If Mr. Smith Can Go...So can we!

Trip Start Jun 09, 2009
Trip End Jun 23, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill

Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Saturday, June 13, 2009

So glad to be getting up this morning with only a 29 minute drive to our first sight…and a short hour south to DC. Last night's push north has since been dubbed our "Trail of Tears."   But up early we were as the bright morning Pennsylvania sun creped through the alleged "light-preventing" drapes that hotels so wonderfully have.  Another free breakfast on styrofoam plates and paper cups.  Hey…its free, right?

The damp and heavy air filled the morning as we meandered down the two lane country highway to hilly Gettysburg.  Stop!  I hit the brakes and went off the paved surface on to the gravel side ---  to see a marker they had on the road.  “Here is the spot…” as the marker read.  Picture after picture I was amazed that something so important was just off the road all alone.  Back on the road again I got the truck back up to about 45 when I hit the brakes again.  Stop! Hopped out and took in all history had to offer.  “Here General Lee reassembled his second flank….etc.”  More pictures.  Back on the road again I got the truck back……wait!  Another marker.  It was then that I realized even 10 miles outside of Gettysburg that if I were to stop at every marker, (which I would have done with more time) we would be there til Thanksgiving.  And we weren’t even at the actual site yet!  Passing the occasional Amish buggy with a nod of good morning to the sweet folks, we finally arrived……at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg’s story could fill this whole blog…and you history nuts know what I am talking about.  In a nutshell, the South’s General Robert Lee gambled on a push beyond Washington into tight northern territory.  He was on a roll after campaigns in Manassas and Charlottesville and Anteidem…why stop there he thought.  For 3 short days in July of 1863, his tail got kicked by the Federal’s General….Meade.  Lee got too cocky and it cost him.  The carnage alone totaled 31,000 on both sides.  The town was just about wiped off the map.  After 100 days of burying the dead and clearing body parts quite frankly, Lincoln wanted a national cemetery built to honor those who died.  Four months after the battle, he was asked to give a few remarks before the governor spoke, to dedicate the new cemetery.  In his hotel in downtown Gettysburg, he sat in the room on the second floor all the way to the right and quickly jotted down his “remarks.”  Little did he know those words of “Four Score and Seven Years Ago….and Of the People, By the People, and For the People” would be etched into the American fabric forever.  It wasn’t even called the “Gettysburg Address” until much later because Lincoln thought nothing of it.

Pure silence sinks into the soil when you are out there.  Trees rustle with the breeze, visitors walk in awe, while all imagining what sunrise was like when those first canons fired. 

And to think how close Lee was to Washington!  That’s what scared the hell out of the Union.  And I could see why when we drove on to the National’s Capitol in an hour flat.

(Cue the John Williams Music)  As we entered Washington, the sun finally broke enough to see the towering spike (Wash Monument) in the distance.  We made it!  Felt like Chevy Chase weeping when the family pulled into Wally World.  And I know you will not believe me when I tell you this….but when we crossed the Washington Memorial Bridge, just west of the Lincoln Memorial, our tripometer from Houston read 1776 miles.  That’s right….1776.   Doesn’t get much cooler than that, huh?

We literally threw our bags in the room and got on the streets.  But not without brushing elbows with some Washington Elite.  In our hotel lobby was former Sec of State Madelyn Albright, walking through on her was to some function there.  I did not want to bug her as her entourage was with her, and we will be catching up anyways later this week over lunch.  We planned on just walking around the hotel a bit, and a few hours later…we find ourselves all the way down at the White House.  We walked the whole mall and didn’t even know it!  Sun sets in the summer way up here past 9 so it works out great for touring.

Dinner at Union Station….believe me its not your father’s train station.  Its like the Galleria in Houston.  Had crab cakes at a place aptly named “America.”

Now I type in the glow of monitor letting Brian catch some sleep.  I have the curtains open as we face the Capitol.  (Didnt mention that we are one block from the Capitol did I?) It’s dome being sprayed with beams of light at the base is blinding white in the dark night.  The stoic building has this Godfather effect on the twinkling traffic lights and street lamps below…keeping an ever watchful eye it seems on the National it governs.  The occasional honk of a horn or passing siren provides the soundtrack for that classic “big city never sleeps” feel that I so love.  How many deals…handshakes…inaugurations...fillabusters…hearings..impeachments… have taken place inside its walls.  I could look out my window all night.  I love it here.  This is my Xanadu.

Tomorrow morning….service at the National Cathedral, and then….well – you’ll find out.  I will tell you though, we do have some pretty hot tickets for this town that not everyone can get.  Here til Thursday…Dispatch out.     
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