Good Night Mr. Lincoln

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

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Remember the first rule of this trip? Be flexible.  And that we had to be as yesterday we got a call from the Congressman's office that our White House tour was moved.  Same day…just a different time.  We now had to be on the grounds at 6:30am for security clearance and entry into the East Wing at 7:00am.  That meant we had to be on the Metro NLT 5:30am.  Which meant we had to be up….well, you get the idea.  Hey it’s the White House, right?

Ok editorial note.  Some Americans…and I am not going to generalize, but some Americans are just so trashy.  You would not believe how some people dressed to go in the White House and one family all had their extra dulche grande venti mocha frappachino with whip cream as they went to clear security.  Secret service told them no liquids, and they actually argued with the large man in the dark suit and earpiece about how their coffee had lids on em.  AHHHHH!

On into the East Wing of the President’s mansion we walked into the portico to find many vases of fresh flowers.  Brian asked if those were brought in from somewhere because they were so lovely, and the agent said that Mrs. Obama had just gone out to pick them a mere 30 minutes ago and always brings them into the entryway for tour groups to enjoy.  She says it is the people’s house and they should always come home to fresh flowers.  Darn!  We just missed the first lady by 30 minutes.  Found out our tour time got moved because the President was in residence and had a press conference in the East Room in an hour or so.  I love being a Washington insider.

We were shuffled along from room to room, taking in the Red Room, the Green Room, the Blue Room, the State Dining Room and the Library.  It was wonderful experience, albeit quick because of the schedule change…but could have been worse and been cancelled, so I am not going to complain.  I mean, we were standing the leader of the free world’s downstairs home!  Historic furnishings, along with an incredible history allowed us to experience something you could experience no where else. 

Upon our exit we got to see security at work first hand.  One guard, dressed in all black, with a bullet-proof Kevlar vest, boots and short nose uzi, hopped the chain protecting the lawn and marched quickly with two other agents to the surrounding fence.  The told the whole group to "Stand in Place!"  As the gathered, the held their hand against their earpiece, signaling to someone up somewhere with a finger in the air and then gave the all-clear.  Perhaps it was a little show for the tour group….perhaps not.  Yikes!  Even though we were allowed to continue walking…I was almost scared to.

Rain, rain, rain.  Oh and more rain.  Remember flexibility, right?  Seeing that the Mall was not a nice walking option today, we headed to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to see the home of our first President George Washington.  A majestic mansion situated on the banks of the Potomac with gardens and lovely grounds.  Perhaps a nice leisurely stroll through the founding father’s and Marsha’s home….perhaps not.  Brian counted over 36 tour buses lining the nearby streets, a visitor’s center packed with about 100 teenagers in teal green t-shirts that said “Westville High School” and a roped off sign at the entrance saying the wait time to get into the mansion from this point….1 hour 45 minutes.  Plus, it was a mere 25 dollars a pop to get in.  I wonder if they asked George Washington for ID, he just simply showed them a 1 dollar bill?  Well, I will never know since we opted to spend our time elsewhere.

Rain. Rain. Rain. Did I mention it was raining?  No better place to spend the mid afternoon than at a wonderful tavern in historic old town Alexandria.  Cobblestone streets, slick with the wet weather, provided a cozy setting for a nice beer and some fish and chips.  After the days of walking and more walking, this was a very nice change of pace.

As the rain let up a bit, we decided to head back into the city to see the Vietnam and Korea Memorials.  Fitting as both memorials are not exciting and thrilling places, but powerful and moving places – and a bright sunny day would be less than appropriate for something so dramatic.  Sheer silence at the memorials as folks in the drizzle pushed their noses close to the marble wall to read thousands of names.  Only the distant sound of bus brakes on the neighboring Constitution avenue with traffic about filled the air….pure silence among the tourists around the monument.  Some had names they were looking for specifically, some came to just take in all the names they did not know.  What made this monument so different than all the others was the fact that people could still relate to this tragedy unlike those of the Civil or Revolutionary Wars.  Moms, dads, daughters, friends all gathered to see names they once loved and knew.  I think the pictures speak volumes.

Evening fell and yes, more rain.  A nice quiet dinner in Georgetown closed out our Washington experience.  Such history (yet again) in this quaint western neighborhood.  Nathan’s the restaurant we had crab cakes and a crisp white wine in, was the main eatery for many of Washington’s elite.  Kissinger, McNamara, Ford…..just to name a few.  The creaking sound of the worn down hardwood floor broke underneath the waitress’ feet as they served hot steaks, and cold drinks to the sophisticated cliente.  Two booths over, was the same booth JFK proposed to Jackie in, and to this day they still have a second bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge from that night which they did not use.  Guess they only needed one.

We close aptly at the Jefferson Memorial at night.  Rain let up to allow some wonderful night shots across the Tidal Basin.  Aptly because it is from there that we head to Monticello in the morning.  Jefferson, the great writer of the Declaration of Independence gave us such powerful words as "We hold these truths to be self evident...."

Thank you Washington for letting us into your House of Representatives, for seeing your founding documents, for peering into your highest court in the land, for welcoming us into your White House, and for giving us quiet and powerful evenings at your towering stone monuments.  This was only the beginning of what I think will be a long relationship in future visits.

To the truck.  Need to be in central Virginia by midmorning.  No rest.  Must push south.  For now….Dispatch out.
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