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Sunday, March 31, 2013


History Muse in Rotunda of Capitol

One advantage to our hotel location is its proximity to monuments, museums,and places of interest.  One disadvantage is because of its proximity to these things many businesses are closed on places for breakfast.  Thankfully we often travel with Jenna and her innate ability to have things she wishes appear, like a Starbucks.  Having discovered the spot we had breakfast by the pound was closed yesterday, the girls said they wanted Starbucks. I said okay and started hitting Google maps on the increasingly handy Galaxy S-III.

"Dad, there is one down here."

"How do you know?"

"I saw it."

How could you, we've never been here or walked or driven in this area.  Let me look on the map."

"There it is...."

Sure enough there was the sign, nestled into a hotel up a street we had not been on, Starbucks.  As we sipped coffee and munched blueberry muffins our topic of discussion was Dottie.  Dottie has been a member of the Smith family since Jenna was a baby.  A small stuffed elephant who spent her early life being transported by having her trunk securely held by Jenna's mouth while she called around the house, Dottie has been across the United States, from Hawaii to South Carolina, Minnesota to Oklahoma, Tennessee to Nevada.  Over the years Dottie would go off on her own vacations to reappear after a few days in a FedEx envelope or under a bed.  It seems Dottie's adventurous spirit has once again gotten ahold of her as it seems she stayed on JetBlue flight 300 when we disembarked in the early hours of Friday morning.

A call to JetBlue lost and found at Dulles Airport turned up no Dottie so at Starbucks we discussed our next steps to bring her home to a very distressed Jenna.

After breakfast we headed back to our hotel where we were picked up by my Uncle Tony and Aunt Mary for a visit to Mount Vernon.  They had arranged a special tour also incredibly beautiful weather for us.  After snow last week, all the locals were  out on the bike trails and walking paths along the Potomac.

If I were to have a second career it would be to teach American history, more specifically our history from pre-Revolution through the Civil War.  My daughters either benefit or suffer from this passion and hobby of mine, depending on point of view.

The opportunity to walk where George Washington walked, go up in the  cupola and survey the Maryland countryside across the Potomac to the east and the Virginia countryside and Mount Vernon lands to the west as Washington did, to see the hogs, sheep and oxen that were direct hereditary descendents of the livestock bred by Washington, fills me with awe, wonder and gratitude.

Following our tour we had a nice lunch at the restaurant on premises (delicious pulled pork sandwich) we headed back to Washington along the Potomac, through Alexandria where we were dropped off at the Capitol for our 3:00 tour.  "There is the 1.2 billion dollar visitor center, you paid for it you should spend some time in it," was the uncly advice.

The tour comprises mostly of commentary on the statues and art work in the Rotunda, which is very interesting but makes for a shorter tour than I imagined.

Following the tour and visit to the gift shop (here is a great lesson Congress and the federal government learned from the private sector, in this case Disney  having you exit rides into themed gift shops) we walked a few blocks to the metro and spent several minutes trying to figure out the rate cards.  Leslie discerned the instructions and produced four rate cards for a brief ride to the stop for the Smith Son Ian (we have now all adopted Jenna's naming of the institute).

When we exited the subway platform and climbed the steps to the station we were in the middle of a huge throng of people passing through the turnstiles going both directions.  Exiting the station and coming above ground in the middle  the Mall, it was filled  with people, and hundreds of them flying kites.

Our objective was the Natural History Museum, Jenna really wanted to see the Hope Diamond and Blaire really wanted to see dinosaurs.  We thought we would have a time church as it was approaching five o'clock and the posted closing time of five-thirty, but once inside we saw they delayed closing until seven thirty to accommodate the crowds.  The crowds in the museum were easily three times more so than our visit the day before at the American History Museum.  We pushed through to the Hope Diamond in its setting made by Harry Winston (either the History Channel or NatGeo has a great show on the designing and making of the setting).

As we worked our way towards the dinosaurs we split up with Leslie pairing up with Jenna and me tagging along with Blaire as she studied the fossils, bones and skeletons.  Rapidly losing steam, I found some energy by watching my daughter as she so intently read about what she was seeing and thinking, "who knows, maybe this will be the spark that sets her off on a career as a paleontologist."

After our wandering we located Leslie and Jenna taking a breather on a bench and headed to the gift shop where we purchased Stampy, newly named pink elephant who is no replacement for Dottie, but a void filler for now.

Announcing my fatigue and the possibility of an on-set of irritability, and it being after six o'clock, I suggested we find dinner.  Several blocks later we sat down at Harry's Bar (which is also Harriet's Restaurant) and quaffed a mug (possibly more than one) cold beer and felt considerably better and ready for what was an adequate but easily forgettable meal.

