29. Apr, 2016

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SATURDAY 11-10-08 

The alarm went off at 06:00 again this morning. It was tempting to just stay in bed, but we knew we needed to be at the Washington Monument www.nps.gov/wamo as close as possible to 08:30 when the tour tickets are given out. Again I had a walk to the shower block in the dark, and had to run the hot tap for absolutely ages until any hot water came out which was the same problem as yesterday probably because at this unsociable hour, I’m the first to run the hot tap. 

We caught the 07:27 bus from the campground and, following another trip on the subway, arrived at the back of the Washington Monument queue at just after 08:30. Eventually we were allocated tickets for the 12:00 tour which was fine as we had other things we wanted to do. First off it was back over to the WWII Memorial to take some video shots, something I couldn’t do yesterday having run out of tape. Next was a walk beside the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial www.nps.gov/linc , with a large statue of Abe himself sitting in a chair looking directly down the National Mall. He would have had a clear view right down to the US Capitol Building a couple of miles away if somebody hadn’t gone and built the Washington Monument right in his line of view. 

After a few pictures we walked down to the Potomac River about ¼ mile away which passes behind Lincoln’s Memorial. We walked to the Arlington Memorial Bridge and about half way across it. From there we could see on the hill ahead of us the Custis-Lee Mansion and some of the gravestones in the Arlington Cemetery which is our planned destination tomorrow. It was a lovely sunny day, though cooler than yesterday, just right for walking. 

Next were visits to the Korean Memorial, depicting life-sized US Infantrymen walking through a field, very different and very effective, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the most visited Memorial in Washington. Today was no exception, with lots of visitors walking past the Roll of Honour listing 58,209 American men & women who were either killed in battle or remain missing, some visitors stopping and looking for a particular name. By now it was time to make our way to the Washington Monument for our trip to the top. We were fortunate enough to be one of the first in the mid-day queue and because of that got to sit on the marble bench which was most welcomed after being on our feet all morning, most people behind us had to stand. 

At the appointed time we were taken about 500ft to the top in the one and only elevator. There was no time constraint once up there which surprised me given the number of people having tickets and needing to reach the observation deck consisting of two small windows on each of the four sides. After pictures and video shots taken through each window we decided to make our way back down again rather than hang around up there aimlessly. To our pleasant surprise the downward journey was interrupted by the elevator slowing and stopping at various heights to show us illuminated inscribed tablets of stone from various states and organisations mounted in to the internal walls commemorating George Washington’s achievements. 

Back on terra firma we made our way to the National Air & Space Museum www.nasm.si.edu which was on my ‘to do’ list. Having already spent two days looking around the Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio there weren’t too many exhibits I needed to see here, but they were important ones. First, just inside the door was the Command Module which returned the crew of Apollo 11 from the first manned landing on the moon. I never thought that all those years ago, when I watched it live on TV, suspended beneath parachutes before splashing down in the ocean, I'd ever get to see it for real, and so close up. For protection it’s encased in a moulded clear plastic case. 

Next was the first ever aircraft to fly – the Wright Flyer, it looks a little like a replica since the replacement of the cloth used in its construction, it just looks too new. In fact it’s been re-covered twice, once in the 1920’s and again in the 1980’s. It will also have been repaired as it was damaged when a gust of wind flipped it over and over after its fourth flight on that historic day on 17th December 1903 at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, South Carolina. In fact there is a mounted display here with a small piece of wood taken from the damaged propeller, and a piece of the original fabric covering, both of which were taken to the moon’s surface by Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon as part of the crew of Apollo 11 and returned in the Command Module.

We were both pleased to see this aircraft having followed the Wright Brothers story, visited Hoffman’s Prairie Field and planning to visit Kitty Hawk. This 90-day trip is to take us from Kitty Hawk to Outer Space by including the launch of the space shuttle ‘Endeavor’. This launch was to have taken place on November 10th but has now been rescheduled for 14th and now moved to a night-time launch at 19:55. This is bad news as it will be dark by then and we’ll have a restricted view, but it’s that or nothing. 

Next was a closer look at Lindberg’s ‘Spirit of St Louis’ the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic non-stop, a Lunar Lander and the X15, the fastest aircraft ever to fly. 

That done, we went to the cafeteria for a drink, we’d been on our feet most of the day and had yet to have one, lunch today comprising of snack bars eaten on the hoof. Whilst there we got in to a long and interesting conversation with a very nice young American couple with a couple of young boys, they wanted to know what we thought of their President, and so I told them which opened up a really interesting discussion about the Monarchy, politics, etc whilst their boys went off to play. It was nice to have a serious discussion with ordinary folk, we don’t usually get the opportunity, most of the time it’s just general chit chat. 

We then made our way back home via the Metro & bus arriving back about 18:00. We soon had the BBQ grill fired up and enjoyed our evening meal of steak and drumsticks, washed down of course with lashings of wine. 

Tomorrow we plan to visit Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River in the state of Virginia; we’ll catch the subway to get there, and as we don’t plan to take a pack-up with us, won’t be joining JFK for lunch. 

LOCATION TONIGHT: Cherry Hill Park, 9800 Cherry Hill Road, College Park, MD 20740.