I hadn’t been to DC since before my children were born, and that time wasn’t even supposed to happen. I was in Maryland for training and the instructor got sick. Unexpectedly having the day to myself, I boarded a Metro train and spent the day walking the National Mall, taking in the monuments. One day wasn’t nearly enough and I’ve wanted to return ever since.
My 12-year-old son is hurtling headlong into his teenage years, but he’s not so far gone yet that I’ve become uncool. Wishing to enjoy my stature while it lasts and get in some good father-son bonding, I decided that my sons and I should make a long car trip. DC was far enough away to be an adventure, but not so far away that the drive would be a drag. So when spring break came this year, we loaded up my little car and headed east.
The DC weather could have been better. We didn’t get to see everything we wanted to because it was either raining or cold and windy. We did arrive at the height of cherry blossom season, so the city was full of blooms.
I find the US Capitol building to be awe inspiring, just a stunningly beautiful building. My last trip to DC was years before 9/11, so you could, and I did, walk into the Capitol and just wander around. Today, you have to get tickets in advance for a guided tour. I arranged for the tour, on which we learned that the dome weighs nine tons!
There’s plenty to see inside the Capitol, but when I got home I found I had taken more photos of ceilings than of anything else. The Capitol has some wicked ceilings.
This is part of the dome from the inside. I thought that the line of people around the edge were some sort of carving until the tour guide explained that it was a painting. The four artists who painted it sure achieved some depth!
My other favorite stop in DC, two miles west at the other end of the Mall, is the Lincoln Memorial. I think I could just sit at Mr. Lincoln’s feet all day, looking up at him, studying his face.
We wanted to tour Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was shot, but the lines were so long and the winds were so strong and cold that we settled for exterior photographs and then got hot chocolate at a nearby Starbucks. The building is so big, and the street it’s on is so narrow, that even my 28 mm lens couldn’t capture it all. I took several photos in sequence and let Autostitch patch them together.
We spent a whole morning in the National Air and Space Museum. A family story is that my mother’s father, a mechanical engineer who specialized in designing brakes and airplane landing gears, was on the top-secret team to design the landing gear for the Apollo 11 lunar landing module. I was delighted that the museum had it on display.
We also spent some time in the National Museum of the American Indian. I was hoping to see something about the Potawatomi there since we have some of that blood in our family, but no luck. The building’s exterior is cool, and stands in sharp contrast to the nearby Capitol.
We also stopped by the White House. The boys really wanted to go inside, but you have to give six months’ notice and have the recommendation of your senator or representative. We settled for taking photos from the fence.
We stayed in a hotel in College Park, Maryland, and rode the train into town each day. Our stop was right next to the Navy Memorial. My dad’s father, James W. Grey, was a navy man, as was my father, James W. Grey, Jr., making me the only James W. Grey in the family not to have served in the Navy. Since this was where we began and ended our days in DC, it seems appropriate to end with this photo.
To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!