We originally planned to only spend a week in DC but Hurricane Henri gave us a few extra days so we had plenty of time to drive around and enjoy the sites. Since the weather hadn't really cooperated for exploring things on foot, our first afternoon trip was to go drive through Baltimore, Maryland.
Afternoon Drive to Baltimore
Just up the road from where we're staying is Baltimore. On the way up we listened to Hairspray (the musical) to get us in the mood. Traffic was rough going into Baltimore but evened out once we got into the city. Given the circumstances, we elected to just drive around and check out the different sites. Admittedly, we could have probably done more if we weren't exclusively driving around, but it ended up pouring rain for most of the drive so we were limited. We ended up driving back and picking up pizza from a local pizza chain, which was really good!
So. Much. Walking. And we didn't even do half of it. We had three hours to walk through everything we wanted to, which was probably enough time. We parked near the Washington Monument Parking area right on the Tidal Basin and walked north to the Washington Monument. We walked by and went over to the White House, or as close as you can get to it without getting into trouble. There's a second barrier in front of the black wrought iron fence, so if you want a good view you have to stand back about 40 yards or so.
We walked back and headed towards the Lincoln Memorial. We walked by the World War II memorial and Riley stopped and asked why people were putting their feet in the water. At first glance, it might seem a little disrespectful, given the circumstances, but a sign explained that this was okay, that this was done in remembrance of the end of the war in Europe. Riley sat with his feet in the water and looked around, taking it all in.
The Lincoln Memorial is a sight to behold. It's hard to comprehend how big this place is and walking up the stairs takes a bit of effort. When you step inside and see the statue of Lincoln, everything else seems to fade away in the awe of the moment. It's not the statue that is breathtaking, it's what's written on the walls. I read to him the last section of the text of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." Riley may not have understood the vast majority of those words and will forget most of them after today, but I won't.
We stopped by a couple other memorials on the way back to the truck. The Korean War Memorial was under renovation but the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial was just around the corner.
Arlington National Cemetery
Since there were active services going on, we walked through the cemetery as reverently as possible. We stopped a good distance away from a military funeral in time for the guard to render their twenty-one gun salute and play taps. The guns startled Riley, but I explained to him what was going on. We explained to him the importance of the cemetery and who was interred there and why we needed to be respectful of what was going on. It was 89 degrees in the hot sun, but the shade from the trees and the steady breeze provided little relief.
We continued our walk through the cemetery and made it to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just in time for the last Changing of the Guard. Very few times have I been rendered speechless, but this was certainly one of them. What stood out was not just the incredibly precise actions that were taking place, but the worn out paths on the stone walkway. Dedication, precision, the 21 steps and 21 seconds between movements, all perfectly calibrated and designed to leave an indelible memory for those blessed enough to witness the event.
We took a day trip over to Delaware and passed through Annapolis, MD. Didn't get a chance to walk through the Naval Academy but this will definitely be on our to-do list again the next time we visit. Annapolis is a really cool area and we'll have to check it out again the next time we swing through. Also, the bridge from Annapolis to Delaware is freakishly high and disorienting. We didn't like it.
We drove through the town of Mt. Vernon, but we didn't get a chance to tour Washington's mansion since it was under renovation and it was too late in the day. We did get a chance to walk through a nearby park that was once owned by Washington along with checking out one of the forts on the property as well.
We're headed to Accord, NY for a few days before finishing the drive to Bar Harbor, Maine. I'm excited. In less than a week we'll be enjoying high temps in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-50s. Glorious weather!