T R I P   J O U R N A L

W E E K   # 1 7


Today will be my first day in Washington, D.C., I'm so excited! The last time (and only time) I visited the Capitol was when I was a little kid. Aside from bits and pieces of the Air & Space Museum, I don't recall much else. Now, as an adult, I have slightly more capacity for remembering life's events. And if that fails me, this website will act as a good reminder for me, because you just never know...

My day starts with a decision to take the train into America's Capitol, a choice that proves to be not only a good one, but also one that I stick to during my many days visiting D.C. From my Wal-Mart parking lot digs I drive to College Park, MD, park the van, then take the train in. The train ride is a pleasant experience, both clean and efficient, it quickly wisks me to the National Mall.

Since there'll be so much ground to cover during the next few days while touring the Capitol, I decide to split things into two. I'll first tour the outside sights, then focus on the inside sights. There's so much to see in both categories, I could easily spend more than a week here if I really wanted to be thorough.

The day's whirlwind tour starts with the Smithsonian Castle. Its small but interesting museum provides a little taste of what's inside the Institute's National Museum of Natural History. Walking east on the National Mall I pass by the Smithsonian Hirshhorn and Sculpture Garden, followed by the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. I take a quick peek into the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian where I dine on Indian themed food.

In back of the U.S. Capitol Building I tour the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, followed by a quick tour of Union Station where I get yelled at for taking pictures. From there I witness a peaceful (and very quiet) demonstration in front of the U.S. Supreme Courthouse. After checking out the various sculptures outside both the East and West Wings of the National Gallery of Art, I make a pilgrimage to the historical sight where President Abraham Lincoln was shot, Ford Theater. On the way I pass by a multitude of notable public buildings.

The day quickly winds down and dusk arrives, time for me to head back to the van. I take the subway back to Maryland, hop in the van, then drive back to Laurel, MD where I settle in for the evening. I'm feeling pretty whipped right now, I may very well take tomorrow off. I think I need a break from my vacation. Ha! Now that sounds a bit odd!?!

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MY DOGS ARE KILLING ME - Tuesday, October 26, 2004

No touring today, my feet are really bothering me, time to take care of my dogs. After a full day of travel writing in the van, my feet and I strike a friendly compromise, and I'm allowed to I make a trip into D.C. to have dinner with Rebecca, the daughter of good friends of my parents. Dinner was fun, I haven't seen Rebecca since she was a small child. Ha! So, needless to say, we had a whole lot of catching up to do! After dinner, I take the train back to the van, they drive from College Park to Laurel, MD and soon arrive at home away from home, a Wal-Mart parking lot.

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MEMORIALS AND MORE - Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Ahhh, my second full day of touring Washington, D.C. Today will be another day of visiting outside sights, mostly memorials. My trek into the Capitol proves to be non-eventful minus the canine terrorist I encounter on the train platform in College Park, MD. Once at the National Mall, I restart my outside tour, immediately picking up where I had left off two days ago on Monday.

My touring day starts out with a quick look at the Washington Monument, followed by a visit to the somewhat creepy Boy Scout Memorial. After checking out the National Christmas Tree and the White House, I mosey on over to the National World War II Memorial where I'm blown away by its grand size and heartfelt tribute to the men and women who paid the ultimate price for their country's freedom.

Next on my list of war memorials is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A stark contrast to the WWII Memorial, touring this solemn memorial is a real eye-opener for me. With its panel upon panel of war dead inscriptions, walking the 500 foot black granite wall really puts the actual number into perspective. After my somber tour, I turn my attentions to brighter sights, and tour the Lincoln Memorial. Wow, the enormous statue of Lincoln is quite striking.

Near the Lincoln Memorial I find the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Another tribute to another war torn period of time, the memorial is interesting for it contains a multitude of hidden symbology. Following the Potomac River to West Potomac Park, I run into a gaggle of geese before arriving at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Time is growing short on my touring day, so I zip through the spacious memorial and move onto the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

After a quick tour of the Jefferson Memorial I take the subway to Arlington National Cemetery. With only 30 minutes to tour the hallowed grounds before it closes, I rush to and through the JFK Memorial, then to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers where I luck out and witness an amazing event, the Changing of the Guards.

After getting booted out of Arlington, I head back to the van in College Park, then drive back to Laurel, MD. Today was a super-busy touring day, not only physically, but emotionally as well. Visiting so many war memorials back-to-back can only wear away at a person's psyche.

