Washington, DC – Museums

So, you can’t go to Washington, DC and not go to the museums.  We have both been to DC before both together and with other people, so have seen some of the most popular museums.  We are sure that there is always more to see the second or third time, but wanted to experience something new.  So, we unintentionally began the tour of the oppressed, visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of the American Indian and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, was different than we anticipated.  It was established in 2016 making it newest addition to the Smithsonian collection.  Obama, our favorite president, presided at the opening ceremony.  I was expecting something along the lines of the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, but while it did not white wash that part of history it did not focus on it either.  It seemed to focus more on the influence and contributions they have made to the American culture.  Sports, music, fashion, journalism, military and other very significant contributions to OUR culture and history. 

Next was the National Museum of the American Indian.  We had the pleasure of visiting this museum with our niece Jenn.  It was established in 2004 so is also relatively new to the Smithsonian family.  It also did not white wash the brutal treatment of the American Indians by Colonialists; or the number of broken treaties they endured.  But did include a lot about their history and beliefs, as well as cultural contributions to OUR country which was once theirs.

Our final stop on the Museum circuit was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  It opened in 1993, but is not part of the Smithsonian family.  One of the things we love about the Smithsonian is that their museums are free, well this one is too.  This was a very moving and scary true story, and as the museum says they are not they answer, they are the question.  How is it possible that this happened??  The sheer audacity is unbelievable, it makes Jim Crow look like Mother Teresa, not really, but damn!!  The time line from 1933 thru 1945, it just doesn’t seem possible, and yet here we are.  Worst part is that it seems that the USA did nothing.  We were aware and choose to completely ignore the situation.  We were dealing with our own recovery from the depression, you know. This museum made the most impact on us, but all were well done.

Peace Love and Life Liberty and Justice for ALL!!!

The US Capital

Nellie really wanted to see the US Capitol up close.  There are still barriers in certain areas and tours are not allowed, but we got close enough to make Nellie happy and saw some other pretty cool things in the process. 

Both sides of the Capitol are pretty impressive, so I have a hard time determining which is the front and which is the back.   But I assume that the side facing the mall, Washington Monument is the front??  So directly in front of the Capital is a rather large memorial to General U S Grant a former president of the US and the general that led the Union soldiers in the civil war.  They are taking a Robert E Lee Memorial down from Monument row in Richmond VA this week, just an observation.    

There are other memorials and statues around the front of the capitol, but none as prevalent, and none that I got a decent picture of.  So, we’ll skip right on to the botanical gardens.   We were only able to walk thru the outside gardens, and wanted to see the First Ladies water garden, guess someone turned the water off. 

But there were some very interesting plants and even some picture plants, didn’t know you could cultivate them in a city, but guess there are plenty of bugs around to feed them, it is DC. 

Next, we passed a Smithsonian Museum we had never heard of, the American Indian Museum.  Worth a longer look, hoping we have the time. 

Public bathrooms are pretty easy to find downtown.  We were on the way to the nearest when we passed the American Indian Museum, the bathroom was actually located at the Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial.  So, we got to see a monument that was not even on our radar.   Note that the steel screen behind the memorial is an artist’s rendition of the cliffs of Normandy.  I would have never known, except a park service volunteer told us.   With some imagination, I’ll buy it.

Next on the tour was the Library of Congress the world’s largest library.  And the Neptune fountain out front.   Not really sure if this is like a regular library or if it contains more important stuff, did not go in and so I still don’t know.  Can we check-out the constitution??  Guess it’s in the Archives Building not the library, who knows?

And the Supreme Court of the United States right next door.  They have been in the news a lot the last couple of years, I’m not really sure how I feel about the current justices’ but sure do miss RBG.

The way I look at it, the library of congress and the supreme court buildings are behind the Capital.  The backside is also the best place to get a picture of the entire building when you are so close.   The Senate Chamber is on the end closest North and the House is on the southern end furthest away; Obvious by the office buildings lining the streets on either side. 

Look at the detail, what a wonderfully beautiful building.  We as a Nation should be proud of actions taken by our government, but some times I wonder, it is very scary how completely divided people are, seems like a breaking point; or has it always been this way and I am just paying more attention…  Beautiful building.  Move on don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Peace Love and Justice for ALL!!

Tidal Basin, Washington, DC

Next stops include Jefferson Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial.  These are on either end of the Tidal Basin, a man-made basin on the Potomac River.  Most of the ground in the area use to be part of the River (mud flats), but back in the early 1900s the City decided to create more public land and a decorative basin.   West Potomac Park is mostly sports fields and monuments; the East Potomac Park is public golf courses. 

