The Lady Speaks

My Trip to DC – or How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Okay, so it took me longer than I thought it would, but here’s the “story” of my DC trip. I’m dividing it into two parts, simply because it took us 5 hours to do all the stuff, but it’s taking me 20 just to write about it!

It’s probably not a terribly interesting story since – unlike many of the big names – I didn’t go to anyone’s party, I didn’t see anyone famous, (well, possibly, but we can’t be sure), and I didn’t get to spend time in a one-on-one (or even thirty-on-one) chat with Chris Carney or any of the other CongressCritters.

I do have pictures of our time in DC, but until we figure out exactly how to get them from Mom’s computer to mine, you’ll have to do without. (There’s about 150 at 4mp’s each, so emailing them isn’t exactly an option.) The pictures here are stolenborrowed…pulled from various websites.

If you still want to read it….well, you’ve been warned.

* *

The trip started on Wednesday, for us. Mom and I left Sayre around 1pm, after finally getting the map and directions. As is usual for the two of us, I did take a couple wrong turns – mostly because I realized too late that I was in the wrong lane – but they were easily corrected and we found our motel without incident.

Once we’d checked in, we decided to find the Sunbury courthouse, (actually the Northumberland County Courthouse) where we’d be meeting the bus the next day. Sunbury is lovely, but good Lord those streets! One-ways all over the place.

We found the courthouse fairly easily, since northeastern PA doesn’t boast a whole lot of architectural uniqueness. Given the likelihood that the Courthouse was the tallest building in town, we looked around, spotted the clock tower and – unsurprisingly – located the courthouse directly underneath it. It’s really quite beautiful.

It turned out to be a good thing that we didn’t wait till morning to locate the courthouse. There is no available non-metered parking on any street anywhere near the place. Since we were leaving the truck behind, we sort of preferred it not to be towed. Finally, in desperation, Mom decided to see if the Weis market would let us park there, despite the signs that say “customer parking only” and “one hour limit”.

The store manager gave us permission, as long as we promised not to abuse the privilege by doing it often. We assured him that the chances of us needing to use a parking space ever again were pretty slim.

Now that that was settled, we did some shopping and had dinner.

Then it was off to DC.

We were the only two people standing in front of the courthouse. Well, except for the photographer from the Sunbury Daily Item who seemed more worried than we were about the bus possibly being late. Since it wasn’t scheduled to arrive till 7am, and it was only 6:50a, Mom and I were unsure as to his problem.

He then busied himself snapping pics of us. I don’t like my picture taken anyway, but one after another after another – this was irritating. Finally, I joked to Mom that I couldn’t wait to tell my daughter we’d been hounded by paparazzi. This passed completely over his head. Thankfully, the bus showed up then and his attention was diverted.

The bus trip was like any bus trip. Seats that are comfortable enough – as long as you don’t intend to sleep or even sit for more than a few minutes. We hit a McDonald’s for a quick breakfast, which Vinny Clausi, the trip’s sponsor, was kind enough to pay for, and then we were back on the road. We made our way in to the Capitol about noon, and were dropped off at a corner between the Capitol Building and the US Botanic Garden.

Upon exiting the bus and beginning the long walk up the slight hill to the Cannon Office Building, I realized something that should have hit me far sooner: This was going to be crowded. As in, people stacked like cordwood. Uh-oh!

I’m claustrophobic and just the idea of going in there was making me a little anxious. Mom and I had been talking on the bus about the sights in DC, which I’d never been to before, and I finally said, I’d rather see those than have to sit in some little room watching a closed-circuit swearing-in.

So, that’s what we did. I don’t remember there being anything in all the emails we received that said we were required to stay together, and the bus driver said he’d meet us at 5pm at the same corner he dropped us off at, so, as I told Mom, what was the worst they could do to us? Yell? Cry? Whine? I live with a hormonal 14yo girl; nothing frightens me anymore.

So, Mom and I, with great trepidation, set off on a walking tour. Now, we didn’t know at the time that it was going to be a walking tour, but that’s what happened. (And I will forever curse the little red trolleys and the “Tourmobile” as a result.) It was a beautiful day to be walking – about 65 degrees, with the sun shining and a light breeze. We felt a bit guilty about enjoying the sunshine, because…well, 65 degrees in DC in January?! Had it been the usual cold and miserable January weather, we’d have probably spent our hours in warm buildings.


