Laura and Lee's D.C. Diversion

October 9-15, 1997

Lee travels to D.C. a lot, but even though I've worked for the government for over 15 years I've never been there. Lee had some business and this time I went along so that we could do some sightseeing together.

Thursday, October 9

Flying from the West Coast to the East Coast is always a pain, because it takes all day. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for our 7:30 flight, and eventually arrived at Baltimore-Washington Airport about 5:00 local time.

We took a limo from the airport down to our hotel in Crystal City VA - it was nice to travel in style! :-) The roads were surrounded by trees (something we don't see out here), and some of the leaves were starting to turn - the drive was very pretty.

After checking into the Hyatt Regency we walked over to a mall to have dinner at California Pizza Kitchen (I've eaten at CPK's in Hawaii, Arizona, and Virgina way more times than I've eaten at them in CA...) We checked out the big Borders bookstore after that - and found the new book by one of my favorite authors that I have been waiting for - Polgara, by David Eddings. That kept me busy for the rest of the week - I didn't finish it until I was on the plane home.

Friday, October 10

Still on California time, we got up late, and didn't get going until after 10:00. We walked to the nearest Metro station and got off at the Archives/Navy Memorial stop. The Metro is very clean and quiet, and it was a very pleasant way to travel - which was good, because that's the way we got around most of the week! :-)

The weather was beautiful - clear and WARM - definitely shorts weather - not really what we would have expected in October, but friends in the area had given us a weather update, and we were prepared.

We went to the Navy Memorial first, and enjoyed seeing all of the bas relief scenes all around the Memorial. Then we walked over to the National Archives Building, but there was a pretty significant wait to see the Declaration of Independence, and Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so we didn't wait. We decided it was enough just to know that they were there. We *did* see a letter to Franklin Roosevelt from 12 year old Fidel Castro (yes, *that* Fidel Castro), who asked for an American $10 bill, and promised to show FDR where Cuba had iron mines so Roosevelt could build more ships.

We walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the front of the The White House, where Lee tried out his very best presidential look. As we were walking along the perimeter we were both looking for surveillance equipment, but didn't see any. Saw lots of squirrels, though...hmmm.

We got back on the Metro and made our way to the National Zoo, where we met Deb Wills, an Internet friend. Some of you know her from the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup and her great Unofficial Walt Disney World Information Guide. She's every bit as warm and wonderful in person, and we really enjoyed our afternoon with her.

It was interesting to see a different zoo - they have to do some things differently because of climate and have more indoor exhibits. Still we were impressed, and saw things that were new to us. We especially enjoyed the Think Tank and the Small Mammal house. They are doing some interesting research with Orangutans, and we liked the "O-highway", which is a series of cables and aerial platforms that the orangutans can use to go hand-over-hand from the Orang House to the Think Tank whenever they want to.

(Here you can see the Naked Mole Rat Cam :-) )

We didn't get to see the panda - he was inside somewhere. But we saw lions and tigers (and Tiggers, oh my!) :-) And several other animals that were new to us.

We said goodbye to Deb, who we would see again on Sunday, and took the Metro to Union Station for dinner. All around the station they had these statues of naked men wearing capes, with a shield standing in front of them to cover strategic areas. It was not really something I would have expected to see. :-) (We found a book on Union Station later that said that the statues were cast from molds made by real live nude models...)

We went back to the hotel after dinner. Lee's brother Wayne had decided to drive up from Raleigh to spend the weekend with us, since he'd never been to D.C. either. He arrived about midnight.

Saturday, October 11

We all slept in and got a really late start. But it was another beautiful warm day. We took the Metro to what was supposed to be the closest stop to the Lincoln Memorial - it was still a pretty good walk, though. Made a little longer because Lee, our "expert guide", first led us in the wrong direction. :-)

The Lincoln Memorial was really impressive, but very crowded. We learned that it was finished in 1922. The statue is 19 feet tall, and was carved from 20 blocks of marble from Georgia. (Georgia marble and Lincoln...hmmm. I imagine that situation gave a lot of Georgians heartburn in the beginning - but at least it wasn't for a statue of General Sherman! :-) )

Next we went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That's really a very solemn place, and people walked by looking at the walls in almost total silence.

We headed over to the Jefferson Memorial next - it's a bit off the beaten path, so it wasn't quite as crowded over there. The Jefferson Memorial is undergoing renovation and cleaning. We thought it was neat that the statue of Jefferson looks across the Mall towards the White House.

From there we went to the new Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, which was only opened a few months ago. It's spread out over a large area, and has a lot of trees, waterfalls and statues. There are four sections to the Memorial, one for each of his presidential terms. The statue of Roosevelt was the subject of quite a controversy, as to whether he should be shown in a wheelchair or not. They "solved" this problem by depicting him sitting down, covered by a cape, so you can't tell if he's in a wheelchair or not. I've never seen anything showing Roosevelt in a cape before, so it looks a bit unnatural to me.