The trip around the basis is about 2 miles, right at Nellie’s limit before coaxing is necessary.   First stop is the oldest and most famous along the route, the Jefferson Memorial. 

The Memorial is a neo-classic building with a larger-than-life statue of Thomas Jefferson standing in the middle.  

It looks directly across the tidal basin to the Washington Monument.

Unknown to us, around the bend is a memorial to George Mason.  Who is George Mason (you might ask)??  He was a Founder who wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was later used as inspiration for the Declaration of Independence.  As the sign said he is the Forgotten Founder, and apparently the parks service has forgotten about his memorial too, because this is what is left.

There is also a Memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the west Potomac Park between the fields and the walk along the basin.  It was unknown to us but after walking thru it I believe it is one of our favorites!!!  There are a couple of these man-made waterfalls.

And several FDR quotes etched in the maze-like stone walls. 

Of course, there is a memorial to Elanor, the first US delegate to the United Nations.

And several statues of FDR himself, Nellie particularly liked the one with his dog.  It is a very well-done tribute to a great man. 

Next on the circuit is Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  It is one of the newer Memorials in DC having been completed in 2011.  It too is a moving memorial to a great man.  Not sure if you can read the inscription on the side, but it says “Out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”  Powerful especially with the Washington Monument in the background. 

From these other angles you can see that his stone has been moved out of the mountain to stand alone.  The formal entrance passes thru the hole in the mountain.  There are also several of his quotes included on the granite wall surrounding the memorial.

Final stop is the Japanese Lantern, commemorating the cherry trees surrounding the tidal basin.  Three thousand flowering cherry trees were given to the US by Japan, to honor our friendship in 1912.  Of the 3,000 there are about 100 original trees left, but all are direct decedents.  You can see from the pictures the age of some of these trees.  

And a picnic at the “Floral Library”??

Peace Love and gratitude for the American history we are celebrating this week!!

Arlington National Cemetery

We came back to Arlington; Nellie was left home this time.  This is a very humbling and sacred space as it is the final resting place for over 400,000 US veterans.   The sheer size if it is incomprehensible, the head stones appear to go on forever. 

Although this is a very historic cemetery with many famous residence, it is also still an active cemetery with grieving families burying loved ones on a regular basis. One of the most famous or at least most visited graves is J. F. Kennedy and the eternal flame.  There are also several other Kennedy family members in the plot.  The viewing area was crowded, and with the increase in Covid lately we were uncomfortable going up. 

There was a small path off to the side, that turned out to be the handicap access.  From there we got a nice view of the Eternal Flame, but not the markers. 

Further up the hill is Arlington House which was once the home of Army General Robert E. Lee.  This was a plantation during the Civil War and as the bodies began to pile up, the grounds were used as a cemetery but that was only the beginning.  The home overlooks the Potomac River and the National Mall Washington.  You can see from left to right, the Washington Monument, the Capital and the Jefferson Memorial with Military graves in the foreground. 

An interesting fact is that the façade of the home is not real Granite, but a stucco type plaster put over brick and painted to look like marble. 

Arlington is also known for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there is also a lesser-known memorial to the unknown soldiers from the Civil War specifically.

The main Tomb of the Unknown is a memorial to all US deceased service members whose remains have not been identified, in any US war.  It is guarded 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year; and during the day the guard changes hourly and the ceremony is open to the public. 

The memorial is quite elaborate, here is a view from the bottom.

One of the more interesting memorials is to the Sailors lost on the USS Maine.  It is a replica of the ship’s mast.  It exploded in Havanna Harbor in 1898 under mysterious circumstances.  The inside is hollow you can go inside and the echoes are wild.

One of the interesting things about Arlington is that many of the headstones are not the generic white rectangles that you always see in National Cemeteries.  I have always like the symmetry of headstones in National Cemeteries, they are strangely beautiful to me.   So here are some of the traditional views and some of the personalized headstones. 

There is also a Memorial to Women in Military Service for America, near the entrance, along with the memorial they have several displays cataloging women in service over the years, and currently an interesting art exhibit.  This particular painting spoke to me, named “Out of Silence” by Bethany Ryan an Army Veteran. Many times especially lately, I feel completely out of silence certain things must be said.

Peace Love and Gratitude for those currently serving, those who have served and especially for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to the benefit of you and me.

Alexandria, VA

So far, we have just been playing it by ear, no real plans as to where to go or what to see.  So, I had a nice day planned, avoiding the city proper on the holiday weekend. 

