Thursday, July 11, 2013

Udvar-Hazy, touring DC and 4th of July

On Tuesday Grandma and Grandpa Hovey came out to the city to meet us. Our plan was to do a tour of the monuments on the Potomac. We bought the tickets for a deal online but since the harbor wasn't near enough to a metro station to walk Jeff dropped the kids off and we went the couple of miles to pick up my parents to join us.
When I got back Ashley begged me to run through this fountain. They were waiting on a hot park bench while she watched child after child enjoying the water in this splash fountain. She didn't want to get in trouble for going in it without asking, but she said it felt like torture.
So of course I let her run through a couple of times.
We fed ducks while we waited for our boat to arrive. When it did we had almost the entire boat to ourselves.
Our tour was not too long (about 45 minutes)

And our guide told us about what we were seeing along the way. Here is the epicenter for the Watergate scandal.

My favorite was his explanation of the memorial bridge. This bridge links the Lincoln memorial to the Arlington national cemetery and is a straight shot to Robert E. Lee's house, which was taken over during the civil war. This bridge was erected after the war and served as a symbolic link between these two men that opposed each other during the war and both worked hard to heal the nation after the war.

After our Potomac trip we went to the National Mall to see the Natural History museum.

While we were there I popped in to get a look at the Hope Diamond...


The museum has a great display of animal life, skeletons and interesting specimens of preserved sea life.
They also had some pretty impressive dinosaur bones.

My Dad said that they are working on the most in tact T-Rex skeleton ever found to put on display at the Smithsonian. He said they might not be there when they have it finished since it will take a couple of years. Mom and Dad are trying to decide where to retire and it might be further south. So...we might be able to explore more parts of the country when they get there.
After a nice early dinner we said our goodbyes to Grandma and Grandpa Hovey and headed back to the hotel.
When we got back Jeff brought Ashley to the pool. I forgot goggles for her so I went on a walk to the CVS pharmacy down the road. No such luck finding any there but when I was coming back up the path I saw my first firefly! I had just mentioned earlier that day that I had never seen one and then here they were. I saw them winking in the bushes as it was getting to be twilight. Jeff caught one for me so I could see it up close.
That night we watched the fashion show and then while the kids went to the dance Jeff and I played bingo. The kids seemed embarrassed when we were in the dance with them so we gave them their space. We ended up playing Bingo 3 nights using as many cards as we could manage to keep up with...but we only won one time. That's OK it was fun trying.
We ended up going to the room first and waited for the kids to get in. They hung out with the Foster family and almost every night the oldest brother would be ordering pizza for them about the time they were supposed to come back. So they had a lot of late night pizza. It was nice that they stuck together and I think that Ashley liked that she got to hang out with the big kids.

The next morning 2 of us had tickets to help out with the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum. Taylor and I were taking a turn to go on the bus. Jack Campbell was Taylor's buddy during the last National Convention but since Jack had a lot of family he was hanging out with this was the only day we saw him.
Jeff was planning on driving our own car and meeting us out at the museum.  Here the kids are waiting for the buses to leave.


The museum was great with lots of examples of aircrafts both new and old, from America and from other countries. I liked seeing the flimsy looking first airplanes to the ones used in the war to space craft.



 I think a favorite for all of us at the museum was the blackbird. The guide telling us about it was fascinating.

Most of the plane is space for the fuel, and the gas tanks leak on the ground because they aren't sealed. When the plane is flying the tanks heat up, expand and the fuel tanks hold tight. One of the facts that stood out the most was that the plane actually grows 6 to 7 inches when flying because it gets so hot and expands!
We also got to see the space shuttle Discovery. That's two Space shuttle's we've seen on opposite sides of the country in a little over a week!

We also saw the Concord from Air France. Its retired now but it would've been amazing to actually be able to take a flight on it. I noticed that the windows were much smaller than a typical jet that we fly on.

Before the bus left the boys all got to try the flight simulator. I made sure everyone was accounted for on the buses and then we stuck together as a family and drove back with Jeff.
After we got back from the museum Jeff, Ashley and I went over to the zoo. We were close to it and this was going to be our last day to be able to try and see it. The boys weren't interested so we let them stay at the hotel and swim.
We knew we had about a 5 block walk to the zoo and it was getting close to closing so we started hurrying. On the way to the zoo tired families were walking back. We were a little worried about how bad it would be since it's hot and muggy outside (though not as bad because it was still cloudy) We got there 1 hour before the zoo closed so we thought we would just see what we could.
One of the things that the zoo was famous for was the pandas so we stopped there first. They wouldn't face us as they were eating their bamboo so we got a back picture and then moved on.
The good thing was since it was late afternoon, early evening a lot of the animals were active. We saw monkeys...
The elephants...

The gorillas who were very active and playful, especially the young one,

and even the lions were awake. The male lion started doing half roars. I was fascinated, but Jeff started mimicking him and he stopped. Thanks Jeff!
There were sections of the zoo we missed but we thought we did a pretty good job considering we only had an hour. On the way home we saw why people were so tired. The only way back out of the zoo is up. It was a pretty good climb uphill the whole way. Luckily there were a couple of misters (Ashley wouldn't let me post the picture because she didn't like her face in it) and a 7-11 where we got ice-cream when we got to the top of the hill.


4th of July morning we came to the lobby and said goodbye to our friends the Fosters. Tyler, his girlfriend Joy, Kayla and Laheri. We originally had planned to watch fireworks in the city and we knew we were leaving for Philadelphia in the morning so we didn't think that we would see them again.

