Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Trip to Washington, D.C. - Part 1

I left for Washington, DC on Thursday, August 27th , flying American Airlines. The plane left on schedule and it took 1 hour and 28 minutes at 37,000 feet. The dome on the Capitol Building is clearly visible as we landed at Reagan International airport - a very impressive sight.

The Metro System in Washington is beginning to show its age but is still the most efficient way to travel around the City. I took the Yellow line to Metro Center and then transferred to the Red Line to Silver Spring, Maryland. (The natives will correct you if you say Silver Springs.) It was the evening rush hour, so thousands of people were on their way home. The system runs in the red, of course, so now there is an additional charge if you ride during rush hours. They only lost $195 million last year, which all of us helped to cover with our tax dollars, I am sure.

Years ago, we took my grandson to Washington and his favorite thing was to ride the Metro, so we daily rode to the end of all four lines. He was around 5 years of age then and the Metro was new and Silver Spring was the end of the Red Line. Now there are two more stops and there is also a new green line.

It is a long walk to the Hilton for an old man and it is uphill. All of the hotels were filled in downtown Washington, at least those I could afford, so it was necessary to move to the suburbs. The Hilton is an older building but it has all the Hilton features and the rate was $109. Spent the first evening in my room. The Hilton could definitely improve their choice of TV cable stations.

The next morning, I had breakfast at the hotel. The buffet actually included biscuits and gravy. Not quite as good as those made by Carolyn Klein for our church dinners but it was OK. Then it was downhill to the Metro and to Union Station. The old station has been restored and is beautiful with its statues and art work. Apparently many people on the East Coast use the trains to move around and it was obvious that many thousands who came to the Restore Honor rally passed through Union Station.

Now, I switched to the double deck bus for transportation, $35 for a two day pass. First stop was the Capitol Building. My original plan was to spend a day at the Library of Congress, but apparently a lot of people had the same idea.. Not willing to wait, I boarded the bus again and rode for awhile. I wanted to get a feel for the distance I would have to walk on Saturday, so I got off at the Washington Monument. There was a long line waiting to enter. From the Monument you can clearly see down the Mall in both directions. Tomorrow, the area from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial would be filled with people. It’s nearly a mile, past the new World War II monument, to the place of honor for Mr. Lincoln.

The WW II monument is relatively new, so I spent some time there. It is beautiful and well done. A large fountain in the middle with stone monuments around the exterior, it is a fitting tribute to those who served and those who died. Back on the bus again, I rode for awhile. We passed the large building for the Department of Education. Actually, its one of 6 buildings where 3,600 people work. That does not include the 10 regional offices which employs 1,400. Since the Constitution leaves education as a State responsibility, you have to wonder what those 5,000 people do all day. I thought about getting off and seeing Arne Duncan, but then I knew he was busy writing his speech for the Rev. Al Sharpton rally on Saturday. With his strong, independent Scottish heritage I wonder how he really enjoys Washington? But, of course, he gets to play basketball with the President.

My next stop was the Willard hotel. President Lincoln lived here when he first arrived in Washington and I always try to walk through the lobby whenever I visit. Glenn Beck stayed here and probably Sarah Palin, the nightly rate starts around $2,000.

Its now the middle of the afternoon, so I walk down to Harry’s bar for lunch. They have the best hamburgers and fries in all of Washington. After eating, I walk over to the White House to see if the President is home from his most recent vacation. Its always interesting to see who is protesting in the little park across the street. I swear the same guy who was protesting the war in Vietnam is still there protesting the war in Afghanistan. At the Federal Triangle, there is a Starbucks, so I order the iced milk and coffee. It’s a hot day, but I don’t think they sold much iced milk and coffee. I was the only one buying and soon discovered why.

Its now late in the afternoon and thousands are streaming out of the office buildings. Lots of well-dressed young people, carrying briefcases and computers heading home for the weekend. The streets are full, not only with people heading home from work, but the “rally people” have now arrived with patriotic t-shirts and carrying American flags.

I get the Yellow line to Gallery Place and transferred to the Red line out to Silver Spring. Half way up the long hill is a McDonald’s so I stopped for ice cream and coffee and then continued the long walk to the Hilton.

Tomorrow is the big event!

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