I chill out in the van for the remainder of the evening. After eating dinner and working on the website for a bit, I retire for the evening. Tomorrow will be a big day for me, I'll be touring the National Air & Space Museum. Wooo Hooo!!!

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A DAY OF AIR & SPACE WONDER - Thursday, October 28, 2004

Today my tour day is dedicated entirely to visiting the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum. Taking the same route into the Capitol as in past days, I soon arrive at the museum where I immediately launch into a furious touring frenzy. There is so much to see here, I wish I could split off into multiples and attack this place.

Here's a glimpse inside the museum's goodie bag:
Milestones of Flight
Air Transportation
Flight Simulator Zone
Golden Age of Flight
Jet Aviation
Early Flight
Welcome Center
How Things Fly
Looking at Earth
Explore the Universe
Lunar Exploration Vehicles
Earth Today
Rocketry and Space
Space Race
Sea-Air Operations
World War II Aviation
Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air
Exploring the Planets
Pioneers of Flight
The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age
Apollo to the Moon
Building an Art Collection for the National Air and Space Museum
Beyond the Limits, GPS: A New Constellation
After many, many hours of touring the museum, I finally burn out near the tail-end of my visit and find myself practically dragging my weary body back to the subway station. Back at the van in Laurel, MD, I find a good measure of entertainment by listening to all the buzz on the radio about the up-and-coming Presidential election. Tomorrow will mark my last touring day in Washington, D.C. In order to make the most of it, I retire early in preparation for my one last go at the Capitol.

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THE GRAND FINALE - Friday, October 29, 2004

It's time to wrap things up, today I'll complete my grand tour of Washington, D.C. To prepare for this celebratory event, I clean up by giving myself a haircut. Standing outside in a Wal-Mart parking lot to do the deed, I get more than my fair share of strange looks from passers-by. After getting myself all gussied up for my last touring day, I make my way to the Capitol. Upon arrival, I set my sights upon the last remaining goodies that I have yet to stuff into my sightseeing bag.

First off, I tour the U.S. Capitol Building. The tour proves to be a good one, but, it's a little too short for my tastes. Apparently you can't enter the chambers of the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives. Major Bummer!!! Next on my list is the U.S. Botanic Gardens. Filled with 4000 individual plant specimens, the recently refurbished gardens is a great place to take in a variety of interesting plant life. Warning to the wary, don't fall on the cacti.

Next, I visit the U.S. National Archive and Records Administration where I take a looksee at the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, the display rotunda is rather dark and flash cameras are not allowed, so my pictures come out somewhat blurry. Lastly, I pay a visit to Smithonian's National Museum of Natural History. With only 1.5 hours to tour before it closes, I manage to visit a variety of exhibits, ranging from dinosaur fossils to precious gems to a hall full of stuffed mammals.

After my rushed museum tour, I meet up with my friend Lindsay for dinner. I had met her in Wyoming more than two months ago when passing through the Grand Tetons. As luck would have it, she lives in Washington, D.C. We chat for a bit and catch-up on things, it's good to see her again.

Bloated from both dinner and four full days of touring the Capitol, I stagger my way back to the van and overnight for a fifth night in Laurel, MD. In retrospect, it's certainly been a long haul for me, I've seen so much in the Capitol these past few days. Honestly, I believe I could easily spend another week filling in all the blanks that are sprinkled throughout my sightseeing experience. But, as they say, everything in moderation. With that in mind, I plan to push south to North Carolina tomorrow. I'll be spending a few days visiting my Uncle Donald. I haven't seen him in years, so, I'm really looking forward to the visit.

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ROAD TRIP TO NORTH CAROLINA - Saturday, October 30, 2004

Lolling around in the van all morning and afternoon, I attempt to recover from the past few days of hardcore sightseeing in Washington, D.C. Sufficiently rested, I push off to North Carolina in the early evening. I'm headed there to see my Uncle Donald, who I haven't seen in many a year.

My drive south proves to be very long but uneventful. Just before midnight, I arrive and park the van in my Uncle's driveway. Not wanting to wake him, I stay put in the van and retire for the evening. My near term plans are to chill for a few days and just hangout with my good ole Uncle.

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DAY OF REST - Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!

I spend the entire day visiting with my Uncle Donald. A commercial photographer by trade, in the afternoon we go to his in office where he first photoshops my trip's favorite image, then prints it out for me. In the process, he tells me a little about his business, photography, etc. Fascinating stuff! During my trip, I've learned a little about the craft, if nothing more than having taken thousands of digital photos up to this point. Uncle Don is definitely a seasoned pro, I learn much from his sage instruction.

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