Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day Three! (Heroes, Heights, History)

Plan for this morning was a straightforward one. Get on the bus and spend time at Arlington National Cemetery.

However as with many things in life things don't always go according to plan. The coach our group used had a mechanical issue and needed to be looked at so the company elected to send a different one.

Problem is the coach and replacement driver didn't arrive until about an hour behind schedule. We all get on the bus with no problem then it’s head to Arlington. Given this was weekday traffic going from Northern Virginia into DC you can guess how congested it was.

Not only did we get started an hour late but then it took us an hour just to get to Arlington. And once we actually arrive it takes quite a while to get in due to all of the other tour buses heading the same way. By the time we’re on foot and walking into the cemetery it's wall-to-wall people, primarily student groups such as ours. As were running behind schedule we were told we can't spend too much time here. After instructing us on cemetery protocol our guide takes us to the JFK grave then it's over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Actually between the two we also got to see Robert Kennedy's and Teddy Kennedy's graves. I don't step forward and don’t take a picture. I have my reasons. 

Since I was with a group of young people and was in heroes’ ground I decided to keep those reasons to myself at that time. However I can share them here. I have no respect or regard for either man. Both possessed rather poor character. Bobby Kennedy was notorious for being vindictive and cruel. And Ted Kennedy?  Well what can I say about his personal life that wasn’t covered by the media for decades?  Just seems a shame to me that these two are buried among some of the finest American veterans ever.  

But to counteract that, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is still a very moving and dignified ceremony. This event is one specific thing I remember from my childhood, having been to Arlington many times during during those years. Great to hear the steel plates on their shoes and the loud clear whack it generates.  As a young boy I always wondered why my dress shoes never sounded like that…

Sadly, that is as much time as we were allowed to spend in Arlington. Reason? We had to get to the Washington Monument as our tickets were for 10:30.  Nothing like racing across the Potomac River, winding up in stop and go traffic, and being on pins and needles making sure you got there before 11 a.m. Because once the clock hit 11 our tickets were no good.

We made it. Then it’s wait wait wait until we finally get our elevator ride to the top. Yes I'm afraid of heights and being up here isn’t real comfortable for me. However after a few minutes I get over it and start taking pictures.

The weather was in our favor this day!  Nice clear sky, some wind but it blows away the pollution and haze. As a result, good pictures.

Time for lunch. Our afternoon agenda is Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court. The only one of these we actually got to enter was Library of Congress. And even that again was wall-to-wall people. Even though it's touted as a public library it really isn't. Definitely some places in that building you cannot go.

We get back in the coach and the plan next is to walk on Pennsylvania Avenue right front of the White House. However as soon as we got there we found out that the street was being closed for about an hour. No doubt somebody was either coming or going. Oh well.  Make lemonade out of lemons and go to the World War II Memorial!  

Plan for the evening is to spend it all in Arlington. First we are dropped off at the Marine Corps War Memorial.  This was when I posed for the picture shown here. I did however get a chance to walk around of the other side (the sunny side) and get a better lit shot.

It's time for us to take a break from the tourist stuff and spend a little time at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Since Geoana and I went to the Mall Of America last summer, let's face it—this place is small potatoes. However we do get a chance to relax and eat here. I also made a quick visit to the Apple Store, have to take a gander at the Apple Watch.

Back on the bus and it's time to go to Fort Myer. The reason? Twilight Tattoo.

I've never seen this event.  Closest I've ever gotten was a video mom and dad brought back from Scotland, it was a Scottish version of Tattoo.

This one was a bit different.

Enjoyable. Great music. Good entertainment. And of course it can't be a military event without firing off mortar and rifles.  (Blanks, of course.)  Still makes a loud noise and a whole lot of people jump.

By the time this event is over we're all bushed. Back to the hotel. The kids do some swimming and several of us grownups decided to have an adult beverage. For the third night in a row I fell asleep quickly.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day Two! (Walking, Walking, Walking, With Some History Thrown In)

Rise and shine the following day after about five hours of sleep. May not sound like myuch however I'll take five hours versus zero hours from the night before.

And since there's no airport or airline stuff to deal with today guess what? I can have as much coffee in the hotel lobby as I care to.  Since I was up early getting breakfast was no problem.  I ate about as soon as the staff set up the buffet.  

