Friday, January 30, 2009

A Little History Never Hurt Anyone...

There's just something about arriving by water at a place you know pretty well, especially when it's on your own boat, that somehow makes that place seem very new again...

John's not back, so you're still stuck with Tammy...

Now you know a little of how we felt when we journeyed up the Potomac River and arrived in Washington, DC on Saturday evening. DC is a place Doug and I at least know fairly well - Doug lived and worked outside of DC for about 17 years and I spent a fair amount of time working there, especially back in my old economic consulting days. But as we approached the city we all had an excitement that even we wouldn't have guessed at. About half way up the Potomac River we passed under the Harry W. Nice bridge - the only reason I mention it is who the heck was he?? Our first real taste of the city was passing Mount Vernon with its majestic columns, red tile roofs and sweeping lawns that rose up from the river. Now this is the way to see the city!!

Next we headed up to the new Woodrow Wilson bridge (now we know who he was!!)
and were met with a million snailbotters cutting back and forth in front of us - of course we were!! Actually the new bridge is still under construction making its passage interesting to say the least but the old one has already been torn down - huh??? Anyways passing under the bridge we saw the city laid out in all its glory before us - the Washington Monument, the Capital, the Lincoln Memorial and of course National Airport to our left (just like I still call the Tweeter Center Great Woods, I haven't yet been able to call National the Ronald Reagan National Airport).
Planes and helicopters were all around us, as was a police boat towing a capsized sailboat (that took a couple looks!!) Of course just as we were passing the bridge and about to head up the channel to our marina to dock, the wind picked up to about 25 knots - making docking in a 17 foot wide slip (when we have a 16 foot beam) an interesting little challenge! What us worry???

The next morning after a power breakfast on board, we set out to see the sites - and see them we did!! We started at the Washington Monument
and worked our way down to the new (2004) World War II Memorial at the base of the reflecting pool - it is truly spectacular with an oval pool full of fountains and granite pillars circling the pool representing all the states that had participating soldiers.
On the right and left were statues reflecting the Atlantic and Pacific campaigns with names of many of the prominent battles. The memorial is amazingly well done and befits the American feelings for the war which re-established democracy in Europe.

We also went to the Vietnam War Memorial, which for Doug was very personal having fought in it - very different memorials for very different wars is all I will say. While it is impressive by the sheer number of names inscribed on the wall, there is none of the grandeur or pomp of the WW II memorial - interesting.
It was great to see though that they have subsequently added a wonderful statue to honor the many women who served in Vietnam!
We also saw the Korean War Memorial with its ponchoed statues of soldiers walking through the rice patties with guns, radios and med paks. I swear one looked just like Hawkeye Pierce ... but maybe that's just way too many MASH reruns for me...

As we walked along the reflecting pool towards the Lincoln Memorial, the ducks had us literally doubled over in hysterics - they would duck (no pun intended) their heads in the water using their feet to keep their heads down - well you guessed it, that meant we got the other view (butts up in the air). A couple of the ducks were even synchronized in their movements - now that sounds like a new olympic sport to me!!

The Lincoln Memorial for me has always been a special place that brings to me such a sense of history and greatness. Maybe it's his imposing presence or his words etched into the walls, but I am always awed by what this "simple country man" was able to accomplish for our country!
I got a similar feeling walking through the FDR Memorial - while many people think of FDR as the "war president," he was so much more than that.
Not only did he lead our country through a time of war, but he got this country through the Great Depression with his New Deal policies.
Such an amazing grasp of both internal and external forces we haven't seen since (at least in my humble opinion). Being in such places made us reflect that historically in times of trouble for our nation, there always seemed to be someone who "stepped up" and really made a difference - unfortunately there hasn't really been anyone like that for some time. For the country's sake, I truly hope Obama can be that type of leader!! But enough politics....

After the Jefferson Memorial,
we went to the US Holocaust Memorial, which was pretty personal for me since my dad was in the army that liberated Dachau.
As a result, I have always been a pretty ardent "student" of the Third Reich and World War II (we have Mein Kampf and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, as well as Goebbels autobiography, on board in case I need some light reading while drinking a pina colada on some island in the little latitudes). I can't (and won't) even try to describe the emotions the museum and its exhibits invoked in us. Suffice it to say that it is one of the most amazing museums I have ever been privileged enough to visit and should you ever have the opportunity to go there, make a point of it and bring your children. Through education maybe we can prevent recurrence. What did amaze me about the museum was how crowded it was with people of all races, nationalities and ages, including many 20-30 somethings that were there of their own volition, and how respectful and well mannered everyone was. I guess we were not the only ones deeply effected.

After 2 1/2 hours (although we easily could have spent much longer there), we found ourselves out on the street at happy hour - so naturally we found our way to a bar on the water for some appetizers and beers. There we encountered loud mouthed Redskins fans - now there were the Americans we are used to! All in all it was a great day - so good in fact we decided to stay another!! The only low light of the day was the Sox loss to the Devil Rays. In true cruising fashion, we were glued to the ESPN play by play - all for naught! Next year baby!!

Now there is no way you can see all that DC has to offer even in 2 days, so we decided to take the time and visit Arlington National Cemetery the next day. After a 15 block walk and 3 Metro stops later (yes we are cruisers and we don't take taxis), we found ourselves at the cemetery gates.
As we walked through the cemetery on our way to the JFK burial site, I was struck with how impressive the main part of the cemetery is.
Each small white headstone is perfectly in line with every other headstone no matter which way you look (up, down, left, right, diagonally) and no matter the land contours or terrain. Who knew you could spend the better part of a day at a cemetery and enjoy it thoroughly?? We saw the JFK and Bobby Kennedy burial sites,
the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers,
Arlington House (the memorial to General Robert E. Lee - being a good southern boy, Doug couldn't not!!), the memorial to the Challenger astronauts
and the Iran rescue mission, and the mast of the Maine which when it sunk in Havana Harbor started the Spanish American War.
One of the highlights for me though was stumbling upon Supreme Court row (as I nicknamed it) - so many of the greats were there - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, William Brennan!!
Others like Burger and Potter Stewart were also there. I stood still for several minutes hoping upon hope that just a sliver of such intellect and greatness would seep through the ground and infuse me through osmosis. Wishful thinking but it was still really cool!!

As we left Arlington, there was really only one thing left to do (at least that we had time for) - have dinner in Chinatown!! So we hopped on the Metro and found a great little place and enjoyed one last special treat in DC. What a great ending to a very kewl trip!

There is so much we didn't have time to see during our short stay in DC so we have decided to spend at least a week there on our next trip (sure that trip may be 3 years away but at least we have something to look forward to....)

We had 20-25 knot winds with gusts topping 30 as we came in to anchor for the night (I could barely stand up vertical on the flybridge!!) but we found a protected little hidey hole out of the bulk of the wind to settle down for the night. After a restless night with the boat rooster (why has she suddenly decided now that she is on the boat that she is nocturnal??), we weighed anchor at sunrise to head down the Potomac to St. Mary's City (told you there were a lot of St Someplaces down here!) The plan is to anchor and then dinghy ashore to take in more historic sites - the guidebook likens St. Mary's to a mini Williamsburg. We'll be in Williamsburg on Saturday so we'll see.....

For more Washington DC pictures click here.

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