Showing Her Age (and Her Character)
Along a Country Road - Manyplaces USA
We pulled out of the Hononagah Forest Preserve on Tuesday, September 17, 2010 with an element of mixed emotion. On the one hand, we got a lot of elective work done on the Pilgrim to make it more livable and had several routine maintenance tasks performed to keep her “land worthy” for the next segment of “The Great Adventure.” On the other hand, there were numerous family members and friends we didn’t get to see for a variety of reasons. Without question, we were looking forward to our Washington DC visit. Some time back, I had requested a tour of the White House through our Silver City born and raised US Senator Jeff Bingaman and, while in Rockford, had received word that our request had been approved for Friday, September 17. Also, Senator Bingaman’s aide had made arrangements for a staff-guided tour of Capitol Hill on the preceding Thursday. Of course, a major reason for my long-standing interest in visiting Washington was the Vietnam Wall.
Since I hope the RV lifestyle remains in my future for several years and since we would be passing through America’s RV manufacturing heartland (northern Indiana), we set aside three days to visit manufacturing facilities
to learn as much as possible about the various construction methods and materials. I avoid Interstates when possible, so we headed southeast toward the Chicago suburbs and meandered south and east through a multitude of municipalities. Once we crossed into Indiana the urbanization waned, and we made our way to Beaver Ridge Family Camping Park in Lakeville IN. Beaver Ridge is a nice, quiet, shaded park with mostly seasonal campsites - indeed; many of the sites have RVs that appear to remain on location during the off season.
We toured a total of five factories, and the tours varied as much as the tour guides. For example, the Jayco tour is offered at scheduled times during production hours for whoever shows up and was a “cookie-cutter,” canned presentation of only a couple of the working departments. OSHA and the insurance company probably placed the limits on the tour. Newmar offered a scheduled group tour that started with a movie and a chat with the President of the company and ended with a tour of the entire facility after production had ended. At the Gulf Stream factory, we showed up at the advertised time; however, the regular tour guide was
Can't See This From The Interstate
Harrison County Courthouse - Cadiz OH
unavailable. The receptionist went out of her way to find another person to give us an impromptu one-on-one tour. The Cedar Creek and Sunnybrook facilities require an appointment but then offer an individualized, after-hours tour of the entire facility. Both of those tours went from start to finish and gave us an incredible opportunity to ask questions. Much was learned.
On Saturday, September 11, we left Lakeville IN for Washington DC. Along the way we made stops at Tepee RV Campground in New Philadelphia OH and Hidden Springs Campground in Clearville PA before arriving at Cherry Hill Park in the Washington suburb of College Park MD. The Tepee RV Campground was completely unoccupied when we arrived, had full hook-ups with no frills and was totally acceptable as an overnight stop. The Hidden Springs Campground, on the other hand, was bustling with weekend camper activities when we arrived, had a small pond for fishing??? and/or swimming??? and might be considered as a respite for a few days. Cherry Hill Park caters to the DC tourist and is much more of a “destination” campground (swimming pools and hot tub, short order grill, activity room, etc.) but is quite expensive as RV
Getting Around In DC
METRO - Washington DC
parks go in our limited experience. Actually, the further east we have traveled, the more expensive the campgrounds have become.
Cherry Hill Park employs a large, knowledgeable staff that is quite willing to answer questions about using the METRO system to get into the District. One staff member is on duty VERY early in the day to answer questions and to sell you the passes for the METRO rail and bus necessary to make the round-trip to and from your destination. The METRO bus has a stop at the Cherry Hill office and a short bus ride will get you to the METRO rail station. Although intimidating and confusing to a couple of country bumpkins at first (we were told to go UPstairs to get to the SUBway platform), we found the system quite easy to use after a day or two. The trains, buses and stations are clean and as safe as anywhere in a large city. The METRO staff (as well as everybody we met in the District - including other tourists and locals on the way to work) was friendly and helpful. Don’t be shy - ask.
We decided a tour of the District was
Gravestone of Larry's Childhood Friend
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington VA
in order for our first full day at Cherry Hill to give us an overview of the layout of the city and to get a feel for the distance between landmarks. We selected the Tourmobile because it is the only tour company that is authorized to travel within the confines of Arlington National Cemetery. We rode the tour circuit without disembarking until we arrived at Arlington. Larry’s childhood friend, Leonard Keller, had earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam and had survived the feat only to be killed in a motorcycle accident on October 18, 2009. His heroism earned him the privilege of being buried in Arlington. We first went to the Visitor Center, had the staff provide us with directions and walked to the gravesite. Walking amongst those headstones was quite a sobering experience in its own right. We found Leonard’s grave without difficulty and paid our respects. After we walked back to the Visitor Center, we boarded the Tourmobile to see the Kennedy graves and to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown. Very impressive!
