Monday, June 11, 2007

Washington, DC

After spending three days on the Blue Ridge Parkway, it was time for us to get off the mountain and see our nation's capital.

As you can see in the picture above, the hotel was kind enough to block off a spot next to the hotel for us to park the motorcycles. As you will hear later, this is somewhat of a mixed blessing.
Here we are at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza.

Paul's wife Jill flew out tonight, and will be riding with us for the next week and a half.
Right after she arrived, we decided to take a walk around the city.

The Washington Monument looks pretty cool at night.

The White House used to be along Pennsylvania Avenue, but since the Oaklahoma City bombing, the Secret Service has been isolating it more and more from city traffic.

Now there is a huge park on each side of the the White House, where pedestrians can walk. It's both beautiful and sad. Beautiful in the respect that clean, clear parkland in the middle of the city is really nice. On the other hand, the White House is becoming more and more of a fortress. I once read that the White House was the crown jewel in the US Penal system. I guess the price of becoming President is that you're completely cut off from the world.

The next morning we decide to walk towards the mall. Did you know that Washington DC has its own Chinatown? It's not quite as cool as the one in San Francisco, but its cool none the less.

The Archives are where they keep the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It's interesting to note that these are hand-written documents, not printed ones. As such, they have all sorts of spelling errors. But unlike something written with a word processor, all you can do is scratch out the error and keep going.

After seeing the FBI building in dozens of movies, it was kind of cool to see it in real life. The story around town is that upon seeing this building, J. Edgar Hoover said it was the ugliest building ever built. You have to wonder what he thought after they told him they were naming it after him.

One of my personal favorites is the Old Post Office. It looks like an old Germanic castle. Pretty cool!

After a bit of wandering, it was time for us to wander over to National Geographic.

Over the last few years, Paul and Jill have been going on quite a few National Geographic trips.
During their exciting adventures, they've make friends with some amazing people. Amongst them are
Boyd Matson and his lovely and talented wife, Betty Hudson.

Boyd is the host of many National Geographic television programs, including National Geographic Explorer and Wild Chronicles.

Anyway, Boyd was kind enough to give us a guided tour of National Geographic.

After our tour, we went walking around the city...

One thing that was pretty cool is that they new have segway tours of the city! If we had more time, I definitely would have tried one out.

We made our way over to the Holocaust museum.

The Holocaust museum is a lot like Schlinder's List. Really well done, and enough of an emotional train wreck that you would find it difficult to visit it very often.

Here is a wall with hundreds of tiles, each with a picture done by children across the United States.

I wasn't allowed to photograph most of the permanent exhibit, which is really a shame. If you are ever in Washington DC, this exhibit is definitely worth your time.

After the museum, it was time to meet Boyd and Betty for dinner at their home in McLean. I didn't want to invade their privacy, so I resisted the temptation of photographing all the cool stuff in their house. All the Myan, Incan, Thai, Indian and other artifacts, the amazing pictures. They have an original picture of Albert Einstein when he and his wife visited an Indian reservation, and the chief put him in the whole ceremonial headress. Betty is definitely a hoot, and a wonderful evening was had by all.

When we returned to the hotel, we were greeted by an inebriated guy who was really interested in our motorcycles. Between requests to ride the bikes, to guard them all night, and other rants, we finally managed to get back into our hotel.

Unfortunately, this upset our new friend who decided to throw soda all over the bikes, and to try and kick my motorcycle over! This made enough of a racket that the security guy came around and chased him off before he could do any real damage. Grrrrr... I hate it when people do bad things to my motorcycle!

The next morning, after washing the motorcycles and making sure there wasn't any real damage to the bikes, it was time to head to the Smithsonian.

We started at the National Air and Space Museum, which may be my favorite place in all of DC.

They have some incredible history, including the capsule that took Neil Armstrong to the moon.

One of the most significant displays has to be the German V2 Rocket. These rockets killed thousands of innocent civilians in England during the blitz. They also are the design that all American and Soviet rockets are based upon, making it the reason we were able to walk on the moon.

They have a copy of the Hubble Space Telescope...

And here in my favorite part of the museum, we have The Spirit of Saint Louis, Glamourous Glennis and Space Ship One. The Spirit of St. Louis is the plan Charles Lindberg flew across the Atlantic, Glamourous Glennis is the jet that Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in, and Space Ship One is the first private rocket to ever make it into space.

Of course, the most famous aircraft of all time is the Wright Flyer, the first airplane ever flown.

Time was starting to run short, so we got on a tour bus and spent the next couple of hours driving around the city.

It's a shame the main Smithsonian building is closed for the next two years.

The bus tour took us past most of the famous memorials. Here is the Jefferson Memorial...

And the Lincoln Memorial...

And the Ford Theatre, where President Lincoln was shot.

Here is the National Cathedral. Actually, its real name is "The Church of Peter and Paul" which is a far better name than "The National Cathedral"

The most affluent neighborhood in all of DC is Georgetown. In the 1950's they passed a law making it illegal to change the look of any existing building in Georgetown. Since then they've come up with some interesting ways around the issue.

As you can see in this picture of the Spanish Embassy, they are allowed to build a completely new building behind the facade of an old one. Here the three story facade of the original building, acts as the shell in front of a six story, modern, glass and metal building.

After our whirlwind afternoon, Paul and Jill went off to see their niece and I had dinner with my long-lost friend Colin. You can see his new puppy Molly is friendly, and adorable!

We ate a lot of really tasty Ethiopian food. I do love to eat with my hands.

It was a great couple of days in Washington! Now its time for me to sleep. I will blog again soon!

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