Day 2: SCURRYING AT THE MALL
The day began with another early wake-up, but I had no problems getting up at 5:30am knowing that I had to give a presentation on this day. To make a long story short, I went through the business aspect of the trip, and it seemed like it went pretty well (at least that was what my gut was telling me). I had always been nervous in the rehearsals before this day, but maybe having the family with me on this trip somehow relaxed me.
Anyways, I was very relieved when it was over by around 3:30pm, and so I immediately headed back to the hotel, where both Julie and Tahia were still out and about taking advantage of their full day of sightseeing. So much for both of them coming back in the early afternoon for Tahia’s nap.
So I called Julie and learned that they were touring the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. It sounded like they were having a great time though Julie told me that they got the hard part of their sightseeing over with. Apparently, both Tahia and Julie walked a large chunk of the western end of the National Mall seeing things like the World War II fountains, the Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial, the front of the White House, and the Washington Monument before checking out the museums.
Julie said she had bought two full-day passes by mistake (she didn’t know Tahia was free) so I only bought enough for a one-way trip into the National Mall area before I would use Julie’s extra day pass fare. I had put $3 on my transit card.
By about 3:40pm, I was on the subway train to the National Mall vicinity. I was already a bit of hot and sweaty mess given the humidity and the four-block walk to even get to the Ballston metro stop. But whatever the case, once I got off at the Federal Triangle, I then meandered about alongside some Roman-influenced buildings, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). I’m sure that latter building would be a place a lot of people wouldn’t mind targeting and channeling their hate and anger.
I eventually made it to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum at 4:15pm where I finally got some reprieve from the heat and humidity by staying within the air-conditioned confines of the museum itself. I was waiting by the big elephant as I was coordinating with Julie about meeting via cell phone (I still had my old-school flip phone and hadn’t made the plunge to go smart phone). Eventually, we would finally be touring as a family together once again as we spent some more time checking out some of the exhibits within this museum.
Every time I think of the Smithsonian, I can’t help but think of the cover of operative Annie Walker on the show Covert Affairs. But what we came to realize was that the Smithsonian was really a collection of museums. I guess the fictional character worked in the fine arts whereas we wanted Tahia to check out the natural history stuff.
She definitely enjoyed being able to hold and touch a live grasshopper as well as a giant larva. She also got to see some live bees as well as some other creepy crawlies like a black widow, a tarantula, and other things. We were too late to check out the live butterfly display.
We also checked out the Easter Island moai statue, which seemed to be a real popular one as well as a T-rex skull and a totem pole nearby. Clearly, it was easy to spend the whole day just within this museum itself, but I was ready to do the sightseeing for DC’s iconic sights like the Lincoln Memorial and the White House, so when we had our fill of the Smithsonian, we proceeded to re-enter the mugginess of the National Mall, and take the train towards Capitol Hill since neither of us had made it to that domed-shaped building yet.
When we got off of the Federal Center stop, we had to walk about 3 blocks or so before we finally made it to the reflecting pool before the Capitol Building at 5:30pm. The grand building once again demonstrated to us the Greek and Roman influence in its architecture, especially since we had seen the real things in Greece and Italy. I guess this was sort of a homage to the Greek’s Democracy and the might of the Roman Empire.
The thunderclouds were really building up and blocking out the sun by the time we made it to the Capitol Building so that kind of muted the colors a bit. Still we probably had perhaps our cutest family photograph in front of the reflecting pool before the Capitol so I was at least somewhat glad that the tripod I was lugging around paid some kind of dividend.
When we had our fill of the Capitol Building, we then walked back to the Federal Center stop where we had to get ripped off on another pair of bottled water (prompted by Tahia’s complaints of being thirsty). Clearly to this point, we didn’t bother finding a convenience store or grocery store where we could get water on the cheap. I guess when time was running short, saving money took a back seat.
When we finally got hydrated, we then descended back into the subway where we proceeded to take the train to the MacPherson Square stop where we thought would be closest stop to the White House. Since Tahia and Julie had already seen this, this stop was mostly for me.
Once we left the train station, we got oriented and proceeded to walk towards what turned out to be the backside of the White House (the so-called North Lawn). There were already a lot of people even over here, but Julie contended it was nothing like the iconic frontal view of the White House. So after getting past the anti-Nuclear protests, the cops on watch, what appeared to be one News cameraman, and the many kids that were here to try to get a closer look at the White House through the prison-bar-like fence, we then proceeded to walk around the White House alongside the US Treasury Department Building.
As we passed by its columnar side facade, I couldn’t help but think this was probably where the decisions were made to keep printing more money and devalue the dollar in the name of staving off the inevitable…
When we finally got to where we were at least somewhat closer to the front of the White House, we could see that there were police or guards shooing people away from the ellipse part of the lawn where Julie told me they were able to get to earlier in the day. I guess when I showed up, it was too late in the day.
So we continued walking further back along the lawn area in the direction of the Washington Monument, where we could at least take advantage of the 200mm zoom to get a decent frontal shot of the White House without the hideous fence making the shot look like we were looking through prison bars.
I guess that was enough for my tastes, and we then proceeded to cross the busy street towards the bustling and extensive lawn area surrounding the Washington Monument.
There were lots of what appeared to be organized recreational softball or kickball games. It kind of brought back memories of my youth when I always looked forward to playing these organized sports growing up. And with the giant obelisk of the Washington Monument as the backdrop, it was quite the place to have such games despite the stifling heat and humidity.
Watching these fully-grown co-eds play the sports, it really seemed to me that these people were pretty good. These certainly weren’t newbies.
