Monday, January 22, 2024

Washington DC Day 1- May 14, 2023

Woohoo Washington Monument

DC Flashback:
A majority of the trips we took as kids had my sister and I sleeping in the back of the station wagon as Dad drove us down at stupid o’clock in the morning.
We left at that time no matter where we were in the car, or who we brought with us, to prevent wasting the first day. I remembered the trips being five hours. Checking with Mom and Kim, they confirmed this. However, direction checks were listing the trip as under four hours whenever I entered the hotel address. Some new roads must have opened.
Normally on long drives, though some napping occurs for the folks in the car who aren’t keeping an intravenous infusion of Diet Mountain Dew, we have entertaining family time. There are fun conversations, comments on what we pass, dancing along to the music, and other bonding moments. Anabelle was only a day removed from finals week. Rosa did all the preparations for Anabelle’s return, followed by a nearly all-night packing jag for this trip after our daughter was home. This is why I spent most of the drive south alone with my thoughts, snacks and the Washingtunes play list.
We had a brief pit stop at the last rest area in New Jersey to stretch and for Anabelle to grab a pepperoni pretzel. Then they passed out again. Rosa wanted to see the state crossing lines, but after fighting to stay awake and failing for the minute and a half we were in Delaware, she gave up. I relied on the Navicomputer to use one of the X95 highways to dodge a giant traffic issue on the main I-95 route. Note- Anabelle was upset I called the GPS “The Navicomputer” here. Therefore, I shall refer to it that way from now on.
Including the rest stop, it took us four and a half hours. However, the last few blocks through Washington DC city stoplights took a full half hour. The Navicomputer warning us of stoplight cameras every three feet was an added bonus.
We arrived at the Hyatt Place Washington DC White House, which I will refer to as “the hotel” from now on because that title is wordy, even for me. Then we sat on the little “pit row” type side street off the main street the hotel was on. This is because we had no idea if the people getting in the car in front of us were our hotel valets, other location valets, or car thieves. Rosa went inside to check. The desk clerk indicated their valet would be out shortly and we could bring in our bags and give her the car keys.
We did, and still being relatively new to the lasered eye, sunglasses wearing crowd, I left my sunglasses in the car. I figured I would grab them with the final valet check, or at the latest, when we drove to Iwo Jima.
(Spoilers- My eyes remained squinty and unsunglassed throughout the trip.)
A very friendly and helpful woman checked us in, contacted the valet service and explained (Spoilers- correctly) how the included breakfast worked, and also (Spoilers- incorrectly) how the dinner available for purchase in the same area worked. She then, using great stealth (Spoilers- there was no stealth) asked if Anabelle was twenty-one before telling us about the roof top bar.
Up in the room, we took in our fabulous Washington DC view of the air conditioning units between buildings.

Ooh- wait, there’s more! If we walked up to the window, we could look straight down and see dumpsters too.
We unfolded the couch to make the second bed for the room and realized that there was no space to walk to the bathroom or the room exit. Anabelle performed a quick “bed test” and instead of sleeping with Rosa and sending me there, chose the convertible. She said it was comfy and gave her the ability to “starfish.” This led to her unnatural attraction to that kind of sleeping at home, spending most of the end of her vacation in the downstairs guest room. A quick call from the front desk sent up a helpful and friendly staff member to take the ottoman out of the room, clearing a path. Yes, the desk called us because the valets wanted to document the battered nature of my car.
I was told we would review the vehicular injuries together and expected to grab my sunglasses. The car had already been taken to the garage… in an undisclosed location somewhere else in DC. I confirmed that none of the scratches were new, and that I considered the lost fog light a victory since the swerve that took it out prevented me from being the center of a three car pileup.

Settled in with plenty of time, we left the hotel and walked south for the first excursion, expecting to see the White House, which was only a block or two away. For street layout reasons we wouldn’t comprehend until later, we only saw the Treasury Building as we passed along side of it on the way to Anabelle’s beloved Washington Monument.
While waiting by the three o’clock visitors sign, I regaled my family with valuable information about the Washington Monument.
Such as:
“It is made entirely of Styrofoam”
“That section (the security entrance) wheels away when it is ready for launch.”

