Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Trip to Washington, D.C. - Call First

Since I have off this week, I decided to take a trip to D.C. and knock off a few more site seeing stops from my list. As I have mentioned before, I've lived in Baltimore for 39 years, less a 3 year stint in South Carolina for college, but yet I have not toured all the sites in Washington. As Robert Plant would say, "What kind of fool am I?"

My daughter had an appointment with the hemotologist today, so we gave my other two kids the option to hang out in the hospital with their mother or go with me to D.C. My kids are smart. They know that when I say I'm going somewhere it means a boring educational trip with a potential for a lot of walking. My daughter chose to go with my wife. My son chose to go with me. I was actually surprised. I thought it would be the other way around.

My son and I left our house around 9-ish, went to the bank to get some dinero, then to 7-11 to break one of the $20's because we planned on taking the D.C. Metro and by experience I have found that you need something other than $20's.

By the time we got underway, it started raining. Then it started raining harder. Then it started raining harder. Hmmm..... should I have checked the weather first? Doesn't matter because I made a date to meet one of my college friends for lunch who works in D.C. We got to the D.C. beltway and it was pretty slow. I got to Georgia Avenue and I couldn't remember if I take GA Ave or Connecticut Avenue to get to Silver Spring. If my wife was with me, should would have made like a co-pilot and checked the map. Usually I'm correct when making travel destination decisions. Not today

Several miles down Connecticut Avenue I realize I'm not going the right way. Finally I hit a red light and pull out the map. I found that if I took Nebraska Avenue it would hit Georgia Avenue and I could take that back north to the Metro station in Silver Spring. I look up to see what street I was on and lo and behold - Nebraska Avenue!!! I make a quick left then take a long slow trudge through whatever part of D.C. I'm in with a 25 mph speed limit and thousands of red lights.

We eventually make it to Silver Spring and I pull into the parking garage. I think the Silver Spring Metro parking lot has been under construction for the past 5 years. The public garage has meters. Thank goodness I also brought a bunch of quarters. I find a spot to park. All of the spots are about 36 inches wide. For a guy that ALWAYS can back his truck into a spot with one maneuver, I was very disappointed that I had to do this one in two. But I did manage to get a 77 and a half inch wide Honda Pilot into 36 inches of concrete.

We trudge from the parking garage to the metro station. In the rain. Much to my surprise the vintage 1970's metro card machines have been replaced with machines that take credit cards! We catch a train and head into the city. My son is amazed in the amount of graffiti on the buildings, fences, and hobos. That's D.C. for you.

Silver Spring sure has changed over the years.

We finally make it to Union Station and make our way out. It's raining. And cold. And breezy. This is going to be fun!

This is what Union Station looks like in December when it's cold, breezy, and rainy. And I think they've been doing construction here for 7 years!

No Senators or Representatives were at the Capitol bickering over funding the government or pointing fingers at the other party accusing them of blocking progress.

We walk several blocks to the Supreme Court building. It's quite a sight. Very imposing structure overlooking the Capitol grounds. Sort of symbolic. I like it! We follow a family into the building and wait to get through the security check point. It's like being at the airport. Except that the security guards seem like they know what they're doing and are not a bunch of arrogant dumbasses like the TSA. However, I'm not kidding when I say it took nearly 10 minutes to get the family of 4 and my son and me through this checkpoint.

Once inside we do the walking tour and read the educational displays. I find it fascinating. My son less so. But that's okay. He could be sitting in a waiting room at University of Maryland hospital. We then go to the Supreme Court theater and watch a 20 minute documentary on the Supreme Court building and the body that occupies it. Did you know that the Supreme Court building, which was built in the 1930's, is considered the last (or only?) Federal building to be completed under budget? The builders returned $100,000 to the U.S. Treasury. That would NEVER happen today.

After the movie I inquire about seeing the actual court room. I am told that the next tour isn't until 12:30, which is when I'm supposed to meet my friend for lunch. AND - absolutely NO pictures may be taken in the court room. Seriously? Do they think that I'm going to sell the pictures on eBay? Or is it some security threat to know what it looks like on the inside? There are certainly enough pictures on the Internet AND inside the museum section to know what it looks like in there. Silly rule I say. My son and I then decide to leave and make our way to my friend's place of work.

Check out this guy. He's parked on Constitution Avenue. Apparently he doesn't like Obama and Eric Holder. I guess this guy is preparing us for Revelations. Jesus Christ will return to Earth with AK-47's or something. Repent Eric Holder!

We meet my friend and went to lunch at Hill Country Barbecue. This is good stuff. Think Famous Dave's without the Appelbee's motif.

After lunch we part ways with my friend (it's a work day for him) and make our way to Ford's Theater. As we enter I suddenly feel out of place. Everyone is dressed very nicely. I'm wearing a pair of wet sneakers, wet jeans, and a wet grey sweatshirt. Everyone else is wearing slacks and button-down shirts and jackets. I get in line at the ticket window and think I overhear the lady tell the gentleman in front of me that there are no tours of the theater today. He moves along and she confirms what I heard. There is a private showing of A Christmas Carol today, but I was welcomed to come back tomorrow at 8am. Yeah, whatever. I should have called first.

She did inform me, however, that we could tour the Petersen House for free. For those of you who went to public schools in Baltimore County and know little about history, Ford's Theater is where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, who went to the institution that became Bel Air High School, my alma mater. The Petersen House is across the street where they dragged Lincoln so they could put him on a bed and prod around in his brain with a metal rod to try and remove the bullet in order to save his life. Today you would know that this action would actually do more damage than good.

The Petersen House is quite small. There is a living room in the front with a sign that said Mary Todd Lincoln sat here between bed-side visits with her husband and receiving people.

The dining room has a sign indicating that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton conducted meetings and ordered the search for the assassins.

Then there is the bedroom where Lincoln laid and died.

The first floor of the house is all of 400 square feet and the upstairs is not open to the public. We spend all of 3 minutes in the house. For a house of such historical significance, it is a bit underwhelming.

At this point we are tired. Cold. And very wet. We decide to head home. It's about 11 blocks back to Union Station. And it's raining fairly steady. And did I mention that it's cold? We finally get to Union Station. We're soaked. We catch the train and head out of the city. Oh, I pulled the metro tickets out of my pocket and they're soaked. A metro thug tells me I cannot use them, that I need to buy new tickets. Are you f-ing kidding me? So I go to buy new tickets. It won't let me use my credit card this time. I need $4.80 (2 $2.40 tickets). So I pull out a $5 bill, buy one ticket, then use the change distributed by the machine (2 Susan B. Anthony dollar coins), but the machine won't even take them. How's that for efficiency?!! Finally we really do get on the train. As we're pulling out of the station, my son is a bit unnerved by the profanity-laden conversation between the kids behind us. And this was between two kindergartners!

We get back to Silver Spring, then head up Georgia Avenue to I-495. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper. And it's raining. I plan on taking U.S. 29 north to I-70. Then I see a sign for I-95 north. Crap! I missed my turn. I'm usually pretty good at getting around without a map. Did I already mention that? So we take I-95 north. I plan to get off on Route 100. Crap! I passed it! I'm usually pretty good at..... I make my way to Rolling Road, then to Liberty. Way to turn a 55 minute commute into an hour and half!

We get home and jump into a hot shower. What a long day. I think the next time I go to Washington, I'll call first.

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