First, we would hike around Great Falls, they had shown the falls with all the extra water from the flooding earlier in the week, looked pretty impressive.  Then a stop by Arlington National Cemetery and a visit to Alexandria’s Old Town and water front.  Nice plans, I thought. 

Well, I didn’t realize that Great Falls was a fee park and our national park pass has expired.  Not wanting to renew right now cause not much use for it in the area we have been traveling, most NPS attractions in DC are free.  They were charging $20 per car.  We didn’t want to spend the day, just a nice walk to view the falls and move on, so no go for us. 

Then at Arlington, we were in the parking deck getting ready to go in, when we decided to check rules for pets.  It is a cemetery not a dog park.  It had not even occurred to me that Nellie would not be allowed, but does make since.  Not all dogs are as well behaved as Nellie and could be disruptive and poop where they shouldn’t. 

Two strikes, but the third was a charm.  Alexandria was nice although we really only walked the riverfront parks and had a picnic under some nice trees.  Picture of DC from Alexandria.

Peace Love and cheers to playing it by ear!!!

More Washington, DC

The next time we ventured into the city, we decided to try the Metro.  First adventure was trying to figure out where to park in the parking deck, most spaces were reserved for specific businesses in the complex or for monthly renters.  We parked hoping the car would still be there when we returned…

Reston is the last stop on the Silver line for now, they have future stops planned, but not active yet.  Of course, face masks were required on all public transportation, but the train was not any near capacity.   Since we had toured the Lincoln and Washington Memorials we wanted to be further up the National Mall and got off at the Smithsonian stop. 

The Smithsonian Castle is the head quarters of the Smithsonian complex.  Thought that they would have maps or other information to share, but if they did it was in the gift shop or an office somewhere?  It was surrounded with beautiful gardens as we approached from the back, which was exit only so we had to go all the way around to enter.  Bathrooms were nice, but that was all we found that was helpful so exited out of the back and went all the way around the other side.  Nice building for a potty stop.

Next stop was the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, the main museum was closed for construction, but the gardens were quite nice. 

Directly across the mall is the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, another outside exhibit to explore.  It was more modern art and whimsical than Hirshhorn.  With a nice view of the Capital as we crossed the Mall.

We then decided to get off the Main Mall and pick out a museum that was hopefully less crowed and therefore safer to explore.  We choose the National Portrait Gallery.  Passed the FBI headquarters on the way.

And a block out of the way the Ford Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was killed.  It is still a working theater, but is not currently having shows.  They do have tours, but were full when we were there, maybe later, would kind of like to do it?? 

Lunch time without a picnic??  We looked for a restaurant with outside seating, and found The Smith with two 2-top tables outside, but they were reserved.  Inside was not busy and felt very safe with plastic partitions between every table and tables not packed in.  The meal was pretty good, but pricey, exactly why we generally bring a picnic. 

The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.  We enjoyed the gallery, but the section for presidential portraits was closed for renovations.   Did get to see our favorite president.  But not his official portrait. 

Peace Love and Grateful for Art Outside. 

Washington, DC

25 Years ago, Wow Just Wow

This is the first time in our over four and a half years of traveling that a major metropolitan area is our main attraction.  Seems kind of weird, really not use to being around a lot of people, using public transportation, all of it.   But all in all, we think that DC was a good choice.  First there are lots of outdoor activities (mostly walking from one attraction/monument to another), 99% of the people seem to be taking Covid precautions seriously and so far, the crowds are not bad.  Wonder what the holiday weekend will bring. 

Day one the remnants of category 4 hurricane Ida was passing thru and although it was not bad here at the campground, there were tornado warnings/watches close by and flash flood warnings.  We stayed home which was probably a good idea after seeing the devastation it caused in New York, New Jersey and other places between here and there.   Missed having dinner with Jenn, but will catchup with her on a nicer day before we leave. 

We are staying in Reston at Fairfax Lake Park.  It is between 30 min to an hour into the city, depending on driving route with or without tolls, and/or taking the Metro.  Then you have parking to deal with, all these issues we had forgotten all about. 

Day two we decided to drive in.  First issue was tolls, we assumed that there would be manned toll booths that could make change or take a credit card.  Guess there are somewhere, but not where we choose to enter the highway, had to find enough change around the car to pass thru and they don’t take pennies.  We got off before the next toll because we didn’t have any more change (it was probably manned), but they wanted more to get off.  Not sure but think we may have passed thru without paying, there may be a warrant for our arrest out there somewhere??  If strange men in dark suits show up asking about us claim ignorance. 

