Our friends (& family) Allison & John hosted us at their house outside Washington D.C. on Thursday and Friday. John is a US Navy Commander and took a day off to show me around the Washington Mall, White House and Smithsonian Museums, while Shirley visited with Allison, Jake and Lilyanne. John and I left early to beat the traffic and we took the METRO train to the city centre. Everything is much bigger than what I imagined. The "Mall" which I always assumed was a few city blocks long, was probably a half mile. The Washington monument is gigantic and John pointed out the different shade of stones used in construction, as it was built in different stages. Only the reflecting pool was a disappointment because, being muddy, didn't reflect. The capital building was way off in the distance, looking small even though it too is huge.
John pointed out the new WW-2 memorial, which was just built in 2004 during George W. Bush's presidency. Considering the cost and size of the war it was long overdue. The Vietnam Monument had engraved on it the names of all the soldiers who were killed or missing in action, in the order they were lost. There are names of students I went to High School in Illinois with on that wall somewhere, and it doesn't seem all that long ago that 'the draft' was a topic of conversation with all of us nearly 18 year olds. The Korean War memorial included life-size sculptures of soldiers on patrol. Despite the heat of the day (100 degrees F.) you could almost feel the damp misery of the men in ponchos marching. John pointed out that the media often forgets that soldiers choose to go into conflict, know what the risks are, and are willing to take these risks for the principles involved. Closer to noon we went indoors into the air-conditioned comfort of the Smithsonian Museum of Aviation. It had real and replica displays of some of the most famous aircraft, space craft & astronauts involved in the last century's aviation history. I wonder if there was any other time when 100 years made such a profound change in technology - man went from primitive and unpredictable powered flight to heavy-lift aircraft and space travel. Leaving in good time to beat the rush hour, which in Washington is legendary, we were a few hundred yards from the last subway station when some lunatic decided to walk off the platform onto the subway tracks. The train halted, retreated, and dropped us back 5 miles and the delay getting back to the car landed us smack into unforgiving D.C. traffic. Imagine everybody going the same direction and there is absolutely only one way to get there; no short-cuts, not round-abouts, no alternative routes, just gridlock for miles and miles and miles.
We left at 3:00 AM to continue to Shirley's brother's place near Raleigh North Carolina. More about that later.