Anyways, we were busy staying on the walkways so as to not get nailed on the head with one of the softballs (especially for Tahia’s sake), and we eventually made it to the fountains at the World War II memorial where Julie and Tahia agreed to wait there for me while they were trying to cool off and I would continue trekking towards the Lincoln Memorial.
There was no way they were going to make the long walk from these fountains to the Lincoln Memorial, so I was on my own at that point.
With the stifling weather, I was really taking my time making the 0.8-mile trek past the Reflecting Pool to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I could see up ahead that there were already a lot of people loitering around at the memorial itself so I knew that I would be but one of thousands of people crowding that place even though it seemed like it was quite a bit of a hike to get here in the first place. Perhaps there was a way to drive to some lot nearby and cut down the amount of walking.
I was getting routinely passed by locals who were jogging in both directions. It seemed like running back and forth along the National Mall was a decent exercise route though I swore everything seemed longer and more strenuous given the muggy weather.
By the time I finally made it to the Lincoln Memorial, the sun finally started to show itself as the pop-up thunderclouds were continuing to make their way east. So as I was ascending the Lincoln Memorial steps, I was able to look back at the Reflecting Pool and see the obelisk of the Washington Memorial glowing orange with the late afternoon sun.
I recalled seeing pictures of million man marches where people literally surrounded the Reflecting Pool, and now after making the walk here in person, I couldn’t imagine how many people it took to fill in all that area for a common cause! Wow!
In a way it kind of hit me at that moment what an inspirational leader Martin Luther King Jr. must have been during the Civil Rights movement. More recently, there was the Million Man March, the Obama Inauguration, as well as the Occupy Movement when I recalled seeing similar images of the mass of humanity gathered about the National Mall, and especially surrounding this reflecting pool.
Anyways, I then proceeded to go through the columns and into the chamber containing the statue of Abe Lincoln sitting on a chair with some inscriptions above him. Flanking him were more columns and other inscriptions containing some revelatory words written by Honest Abe himself concerning our Nation at a time of Civil War.
Not surprisingly, it was very crowded inside the Lincoln Memorial so after taking my obligatory shots of the statue, I then went ahead and tried to compose some unusual photos to try to convey just how popular this place was.
After having my fill of the Lincoln Memorial, I started to head back down the steps when I just kept getting drawn by the glowing obelisk of the Washington Monument. So I took some more time to photo the scene while also trying to fight fatigue that was definitely conspiring to make me quit now.
I couldn’t believe that there was a group of well-dressed youngsters seemingly celebrating someone getting married or something. Whatever the case was, I’d imagine it couldn’t have been comfortable in such spiffy clothes under the heat and humidity. At first I couldn’t believe all these folks walked here, but then I realized that they must have been driven here to reduce the walking because I simply couldn’t imagine people walking nearly a mile or so in high heels or something.
Julie and Tahia were getting antsy as I called to let them know that I was headed back to them as I had had my fill of this monument. It was about 7:40pm when I left. I ultimately rejoined Tahia and Julie at the World War II fountains at almost 8pm. Now, it was time to make the trek towards the nearest metro stop which we determined to be the Smithsonian stop.
With our legs practically jello, we thankfully got to the stop then made the transfer from the L’Enfant Plaza to the Archives stop. Once we got up out of the Archives stop (seeing a different part of this stop than yesterday), we then proceeded to walk into the Penn Quarter in search of a dinner place.
We were royally bummed that we couldn’t do one of the Jose Andreas restaurants (which we were well aware of thanks to dining at the Bazaar in Beverly Hills a couple of times) without forking over $100 per person for their Dine and Dash program that apparently we happened to catch during our visit that started this night. So we ended up settling for this barbeque place called the Hill Country Market.
It turned out that the food wasn’t that great, but we were all just itching to get off our tired feet. At least Tahia seemed to enjoy her food as she must have been hungry at the time. She was also very thirsty so all that restaurant water was very welcome.
The only bad thing was that the AC in the restaurant was quite strong and all of us were starting to get the chills. Even Tahia was starting to complain.
So after paying for our bill and leaving the Texas-influenced restaurant, we got back into the humidity, which was actually a little welcome as we made our way past Oyamel Restaurant towards the Pitango Gelato place again. Once again, Julie had her sorbet and I had my vanilla-style gelato flavors. Of course, Tahia didn’t need prompting as she wasn’t shy about taking huge bites of both of our gelati.
Once we had our fill of the gelato, we then walked back to the Archives stop where we then took the subway back to the Ballston stop. Since the train ride would take a bit of time, Tahia ultimately fell asleep, and I knew that I would have to carry her the brutal four blocks back to the Residence Inn.
Sure enough, when we got to the stop, Tahia was draped over one of my shoulders while I tried to support her with one of my arms. Both of us were sweaty messes, and my lower back was starting to feel some discomfort even after walking a block or two.
We finally noticed a 7-11 liquor store across the street from the Ballston stop, but by now it was too little too late.
Finally at 11pm, we made it back to the Residence Inn. I saw a coworker chatting with a college friend and took this time to introduce her to Julie and a sleeping Tahia, before letting them continue catching up while all of us went back upstairs to crash and finally call it a day.
By now, I was feeling like crap as I knew my cold wasn’t getting any better from all the exercise and lack of rest, but when you’re tying to seize the moment, I figured I could take the rest of the week to recuperate before getting back to the craziness of work next week. And the rest won’t stop come tomorrow because we planned on doing Great Falls Park, which was our waterfalling reason to talk about all the historical sites of the National Mall on this trip in the first place.
So with that, we had no problems sleeping and sleeping in for tomorrow morning knowing that the only thing that would force our hand to wake up would be to not miss breakfast which was supposed to close at 9am.