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Star Spangled Banner

April 13, 2013

Washington DC – Sunday, April 7

Although I was still a little worried about the drive downtown, at least I had a better idea of what to expect, and it went okay. I simply took the first parking space I could get that was reasonably close to the mall area, and it was a little behind the Capitol building. The cherry trees are just beginning to blossom so there’s a lot of pink around. Tula and I started walking down the mall again, and this time when we got to the Washington Monument, we turned and started making our way across some roads and bridges to head over to the Jefferson Memorial and the Tidal Basin. There are 2000 cherry trees all around the Tidal Basin area, and the 2-mile path around it was so crowded with people it took quite a while to walk all the way around it. It was so pretty it was worth it. Then we visited the FDR Memorial (which also has the only statue made of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the Martin Luther King Jr memorial which were in the same general vicinity. I hadn’t seen these before and I think they’re some of the newer memorials. On the way back toward the Washington Monument, I saw a ranger station and stepped in to see about passport stamps. The ranger told me the cherry blossoms should be at their peak within about 48 hours since the weather conditions are just right to make them all “pop”. I decided I’d continue walking all the way down to the White House. The boulevard in front of it is closed to traffic and makes a really nice place to walk. It was pretty to see with all the flowering trees. Then we started making our way back, passing some of the biggest concrete buildings I’ve ever seen – the Treasury Department Building, the IRS building, EPA etc etc. The street crossings were really crowded, and there’s people on bikes to add to the mix. I’m actually seeing a lot of red Washington DC bikes and I read the info on one of the stands – it sounds like there’s about 150 bike stations in the city, and you can just rent them for however long you want, and return it to any of the stations.

By now Tula and I had done a lot of walking and I knew we’d have more than 8 miles when we got back to the car. And since I had made 2 donations yesterday I was in good shape with that. So we made our way back, and then I thought I’d drive around just a little to see what the parking availability would be like for weekdays – both today and yesterday I had parked in places that wouldn’t be available the rest of the week. So I discovered there are lots of potential (and free!) spaces along both sides of the mall, and the signs all say there’s no parking from 1-10am, and after 10am people can park up to 3 hours. And there was meter parking along the side streets. As I drove around one more time just to check out any other parking possibilities, a space opened up just a block or so away from the Museum of Natural History. So, I took advantage of the opportunity, and went to the museum. For some reason (it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Washington DC) I thought the Smithsonian was one giant museum, but it’s actually a collection of 19 museums and galleries, plus the zoo, and they’re free. I always like natural history museums, and I liked this too. They had the usual exhibit of animals, but upstairs they also had the “Bone” exhibit, which was a whole exhibit of animal skeletons – a very different way to look at them, and that was one of my favorite exhibits. And I took a look at the Hope Diamond in the gem exhibit, and a mummy in the Egyptian exhibit. From there, even though my feet were tired, I walked another few blocks down the street to the American History Museum. Nearly one whole side is undergoing renovations, but I enjoyed the rest of it. They had George Washington’s mess kit (I had seen his tents in Yorktown), and a piece of the Berlin Wall, and a crumpled beam from the World Trade Tower. The display that had the biggest impact on me was the flag display – after just recently being in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay area and reading and seeing monuments about the War of 1812, and the British burning down towns and Francis Scott Key writing the Star Spangled Banner, to see the actual flag that had been flying over Fort McHenry in 1814 that inspired the Star Spangled Banner was a very unexpected treat. The flag was in a low-light exhibit, and is an enormous flag – currently measuring about 30×34 feet. It used to be about 45 feet long, but in the 1800s the owners of the flag snipped off pieces of the flag – and one of the 15 stars – to give as mementos to their houseguests. And you can see where they just snipped off pieces. So I was looking at the actual flag that was seen flying over the fort at dawn, signifying the Americans had hung on and defeated the British in that battle – no one on the ships out in the bay knew the outcome of the battle until they saw whether an American or British flag was flying over the fort. Considering the British had already been in DC and burned down the Capitol, I imagine there were more than a few sighs of relief to see the American flag. So that was a special display for me – the real star spangled banner – and when I left the exhibit, there was a donation box asking for help to preserve America’s treasures, and I knew I had to go out to the car and write a note and make a donation – I couldn’t resist making a contribution toward protecting America’s treasures, and I had wanted to make a few national type donations this week in the national capital anyway. So I took care of that, and was done for the day – tired, but ahead of the game in miles and donations!
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