Second issue was navigating when some of the intersections are just messed up (I was navigating), and finding parking.  Jenn recommended an app to find and pay for parking, sounds easy right…  well, it did actually work, we pulled into an empty spot and then used the app to pay.  If you think beach parking is expensive at $5 per hour, we paid $14 for two hours, but we were right next to the Washington Monument, location, location, location.  The app actually does show open parking spots and lets you know in advance how long you can park, but moving around at the same time adds an extra level of excitement, and navigating with a different map, oh my.  I think we can make it easier, yet to be known?

Since we were driving, Nellie got to come and we decided to walk down the reflecting pool from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, thru the shady trees of course.  At the first end of the reflecting pool was the WWII war memorial.  Nice framing for the Lincoln memorial at the other end.  Very respectful.

And the reflecting pool works, check it out.  There was a steady breeze, may get a clearer reflection on another day. 

We passed the DC War Memorial, dedicated to service members from DC who died in WWI. 

The Korean War memorial was on the way as well, but they are reconstructing it.  Maybe another day.  Coming around to the Lincoln Mem, there was a nice view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the background.  Pretty nice view.  Didn’t realize it at the time, but realized later, the elevation rises up to the capital from Lincoln, kind of like a large amphitheater…  Quite grand, and helps with the views. 

Lincoln Memorial, what can you say!!  Brilliant man, many times misunderstood, I believe. 

The Vietnam Memorial, again what can you say??  Incredible and sad. 

Constitution Garden is nice and we saw a truck dog included, The Geese Police.  But they seem to work, didn’t see a single goose on the mall, but they are all over this park in Reston…. Nasty birds. 

We did cross the street for the White House, but did not walk around the Ellipse, Nellie was getting tired and there was not much shade (excuses, excuses), hopefully another day. They are not doing tours at this time, so most you can do is get a closer picture thru the fence.

The National Museum of African American, one of the newest additions to the Smithsonian collection. Not sure if we will be able to go, they are one of the only still limiting admission, presumably because it is so popular that it would over crowd in these pandemic times. They do hold back some same day entrance passes, but you have to check early morning. Will try this in the middle of the week, not Labor day weekend.

Back around to the Washington Monument.  They take tours and go up in an elevator not sure if we want to do this right now, how many people are in the elevator, how long is the ride (can I hold my breath that long or will a mask protect us???  Decisions to make when we are back in this part of town without Nellie.

 The Washington Monument was the tallest building in the WORLD when it was built in 1884, at 555 feet tall. 

Picnic on the mall, and a devilish ride home no tolls you know.  Nice introduction, not sure if more questions or answers.

Peace Love and proud to be an American!!!

Staunton, VA

Our final stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) tour.  We are at the northern end of the BRP and the southern end of the Shenandoa National Park and their Skyline Drive.  We have visited Shenandoa on our travel from Front Royal in 2018 and we hoped to see more of it this week.  But with a little water system issue and a little appendage issue we did not venture out as much as planned, which is fine sometimes shit happens. This is not to mention the severe storms we had day after day after day. But we did manage to complete our summer mission of driving the entire BRP, excluding where the road is closed. 3 sections maybe 15 miles, two bridge repairs Linville River and Roanoke River Bridge and one rain induces land slide. 

This stop we began at the beginning.  Mile marker 0, should have gotten a picture but didn’t think about it until later.  The welcome center has a nice interpretive recreated Blue Ridge farm house and outhouses.  Including a scarecrow in the garden.   

The home.

This piece was interesting I thought it was where you put your ashes from the fire and filtered water thru it to get lye out the starting ingredient for lye soap. 

Nellie checking out the root cellar partially built in to the side of the hill.  I thought most were underground, but what ever works. 

And a “kissing fence” not sure I have ever heard this term although I have passed thru fences similarly designed so that they don’t actually close but prevent easy – straight passage.  Cool name for them, hope I remember next time we see one. 

The Shenandoa Valley on the west on the parkway is part of the “Great Appalachian Valley” Which runs about 1,200 miles from Quebec to Alabama.  It is a chain of valley lowlands and has been used for transportation north and south since prehistoric times, animals and humans. 

The eastern side had smaller valleys and larger mountains nearby. 

On the first day we were followed by a large thunderstorm.  Thunder in the distance and mighty nice pictures where rain blanks the mountain out.

Misc pics

The lowest part of the parkway is in this leg at the James River.  Their visitor’s center is closed and looks like for good.  The shelves were emptied.  But the grounds are maintained with picnic tables, bathrooms and a couple nice walks.  We went across the river on a walkway beneath the parkway to check out the old locks and dams.  It is impressive for the amount of traffic “back in the day”, but we have seen some VERY IMPRESSIVE locks and dams on the St Lawerance River and Soo Locks in Sault Ste Marie between lake superior and lake Huron.  But nice walk none the less.