We really liked all of the running water, and enjoyed the Memorial. We did it backwards, though - we started from the Jefferson Memorial side, so we went from his 4th term to his first.

On the way back to the Mall we passed the John Paul Jones statue, and Lee asked us what he was famous for saying. Wayne and I offered various helpful suggestions like "I am not French", "Show me the money", and "Abandon ship!", but Lee didn't think we had the proper attitude.

We walked to the Washington Monument, but the elevator wasn't working. It took a long time to get the Monument built - it was begun in 1848, but wasn't completed until 1884. The monument stood uncompleted at 150 feet high for 20 years before Congress finally appropriated money to finish it. There is a noticeable difference in the color of the marble that marks the place at which construction was resumed.

It was early afternoon, so we walked to the Old Post Office to find some lunch. The Taste of D.C. festival was going on, so Pennsylvania Avenue was blocked off and filled with food stands and lots of people. We found something to eat, and most importantly a place to sit for a while - we were getting tired of walking and standing.

From there we walked over to the Capitol building, but really didn't want to wait the 30 minutes they said it would take to get the crowd through security. So we walked back to the Air and Space Museum, which was very crowded. We were ready for another break and we watched two of the Imax movies back to back - though Lee and Wayne were watching through the back of their eyelids sometimes. :-)

The museums were closed by the time we got out of the movies, and we were tired anyway, so we took the Metro back to Crystal City, ate dinner, and vegged in front of the TV, channel surfing between college football and the two baseball playoff games.

Sunday, October 12

Sunday was the day of the RADP Meet - a group of people from the newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks who live in the D.C. area had arranged to meet at the Smithsonian Castle for brunch. There were people there from New York and Canada, too, who had come just for the Meet, so there actually were just as many people from out of town as from the general D.C. area!

(Here is the Official Meet Report.)

front row, l to r: Deb Wills, Bronwen Britt, Laura, Lee
middle row, l to r: Judy Tuchman, Carol DiPace, Lisa Harris, Gail Robinson, Liz Jennings, Melanie Emmons
back row, l to r: Mike Tuchman, Nancy McClellan, Rusty Wyatt, Rob Costello, Ed Igoe, Larry Reppert, John Emmons

Deb Wills, who we met on Friday, was one of the people who had helped set up the meet, and Melanie Emmons did a lot of the coordinating, even though she's from New York! I'd spent a lot of time on IRC talking to several of these people, so I was really looking forward to meeting them in person. Everyone was really nice, and it was a lot of fun.

We had a very nice brunch, and for entertainment there was a harpist (how genteel!). But someone got her to play the Mickey Mouse Club march in our honor, and she grinned as she played it. There was even a "hidden Mickey" in the dining room. (And a not-so-hidden Tigger and Mickey, too! :-) )

After brunch we went outside and got several poor unsuspecting bystanders to take pictures of our entire group with about 8 different cameras. The group pictures turned out nicely, though - except that we were all squinting into the sun. :-)

Several people left at that point, but the rest of the group decided to do some museum touring, so we headed over to the National Museum of American History. We had fun commenting on the First Lady's gowns and posing Meli's Mickey and my Tigger with various people.

We enjoyed seeing the Computer exhibit, too. I laughed at the scene showing a very old computer with a rather frazzled operator - I've had days like that... :-)

Following RADP Meet Tradition, we had to find something we could all ride together - the closest we could get to an "E ride" was the escalator, so we all raised our hands and shouted "we're all gonna die" while riding down. :-)

Wayne wanted to drive back to Raleigh before too late, so we said our goodbyes to everyone (sniff!) and took the Metro back to Crystal City.

Monday, October 13

We went back to the Mall (we're getting really familiar with the Metro's blue line, and the Smithsonian station by this time), and met my friend Kathy and her family. I've known Kathy since 5th grade,and we've remained friends even though we haven't live in the same state since we were about 14. We hadn't seen each other since she came out to California to be in our wedding over 10 years ago.

Anyway, since it was Columbus Day Kathy and Tom and the kids (Christine, Dianne, Tommy, and Joey) had the day off, so they met us to do some sightseeing and have a picnic out on the Mall. Oh, by the way, it was another very nice day, though a little cooler than previous days.

We started off at the National Museum of Natural History - that was really interesting. Seeing a whole bunch of stuffed animals was a little strange, but we saw some animals that we had *never* seen nor heard of before. The dinosaur and fossil exhibit was really neat, too.

