Friday, May 7, 2010

A Piece of Freedom

More catch up…

Dateline:  April 4-10…………….Washington DC

IMG_0610 I LOVE WASHINGTON DC.  Outside of cities where I or my family has lived, it is probably the one I’ve visited most often.  I don’t consider myself significantly political, but I do feel very patriotic and grateful for the free land we live in and the blessings that have come from the sacrifices of our forefathers so that we could live in this great land.  It is not a perfect country, we do not have perfect leaders, and we are not a perfect people.  But, there is DIALOGUE.  I’m currently reading about the *miracle* of our Constitution, so revolutionary at the time, an act of compromise and, I believe, Supreme intervention.  We are blessed.


But, I digress.  Tyler really wanted to go with the 8th graders to Washington DC a few years ago.  I was so excited that he’d want to go.  It was pricey, and I told him that he and I should just go.  It would be cheaper and we’d have more flexibility (and, well, I’d get to go!).  But, the year came and went and we did not get there, leaving me with lingering guilt (mother’s are good at that) that I’d talked him out of his trip.


With the planets (ie school/sports schedules) in alignment, it finally seemed like a good time to go.  Both boys were old enough to appreciate and had a desire to go.  We missed Justin, he did not have a spring break and had never had a real desire to go.  No, it would be relaxing.  Yes, it would be work (transportation, walking, pondering, crowd dodging).  But, I felt, well worth it. 

IMG_0446 We stayed in Arlington, Virginia and took the metro in to DC every day.  It was HOT!  Unexpectedly so since it had snowed a few weeks before.  High 80’s every day except Friday, when it dropped 25 degrees after a Thursday night rainstorm. Crowds were at record levels given the perfect storm of spring break and blooming cherry blossoms.

So, excuse the travelogue.  Probably only interesting to grandparents…If you’re planning a trip to our nation’s capital maybe it’ll help:)

Day 1Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Congress, Air & Space Museum


I can’t believe that I’d never been to the Library of Congress before.  It was high on the boys’ lists because of the last National Treasure movie.  Ahh, history, I guess we’ll take it anyway we can get it?  Anyway, I loved the architecture—beautiful!  Also, I’d recently read a historical fiction book on illuminators and Gutenberg so it was amazing to see one of his bibles.

The most amazing exhibit, in my mind, was the Jefferson Library.  When Congress was burned in the War of 1812, Jefferson offered to sell his mammoth jefflib2collection of books to the Congress for the library for $23,950 in 1815. A second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851, destroyed nearly two thirds of the 6,487 volumes.  A recent grant has provided the means to reconstruct this library.  Within these plexi-glass shelves you can see original books from the collection, copies of books that were in the original collection, and the titles of books still left to be replaced.  The depth and breadth of the topics and authors is staggering.  The love for learning, pervasive.


Next stop, Supreme Court.  I really need to do the tour sometime (oh good, a reason to go back!)  We didn’t, just looked in the courtroom.

We had a scheduled tour at the Capitol courtesy of Congressman McKeon (more on that later).  I don’t think IMG_0428I’ve been here since 9/11 so it was a much different experience.  No more walking wherever you want in the dome room or surrounding rooms—all is very tightly controlled.  Our tour guide had the most annoying voice/smile thing going on that I had a hard time overcoming.  I can perfectly replicate it, just ask me. 

IMG_0456After the tour, we also had tickets to the view the House chambers, although unfortunately Congress was not in session this week.  Despite that fact, we had to strip all electronics (including car door clickers, cameras, phones, etc.) and leave them in a coat check area and then walk through another metal detector to get into the room.  It’s smaller than it looks on tv.

By this time, we were starving.  It was probably 2 or 3 o’clock and there had not been an opportunity to eat.  We thought we’d just find a vendor on the way to the Air and Space Museum but we went blocks and blocks without seeing one.  We finally saw a “roach coach” just before the museum and settled.  Bad move.  I mention this incident only because of it’s pure awful-ness.  I won’t go into many details, but it was memorable for the color tone of the hot dogs as well as the overall decay of the condiments.  Course we found a nice clean vendor or two around the corner, but the appetite was long gone.

IMG_0491We (Jeff and I) thought the boys would really like this museum—it’s usually a real kid pleaser.  In truth, I think they were a little bored by it (they did like astronaut ice cream and the flight simulators).  Or, maybe they were just tired from the morning (or sick from the “lunch”). 

Here’s more from Day 1:

Day 2Monuments and Memorials, Museum of US History

IMG_0524  Always breathtaking and thought provoking, we walked from memorial to memorial.  I seemed particularly taken with the Washington Monument this trip.  I have never gone inside and had hoped to this time, but found out that tickets are distributed each day at 8am and are usually gone by 8:30am.  Needless to say, that didn’t happen.  Maybe next time (reason #2 to get back!).