Otter Creek and Otter lake dam.

And of course, the peaks of otter, curious about the name – named after a person or the animal??  There are three peaks Sharp, Flat and I forget the other at the moment.  We had a very nice picnic and beautiful views.   

Then Our mission was complete all of the BRP that was allowed.  It has been a nice summer quest, with loads of beauty and new information to get misplaced in our brains.  Gave us a new appreciation for our home and adjoining states.  The western states are intriguing since the are so foreign to what we are use to, but sometimes its just nice to know where home is even if it is several hundreds of miles radius around a very undefined point but generally in the USA on the eastern side. 

Next stop the center of Hypocrisy or Democracy, depends in your point of view.  Seriously we are only here for the views and free history!!! 

Peace love and grateful to have a mobile home!! 

North from Floyd, VA on the BRP

The BRP in northern NC and southern VA is vastly different from southern NC.  The mountains become smaller and views of the almost entirely flat piedmont take over the east.  There also seems to be less buffered from private residence and farmland some adjoining the parkway property just in the right of way.  Pretty cool to have the parkway in your backyard or pasture as the case may be. 

Although we have never gone, Gibby and Lydia really enjoy the Floyd Fest. It has been held in the same location for around 20 years and is visible from the BRP. Would be pretty cool to be traveling down unknowingly and see 10,000 people enjoying music just off the road. Gates were closed so this is really all we could see, maybe we will make it one year.

We knew that the parkway was closed in two spots around Roanoke, once for repairs to the Roanoke River bridge and another place for a land slide.  What we didn’t know was that the southern closure had a 13 mile detour.  We hoped that once you were back on the parkway you could fill in going south until the road closure was necessary, but that was not the case. 

And the Abbey, of course every parkway needs an Abbey. Don’t know a thing about it, but it was gated in on Abbey Rd and pretty.

Anyway, not a lot to see between Floyd and Roanoke, but here is some. 

Peace and Love

BRP South from Floyd, VA

This was a pretty informative section of the parkway.  There have been many interpretive signs sharing historical and geological information along the way, but today had a lot of visual examples of some of the historic things we have learned.  One of the places we stopped was the Mabry Mill, the most photographed scene on the parkway. 

The Mabrys mill not only milled griss and cornmeal, but was also used to mill lumber and other things.  Therefore they needed the ability to regulate the water flow, even in low water times of the year, depending on the needed power for the day.   This was accomplished by tapping into two nearby spring fed creeks as well as the main creek.  These canals and troughs were used to feed the mill when needed. 

They also had other outbuildings on the property and park service personnel or volunteers demonstrating different necessary crafts from the period.  The day we were there they had a basket maker and blacksmith. 

There were also a still, wonder if they demonstrate making moonshine too.

And a loom and spinning wheel. 

The mill was very scenic and informative, but the snake in the canal was a little too much. 

At groundhog mountain, although there was not a great view, there was information on the different kinds of wood fencing typically used in the area.  This picture shows a snake rail fence which is easy to build, but requires a lot of material (on the left) and a buck rail fence which works best in rugged uneven terrain.   Not sure what the buck rail is supposed to keep out or in as it could be, but I like the way it looks.  Nellie would get through either one. 

This picture shows another snake fence on the right, a post and rail fence coming in from the left which is sturdy, but requires lots of labor to complete, and a picket or paling rail fence in the middle used mostly to keep stray animals out of the garden (presumably smaller animals). 

We were supposed to get a view of Pilot Mountain as this sign states.  And Mt. Airy where the world largest surface granite quarry is located.  We decided that they must have gone overboard in mining the mountain, cause we couldn’t see it at all.  Haha

Actually, we think that the mountain you can barely see in the middle of this picture is Pilot Mountain.  The skies have been extremely hazy, guess its just part of the summer hot hazy and humid forecast. 

Lastly this little cabin.  Home of “Aunt” Orelean Puckett, who after the age of 50 began midwifing and is said to have birthed over 1,000 babies in the area.  She lived to be 102, and even with all her midwifing she never raised children of her own.  Said that she had 24 (get that 24) children, but none lived past infancy.   She would have needed a bigger place if they had lived, just kidding must have been very sad for her and possibly a reason she became a midwife in her later years, we will never know. 

Few more pictures from the parkway.

Peace Love and grateful for modern conveniences.