Patapsco Valley State Park
Ellicot City, MD
It's the Labor Day Weekend and you know what that means in Washington DC? No rush hour traffic, not on the highways or on the Metro trains. No politicians or their staff in town, even the police force that you see everywhere seemed a little harder to spot. I would conservatively estimate the amount of automobile traffic and Metro passengers to be about 1/10 of what it was on the last two trips back on Tuesday and Thursday this week. Of course the tourist traffic at the National Memorials and Smithsonian Museums has about tripled, along with the amount of trolley riders. You can't have everything!
Tuesday's trip was mostly outdoors, riding the Old Town Trolley to see most of the major National Monuments and Arlington Cemetery. Thursday's trip was mostly indoors, exploring three Smithsonian Museums during the day and taking the Monuments by Moonlight trolley ride at night. Today, Saturday, we're back outdoors to see all of Capitol Hill and the White House, a few more of the National Memorials, take a special Metro ride out to The Pentagon to see the 9/11 Memorial they have there.
Once again taking the Green line train into Washington DC we arrived at the Welcome Center to begin our Old Town Trolley ride. We purchased a package deal from Old Town Trolley that included two days of riding, The Arlington Cemetery Tour and the Moonlight Tour, all for a little less than $100 per ticket. You may have noticed all the American flags flying at half staff in our recent pictures, it is in respect for the passing of Senator John McCain this week. All over Washington DC this weekend there are numerous ceremonies planned and we will have to plan around several of them. The White House and The Vietnam Veterans Memorial are both early morning ceremony locations but they will have been finished before we arrive there. The only evidence we saw that anything special occurred at these sites were the trailers set up with portable stages on them and the long line of Port-A-Poties lining the sidewalks. Of course when we got there they were all padlocked and we couldn't use them. Guess it was outside of the time frame agreed upon with the rental company!
We hopped off the trolley at Stop #2 and walked a complete lap around the White House grounds. Tours inside of the actual White House have to be prearranged months ahead of time through your state Senator's Office. FBI background checks have to be performed and they only allow a limited number of people on the tours. We didn't do that so all we got were a few pictures and we were back onto the trolley for a ride to our next stop, Capitol Hill.
Capitol Hill tours are a little more relaxed, no need to make an appointment, although you can if you know ahead of time exactly when you'll be in town. For those without appointments you can stand in line and wait! Today that wait was with several hundred other people and you could expect to be in line for several hours. The same thing goes for The Supreme Court Building and The Library of Congress. Neither Tricia or I are terribly politically minded so we opted to pass on the tours and settle for a few outdoor pictures of the magnificently ornate buildings.
Having had enough of Capitol Hill we once again boarded the trolley to travel over to the FDR and MLK, Jr. Memorials. They looked so impressive at night we decided to revisit them in the daylight. After these two we moved over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for a daytime visit. Afterwards while we were waiting to reboard the trolley it began to rain, not just sprinkle mind you, but rain hard for about 15 minutes. By the time we got back on the trolley we were soaked and so was the fresh air trolley. We were handed paper towels upon boarding to dry up the puddles of water in the seats, I didn't bother. The last trolley tour loop begins at 5:00PM and it was close to that now, so we traveled to the nearest Metro Station and boarded a train that would take us over the Potomac River to the Pentagon.
Now most people know what the stars and stripes represent on our United States flag. A lot of thought went into designing the flag, one star for each state in the union and presently there are 13 stripes representing the original 13 British colonies, even the colors are meaningful. Red signifies hardiness and valor, White, purity and innocence, and Blue, vigilance, perseverance and justice.
It wasn't until we arrived at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial and were handed a card explaining the memorial that I became aware of how much thought and symbolism there is in every single memorial in Washington DC.
There are 184 Memorial Units in this memorial, one for each of the victims at The Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77. They are arranged by the age of the victim, from 3 to 71 years old, and each victim has their name inscribed on the upper portion of their own bench (i.e. Memorial Unit). If they were traveling with family their names are inscribed on the lower portion of the same bench underneath the flowing water that lights up at night. Take notice that the benches face two different directions. If the victim was in the Pentagon you'll see the person's name inscribed in the end of the bench and The Pentagon Building in the same view. If the victim was on the plane, you'll see the person's name and the direction of the plane's approach towards the building. Everything here is on the same angle as the collision path of Flight 77. There are other more subtle things going on here but you get the idea of what I'm trying to convey. More than 1100 submissions were considered for this Memorial. Every Memorial in Washington DC has a large amount of thought and symbolism in it's design that goes mostly unnoticed.
With all our sightseeing done for the day it was time to head home. I asked the Green Line Metro Station attendant where I should go for a unique to Washington DC quick and easy dinner and he didn't hesitate to answer with Ben's Chili Bowl for a Chili Half-Smoke. Ben's is a landmark here in DC, so much so that they renamed a portion of U Street, Ben's Chili Bowl Way, as it passes by the restaurant and gift shop.
I'll try to describe what a Chili Half-Smoke is for those who are unfamiliar. Open up a fresh large hot dog roll, imagine a quality hot dog, no a spicy sausage, no combine both of those together into one oversized delight of a meaty meal, add yellow mustard and chopped white onion, then put the all important chili sauce on top and you have a Ben's Original Chili Half-Smoke. What a delicious combination! Add fries and a drink and you've got a meal fit for a king, or President in this case.
STATS FOR TODAY - 18,843 steps or 6.7 miles
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