Last time I was in DC, the World War II Memorial was just IMG_0532about to open, but was surrounded by chain link fencing.  It was nice to walk the plaza.  My favorite part, though, was watching Jeff and Tyler.  Jeff walked Tyler around the plaza and told him stories about his Grandfather Leslie Anderson. 


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I still tear up every time I enter the main room of the Lincoln Memorial.

Mr. President seemed thirsty when we walked by, so we shared. IMG_0576 I think they liked the US History Museum—there was a special exhibit on the ‘Price of Peace’ or, in other words, war, which seemed to captivate them.

I sneaked away to see the First Lady gowns—Mrs. Obama’s inaugural gown is already there!

More from Day 2:

Day 3National Archives, White House Visitor’s Center, Ford’s Theater

IMG_0581 So we encountered our first major line at the National Archives.  Again, I thank National Treasure.  We waited over an hour, but Bryce declared, “I am not leaving Washington DC without seeing the Declaration of Independence!”  Well, then, ok.  The sad thing is the ink on the Declaration is almost totally faded away, but the Constitution still looks amazing.  The Magna Carta is currently there on loan.

IMG_0575 In the distant background is the White House.  It is as near as we have come to getting in the doors!  Last time I was in DC, I foolishly thought I could just wait in line and visit.  It was then I learned that you have to request tickets through your Congressperson.  As soon as we knew we were coming, I contacted Congressman McKeon’s office.  Incidentally, he is a member of our stake and Jeff has met with him for business purposes. 

About two weeks before we received tickets for the tour of Congress, but regrets for the White House tour.  Tours have been limited since 9/11.  It is now my personal mission to get inside! (Reason #3 to return, if anyone is keeping count!)  Ironically, the Mrs. Obama proclaims the White House is “the People’s House” during the visitor center video.  Oh yeah?  Well, I want in!


This is in front of Ford’s Theater.  Try clicking on it to see the sign on the right.  They have resumed using the playhouse for productions and we got tickets to see Little Shop of Horrors.  It was very fun.  It did seem weird to view that campy show in the place where President Lincoln was assassinated.


Day 4Bureau of Engraving and Printing (fail), Jefferson Memorial, Spy Museum, Museum of Natural History

One of the favorite tours Jeff and I’ve done that we really thought Bryce and Tyler would like is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  You are able to see how money is made and the gift store is really fun.  Who doesn’t love money?  They were really looking forward to it.IMG_0607

Well, turns out, this is another venue that distributes tickets at the definitely un-vacation hour of 8.  When we got there at 10, we were out of luck and bummed.  Next time (reason #4). 

IMG_0592We consoled ourselves by visiting the Jefferson Memorial, which is not really convenient to anything else.  We then metro’d up to the FBI building to visit the gun room, a memory Jeff had that he thought would be interesting for the boys.  Fail again, the FBI hasn’t allowed visitors since 9/11.  Next stop:  the Spy Museum.   

The Spy Museum was the only tour we paid for.  It was definitely more commercial, but was interesting.  The initial line was a pain, but once you’re in you have to assume a “cover” and learn espionage strategies.  It’s make believe for boys! 

IMG_0617Last stop, the Natural History Museum.  We had watched Night at the Museum 2 (which uses as it’s locations the Smithsonian Museums) the night before on pay-per-view, so we were prepared.  However, the boys were done at this point, so they suffered through seeing the dinosaurs and we headed back to the hotel.

On the way to the metro, we coerced a nice family to take the only picture of all of us together:IMG_0626

Day 5:  Arlington National Cemetery

Our plane left in the afternoon, so we decided to run out in the morning to Arlington.  Jeff had never been there and I hadn’t been there since high school, so it was pretty new for all of us.


It is such a massive property, but the tram makes it do-able.  Of course we saw the Kennedys.  Jacqueline and Edward have been laid to rest since I was there last.  It’s interesting that John Jr. is not there (I don’t know where he’s buried).  Poor tragic family.

Bryce was not really keen on going, I think he was nervous about visiting a cemetery and usually claims “boredom” when his spirit is touched.   IMG_0642

While we were there, there was a military funeral going on, complete with a horse-drawn hearse (there’s another word for that but I can’t spell it), and a military band.  I cried.  Brave soldier.

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We were able to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Such gallantry, tradition, honor, and reverence.  Wow.


I saw this headstone there—don’t know if it’s an ancestor, but would love to find out.

As I mentioned, it cherry blossoms were blooming (where the heat hadn’t knocked them out!)  These pictures don’t capture their prolific color:

Can’t wait to get back!

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