The kids also said goodbye to their buddy Elijah.

Taylor fell in love with Elijah at the convention. He had the sweetest personality and just melted Taylor's heart. He hung out with him at the dance and then during the day when he saw Taylor he said "I remember you! Are you going to the dance?!"
Taylor was excited to see him every time they ran into each other.

So it's 4th of July and we decided that we would start by stopping at the National Cathedral that was only a couple of miles away.

These spires are ones that were damaged during the same earthquake that damaged the Washington monument. They said that some of the spires twirled on their pedestals like a top and some just fell onto the roof below. They are still trying to fix the damage.

When we went to walk inside we found out that we couldn't look around because they were in the middle of a 4th of July concert. But we found out that we could go inside and listen to it. We got the last 3 numbers. There was an organ solo, a choir singing patriotic songs and a brass orchestra. It was a great way to start the day.
After the concert was over we were free to explore and take pictures. The windows were beautiful.
I don't know if you can tell how huge and ornate this alter was but standing next to it, it looked almost 20 feet high.

After the cathedral we headed over to Arlington National Cemetery which was another place we didn't really get to see on our last visit.
The problem was the memorial bridge was closed for the day, the off ramps were closed around the cemetery and we were having a really hard time getting to the entrance. Trying to figure it out we ended up at the entrance to the military base that backs up to the cemetery.
The guy at the gate of the military base wasn't very nice at first but he ended up being very helpful. He asked us if we had some special sticker, Jeff held up his handicap placard and said yes (We knew we got a special pass with a handicap placard once we were inside the cemetery) So he checked Jeff's ID and then realized we didn't have the sticker we were supposed to have (probably something for the military) miraculously he let us on the base anyway.
We followed the road through the base and got to the back entrance to the cemetery. There were two sets of security there, one was military police and the other was with the cemetery. The military policemen was nice and friendly and the next set was not. They insisted that we would have to have a police escort if we wanted to drive through. The military policeman was happy to take us.
Once he took us to the visitor's center he had to stay with us until Jeff went inside and got a special pass. We realized then why he was so nice. He thought we were celebrities. He asked if we were on TV. We said we were once, and he said he recognized us (I'm not sure who he thought we were)

He then asked to take his picture with us and he was thrilled. We were thrilled that he made it possible to get there. As we put his arm around him we could feel his bullet proof vest and you couldn't help being aware of his large gun. Nice as he was it was nice when we could drive away because he started telling people all around us that we were celebrities. Ha ha.

The cemetery was just like you see in the pictures, peaceful and poignant.

You could tell which sections were older and newer.

After we went and saw JFK's grave we went up to Arlington House.
Sure enough from Arlington House you have a straight shot view of the Lincoln memorial across the memorial bridge.

While we were waiting to go inside we got a lesson in the lineage of the house's occupants. A grandson of George Washington who was raised at Mt. Vernon built and owned the house. A lot of the treasures of Mt. Vernon were here. They ended up being saved by the head house slave when she was given the key and a charge to take care of her things when Robert E. Lee's wife was being kicked out of the house during the war. Because the slave's efforts most of all the treasures from Mt. Vernon were saved.
I liked being able to see the house with the period furniture...

and even the original paintings that were on display, painted by the owner.
This was the room where the lady of the house would gather everyone, including the slaves for morning scripture reading.
We even got to go up the steep stairs and see the bedrooms.

After Arlington house our last stop was the tomb of the unknown soldier.  
I felt for the soldier who was on duty. We were hot and sweaty in the shade...

He performed his paces with precision in his jacket and gloves and I was just thinking how hot he must be.  I'm glad we took the time to see it.

 By this point it was getting to be almost 3 and we hadn't eaten lunch. Getting out of the cemetery and trying to get back to the hotel was just about as hard as getting there. All the roads were blocked because things were closed down for the crowds for the forth of July so we kept following our navigation only to be blocked. We were in the heart of downtown trying to get to the opposite side of the mall to get back to our hotel. Finally on the forth or fifth try we found a tunnel that took us under the mall. Once we got to the other side we found a barbeque place for lunch.

When we got back to the hotel all the kids wanted to do was swim.
Jeff and I figured that he and I would take the metro back to the mall just to check out the vibe and leave the kids who didn't want to come with us back at the room. We were going to go as soon as they were done in the pool. Well they met up with the Foster's again...

And Ashley met up with her friend Maia who used to live in California and now lives in Georgia. She was supposed to see her at her camp that was cancelled so she got to see her here.
There pool time ended up taking us until after 8:00 so we just turned on the TV and hoped to be able to watch the fireworks from our hotel room. The Fosters were also too late to go into the city to watch them so we invited them into our room to try and get a view.

Well we realized a few seconds into the show that part of the hotel was blocking our view so we couldn't see the fireworks. Susan (their mom) was still back in the room so they called her and she said she could see them better from their room.
So we ran up a floor and tried the view from their window.  It was better but not by much....

So they called a friend of theirs from North Carolina and asked how the view was from their room. She said it was good and invited us up. So another jog through the halls..

It was the best out of the three rooms so we watched the rest of it from there. Unfortunately by the time we got there in 5 minutes or so it was done.
Ha Ha, all of us playing musical rooms to try and get a glimpse of a 20 minute fireworks show. The upside was we didn't have to fight any traffic or crowds to get back to our room.  

The next morning we were off to Philadelphia


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