My final entry for DC! Let’s make it a good one!
I almost passed on writing this entry this morning, as I wasn’t really feeling awake or aware enough to do it justice. But then I went to grab some breakfast in the hotel lobby and I had the pleasure of spending my morning with some colorful characters. It was like country had gone to the big town to stay in the fancy mo-tel.
Nothing like F bombs flying from everyone (dad to daughter, daughter to aunt, aunt to her sons) and cellulite poured into sweatpants (of the Walmart variety, I’m sure) to wake you up in the morning. Here’s a hint… that second trip to the breakfast counter for another waffle, sausage, and eggs isn’t going to do you any favors. At least dad was going to make sure someone “F—ing got his GED before I’m through with him.” Preach it, papa. From the heart.
And there I was, huddled at my table with my bagel, yogurt, and orange juice with my nose stuck in Animal Farm by George Orwell. I’m not a betting kind of guy, but I almost could be convinced to wager some money that there wasn’t a more diverse hotel breakfast room at that time in all America.
Given how bad Washington DC whooped me on Friday, I thought I’d take it a little easier on Saturday. Sure, there would be things I wanted to see but wouldn’t be able to get to but hopefully, it would make the things I did see a lot more enjoyable than Friday afternoon.
I slept in a little later and made it to the Metro around 9:00AM (what a difference an hour makes). That put me downtown a little after 9:30AM. I went out to the Old Post Office Tower to start the day. Honestly, I had no idea what this was, what the significance of it might be, or really anything other than I knew it was a stamp in my US Parks passport. There wasn’t much to it, really. It’s the building the Post Office used to be housed in. It’s also the third tallest structure in Washington – the first being the Washington Monument. You can take a trip up to the observation deck and get an overview of the city. But it was insanely cold and windy, so I didn’t spend too much time up there. There really wasn’t much else to it. The building still houses offices and a food court at the bottom. So maybe 30 minutes, in and out. Pretty painless.
From there, I went back to the White House visitors’ center so I could get my White House passport stamp and check out the exhibits. The information was pretty cool. There were exhibits up detailing a lot of the main floors and rooms in the WH floor plan, talking about the children of the WH, gifts given and received, and just the entire effort that goes into being the President and what the WH’s purpose is in all of it. And I needed to get some pictures of the White House during the day! So across the street I went. They had the closest sidewalk closed down for the first 10 or so minutes I was there. Makes me curious if the President was moving around somewhere on the grounds. It also make me wonder how complex that must be to coordinate and how often there are “fake” closures to throw off the location of any number of important figures. I bet that’s a stressful job.
After that came the National Archives. “Why there?” you might be asking. Um… because I can now say I’ve seen the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Absolutely incredible to see the real documents. So, so much history in those 6 sheets of paper. They’re permanently on display in the Rotunda. And the guards on duty were no joke. At least five in the room the whole time. The documents were in these framed boxes with specific lighting. If you had your hand on the frame, leaning over, I think you were good. But the second you touched the glass, at least one of the guards was on you, saying something. Rightfully so, but still crazy to watch. They also had one of the four original Magna Carta copies. I was a little confused why that was there at first, seeing as how it’s older than our entire country. But it seems one of the royal families it was passed down through donated it to the Smithsonian. It blew me away at how selfless of an act that would be. If I owned an original document that was that important to so many people and countries, would I be able to just hand it over? I’m not so sure. Very cool place though!
I’d been following my list of stops (planned down to the Metro stations I needed to take) pretty closely up until this point. I strayed a little after the Archives. And it probably cost me a tour I wanted to take later on. But I’ve got to have something to do next time I go, right? Instead of going over to the Smithsonian museums, I headed northwest to visit Union Station. I don’t really have an interest in trains but it seems like everyone’s heard the name before. So I had to go see it just to say I have been. All it is now is a glorified mall inside of an old building. It’s still an active train station, but there’s nothing really “special” about it. It is an impressive building though.
Okay. No playing this time. I was really going to go check out the Smithsonian Castle and at least one of the Museums. The castle essentially serves as the visitor center for the entire museum system. They had tiny bits and pieces on display from all of the individual museums to kind of give a flavor of what would be interesting to go see. The tomb of James Smithson is also here.