In the gems and minerals exhibit there was some beautiful jewelry - including the Hope Diamond. And a lot of other jewelry that had big shiny rocks that I wouldn't mind having. :-)

Lee especially enjoyed seeing all of the other minerals, there were lots of beautiful crystals of types we'd never heard of. There was also an exhibit on asteroids (they have fallen all over the place!), and on volcanoes and earthquakes. We learned that we live in prime earthquake country - gee, there's a surprise. :-)

After a nice picnic out on the Mall (where Tommy and Joey terrorized the pigeons. :-) ) we headed off for the "Lincoln Death Tour". :-)

First stop was Ford's Theater, i.e. Where Lincoln Was Shot. It's still a working theater, and in the evenings right now they are showing "All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten". But there's a museum downstairs, and during the day you can go in the theater and see the box where Lincoln was shot, and listen to someone describe the events leading up to it.

Eat your heart out, Oliver Stone, for once there really *was* an extensive conspiracy behind Lincoln's assassination. A number of people were either executed or sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles.

After seeing Ford's Theater we continued the Lincoln Death Tour by walking across the street to "The House Where Lincoln Died". Also known as the Petersen House, but even the National Park Service sign advertises it as "The House Where Lincoln Died". The kids were disappointed because there were no blood stains. :-)

We went back over to the Mall and went to the American History Museum for a while, and saw the trains, and farm equipment and cars, and carriages and ships. We spent a while just watching the Foucault Pendulum swing back and forth before we finally saw it knock over one of the candles - there's something very hypnotic about just watching it.

I enjoyed all of the carousel animals that were displayed around the museum, especially this cat.

The Tharp family headed back home, and Lee and I did a little shopping in the Museum store before again taking the blue line back to Crystal City (we seem to be stuck in a rut!)

Tuesday, October 14

At this point we were actually getting a little tired of sightseeing - you can only visit so many museums before your brain goes on overload. So we thought maybe we'd do a shorter day on Tuesday...but you know what they say about the best laid plans...

We started off with a tour of the FBI - even though we got there about 45 minutes after it opened, the wait for the tour was already over an hour. We decided to go ahead and wait anyway. They were right on with the time estimate, and we got inside for the tour 1:15 later.

They've done a really good job with setting up the tour and making it interesting. We had a very good tour guide named Rose Goode - she was very animated, and didn't slip into that monotone tour-guide speak, even though she's done this tour LOTS of times before. At the end of the tour we got to see a special agent demonstrate several weapons, and answer questions about what it's like to be an FBI agent. The tour group we were in had a lot of junior high school students, and they were more concerned about whether he'd ever shot anyone or been shot at, and whether he carried his gun all the time, than anything else.

It was noon by the time we finished the tour, so we grabbed some lunch and went to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The "Show Me the Money" tour. :-)

It's supposed to be a self-guided tour, but they were sending us through in groups and had guides stationed at various places to talk to us. I enjoyed some of the slogans they had, like "The Buck Starts Here", and "Think how I feel - I printed my lifetime salary in just a few minutes". But one of the world's most tedious jobs has got to be scanning the sheets of bills for printing errors. These people do it 8 hours a day, with a half hour lunch and two 15 minute breaks. It was really interesting to see all that money, though. :-)

We walked up to the U.S. Capitol Building and did one of the guided tours. Congress was NOT in session, so we were able to go into the House and Senate Galleries without needing a special pass.

The artwork inside the building is just beautiful, especially the fresco on the ceiling of the rotunda, painted by Constantino Brumidi.

Despite our goal of making it a short day, we were in the Capitol building at 4:30 - closing time.

Wednesday, October 15

When we got up it was raining - ack! By the time we got outside it was just barely misting, though it was still overcast and chilly. We rented a car and headed through Old Town Alexandria down to George Washington's home at Mount Vernon.

George Washington was ahead of his time, and did a lot of very innovative things - rather than exhausting his soil growing tobacco, his primary crop was wheat, and he rotated crops, allowed fields to lie fallow, and other things to improve his yields. Mount Vernon was intended to be self-contained and self-supporting as much as possible, so it was interesting to see all the various buildings that made up the farm - like the wash room, and the smokehouse and the weaving room.

The house itself was not as big as I had expected, considering it's 3 stories and 10 bedrooms, and the bedrooms are quite large. But of course there's no indoor plumbing, and the kitchen is not part of the house. Those rooms take up a lot of space in a modern house.

The house has quite a few of the original furnishings, so you can see George and Martha's bed (custom built to accomodate George's height), his fan chair, globe, etc.

One interesting thing we learned is that George *didn't* wear a wig - that's his own hair, but he powdered it in the fashion of the time.

And if you really want to find out whether he chopped down a cherry tree or threw a silver dollar across the Potomac, here's a little quiz.

We headed back to the hotel so that I could pack, and then drove to the airport so I could fly home to San Diego - Lee stayed a couple of extra days to do his business.

We really enjoyed the vacation, and there were still a lot of things that we *didn't* have time to see. Guess that just means we'll have to go back some day! :-)

Additional Photos

Text and photographs copyright © 1997, by Laura Gilbreath. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath, lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 10/23/97