Up at 5:15 a.m. and that feels way too early. A little warm outside already. We left the rig at 6:15 and headed to the Vienna Metro Station, along with thousands of other commuters. We are only 30 miles outside D.C., but it takes 30 minutes in traffic to drive to the metro, then another 29 minutes of a metro ride to D.C. We were kicking ourselves when we saw that traffic wasn’t that bad going into town, but once again, we didn’t want to hassle with parking the car. On the metro ride back out we were congratulating ourselves on NOT driving – the highway was a parking lot for miles.
Dan downloaded a metro map to his phone, so he knew exactly where we to get off. I was using the map from the D.C. book that Cindy Kresse gave us after she and Megan were done with it. Both had the smallest print ever!
My expectations for this two week part of our trip were immense. I was excited for the kids to see D.C. because I had lived here in 1984 and 1985. I had fond memories of visiting all the historical monuments, and I wanted them to really get USA history into their brains while they were here. I also wanted them to see how clean and huge the metro is compared to NYC. I wanted them to be as awestruck and impressed as I was when I first arrived in 1984. Silly me…
I had contacted Congressman Greg Walden’s office months before to arrange for tour tickets to all the tourist spots. Greg and I had worked together in Congressman Denny Smith’s office in 1985, and since then he has gone on to have an exemplary career representing Oregon. He really is one of the “good guys” and works so hard for Oregon every day. Lizzie, from his office, had gotten us tickets for the White House, Bureau of Engraving, and Library of Congress. I was so excited. He’s running for re-election this year; please vote for Greg.
We parked at the metro station, and walked in to buy our passes. We knew what we wanted, but used the wrong machine, so ended up paying $1 more/per ride until we used those non-transferrable passes up. Grr. There were “attendants” there to help, but they were even confused.
Finally boarded the train and the differences from NYC and here were readily apparent to the kids. In NYC, it was loud every ride. Here, it was people commuting in complete silence. Every person had earbuds in and a few were reading. There was no food or drink allowed, compared to the great smells of the NYC subway trains. We were going in and out of tunnels, so it was bright compared to NYC. These trains looked newer, and there was a huge construction project in progress on another set of rails, but the NYC trains had an excellent map of where you were and what station was coming up. The DC trains had old advertisements, and nothing that told where you were. Also missing were the panhandlers. Yes, the kids liked the NYC trains better!
We got off and walked over to the Ellipse in front of the White House. The area wasn’t open to car traffic as it had been when I lived here, but you could still walk in front, carefully watched by about a dozen police officers. We stood and took pictures and it just didn’t feel real. I had been waiting for so long to show the kids just this spot. We made it! We get to show them the nation’s capitol! I was so happy.
Our tour was for 9 a.m., and we knew we had to be in line by 8:30a.m. The other stipulation was that we have no purse, backpack, water or food. I thought that was kind of crazy, to expect that of tourists, and I thought it every time we went in to a federal building with intense security and guards all over. NYC was already hit hard, and they don’t have near the level of security. Anyway, I took my small purse, and the ranger told me to take the strap off and carry it under my arm, or it would be considered a purse and would be taken away. I looked at other people in line, and everyone’s pockets were bulging. So it’s okay in a pocket, but not in a tiny purse? Seems a little hypocritical to me. Then I laughed. Oh, I’m in D.C. again – the normal rules of common sense don’t apply here!
We went through 3 sets of security to get into the White House. Our name was a on a list, they checked our ID, we walked through a scanner, and we were eye-balled by numerous men. One of the guards made flippant comments when I asked him about his hometown of Miami, and I realized I was old. I couldn’t believe that anyone associated with the White House would be so crass. Oops, it’s 2014, not 1984.
The tour itself was disappointing, too. The kids weren’t impressed, and that made me sad. Due to budget cuts, it’s a self-guided tour, administered by the National Park Service. We were given a map and were told that there were professionals in each room that we could ask questions of, but there were tons of tourists, and just a few of them. I was able to ask one question the whole tour. Maybe someday the kids will appreciate that they were there.
We headed to one of my favorite spots next, the Old Post Office building just down the street from the White House. Unfortunately, Trump is remodeling it, so it was closed. I hadn’t googled it, because it was still on tourist websites. We turned around and walked back to the Ronald Reagan Building, and found the food court in the basement. It’s a beautiful building with tons of space designed for meetings and entertainment. Lunch was okay, but again, the kids were comparing it to the deli in NYC. No good comparison possible!
We headed to our first Smithsonian next, and I had high hopes for it to impress the kids. The National Museum of American History has been completely redone since I lived here, and I was so glad. Before it was rows and rows of glass cases with cards in front giving details about whatever item you could see. Boring. Now it’s interactive, with different levels even inside one exhibit. We started at the top and enjoyed watching Eliza try to be “Rosie the Riveter” for real. The men and women who fought our wars overseas were heroes, but the women who took over the factory jobs at home earned my high regard, too. And people gave them a hard time for “working outside the home”!
By 3:30 p.m., we were exhausted, so we headed to the metro. We passed a mini-McDonald’s truck outside another Smithsonian and couldn’t believe our eyes. We’ve seen McDonalds stores everywhere we’ve travelled, but this was the most unusual. On the national mall?! I guess they do own the country!
We arrived back at the rig after an uneventful metro ride. The traffic was really bad, so we were happy that we hadn’t driven in. The dogs were so excited to see us and we spent the rest of the evening trying to recover and get ready for the next day.