Smithson’s connection with the museum is an intriguing one. He was a British chemist who had wound up with a sizable fortune by the time of his death. It was all left to his nephew with a stipulation – if he died without any heirs of his own, the money would go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” Just odd, since Smithson had never been to the United States. And really had no ties to the country. No one’s still sure why he requested what he did. Such an unusual story to the beginning of our major museum system.
I hopped across the Mall to the National Museum of American History. I’m more of a pop-culture kind of person than a geology or art person. I was a little disappointed in how wide open the museum was. I understand they switch out a lot of the exhibits on a regular basis, but still. It seems like there was so much room for so many more things to be seen. The first exhibit (a permanent one) I saw was the Star-Spangled Banner. As in, the flag that actually inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the National Anthem. Completely unreal. It’s HUGE! 30 feet by 34 feet. And the only reason it’s that small is because when it was on display by previous owners, they used to cut pieces off of one end for souvenirs. It originally was 30 feet by 42 feet. Amazing! I then checked out the Entertainment section of the museum. I saw original Charlie Brown panels drawn by Charles Schulz. A real Kermit puppet. The ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. A quirky collection of things, but cool none the less. They also had an exhibit dedicated to the art of pop-up books. I also learned that the United States was actually in the running to build a Super Collider, like the one that caused such a stir in Europe. I never knew that! They quit partially through construction in Texas due to running out of money. The things you learn. I’m going to be a trivia night goldmine after this trip is over.
At this point, it was a little after 4PM. I had wanted to see about touring the US Capitol and at least getting to their visitor center for my passport stamp. So I left the museum and started walking down the Mall. I thought I’d get there quicker, but everything looks so close there because of the massive size of the buildings. But in all honesty, it was probably a mile away. So I didn’t get there until 4:30PM, which was the closing time for everything according to one of the cops there. This is the stop I probably missed out on because of Union Station. But I did get some good pictures. The US Capitol is one of the coolest buildings, I think. I’m not sure what it is but something about it stands out and is incredibly different than the other DC buildings.
That last picture is probably one of my top five favorite pictures on the trip. Very cool to see the Capitol lit up at dusk.
I’ve also got a “Shame on Me” story with the US Capitol. When I got to it and found out they were closed, I started walking to the other side of it. And this black guy in super baggy clothes, with rap playing on is iPod so loud I could hear it, started walking stride for stride with me, pretty close. When we both got to the back side, he peeled off and went to talk to one of the cops. I had stopped to take pictures when he comes up to me. Having absolutely no idea what to expect from him, he takes his earphones out and says “Man, it’s closed for the day! The George Washington thing (which I assume he meant the Apotheosis of Washington) in the Capitol was the last thing I wanted to see on my trip! Too bad.” Dude totally didn’t give off the appearance of someone who was interested at all in things like that around DC. And I kicked myself for making that kind of judgment call. But good for you, dude. I hope you get back to the Capitol to see some George Washington one day.
Also, I never knew how close the proximity was but the Supreme Court was right across the street. Again, it was closed up but that wouldn’t stop the picture taking!
With dark setting in, I made my way back to the Metro station (I’ll give you one guess which one). I said goodbye to downtown Washington DC and peaced out for the last time. I think I saw more interesting things on Friday but Saturday was definitely more laid back and easier on the body and mind. And even with the Metro rides, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I had walked at least 10 miles each day. My ankles are still feeling the soreness from the abuse DC put on them.
I had one more stop to make on Sunday before leaving the DC area, so I wasn’t completely done. But as far as the touring the downtown area, all of the monuments, and sight seeing went, I got most of what I wanted to see in. I missed out on Arlington National Cemetery, the FDR Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial just to name a few. I had an amazing time though. It’s such an amazing city! And it’s definitely a possibility of places I’d consider moving to after I’m done goofing off and traveling around. I feel like you could never, ever see it all, which is completely different from the feel of the other big cities I’ve been to so far.
I’m glad I went!
And I hope everyone’s have a great start to their week!