On Wednesday, we saw many of the major monuments and attractions - the Smithsonian Visitors Center or
Please, Stop the Bleeding
Women's Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Washington DC
“The Castle,” the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Marine Corps Memorial Iwo Jima Statue, the Netherlands Carillon, the WW II Memorial and the Boy Scout Memorial. Thursday started with our tour of Capitol Hill. After lunch in the Capitol cafeteria, we sat in both Senate and House Galleries to listen to the proceedings, such as they were. I think a skeleton crew was left behind while most of the politicians were busy with re-election activities. On the way back to the METRO station, we stopped by the Supreme Court. The Court was not in session, but we did sit in the courtroom for a presentation about the architecture of the courtroom and the history and function of the Court. We would like to return when we can see both of these branches of our government in action.
Since cameras are not allowed in the White House, Friday found us taking the METRO to Union Station - the only place I learned of where I could stow my camera. We re-boarded the METRO for a short ride to the White House area. After walking 8-10 blocks to the White House, we
Magnificent Yet Today
Union Station - Washington DC
found ourselves standing in line for about 90 minutes waiting for our turn to take the tour. Although the tour was self-guided, the Park Police Officers along the way were knowledgeable and answered questions thoroughly and cheerfully. What can I say? It’s the White House. I suppose it should be on my “must see” list; however, for the visitor with a limited amount of time… - buy a few postcards to get the visual images rather than spending 1-2 hours standing in line. After the tour, we walked through LaFayette Park (without the camera), re-boarded the METRO to retrieve my camera from Union Station, visited the Smithsonian Post Office Museum (across the street from Union Station) and took in the superb architecture of Union Station before boarding the METRO for a ride back to Cherry Hill. We found our neighbors, DC visitor-veterans Jim and Carol, sitting at their picnic table, and we visited with them for a while.
Before we arrived at Cherry Hill, we had heard of Greenbelt National Park in Greenbelt MD. Since the Greenbelt Station is the next METRO stop after the College Park Station, we realized the National Park would be virtually as convenient to
Our Home for Two Weeks
Greenbelt National Park - Greenbelt MD
DC as Cherry Hill Park. This is good. The National Park costs $8.00 per night (by using my US Park Service Golden Age Pass) vs. the $58.50 per night we paid at Cherry Hill. This is good. The Greenbelt National Park has no hook-ups of any kind, and I had no generator. This is bad. Point 1 - we are planning to make a return visit in the spring to see the cherry blossoms and then again for Memorial Day services at The Wall. Point 2 - we had been told by several experienced DC visitors to see as many “school class tour attractions” as possible this fall because many of the attractions are less busy than in the spring “class outing” season. Point 3 - we enjoy staying in federal and state parks, and I had plans to purchase a generator before our spring visit anyway. Sooooooooooo, I went ahead and made the plunge.
We moved to the Greenbelt National Park. Campers are restricted to two weeks per year in the National Park, and we made the most of the fourteen days. Additional attractions we took in were Bureau of Printing and Engraving; the tour of the Washington
Great-Grandfather's Namesake? Perhaps.
General Winfield Scott Hancock - Washington DC
Monument; the Holocaust Museum; several Smithsonian Museums including Air & Space, American History, Natural History and American Indian; the National Archives; Ford's Theater; the White House Visitors Center and a nighttime tour of Washington by double-decker bus. We also saw several statues of the famous and the not so famous including General Winfield Scott Hancock (my maternal great-grandfather’s namesake?) and Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski (a Revolutionary War hero who has an Illinois state holiday celebrated in his honor). We took off a couple of days to clean, check email, etc. and took one day for a scenic drive to Rising Sun MD to pick up mail my niece had forwarded.
Although we got a sample of the Smithsonian Museums, we merely scratched the surface of most. Even the Ford Theater was a quick walk through without reading and digesting all of the information. We do plan to stop in the spring, but if the museums are inundated with students we’ll visit some of the “sights less seen” and defer the more scholarly attractions until we are on the way south from New England in fall 2011. The leaves are just now beginning to show color, so we will be
The Nighttime Tour Is a Must
Lincoln Memorial - Washington DC
heading for northern Maryland to begin our trip south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our only time constraint is to be with my sole surviving biologic aunt in Sanford FL for the Christmas holidays. The trip will be leisurely with lots of time to absorb the abundance of beautiful scenic routes in the Appalachians.
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