Monday, September 2, 2013

Road Trip finale: a few final sights

Sunday, September 1 - Before heading back to the airport, I took the last hour and a half to do one final swing of sightseeing.  I knew I only had time for one stop, so I chose the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall - a nice final stop given our American History tour on Road Trip 2013.   

And finally, as the shuttle was pulling up to the airport, I saw one last presidential monument as a fitting end to a very patriotic last couple of days:  a statue of Ronald Reagan at the entrance to the airport that bears his name.  Road Trip 2013 has successfully concluded.  And now the big question: where to go on the next road trip?  Any suggestions?

Brunch with good friends

Sunday, September 1 – After a morning run around the Washington Mall and along the Potomac, I met my friend Corey and his family for a fantastic brunch at the Fairmont Hotel in DC.  It was really great to see them and catch up.  The kids are so cute and lots of fun!  The photo of Corey and me was taken by his very talented photographer daughter!

Hello Washington, DC!

Saturday, August 31 - Since over the past 10 days and in the weeks before our trip we were telling people that we were doing a loop starting and ending in DC, it was great to actually enter the District.  The Washington Monument is currently encased in scaffolding to repair the cracks it incurred during the earthquake a few years ago, so it looks really cool when it is lit up at night.  (Sorry, I don't have a nighttime picture.)

Mount Vernon

Saturday, August 31 – After dropping Sandy off at the airport, I wanted to make a quick visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, since I hadn’t been there since I was a kid, and it was a nice complement to our American History tour stops at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg.   Plus, it’s only 15 miles from National Airport.

After watching the introductory video in the Visitor’s Center, my first thought when I saw the house was, “It is beige!”  In every picture I’ve ever seen of Mount Vernon, it was white (including postcards and in the video at the Vistor’s Center).  I obviously had to get to the bottom of this.  I learned that the exterior of the house is not just regular paint.  It is “rusticated.” 
The house is all wood, but the exterior façade was made to look like stone by chiseling wood to look like large bricks, and then coating it with sand.  The house has been restored to be in the form it was in in 1799, the year that Washington died.  They learned a couple of years ago that Washington had it rusticated using sand from a quarry nearby (which was free), instead of buying bleached sand.  This sand had a beige tone, which leads the experts to believe that Washington had it rusticated in this color at one point, rather than white.  The tour guide also said that they believe the rustication has helped preserve the wood façade over the many years.

It’s also interesting to visit a place like this by yourself, since most everyone is there in groups.  It’s kinda fun, since you can wander and linger as long as you want.  I also found that people find it easy to ask someone who is alone to take their picture for them.  I was happy to do so, but then asked them to reciprocate.  It’s a great way to meet people!

My last stop before heading out to DC was George and Martha Washington's tomb, which is in a nice spot below the estate and fields.

Airport Farewell at Reagan National

Saturday, August 31 - After 10 days on the road -- 10 days that went by way too fast -- I dropped Sandy off at Reagan Washington National Airport to catch her flight.  It's amazing how much stuff you accumulate in the car over the course of 10 days, so we're always strategizing on how to slim our possessions and food down as we get close to the end.  The leftovers usually involved food, drink and the cooler.  I decided to spend one more night in DC in order to see a few more sights and see some friends, so I was going to hang onto the cooler for one more night.  However, we had a half of a case of Diet Sierra Mist in the trunk.  So, when we were at the gas station right outside the airport, I said to Sandy, "let's see if this nice lady at the next pump is interested in some pop."  It can be a little awkward saying, "Hi, would you like some Diet Sierra Mist?"  She smiled and said, "I don't drink it, but I'm on my way to a party, and I'm sure that they'd love to have it!"  Jackpot!  It's always great to see our extra stuff get some good use!

So, we said a fond farewell in the rental car return area as Sandy headed to the terminal, and I went to pick up another car for my extra day.

As I was loaded town with all of our remaining stuff, it occurred to me -- this is a perfect example of the benefits of doing CrossFit!  Functional movements in action!

Family visit in Virginia

Saturday, August 31 – Sandy also has some family right along our route this year.  Her mom’s cousin Ann and some of her family lives just outside of DC, so we stopped to meet them for a quick lunch before Sandy had to get to the airport to catch her flight home.  We first met Ann at her house, and then met her daughter Marcia and her husband Greg at a restaurant nearby for lunch.  It was so great to see them – thanks for a great lunch!

Goodbye Williamsburg

Saturday, August 31 - There's never a dull moment in Williamsburg.  Just after we'd checked out of our hotel and were heading back to our car, two guys in colonial garb walked up to the front door - one with a gun, and one with a drum.  Sandy asked one of the guys, "Is something going to happen?"  His deadpan response: "Yes, ma'am."  OK, so we can't get into the car yet.

The guys walked into the lobby and yelled, "Troops, fall in!" and the drum started playing.  Both kids and adults fell into line, and they had a brief drill in the courtyard on commands like "about face."  Then she soldier said, "We will march to the Capitol."  And sure enough, they did.  The lady in the purple shirt bringing up the rear was particularly into it.  As we got in our car and started to drive down the street, we could still see them marching!  Well done, Williamsburg.  Well done.

Tavern Dinner and Ghost Tour

Friday, August 30 – After all of the running around on this super hot and sticky afternoon, we were ready for some refreshment at the Kings Arms Tavern.  We learned that you never really knew what you were going to be served at a tavern in the 18th century, and it wasn’t always good.  Our server
brought us a taste of some of the relishes that may have been served: corn, smoked ham, and pickeled watermelon (and that's beer in the mug).  She also told us back then if you asked someone how their meal was, and said “I relished it,” that was NOT a good thing.  It meant that they had to add relish to make it taste better!
We were also serenaded by musicians walking around the tavern, including this guy, who was playing the Smallest Violin Ever.  We asked him about it, and he said they were made for easy traveling.

In addition to the musicians wandering around, there was also a woman named "Sara" who was in character, walking around talking to people at their tables.  She was very friendly, and came over to our table and was telling us about what was going on in town that her mother operated the tavern down the street.  She was also carrying a big basket with a white tablecloth covering whatever was in it. Since Sandy is always curious, she asked her what she had in her basket.  Sara then got a horrified look on her face, and said that Sandy was very forward for asking such a question.  She then looked at me and said that it "had been a pleasure talking to us until she asked that question," and abruptly walked away.  She never came back!  Well... she certainly gave Sandy a schooling in 18th century manners! 

After dinner and after dark we took a haunted tavern tour, where our tour guide walked us around Colonial Williamsburg in the dark, telling us present-day stories of ghost sightings in colonial garb in the taverns and buildings around town.  She told us that when people have taken photos of this building at night, they have seen ghosts in the window.  Do you see anything??

Colonial Williamsburg fun

Friday, August 30 - Because we arrived in the afternoon, we did a 2-hour blitz hitting the highlights around town before things begin to close down at 5pm, which included a tour of the Governor's Palace, the Capitol and a review of the troops with a fife and drum band in Market Square.

Yes, we really did this!

Sandy posted a great video to Instagram of the troop review on Market Square:

Loved how the guys turn and cover their ears.

 And just in case you forgot yours at home...