Agenda for today?  Jamestown followed by Colonial Williamsburg.

Before the trip I was busting my brain as to whether I have been to either of these places when I lived in Northern Virginia as a child. Since nothing about these places jogs my memory I figure I have not been here. Mom and Dad—feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

While on the way to Jamestown we do pass by a jewel of Williamsburg Virginia, that would be the college of William and Mary. Our guide mentions it's the second oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, just behind Harvard. In looking at the buildings of this institution only one thing comes to my mind: the lyrics of a steely Dan song. From “My Old School:”

“I was smoking with the boys upstairs
when I heard about the whole affair
I said oh, no
William and Mary won’t do

Well I did not think the girl
could be so cruel
And I’m never going back
to my old school”

(Written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen)

By the time we get to Jamestown Settlement the song is gone from my brain.  We disembark and split up into two different groups and are warned that the tour runs about two hours. Hey no problem for me. After all the sitting I did yesterday I'm more than happy to walk. 

Interesting to learn about colonial life and to realize that we have it extremely easy compared to what those folks had to deal with. That last part really hit home to me when we tour the ships. No Love Boat cruise here! Unless you’re a member of the crew you spent a good deal of the voyage below decks amongst a whole lot of things that truly didn't smell very good (animals, animal waste, human waste) and since there was no showering or laundering of clothes guess what?  You don’t smell too good either…

Time for lunch! More Italian food.

After lunch it's time to do Colonial Williamsburg. The best part of this segment is we get to split up and go where we want, do what we want provided we stay within the confines of the Colonial Williamsburg Park. The head teacher does give us some pointers of interesting places to visit and very strict instructions to meet back at specific place at specific time.

There's plenty of staff dressed up as historical figures and even more staff dressed in period costumes. Encountered fife and drum and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Our afternoon closed out with a celebration of the surrender at Yorktown.

It's back on the bus and we head to our hotel in Falls Church Virginia. This evening I'm not nearly as exhausted as the prior one however I still fall asleep mighty quick.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day One! (Drive, Fly, Then Walk A Lot)

Last week Geoana and I joined a group of 27 junior high students and 10 parents on the annual 8th graders trip to Washington, D.C.  Since we’re traveling out of a small town on the Kansas prairie the journey is rather involved.  We began the excursion late Sunday night.  And by late I mean leaving town on the high school bus (the nicer of the two owned by the district) at 11:30.  Not a.m.  

Adult leadership anticipated the ride out of town with a destination of the Omaha airport would be a quiet one.  Not so.  The young people engaged in various types of conversation well into the wee morning hours.  Overall us adults weren’t quite so talkative.  However because I find it difficult to sleep in an upright position I was awake for just about all of the ground journey which means when we all arrived at the Omaha airport I was dead tired.

What about a morning dose of coffee? I’d rather not drink a diuretic right before I get on an airplane if you know what I mean…

Then it's time to get on the Southwest Airlines flight and as Southwest is well known to do (my family calls it cattle car airlines) every single seat was sold.  Since I had a group C boarding pass I wound up in a middle seat.  Turned out OK, still could relax just a bit.  Still, no sleep.  My cup of hot bean juice during the flight would’ve prevented that anyway…

After a short flight we land in Chicago, get off the plane, and I go in search of breakfast.

Then it's time to board the plane again, this time we're headed for Reagan National Airport.  After having my second cup of coffee on board the plane I normally would look out the window to enjoy the view but due to the clouds I just couldn't see much.  Pretty uneventful flight overall, then land, get off the plane, get the baggage and then it's time for us to truly have some fun.  Let the sightseeing begin!

First we are welcomed by the coach driver who establishes the rules right up front: he runs a clean coach and we are to keep it that way.  Then we meet our guide— a knowledgeable woman who has lived in the DC area for 28 years and loves it.

They didn't waste any time as right away we were over the Potomac River into the District of Columbia and right to the Jefferson Memorial.

After that it was to the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial then we had to rush back on the bus and head over to Ford's Theatre. 