Anabelle was not amused, as I was making light of her, frankly disturbing, deep seated, passionate obsession with the All-American Obelisk.
DC Flashback-
On our Eighth Grade Washington trip, on the bus ride home, Jesse and I sang all manner of song parodies, inserting the word “obelisk” into all of them. The most frequent was using the tune of the Sid and Marty Kroft, drug trip like Bugaloos.
“The obelisks, the obelisks
They’re in the air and everywhere.
With a fork,
In each hand...”
We didn’t realize the Principal was sitting right behind us until a few days later when he subbed a class for us, and we jokingly asked if he was ready for the Washington trip. He smiled, and said, “I’d be happy to go again…
*glares directly at us* as long as there are no obelisks this time.”
I mentioned this song and sang a few bars when Anabelle’s obsession would rear its head, and she’d threaten to injure me.
The difficulty of getting the reservation reflected how limited the access truly was. We waited a tiny amount of time and were quickly moved through the high level, airport style security check point with only a few others. The guide inside liked our shirts (because we are always entertaining, which is why we Grid). He pointed out the giant face of Washington at the entrance makes people miss the sign saying photos are allowed again…
And he was right.
Before the huge statue of our first president near the elevator was a quote inscribed on the wall hailing him as “First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” This was said in Washington’s eulogy by Major General “Light Horse Harry” Lee. The guide pointed out the irony that Lee’s son was the famous Civil War commander. He didn’t refer to Robert E. Lee by his military prowess, station, or accomplishments as is frequently done.
He straight up called him a traitor.
As he should.
I included a positive comment for that man in my review after we returned home… as I should.
The statue was impressive because it was
A) freakin enormous
B) George Washington.
C) made from an actual cast of the Father of our Country’s face.
We’ve all “Seen his picture on the money” to quote Stan Freberg, but it was extra cool knowing this was an accurate likeness.
Then it was time to take the elevator up for the main reason for visiting the Monument. The recording on the way informed us that it was the tallest man-made structure when built…
Until a couple of months later when the Eiffel Tower was completed.
However, it still holds the record for the tallest free standing stone structure, which means the only thing keeping it up is gravity and compression.
This is not a thing one wants to learn in an elevator within a free standing stone structure.
Up top we were treated to wonderful views of Washington DC to the north
(White House),

(Jefferson Memorial), 

(Capitol) and

(Lincoln Memorial). 

I figured the strong visual cues would help Rosa to overcome her genetic inability to navigate by compass directions.
(Spoilers- It did not.)
For once, Anabelle’s “Be Real” social media timer went off at a perfect time to allow “real time bonus photos” of this location.
We viewed, we cross referenced the guide pictures, and we enjoyed ourselves until our various, differently activated fears of heights compelled us to take the stairs one floor down to the museum level.
The history of the structure was highly interesting. The “little crown” method used to prevent the giant pointy thing way out in the open from being destroyed as a constant target of lightning strikes was also interesting. I did remember the 2011 earthquake, as it was highly unusual. I never thought about what it would do to a free standing stone structure in the middle of a city not designed to be earthquake proof. There was another informative section about what was damaged and repaired as well.
On the way down, the elevator walls went transparent from time to time. The purpose of this was to give Anabelle and I a major case of the willies. 
I mean, the purpose was to reveal the various bricks donated by all the different states. In the early days there was more freedom as to the material choice and size, but they quickly (see “free standing stone structure”) settled on requirements. The guide did mention that the Wisconsin brick was made of cheese.
We exited the Monument and walked down the little hill to the gift shop. Anabelle naturally walked backwards longingly looking upward. While it was a short trip down the grassy hill to the little stone building, there was no direct way to get there, leading the three of us to awkwardly hop down a couple of feet to the sidewalk that entered the little shop.
The gift shop was our first exposure to the vast amounts of Cherry Blossom merchandise on sale everywhere. Rosa wondered where we could see them. (Spoilers- It wasn’t a matter of “where” so much as “when.” The “On Sale” should have been a clue.)
It was also our first exposure to stamps connected to the various National Park run locations, monuments, and memorials. Collecting things are big in our family (See any EPCOT death march) yet so is rational shopping. Instead of the massively overpriced “passport” books, Rosa bought an oversized postcard and Anabelle grabbed a Washington Monument (naturally) notepad. The two of them happily stamped away the locations represented in the shop.
DC Flashback:
One of our first childhood trips to the Nation’s Capital came in the summer when Kim and I were medicated for one of our frequent bouts of strep throat. We visited the (much easier to access at the time) Washington Monument. Mom pointed across the reflecting pool stating, “The Lincoln Memorial is ‘just over there.’ We can walk to it.” As we dragged ourselves along the much longer than expected reflecting pool in the sweltering heat, we realized that the Lincoln Memorial was not “just over there” but, in fact, was freakishly massive and much further away than it appeared. Mom’s suggestion of attempting to walk to the Jefferson Memorial afterwards was instantly shot down. I didn’t get to see it until my Eighth Grade class trip, where I almost got stranded because the busses moved after they unloaded us. The same thing happened to Kim on her trip, and Anabelle on hers. Therefore, the Curse of the Jefferson Memorial and references about things being “just over there” are a key part of my family’s inside joke arsenal for Washington.
Checking maps, the view from Anabelle’s beloved Washington Monument, and the subsequent walk straight south ended up proving that the Jefferson Memorial was, in fact, “just over there” and a shorter walk (Spoilers- following that path) than the Lincoln Memorial. 

It’s probably good we did go to the Jefferson Memorial on the first day. It’s nice and all, but compared to the rest of the city, it’s not nearly as impressive. The views from it looking back toward the main part of Washington were gorgeous, however.
And while not reaching Anabelle’s obsession levels, I did agree that the Washington Monument is kind of like the Castle in the Magic Kingdom. It’s hard not to take a photo of it from every single angle it is seen from.
Taking in that impressive view on the side of the Jefferson Memorial steps without construction, we checked online if there were any reservations available for the Cheesecake Factory. Rosa had a coupon, and it was a block away from our hotel, meaning we knew we’d be there eventually. As it was Mother’s Day, we figured that was the reason there were no reservations. 

