|Impressions From Back East
I loved our trip this week to the Washington DC area. My brother was a most gracious host who has made for himself (with some smart decorating from the wife) an impressive home and two great kids. And, never having spent much time back there, I left with very strong impressions. Allow me to share them with you . . . both of you.
First of all, my brother lives quite a distance from D.C. proper, so we actually weren't around the capitol all that much. But I really enjoyed driving through that country--the history of the place is palpable. On Monday we drove in towards Richmond to go to King's Dominion Park, and driving past the farms, hills, forests and rivers you get a little sense for what dealing with that terrain might have been like for the Union and Confederate Armies. It was almost like you could hear the bugle calls echoing down through the ages, out of the fog, and into the 21st century. The terrain is so different than anything we have out west here that, unless you see it, you just have no concept of what it would be like.
Secondly, the number, size and density of the trees back there is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Most of the time, unless you were actually in the city proper, you could not see more than 10 feet in either direction off of the highways, so thick was the growth. I could never survive there--I'm so used to getting myself in the vicinity and then eyeballing my destination, that I would spend my whole life backtracking to missed exits and brief breaks in the trees to get some glimpse of where I was. More on driving adventures later in the post.
The National Mall is a most impressive place--a fitting tribute to the greatness of this nation's history. Unfortunately, the Washington Monument was surrounded by a construction zone for re-sodding, and the approach of July 4th brought work crews to every other place on the Mall, but that did not diminish the grandeur of the whole experience. Of course, being a Lincoln-phile, I think the Lincoln Memorial is the highlight of the city. I've never been to it before, and to see the tributes all around the statue to the words he uttered and the beliefs he fought for was moving. We also got the see the White House from outside the South fence, and walked through the Reagan Building (where there's a huge slab of the Berlin Wall), and went past and through several of the Smithsonian Institute buildings. Washington's vision of the seat of power being one to impress allies and daunt enemies has really come to fruition.
Of course, the rest of DC blows. Seriously (here's where I talk about driving adventures). I figured between my brother's directions, a map, and my comfort with 'winging it', I would be allright driving the rental into the city and finding everything without problem. And I was right--to a point. There's this little detour that took me from the Lincoln Memorial back over a bridge to Arlington National Cemetary which wasn't on the maps, and eventually led me into Georgetown. . . where there was much road construction. . . followed by bizarre one-ways and detours. Whereas I managed to reach the Lincoln Memorial a mere hour and 15 minutes after leaving my brother's, it wasn't until after about three hours that I managed to park and unload the family. Which was still nothing compared to trying to find my way out of the city after driving up to Catholic University--even after asking directions!! Suffice to say, while I love those parts of the city devoted to our history and greatness, the ill-planned squalor of the rest of the city leaves much to be desired.
And, by the way, kudos to the Mrs. for tolerating my muddling with grace and patience. She even got in the best line of the trip, when I observed that our Starbuck's in DC didn't taste as good or as sweet as what we were used to, she quipped that "everything in Washington is more bitter these days."
We also squeezed in a trip up to Baltimore to see the new waterfront and go to the aquarium. Very cool--not quite the reclamation success story that our own LoDo has become, but pretty nice, nonetheless.
So, it was a big trip, and my 8 year old was very impressed. I was hopeful that she would see some of the monuments and develop some small interest in their meanings, and I think we succeeded in that. And the 3 year old did the flights, and layovers, and travelling really well, so. . . It's god to be back, and blogging, but I would seriously like to make that an annual trip.