Standing in line for Ford's theater we noticed that DC is quite hot and humid however once we got inside it was good to learn the powers that be didn’t adhere to pure historical aesthetic in that air conditioning was present and strong.  Our group viewed a lot of the exhibits and then it was time to get seated in the actual theater itself.  Shortly afterward a park ranger came and gave about a 30 minute talk on the events of Lincoln's assassination. Nothing against the Ranger, but I nearly dropped off a few times during his talk and in talking to students and parents afterward I wasn't the only one. Keep this in mind: we were seated, it was air-conditioned, the lighting was subdued and we were all sleep-deprived by that point.

Still Ford's theatre was fun. Then of course we go across the street to Peterson House.  Just prior to our going into Ford’s Theatre our guide mentioned one thing we need to see at Peterson in addition to the room in which Lincoln died.  This is a stack of books that reaches four stories high.  In total about 7000 books.  All devoted to Lincoln in one way or another.  Our guide pointed out Lincoln has had more books written about him than any other historical figure save for Jesus Christ. I tried my photographic best in the rotating staircase but these pictures just don't do the stack justice.

And then after a respite at a souvenir shop it's back on the bus and we're headed down towards the Lincoln Memorial and west end of the National Mall. The weather also decided to do its normal late afternoon DC rainshower so break out the rain ponchos!  (You did bring them, right?)  Next up is Lincoln Memorial which was wall-to-wall people. You always want to take good pictures in a place like this however due to the crowd there's no way you could either take a good shot without somebody walking into it or you yourself walking into someone else's picture. I finally decided to stop trying to get that elusive wonderful photo and just take pictures wherever I could.

Staying on foot, and still raining by the way, we then headed to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This, the King Memorial, the WW2 Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial all were very meaningful for me because they didn't exist back when I lived around here.  The Korean War Memorial just like all of them is a wonderful work of art unfortunately because of the rain pouring and still a whole lotta people I didn’t get a great picture. 

After that we all walk across to the other side of the mall to the Vietnam War Veteran's Memorial.  It's not just the wall by the way, it includes two statues—one near each end.  One statue commemorating the soldiers and one commemorating the nurses.

Time to get back on the bus, take off those rain ponchos, try to shake out the water then we head over the Potomac to Virginia.  We dropped off our tour guide then stopped for supper at an Italian buffet (could it be that teenagers like to eat pizza?  A lot?)  Afterward we're on Interstate 95 headed down towards the Williamsburg area.  By the time we got to our destination for the night all of us were so exhausted we probably couldn't even have told you what day it was.  It didn't take me long get to sleep.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

Good To Be Back

Geoana and I visited Washington D.C. and northern Virginia this week, we returned to town a little after 6 this morning.  

Even though I had my Air with me I decided not to do any postings until the return home.  Certainly don't want to advertise I'm out of town.  Recall Allstate's boffo Sugar Bowl commercials from a few months ago?

Since I'm still sleep-deprived and trying to regain my bearings I won't write a lengthy entry today.  However a photo from one of our destinations required posting here as soon as possible so the entire Geofamily can have a laugh.  

For the readers not related to me:  I lived in the D.C. area as a youngster, this was over 40 years ago.  Given my age at the time I remember some sights more than others.  One that sticks in my mind well is the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  Or as I referred to it at the time:  "Those guys messing with the flag."  

Unfortunately our group had to rush through this site so the picture was taken from the north and somewhat into the sun.  Plus the friend who snapped the pic of Geoana and I wanted to be sure to get the flag in the shot as well.  Still, enjoy:  

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Thoughts on Fort Worth

What prompted the title of today's entry was the news of the death of Jim Wright.  

I never lived in that area of Texas and hadn't even heard of the man until he became Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.  

After Wright resigned I recall my dad saying things that weren't complimentary of the former congressman.  He seemed to be one of only a few Democrats  Geodad really disliked (I imagine LBJ would be at the top of that list).  

And during lunch today when Geogal shared Jim Wright had passed my reaction was one of surprise. I thought the guy had died several years ago.  

Reaction from north Texas is very likely mixed.  His detractors possibly include those that were opposed to the Wright Amendment.  

However if one looks into the aviation history of the area it seems reasonable that the Wright Amendment was written and enacted.  While DFW Airport is now one of the largest and busiest it wasn't always that way.  

For more background look at this page I found some time ago.  

The story of GSW Airport is certainly a sad one.  One passage near the bottom of the page states it well:

It was truly as if they built this beautiful airport & nobody ever came...

After reading all that material now I understand why Fort Worth residents of so long ago had such enmity toward Dallas.