We have enjoyed having Drew Cunningham and Taylor Grayson here for the past several days. I believe they have gotten enough American history to last twenty years. We spent Monday doing a Segway tour of the battlefield and Tuesday in Washington DC. Gettysburg is gearing up for the 150th anninversary of the battle next year and officials are expecting four million visitors next July. I can’t imagine how this little town can accomodate that many people.
I have been looking forward to my first visit to DC for many years and was excited to finally get a chance to visit when Lisa accepted the job here in Hanover. Being just 60 miles away we took the first weekend she was not on call to head to our nations capital and see all we could in one day. People Lisa works with advised us to take the train from the “Shady Grove” train station outside DC and ride it into the city to avoid traffic and parking problems. This was great advice and our trip including the drive to Shady Grove took around an hour. We walked in 103 degree heat and crammed as much into one day as possible. Next time we go to DC we will bring more water and use the metro train more. There are things we liked and disliked and for what its worth – here are some of our observations of our nations capital.
Ford’s Theater and the home in which President Lincoln died across the street were our first stops when we arrived. Our first surprise was to learn the theater, museum and house where he died were all free of charge. Did not expect that. We were ushered first into the basement museum and was able to look upon the clothes he was wearing the night he was shot and a glass case displaying the gun John Wilkes Booth used to kill the president among other artifacts. We were then guided into the theater itself. I realized quickly that the theater was still in use for productions and the lighting and technical equipment present was certainly not original. But to see the box where Lincoln and his wife sat on that fateful night was surreal. Preservationists have done an amazing job keeping everything as it was nearly 150 years ago. The home where they carried Lincoln and where he died was also well preserved although none of the furniture in the house is original. The bed where Lincoln died is actually in a Chicago museum. Lisa and I would love to see an actual show here and would love to see their production of “A Christmas Carol” here starting in November. We loved the Ford’s Theater experience and highly recommend it.
We were disappointed (to be honest) in the care and upkeep of the national mall where the famous monuments are located. There is much construction taking place currently including a reconstruction of the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial. I am hoping they plan to pave the gravel walking path around the mall. I could never ascertain if it has always been a gravel walk or just during this construction. In my mind I imagined pristine lawns and immaculate landscaping in this famous area. Not! Of all that I saw and experienced – that was my biggest disappointment. Perhaps when all the construction is complete it will be much better. Lisa and I agree (and we’re serious about this) Disney could give our national parks department some good advice about upkeep and landscaping and probably could do it cheaper than our government. A nice air conditioned train ride around the mall with stereo narration would not be bad either. As hot as it was – they could put Mickey and Minnie out there and it would not have bothered us.
It is at least a two mile walk from the Washington Monument (which is closed due to the earthquake last year) to the Lincoln Memorial. Walking up those steps toward that famous landmark – I found myself sweating and crying at the same time. It had to have been 120 degrees with all the granite around the memorial – but that image of Lincoln sitting there between the engraved words of his famous speech at Gettysburg and his second inaugural address was an unforgettable moment. I was so moved by the words of Lincoln at his second inaugural in particular and can’t imagine a politician – let alone a president – getting away with saying the things he said.
“Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said ‘The judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’.”
I did not realize that the Vietnam Memorial was right next to the Lincoln Memorial. Lisa has an uncle who is memorialized at the wall, Carey Cunningham. We found his name and I etched it with pencil on a scrap piece of paper. I had been told that walking down into that memorial you may notice a strange silence that happens. It’s absolutely true. I was so stunned at how the noice disappeared that I wept openly. Of all the memorials – it was the most moving for me. Vietnam was a war that I lived through as a child and know personally men who served in that conflict. I was surprised I reacted to it the way I did – but not ashamed.
At Arlington we saw the Kennedy gravesites and was impressed with Robert and Edward’s simple wooden cross marking their graves. We watched the famous changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier and was so impressed with the precision and seriousness of the guards watching over these unidentified soldiers. We visited the Arlington House that sits at the highest point of Arlington and was the home of Robert E. Lee. The view of Washington from that perch was amazing. I did not know that President Taft and Kennedy are the only two Presidents buried at Arlington but that actor Lee Marvin is buried there. Go figure.
We were both a little disappointed at the public view of the White House (really not much to see) and we simply ran out of time before we could really see much of the Smithsonian museums. The Air and Space Museum was practically grid lock with people trying to walk through and the American History Museum a little disappointing. (It does house the stove top hat that Lincoln wore the night he was shot).
We saw homeless people, protesters, men in suits and armed guards. There were people peddling water, bus tours, and bicycle taxis. I was amazed at the number of enormous buildings and although impressed with the intricate designs and details of these massive structures, could not imagine why we need so many. I suppose it is our tax money at work – but they may consider selling one of those and giving us a rebate.
Thanks for allowing us to share about our travels. God Bless America and God Bless You!
Lisa and Steve