Saturday, July 19, 2008

Trip to the East Coast

My oldest son and I are on the East Coast, where he will be going to camp for three weeks. I am here to drop him off, and then I will be going home and coming back to pick him up in August.

We have had an adventurous couple of days together, ones I will always remember. We flew into Washington DC last Thursday, arriving very late at night. Early the next morning we explored a bit of Crystal City, near the airport and very close to our hotel, to find some breakfast. What we found was a lot of men . . . men in fatigues, all manner of military uniforms, and plenty of other men in suits & ties. I have never felt I stood out so much as a tourist as I did that morning with my pink tshirt, biking capris, running shoes, and son in tow. We were near the Pentagon, but I never expected to feel SO out of place near all this official and very serious government business going on around. It is my country after all, but it did feel slightly foreign.

Standing out as tourists in a big way at Starbucks in Washington DC

I mentioned this out-of-place feeling to a friend who lived and worked in the DC area until 15 years ago. He said when he left DC and landed in Texas in his blue pinstripe suit, he realized he didn't fit in there and had a feeling like he had just gotten out of the hospital. That really made me laugh.

After breakfast we made our first foray into the Metro to make our way to where we were meeting a tour. I told my son that once he learned how to use a metro system, he could get around any metro in any other city. We spent time looking at the machines to buy tickets, we studied the maps, I taught him how to avoid getting on a train going the wrong direction (been there, done that), how to get on and off the trains, how to hold on to your ticket so you could get out of the metro. There is a lot to learn. He was completely fascinated by the entire process and asked why we don't have such a system in California. Good question.

Studying the metro map

We made it to meet up with our tour just in time. I decided that a three-hour tour on bikes run by Bike and Roll would be just the thing for us. We had a delightful and knowledge guide, Sara, who we followed all around the National Mall and various capital sites and monuments. We learned lots of interesting facts and made good time compared to the throngs of hot sweaty people we were weaving around on the sidewalks. Of course we were hot and sweaty too. The heat and humidity are definitely something to get used to.

My son's favorite parts of the tour were seeing the White House with the snipers on the top, and riding through some sprinklers along the way. I went through the sprinklers too.

Supreme Court Building

We took this picture making sure you could see the snipers. See them?

Afterwards, we went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History where we were quickly overwhelmed by the mass of people, the very untidy bathrooms, and the sheer volume of displays, everything from the Hope Diamond to dinosaur skeletons to meteors to insect displays. While we enjoyed the air conditioning, we were soon just wandering through, not really focusing on anything. Although we wanted to check out the Air and Space Museum too, it was just too much. We had to go back to the hotel, take a dip in the pool to cool off, and get ready to meet some friends for dinner. Much to my son's delight, this included a long metro ride to the other side of the city.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where you can take pictures of anything, any time. Weird.

Our friends drove us back to our hotel late that night, and even treated us to a midnight visit to the Jefferson Memorial on the way. Who knew, the monuments are open late at night, are apparently very safe, much less crowded than during the day, and slightly cooler too. I think this is certainly the way to see them at this time of year.

As we flopped into bed, I felt like we got a lot out of our one whole day in Washington DC.

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