The sad fact was that the trip on which Bob and I had embarked just one full week before had come nearly full-circle and was drawing to a close. We were in the heart of Washington D.C. at the busy Hotel Harrington when we awoke on Saturday morning, August 11. We had just one day left to try and cram in as much as possible in Washington D.C. and the nearby Arlington Cemetery. The temperatures had returned to an acceptable level, but the sun shone brightly above in the early morning hours as we left our hotel. Bob made the three block walk to our rented car while I watched the luggage. We met up and headed toward the National Mall.
It wasn’t too difficult to find a place to park near the Memorial plaza at this early hour of Saturday morning. Bob and I both agreed however that this city’s layout must have been designed by madmen. Of course, these were the same guys who were the forefathers of our country, chief among them George Washington. By 8:00am we were at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was very poignant to see all of the personal artifacts left at the base of the display. Bob and I made an etching of the engraved name of Vincent Benegas, the father of one of Bob’s students.
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – with the Washington Monument in the background
One of the items left at the Memorial
From there we walked over to the Lincoln Memorial. It was nice to be here at this early hour, before the crowds came to gawk. I captured a few nice photos of the Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and the Washington Monument (like the one at the top of the posting for instance). We didn’t have time to actually go up in the Monument. I sat on the steps of the Memorial and simulated the scene from In the Line of Fire with Clint Eastwood. I chose not to run through the reflecting pool like Jenny in Forrest Gump.
Hand on heart at the Lincoln Memorial
Casual at the Memorial – Just like the back of a penny
We then wandered over to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. These 19 life-like statues of soldiers trudging through the fields are hard to appreciate by simply looking at photos. Artist Frank Gehry really captured the concentration and anguish of this American squad of military men on patrol in his rendering. We then took a long walk down the plaza to the National World War II Memorial. This was the newest addition to the National Mall, having been dedicated by President Bush in 2004. This was also the only one of the memorials that I hadn’t seen before. My Grandpa Murphy is a WWII veteran and got the chance to visit this memorial earlier this year, so I felt a special connection by being here.
The amazing Korean War Veterans Memorial
One view of the WWII Memorial
Salutin’ at the fountain
A nice view of the WWII Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the background – beyond the Reflecting Pool
After 90 minutes or so at the National Mall, we headed back across the Virginia border into Arlington National Cemetery. Although Bob would have preferred to take a tram around the cemetery, I convinced him that we could handle walking to our various intended destinations. My aunt Diana had charged me with locating the plaque that she had found out was dedicated under a sugar maple tree honoring my Grandpa’s WWII Squadron: the 446th Bomb Group. It was actually very simple to find, but it was quite a lengthy walk to get there. Unfortunately, Diana hadn’t learned of its existence until after her visit to Arlington with my Grandpa earlier this year. I thought it would be a nice touch to give Grandpa a call and tell him where I was.
Arrival at Arlington
Notifying Grandpa of my whereabouts
The plaque under the maple dedicated to the 446th Bomb Group
Our walk then took us past the changing of the guard of the Unknown Soldier, which had already begun. I had seen it before so we only watched from afar. Also in this area were the gravesites of boxer Joe Louis and actor Lee Marvin, which coincidentally enough were positioned side-by-side.
Between Lee Marvin and Joe Louis
Next we visited the burial site of President and Mrs. Kennedy and the eternal flame burning at their resting places (seen in a separate posting on President Kennedy). I had visited this grave before during my visit to Arlington in 1998. Of course, we also paid our respects to the President’s younger brother Bobby Kennedy, buried alone on a large hill off to the side.
At the grave of Robert Kennedy
We then visited the burial area of many of our country’s Justices of the Supreme Court, followed by a visit to another former Chief Justice – and President of the United States – William Howard Taft (which can be seen in the President Taft posting). And finally we scouted an area with a slew of WWII generals. Unfortunately, we were getting hot and tired and could not locate the grave of George C. Marshall, although we did get to see Omar Bradley.
Me and Oliver Wendell Holmes
Me and Omar Bradley
We then headed for Mount Vernon, former home of President George Washington. It shouldn’t have taken anywhere near as long as it did to get there, but we took an incredibly long detour – again lamenting the insane configuration of roads leading out of D.C. Two hours later, we arrived at Mount Vernon and headed straight for The Mount Vernon Inn for lunch. Here we finally were able to get that delicious peanut soup that Bob’s face had been all upset for. And I must say, he had good reason to crave this stuff. Ah, I can taste it now! We saw the graves of the Washingtons, I toured the home and had a quick look at the museum, while Bob just opted to go through the museum more extensively rather than visiting the home. We had spent three and half hours there by the time we went through in the gift shop gathering up magnets and the like. We departed at about 4:00pm. See more about my visit to Mount Vernon in the George Washington posting located here.
Ready for peanut soup – as I always will be from this point forward
At the Mount Vernon visitors center
Unfortunately, the Washington Cathedral that we had missed seeing both on the Saturday of my arrival and on Friday – both times due to those crazy highways that took us nowhere – was closed by this time on Sunday. Therefore, I missed the one and only Presidential grave of the trip – that of Woodrow Wilson. I had been inside the Cathedral during my visit in 1998, but did not find the President then either. So if there’s one thing that merits a return to Washington D.C., this is it.
Instead we checked into our Holiday Inn near the Ronald Reagan airport at about 5:00pm, the most luxurious and modern lodging of our entire week. There was nothing special about it to behold, but boy, was the bed ever comfortable!
At rest – ready to enjoy the complimentary bottled water
Bob had wanted to take me to Ruth’s Chris Steak House during our last two roadtrips in 1998 in Columbus and 2004 in Indianapolis, but somehow we never made it. Both of our mouths were watering when we found out that Washington D.C. actually had two of the restaruants there to choose from. We toyed with the idea of taking a shuttle into D.C. from our hotel to avoid the driving fiasco that was sure to take place, but ended up braving it in the car anyway.
Unfortunately, we had no reservations for this Saturday night, so by the time we actually made it there, crammed our rental car into mid-size spot in a claustrophobic parking garage run by two unsavory characters, we made it into Ruth’s Chris only to be put onto the waiting list. And there we sat eating mints. We tried to jump on a seat at the bar that was occupied by some fool that insisted on eating dessert, but that failed. Finally by 8:00pm, Bob decided to give up. But just then, he was told that they would open up a place for us.
And so we were able to savor the famous filet mignon sauteed in butter, the caesar saled, au gratin potatoes, and creme brulee. Couldn’t argue with that. And Bob treated me to this meal which in total came to about a c-note and a half. It was a most pleasant way to end the trip, although by the time we were finished it was after 9:00pm.
Ruth’s Chris – and the creme brulee – at last!
We went back to the hotel, sorted through all of the junk we had picked up during our week and fell fast asleep. Bob’s flight on Sunday morning was very early so he headed out before dawn’s first light, returning the rental car at Dulles. My flight wasn’t until 12:40 so I got to sleep in a bit before boarding a shuttle to the airport. Despite the airline thinking that my Transpod device might be a bomb and holding me up for fifteen minutes while they gave my luggage the once-over, my flight (my 12th and final one of the year) was smooth sailing. My layover in Atlanta was a long one during which I enjoyed Quizno’s and chatting a bit with Jackie in anticipation of her picking me up that evening. It was good to be back, but it was an extremely enjoyable, eventful, and most memorable trip – and I can’t wait for the next one.
Return to the beginning of the trip here…