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Capitol Building to Lincoln Memorial

April 11, 2013

Washington DC – Saturday, April 6

The drive down from Massachusetts was a long one, and I got in late – not that I mind! I’ll be staying in Maryland for the week – about 15 miles from the heart of DC. That’s a necessity for a variety of reasons that include affordability, parking and pet policies. So, I’ll have to “commute” in every day and I’ve heard bad things about traffic and parking, but I’ll just have to make the best of it.

I got kind of a late start today due to my late arrival last night, but I did a little research into donation possibilities, and discovered the DC Central Kitchen is open on both Saturday and Sunday. This is a big organization which offers several programs, and I decided to shop for Healthy Returns, their children’s nutrition program. Their programs have so many participants that when people make a food donation, they ask for a minimum of 100 servings of whatever the donation will be. I was able to get 10 boxes (100 packages) of fruit snacks that were made with real fruit, and 13 boxes (104 bars) of nutri-grain bars. That took care of my Saturday donation. Then I wanted to get something to help with one of the adult programs for my Sunday donation. The website for DC Kitchen has several wish lists, and one of the items on their “on-going” wish list was $5 gift cards to Target or Giant – a local grocery chain. The gift cards help establish trust when the volunteers are reaching out to people who need assistance. Since I happened to be shopping at a Giant, I got 11 $5 gift cards for that part of their program, and I decided to make both donations at the same time, so I’m not repeating traffic and parking issues to make 2 separate donations.

I’m not familiar with Washington DC at all as far as driving, so I studied a map for a while. The map on my iPad is really good, and I plugged in the address of DC Central Kitchen, and inexplicably, the iPad started talking to me like a GPS. I don’t know how that happened, but it sure came at a good time! Since it was a Saturday afternoon, I imagine the traffic was lighter than normal, but it was still kind of a crowded, stressful drive in, and driving doesn’t usually bother me like that. There wasn’t always sufficient merging space when entering a highway, and one entrance ramp simply had a sign saying “no merge lane” and there’s a u-turn across several lanes that needs to be done, and there’s an awful lot of construction so some streets are closed. I was relieved to get downtown where the traffic was crawling instead of speeding! The dome of the Capitol Building is visible from quite a distance, as is the Washington Monument, so they’re good landmarks, and I was happy to see them. Once downtown, I made a few wrong turns, and discovered there’s a lot of one-way streets to cope with, but I found the DC Central Kitchen, which isn’t far from the Washington Mall. Because it was a Saturday, there were more parking spaces available that are off-limits during the workweek. So I didn’t have trouble parking near there, but it’s not a place most people drive to! I began to think it was a good thing I made my first drive downtown during the weekend. One of the DC Kitchen volunteers helped me carry in the shopping bags, and the gift cards were stowed away. There were quite a few young men hanging around the building, which is quite large. This organization feeds up to 5000 people a day including their partner organizations. Their website had an interesting clip called A Day in the Life of a Meal. There were 7 steps: 1) Trucks go out to pick up unused food from food service organizations and farms 2) volunteers quickly unload it 3) more volunteers sort and store it – some things like bread and rolls can be included in the current meal that’s being prepared 4) food prep – during the course of a year, up to 12,000 different people help with fixing 5000 meals a day 5) meal packing 6) meals are stored in insulated carriers with the menu attached 7) distribution to all their partner locations. None of this was going on at the time I was there, but once again, I was amazed at the numbers of people they help. I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the building because I try to be careful to not include any of the people on assistance in pictures, and I didn’t want to ask them to move just so I could get a photo!

I didn’t want to leave the van parked there, so I found my way back to the Capitol area, and despite congested traffic, I was lucky enough to get a good parking spot without too much searching. Then Tula and I set out for a long walk, and I immediately forgot about the traffic woes. The central part of Washington DC is an awesome walking city, with a lot of green space, and all those monuments and memorials. It was wonderful. The Washington Monument must be undergoing some renovations, because scaffolding covers the bottom half of it, and there’s ugly construction fencing around it, so a few of the sidewalks are closed. Because it’s so tall, the Washington Monument is a little deceptive as far as distances – it looks closer than it is! It is a really long walk from the Capitol building, down along the Washington Mall, then the reflecting pond, past some of the memorials,and then down to the Lincoln Memorial which anchors the end opposite the Capitol. We passed a memorial for the signers of the Declaration of Independence – 56 of them!! There were a lot of bottlenecks of people at the pedestrian street crossings, and sometimes only 15 seconds for the crowds to cross the street. The famed cherry trees are blooming, and a national park ranger said they should be at their peak on Tuesday. Good timing on my part! Although the Cherry Blossom Festival also accounts for some of the crowds. I crossed a couple more streets and made my way over to West Potomac Park and walked along that for a while. I started walking over the bridge to the Jefferson Memorial, then decided to save that for tomorrow. We had a long walk back as it was. Wandering all around the monument and Capitol area helped me get my bearings and figure out what’s where, and that made me feel more comfortable about the city. Plus the National Park service had a really good map. There were lots of tour buses around, and lots of food vendors and souvenir vendors working out of trailers along major streets. We eventually made our way back to the van, completing the first 8 miles of DC walking in one fell swoop.

Since there was quite a bit of construction on the outbound roads, I decided to simply take the first highway that I came to while leaving the downtown area, figuring any of them would eventually come to the Beltway around Washington DC, and I could find my way back to the motel from there. My plan worked pretty well, and the ride back to Maryland wasn’t as bad as the drive in. I went back to the grocery store I’d been in earlier, and got some groceries for the week since I have a microwave and mini-fridge. Then I got back and got settled in a bit more.
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One Comment
  1. Darrel Doehr permalink

    I think we need to see the real star of this journey, Tula, in more pictures 😉

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