices changed. But at least I picked up on it faster than the foreign tourists next to me. That wouldn’t have been a good start to the city. So with ticket in hand, I grabbed a seat on the 30 minute train ride in.

I got off at the Smithsonian stop, came up from underground, and pretty much just got lost in it all. I had looked at a map before coming up to try and formulate a game plan but everything vanished – details, sense of direction, street names. Just gone. So I wandered for awhile. I pulled up maps on my phone a few times. And in the end, just kind of went with the flow, pulled myself together, and got it all under control. Once it hit, it stuck. I fell in love with the idea of city life. It was cool seeing the young 20-somethings run around in their business attire. Watching everyone move around like they knew what they were doing (ha! Not me!). I just got a sense of “I could totally see myself doing this.”

After getting myself situated from wandering the complete wrong way for 15 minutes, I found what I was looking for – the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Going on a recommendation from both my mom and Ms. Jacobs (an ex/friend’s mom), as well as pure curiosity, I gave it a shot. I got there at 3:30PM and was still rushed through the last floor when they walked through telling everyone they were closing at 5:30PM. It was a very, very somber and humbling display. So eerie seeing some of the displays they had and pieces of history that were in the museum. There were stacks of luggage taken from Jews as they boarded trains to either ghettos or concentration camps. An entire room of shoes – the only thing I really remember about that is the overpowering smell from them. A musty smell of leather. There were two bunks from Auschwitz. There were cans that contained the pills used in the concentration camps. And even crazier, a bunch of the pills themselves.

Like I’ve said in previous entries, I’m not a huge history person. I’ll admit that it becomes a lot more interesting when legitimate artifacts are right in front of your nose while you’re reading about historical events. This museum took it to a whole new level of appreciation. It was very intense. But in a good and humbling way.

My only complaint would be that I almost think there needs to be an age limit to enter. Not that I think the information is too graphic or intense for children. But there was a group of late middle school or early high school kids there when I was walking through. They weren’t being rude, loud, or obnoxious. But they were walking through, having conversations about whatever it is middle and high school kids have conversations about. Just distracting to be in this place built to remember this atrocious event with a bunch of people who couldn’t care less about being there. If a kid doesn’t care, don’t take them there.

A very moving place though! Everyone knows the Holocaust was horrible, but when you’re standing in front of pieces of history taken from the actual event, it shines a whole new light on it.

After I was rushed out, I headed across the street to check out the Washington Monument. It was getting dark by this point, so everything was lit up. But also closed up for the night. I figured some things would still be open since DC seems to be a pretty huge tourist destination. So much for that idea! Everything’s closed by 5PM, if not 4:30PM! So no trip to the top for me.

And since I was trying to kill time until 7PM – reduced rate on Metro tickets… It’s always good to save! – I walked down the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. This was very impressive. Just the sheer size of the memorial is mind blowing! And with it all lit up at night, everything just took on this surreal feeling.

After this trip, I have a whole new appreciation for Lincoln, that’s for sure.

From here, I headed back to the Smithsonian Metro stop, thawed myself out, and headed back to my truck. I spent the night way out by the Dulles Airport in Virginia. So after unpacking, I did some serious planning. There is just so much to see here! You could spend two weeks just sight-seeing. Aside from Yellowstone, I think this is the first place I’ve been where there’s just been too much to see in a couple of days. So I ended my first night in the DC area with a list in my hand and a plan to hit the ground running!

I’m going to try and break this up into three parts – one for each day. First, there’s just entirely too much I saw and felt while I was in DC to really cram it into one entry without boring everyone to tears. Second, I don’t like the blandness in which I wrote this entry! It’s got some good stuff in it but nothing clicked when I wrote it. Just too scatterbrained and all over the place! I’ll get it right one of these days!

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6 Responses to Overwhelmed – Part I

  1. Yep – if I hadn’t had you guys in tow, I would’ve considered DC as a “young 20-something”. It’s an exciting city, and you feel you are part of something grand when you work there. I’ve been there for a zillion meetings, conferences, details and advisory events and never tired of it. When you are amidst the working folk, you see an even different side. You find the hole-in-the-wall eateries, cultural events that aren’t necessarily plastered in the papers and on billboards, and you learn where to shop. You learn it a huge melting pot of culture. I adore my country life, but if I had it to do over again, I’d do DC – one of the few large cities worth experiencing for a few years.

  2. Bonnie says:

    I remember that feeling of intensity when I visited DC by myself at age 23. It’s a contagious sort of urgency among all the young people. Again I saw it when I visited at age 29 with Frank, but I was struck more that time by the homeless people nearly tripped over a guy sleeping on a grate. We took Nick to DC one Coumbus Day weekend when he was 11. Didn’t see the Yuppies then since it was a holiday weekend. Looking forward to more of your writings of Washington!

    • I’m not sure if they migrated South due to the cold weather (I’m not sure if it broke into the 40s when I was there) or if the city’s been cleaned up a bit, but I didn’t really see many homeless. Especially around the Mall area. But even when I was bouncing around the “town” part of downtown, I didn’t spot any.

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