Tuesday, October 24 – Day 56
It rained overnight but cleared as we made our way to the train and our second day in Washington, DC. Riding the subway is becoming old hat for our group, we can even switch trains without getting lost……so far.
We began our day with a free tour of the Department of Printing and Engraving……. the government building where US greenbacks are printed. We arrived early to a short tour line up.
Once inside the huge building we were escorted down a long hall to an area with several rows of benches where we sat and listened to instruction from a disgruntled young lady obviously not happy with her job.
The lady led us down another hallway past a stack of 1 million dollars in $10 bills, a 2-foot cube staked perfectly under a glass case perfectly.
Most denominations of US paper money are printed here, the remaining including the $100 bill are printed in Fort Worth, Texas. The Department of Printing and Engraving prints about 500 million dollars a day, imagine collecting an hour’s worth………just dreaming.
The Department of Printing and Engraving tour wins second prize for the most uninteresting activities we experienced in Washington DC, the post office museum was first.
Our recommendation, if some other activity seems more exciting, like taking a nap, or watching paint dry, skip the Department of Printing and Engraving.
We crossed the street to the bus stop and waited in the warm sunshine. Our next stop is the 911 Pentagon Memorial. We hopped on the hop on hop off bus and rode across the Potomac River to the State of Virginia and the Pentagon. Access to the memorial is via a tunnel under the highway.
More than 180 people lost their lives in the terrorist attack. The terrorists commandeered a commercial jet and flew it into the side of the Pentagon.
The spot where the plane hit the huge building is unmistakable. The memorial is unique and difficult to understand unless you listen to the recorded phone message describing the design and the theme.
The youngest victim was a 3-year-old toddler visiting the Pentagon with her family, the oldest was 71.
Security is tight around the Pentagon, you must walk a specific route to and from the Memorial and photographing not permitted. I’d hate to think what would happen if you strayed off the path or took a photo.
After the emotional visit, we walked to a café near the hop on off bus stop and had lunch while waiting for the bus. One of the items on the menu was a sampler of deep-fried delicacies of the usual variety except for something no one had seen before, deep fried mac & cheese balls, different and delicious.
Next stop Arlington National Cemetery, a 600-acre rolling parklike area with thousands of perfect white crosses in perfect lines, no matter what vantage point you have they line up perfectly.
450,000 military and top government officials are buried in this sacred ground including many US presidents including John F. Kennedy, the most famous of our time.
Arlington National Cemetery was created during the US civil war on General Robert E. Lee’s property. When he neglected to pay the taxes the government used his property to bury bodies from the civil war.
The General’s family lived on the property for 30 years prior to it becoming Arlington National Cemetery.
The visit to this cemetery was unforgettable. We attended the changing of the guard at “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”, a quiet and precise ritual carried out several times a day 365 days a year. Not to be missed.
Several hundred people joined us including children, the respect for this ceremony was surreal, not a peep during the 20 or so minutes of the ritual not even from the children.
I’m not sure about other countries in the world but the US goes to great lengths to honor their fallen soldiers, good on them, a stark contrast to the disrespect the Vietnam Veterans faced.
Back on the bus for a stop in China town, and possibly a Chinese food dinner. Every town on our trip so far has a China town. Here’s a thought……….. does China have a China town and I guess ‘Chinese food’ is just called food in China? You can thank our son Paul for this analogy.
After wandering the streets of China Town for an hour checking out the restaurants we ducked into a sidewalk bar for a quick refreshment. After enjoying a cold beer the group decided to skip dinner in town and take the train back to camp and order pizza.
Washington, DC’s subway and commuter train service are combined into one system. Not like previous cities on our trip subway trains served the inner city while commuter trains terminate at the main station like Grand Central.
We were able to take the subway back to Cherry Hill in Maryland without changing trains at Union station. Union Station is the terminus for Amtrack, the interstate train service.
If you visit Washington DC allow for a week at least, the Smithsonian’s could take that long alone.
Wednesday October 25 – Day 57
Most of the group decided to stay at camp this morning except for Henry and I. We wanted to see more of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Henry and I gathered the commuter cards from the others and headed to the train hoping the cards had enough credits to pay for our commute and maybe parking.
Success, a free train ride into Washington DC. and the Smithsonian Air & Space Musemun.
The walk from the subway station to the Smithsonian took us through an office district. The streets were lined with more than 30 food trucks preparing for the lunchtime office crowds.
The trucks displayed ethnic foods from around the world, many I’ve never seen before. This would be our lunch stop.
Henry and I were thrilled with the museum exhibits, an Imax theatre film, and a planetarium production. An amazing insight into the past, present, and future of air and space travel.
After several hours at the museum, we headed to the line of food trucks for lunch. What would be our choice of the dozens of tempting meals?
After several laps past the food trucks we decided on Pho, Vietnamese soup. A good choice, a heavy lunch makes me sleepy.
The Pho truck was popular, more than a dozen people stood around waiting for their order, Henry and I approached the window, we were quickly shooed away by the broken English of the cook inside the truck.
The order line was twenty feet back, Henry and I looked at each other commenting about our lesson on food truck etiquette, who’d have guessed there was such a thing.
I looked around at the number of customers waiting and decided the wait was too long and left for another fare, Henry remained. Not far away was ‘the best Philly Cheese Steak sandwich in the world.
The first and last time I had Philly Cheese Steak was disappointing even though it was at the center of the universe for Philly Cheese Steak, Philadelphia. Maybe it was an old horse, not a young Philly?
It’s time to give it another try besides it was one of the choices I could pronounce, and not deep fried.
The Philly Cheese Steak sandwich was great, lots of melted cheese, thinly sliced steak stacked high, fried onions, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. When I saw the size of it I thought to myself I’ll take half home for Lynda………. I soon discarded the idea,………. sorry Lynda.
My sandwich disappeared by the time Henry got his order and sat down beside me on a concrete wall next to an office building, the only seating in the area.
Henry’s soup looked good, full of chicken and vegetables and an assortment of side sauces that may be added to change and enhance the flavor. I asked Henry if it was good, he grunted and nodded, yes, I think?
The afternoon was still young, we decided to walk towards Capitol Hill and maybe take in a tour. As we walked, the unmistakable dome of the Nation’s Capitol didn’t seem to be getting closer, obviously, it’s larger and farther away than we thought.
On the way, we saw the Smithsonian’s Museum of Native Indian History and decided to check it out instead of Capitol Hill.
A great exhibit and a mind changer. Growing up watching Western movies the Native Indian was always portrayed as an insane savage, raping, murdering and pillaging worse than the Vikings.
In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. The American and Canadian Governments continually brokered treaties only to break them almost before the ink was dry. The Governments needed the natives land for settlers.
Settlers cleared land, created farms, hunted and fished depleting resources the natives relied on, forcing them from their traditional lands.
We spent the afternoon in this fascinating museum. After our fill of North American Native History Henry and I took the train back to Cherry Hill Station.
After the train on the way back to camp we stopped for gas and guess what………….another flat tire on my truck.
Henry spotted it while I pumped gas. I dropped him at camp and headed off to a tire repair shop, no time to waste we leave Mary Hill in the morning.
The GPS is invaluable in strange cities, a search of tire repair places brought up several choices including phone numbers.
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I picked the closest and phoned to see if they had time to look at my tire. My concern was another destroyed tire and no access to another of the same size.
Thankfully, the problem was a leaking valve, the valve extension on the rear duallys I had installed back home caused the valve to fail.
So far, the valve extensions have caused two flats, it seems they become detached and flop around. $30 and an hour later all is good and I’m back at camp.
Early to bed tomorrow is another traveling day.