Partially because it was a beautiful day, partially because Anabelle told us how much she liked some of the “newer” memorials on that route, partially because we were questing for where Anabelle took a pretty photo on her Eighth Grade trip, and partially because it would be the only chance to pass some stamp locations…
But mostly because “it’s us” (still a powerful driving force) we decided to take the long way around the entire Tidal Basin back, instead of the straight shot north to the Washington Monument.
It was at this point that after a lifetime of almost always wearing shorts on vacations, I decided that was something I should continue to do following taking this trek in jeans. Therefore, I wore shorts the entire rest of the trip.
We walked into the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and it was just as impressive as Anabelle (and the rest of our family) had told us. The statues were very compelling and life like, and the abstract areas and waterfalls were cool as well.
I was kind of surprised at one of the quotes given a large amount of focus.
“We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.”
It’s a fantastic notion, but considering the Japanese Interments were under his watch, and they got no mention, it felt a little weird.
In the gift shop was a display explaining this and other choices based on how the entire memorial was specifically to focus on the positives and the symbol FDR became. Things like him smoking and Eleanor’s furs were also left out of the statues. The small statue of Roosevelt in a visible wheelchair was a last minute addition.
In between the sections of the FDR Memorial, we did find Anabelle’s photo spot, allowing more pictures of…
What else?
The Washington Monument.
We knew we were hitting these on the Night Bus tour but I’m really glad we gave them a double shot. Besides being differently impressive during the day, (Spoilers- and less bug infested) between the gift shops which doubled as mini-museums and the multi-sectioned nature of the presentation, we needed the extra time to take it all in.
Next door was the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King memorial. It was a contrast to the FDR one, being a single location. Therefore, while the overall effect of the FDR layout was more impressive, the MLK was more hard hitting as a single focus, hewn out of the living rock.
It was in the associated gift shop where we learned we were a couple of months too late for the Cherry Blossom blooms and had been walking next to, and frequently under (or in my case, into) Cherry Blossom trees all around the Tidal Basin.
Curving back around toward the central section, it is possible (Spoilers- or probable) after four and a half hours in the car and walking all day we were getting tired. We could see the flowers and fountains of the George Mason memorial across the street. Our thoughts:
“It’s pretty! 
It’s also way over there.”
Therefore, we were stunned later on when we saw a photo of it that included a statue of Mr. Mason we could not see from our side of the road.
The John Paul Jones Memorial was similarly located and before I could finish saying, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” Anabelle said, “It’s ugly” and we moved on.
Yes, I know that’s a Nathan Hale quote. As mentioned, I was tired, and I didn’t get to have a four hour coma in the car.
We did a quick “fly by,” peeking at the “War Memorial” through the trees. While walking we discussed that it was for World War I, but we thought we saw a larger one on the map.
(Spoilers- We did… then we walked through it almost every day.)

On the way back north to the hotel, we did figure out how to pass the White House. As we walked through the ellipse, Anabelle pointed out there was a guy with a sniper rifle on the roof again, like on her school trip. 

We decided that he must be part of the “Not Very Secret” Service since he and his armament were clearly visible.
In front of the White House was the National Christmas Tree!!!
It was kind of stumpy looking.
We were all extremely concerned that it was going to need a massive growth spurt before December.
When we first arrived, there was an interest in every plaque, memorial, and statue we passed. However, Washington raises expectations quickly. Near the park by the hotel, Anabelle pointed out, “Oh look, its Guy on a Horse with a Hat volume Seventy-Three.”
DC Flashback:
On one of our earliest family trips to this location, Kim’s favorite thing about the entire trip was…
The statue of a guy on a horse outside our hotel.
Anabelle did not inherit those genes.
We did a large amount of homework about what restaurants were around our hotel, including which ones had gluten free…
And then quickly forgot it all.
We decided to stop by the Cheesecake Factory on the way home and see if the wait time for the place listing no online reservations wasn’t too insane.
“Hope for the best, expect the worst.”
Our discussions would make little sense to those rested and fed, and we had broken things down to plans A, B and C, none of which also made much sense. We were pretty sure it was closer to Plan T by the time we reached the restaurant.
Luckily, the gods of tired travelers smiled on us and there was exactly zero wait time to get a table.
Anabelle’s Ahi Tuna Nachos, Rosa’s Gluten Free Burger (cooked until it was “very dead”) & Fries and my Grilled Fish Tacos were the perfect cap for the day. The Cheesecakes to finish it off didn’t hurt either. (I do not know why I am capitalizing food. Perhaps because we were very hungry. Will it continue? Who can say?) 

Nearby in the hotel, we washed up, plugged in the Roku (which we surprisingly remembered) to catch the final, excellent episodes of Muppets Mayhem, (YAAAAY!) and figured out what time we should get up to make it to breakfast before the next day’s fun.
Before succumbing to our exhaustion, Rosa and Anabelle hunted online for the location of as many stamp locations as possible.
15090 steps
6.3 miles

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