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Published: September 28th 2017
Well we started our second day in Washington by heading over to Arlington cemetery. This is the place where a number of the American soldiers had been buried from the civil war until today and has a number of monuments. One of its residents? is JFK and his family so we thought we would go visit as well I also wanted to see a huge statue of the famous flag raising at “Iwo Jima” which is near the cemetery. When we arrived there were hundreds of people already there which was a bit of a surprise for me as I thought it wouldn't be a popular tourist trap…I was wrong!! It was a little surreal seeing people standing next to graves smiling have their photos taken and leaning into JFKs plot and doing the peace sign for the camera?? A little weird but each to their own. We spent about an hour just wandering around taking in the immense amount of white grave stones and I mean immense amount…everywhere you looked where white headstones from every war which the US had been involved in. There was a movie once called “gardens of stone” which was a drama about the soldiers who
worked at Arlington and I guess that is the best way to describe it “Gardens of stone”. We both didn't particularly feel any emotion walking around as I suspect the amount of people who were around made it more of a tourist attraction than a place of reverence. All the same it was very sobering to see rows and rows of graves each representing young men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
We then headed across to the famous Iwo Jima statue which had been immortalised over the years by many people. It is the statue of about five or six men pushing up a flag pole over the island of Iwo Jima after the defeat of the Japanese……if you look it up on the internet you will get the picture…which is exactly what I had to do because they are refurbishing it and it is completely covered in scaffolding…now this may have been a blow for me but poor Steph had been walking following me around in 30 degree temperatures to see this for about an hour and a half and she was not…what is the word I am looking for????
She wasn't happy so I promised her that we would head into Washington and we would have a coffee which we did.
We then decided to go and see if Don was home at his little white house and complain how he had ruined our plans to go to the UN building last week in NewYork, because of the general assembly meeting, but he wasn't home so not much point taking that any further. Outside the White House there were a number of people protesting about all sorts of things. Apparently this is all part of free speech that they can stand outside and protest as long as it is peaceable. The White House is quite and imposing building but the buildings surrounding it are no slugs either!!
Washington DC was designed on a French/Parisian style and the buildings are very European looking and a lot of the roads, which are very straight, all seem to point to monuments in the distance. Quite a few of the streets head towards Capitol Hill so as you wander around you keep getting a distant view of this huge white building in the distance. And so because we hadn't
done enough walking in the sun we headed off Capitol Hill (like the Beehive just bigger) and did a quick tour around inside before they shut up for the night.
We got entry into the base of the dome which is …well obviously the inside of the big dome..duh!! Which is ornately painted and full of statues etc and immense in size it dwarfs everything. It's inside height is around 85 metres so extremely high and is reminiscent of a cathedral which I guess is quite apt as it houses the senate and congress who a few of them think they are gods.
The next day was our last in Washington and we decided to visit a few Smithsonian museums. All the museums and art galleries in Washington are free to enter so nice to be able to wander and come and go as you please without paying for the privilege. We visited the Air and Space museum which is huge and has actual space craft and aircraft handing from the ceiling. As you walk in the door there is the actual aircraft which broke the sound barrier above you and the Spirit of NewOrleans next to it
with three other aircraft…you get the idea. We spent an hour or so just wandering around before heading off to a couple of sculpture parks which were amazing. Some of the art was interesting to say the least…I mean I am not sure how a boulder which has been dropped from a height onto a car is art…but hey I can't even finger paint so who am I to judge!
We headed over to the natural history museum which had a great display of every of mammal in huge dioramas and very well done it also had a great hall explaining how we were once apes and then we became man?? Yeah I am not sure why there are still apes and man side by side but I suspect this is a discussion for another day….mind you I do like bananas so go figure!
Washington was a great place to visit… full of statues, memorials, museums and great green parks but we were both really glad to get out of the city and head to Shenandoah National park as we had planned to do a bit of hiking and relaxing… somewhere where there are no helicopters,
Armed Police and bag searches for a while. We left Washington and headed southwest to Shenandoah NP and drove a road called Skyline drive which is a single lane road which runs along the spine of the northern Blueridge mountains area and a haven for woodlands and wildlife so we were on high alert to see if we could see and black bear to add to the list. As we drove along there were pull ins very few miles which had amazing views into the distance of the blur I'd get mountains which just see,Ed to keep going and going.
We stopped the night at a national park campground and got the usual bear warning talk about the black bears in this area as they are hungry and will steal food if given half a chance so all food had to be stored in a big bin on your camp site. There are no grizzly bears this far south so the only bears which are here are black bears which usually don't worry people but they are still bears and there have been occasions when the have attacked so all very comforting news.
The next morning we decided
to go for an early morning (7am) walk to a place I had found in a hiking book called Lewis falls. In the book it describes how the path descends to a flat wooded area and then said be on lookout here for wildlife like deer and skunks..well right on time as we hit the wooded area at the bottom of a sharp decline we saw wildlife. I will give you a hint “ if you go down in the woods today you're sure of a big surprise”!! Right beside the track about 15 metres ahead of us was a black bear having breakfast. We spoke loudly and started to back a way a bit in the hopes that he would scurry off into the bush but he wasn't going anywhere and had breakfast of berries and nuts on his mind and luckily not us. We slowly backed away (probably not fast enough for Steph but just long enough for me and my camera to snap a couple of shots off) as he wasn't going anywhere we cancelled our walk and headed back to camp for breakfast too. I was very impressed with the detail of accuracy of the hiking
We headed off south again and finished off our trip through the Shenandoah NP and headed towards the Virginian coast to a place called Williamsburg. On the way we had the opportunity to visit the home of the Thomas Jefferson called Monticello. We took a tour through his house which was laid out pretty much as it would have been during his life there. It was a really worth while tour and we learnt a fair bit about him through a really informative guide who obviously had a passion for every thing Jefferson.
Williamsburg has a place called Williamsburg colonial village which is the site of the original tone of Williamsburg and is set up on a large scale exactly as colonial America would have been with people in costume etc. this place is huge covering over 300 acres and the people who wander around in costume are willing to discuss any subject to do with the time period…now I know this sounds really cornie!, but it was actually very well done. A guy dressed as General George Washington gave a 20 minute speech about his leaving the presidency at the end of his terms and at the end of the speech invited questions from the audience. This guy had an amazing knowledge of history pertaining to George Washington because when he answered the questions he gave a very detailed almost personal reply….OK OK it does sound cornie when I write it down….but it was actually really good. Others dressed as locals just go about their daily tasks selling in shops and carrying out blacksmith roles etc…I guess it's one which you had to be there!!
When we finished at Colonial Williamsburg we visited another similar place called Jamestown which was similar but again the site of the original Jamestown and had two replica ship in the harbour and had a fort all set up next to an Indian village. It again was really good….Man I think I have been in the sun too long…anyway..
Before I finish I want to give you the run down on camping USA. Firstly there are days when your tent site is amongst some amazing scenery such as Denali and Shenandoah where you wake up to mountains looming in the distance or white tailed deer passing through the camp and the there are those that aren't as serene!! I will let you look at the photo of our little yellow tent below and make up your own mind about the passing train and the close proximity. In a scene from the Blues brothers Jake asks Elroy “how often do the trains pass” and he replied “so often that you just don't notice them “ well I can tell you that the train through Williamsburg is so often that you just don't notice it but the thing that you do notice is the conductor waking you up in your tent to clip your ticket at 3 in the morning…Oh yes it was that close!! Anyway we are heading north tomorrow to the Cape Cod area and hoping for more peaceful surroundings…until then..
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