After our walk back to the hotel Jenna got me the contact information for the JetBlue lost and found back at Long Beach airport.  That led to information that the plane we were on may have headed to either West Palm Beach or New York JFK--providing positive information for Jenna since we will be at JFK next Sunday for our flight home.  

Our vacation is now also a quest for our lost little, tattered elephant.

Smith's with our hosts Uncle Tony and Aunt Mary

HAR, Hogs of the American Revolution, not as prestigious as the Daughter's of the
American Revolution, but tastier

Late afternoon kite flying on the Mall

President Reagan, one of the two statues in the
Capitol from California.  Every state gets two,
California's other statue is Father Junipero Serra


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tiring, Whirlwind, Exhausting, Fantastic

Those were the adjectives used by Blaire, Leslie, Jenna, and myself respectfully to describe our day.  Landing at Dulles airport at 5:00 this morning with minimal sleep on our four and a half flight caught an van to the Sheraton Four Points in downtown Washington (12th and K for those in the know) arriving a little after six; several hours before we would be able to check in.

The very kind last at the front desk tagged our bags to put in storage until we could check in later and suggested we walk a block to Soho Cafe Market for breakfast instead of paying $16 each for the hotel restaurant's buffet.  Soho is a great concept, it has made to order items at a fixed price, our a buffet where they weigh your plate and charge by the pound.  In this city where so many are concerned with what is "fair" this place fits the bill---literally.

After energizing on coffee, eggs, coffee, sausage plus donuts for the girls it was about 7:00 and we headed out into the very brisk mid-forties with low breeze to see the sights.
The streets were pretty empty at that hourand very soon we were in front of the White House being lit by the rising sun.  Whenever I see something like this I think of all those who have viewed this same view over the centuries, our nation's home bathed in the light of a rising sun and in awe of what it represents to our nation and the world.

Continuing our early morning walk we went around the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to the mall where we saw the Washington monument half covered in scaffolding as it under goes repairs from the earthquake a while back.  We headed west and walked around the World War II memorial.

As memorials go this one is somewhat lacking, especially in comparison to the many others in our Capital.

We continued down the mall as a very chilly wind started to blow and we were feeling our lack of sleep.  Ahead of us though was the Lincoln Memorial shining in brilliant sunlight.

As we reached the memorial and all the steps the sparse number of people out and about increased dramatically.

We climbed the steps and did at the spot were Reverend Martin Luther King face his "I Have A Dream" speech and had the girls try to visualize the mall in front of them packed with tens of thousands of people on a very hot August day.

When we went into the temple like setting inside the monument we were soon surrounded by a large group of young black students who were high school agreed.  In front of us and the students stepped an older black man, perhaps young sixties. He began to passionately steak to the students about Lincoln and King.  Why it was symbolic  King chosethis spot to deliver his speech, referencing lines and motifs from King's speech, explaining about checks written that were not able to be cashed, a people who were freed from slavery by the man whose statue we were looking at and seen by people beating King's speech who are not yet truly free. It was a great moment and I was very happy my girls were able to hear this man teach his students.

By now it was around 9:00 and we headed east on the Mall walking back past the Washington monument and to the Smithsonian.

Jenna had us laughing calling it Smith Son Ian and asking why I never told them about my son Ian.  We waited in line for about ten minutes for the museum to open and headed right to the cafeteria for some coffee for mom and dad, cocoa for the girls and a bit of a rest. Then we dove into the exhibits, highlights being Dorothy's red shoes, one of the first Apple computers, a Walkman and Abraham Lincoln's death mask.

After a few hours we headed out search of lunch and went to The Pavilion, which is the old post office building converted to shops and a food court (it seems a lot of cities do this with old post offices).  After lunch we headed to the Supreme Court where we experienced Blaire's highlight of the day as we met several members of the New York Ballet who were performing that night at the Kennedy Center.

After a brief tour of the court we caught a cab to the hotel and were able to check into our room.  By 2:30 deep breathing and soft snores filled the room.  Nap time was very much needed after our long night of travel after a full day of school and work and then about five miles of walking and sight seeing.

Rising the troops in the evening we walked a few blocks to the Capital City Brewery for a couple of pints for mom and dad and dinner for all.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Away We Go!

Here are the girls ready board our JetBlue flight to Washington D.C.  It is a "red eye", which is actually a reverse slumber party as we leave at 9:30pm from Long Beach and arrive at Washington Filed  5:00am local...for those good at clock that will be 2:00am California time.  I'm thinking Friday night be Long day.

I am excited to be leaving my laptop at home and doing all my computing, including writing these big posts on my Kindle Fire.  I am a novice on this so excuse the spelling errors etc.

Weather is going to be chilly,perhaps brush in the fifties but hopefully mostly sunny.

We will be boardingsoon, have nice night and enjoy your offices tomorrow!