Photo from weatherbook.com

This is what we walked. It seemed to be a much shorter distance as we walked it. Looking at the above picture, I thought, “Holy-moly! Did we really walk that far?!”

We started at the west side of the Capitol, walking across the terrace/plaza/whatever in front. (You know – the place where everyone watches the President sworn in.)


From the Architect of the Capitol website

We took some pics of each other standing in front the the steps, and a very nice Korean man took a pic of us together. That was cool. Not so cool was realizing the guy on guard was carrying an automatic weapon, but obviously it was a necessary precaution, considering the enormity of the day.

This was where we had our ‘remembrance of the day’. There were two Capitol Police talking to a little boy on a bike. He couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old, and they were – naturally – wondering where his parents were and what he was doing riding a bike on the Plaza. He looked at them and said, “Well, I just wanted to see what was going on!”

Mom and I then headed toward the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Once there, we really couldn’t do much more than stop and stare down the length of the Mall. The Washington Memorial rising into the sky.

Incredible.

We walked down to the street in front, and I realized the building across from us was the National Museum of the American Indian. I’d seen photos of it some time ago, and I’ve been wanting to visit it in person ever since. Mom had as well, so we were thrilled to realize just how close it was.


Photo from VisitingDC.com

 

All I can say is, “Absolutely amazing!”

Inside, the building is meant to make you think of a tipi. Circular walls with curved corridors leading to various exhibits. Walking in the door, your eye is drawn to the wall made of various lengths and widths of copper, meant to look like basket weaving, then upwards to the ceiling, which looks like a beehive, or a kiva. The opening of the copper wall leads to a sunken central area. On the south wall a long narrow window was fitted with big prisms that threw a line of rainbows across the central area.

There were so many exhibits, so much too look at. I don’t think any description I give would do it justice, so I won’t try. It truly is something you must see in person.

I could have spent all day in there, but since we didn’t have all day, we had to head out if we were going to make it all the way to the Lincoln Memorial and back before our bus left.]

We walked down the Mall, watching a soccer game and getting a sandwich and drink at a little booth there. We also splurged on the map of DC ($7.25) so we could plot our course.

Knowing we are directionally-challenged, I thought our best bet was to stay on the mall. I could just see us wandering down some side street to see the National Archives (which I did want to visit) and finding ourselves lost. Believe me, it would happen.

Since they were in a straight line, and it would be easy to find our way back to exactly the spot where the bus would be, we decided to definitely walk to the Washington Memorial, and to attempt walking as far as the World War II, Vietnam, and Lincoln Memorials. We’d originally put the Jefferson Memorial on the list, but there was no way to see the first three, and that and meet our bus.

Washington Memorial


Photo from CNN via Google

The Washington Memorial is remarkable. We didn’t go inside because neither of us has the stamina to deal with the 1000 steps, and also because the tickets were already distributed. It was amazing to walk by this incredible building, built long before the days of electricity and power tools. To think of men building a skyscraper with what we’d think of as primitive means, and seeing it stand all these many, many decades later.

World War II Memorial

This was simply staggering. Beautiful in a way that’s hard to describe. Perhaps its very simplicity is what makes it so awe-inspiring. The pool and fountains in the center, the reflecting pools at the western edge, the subtle motifs of rope and wheat and holly (I think.) At various points along the inside wall surrounding the pool and fountain are quotes and remembrances, not all of which I can remember at this moment.

As you look around, you wonder that the brave men and women of ‘The Greatest Generation’ weren’t given a memorial more opulent, more extraordinary. And then you realize the truth.

What made the greatest generation great was their willingness to sacrifice, in blood and goods, in order to – literally – save the world. Men went off to war, and the women took up the work in order to keep the army supplied. Old and young sacrificed whatever they could to help the soldiers, from metal drives to gasoline rations.

Their memorial reflects the very nature of those who served on the battlefields and on the homefront.

* *

Here ends Part One. I’ll try to finish the rest and post it tomorrow.

— Jenn

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January 8, 2007 - Posted by | America, DC, War, White House, World Peace

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