9/26/14 Friday in Colonial Beach,VA (Harbor View Campground-TT/OW)
Traffic was more cooperative today and we all (2 couples from yesterday plus 2 more new couples) go to DC around 9:30am. It was also a perfect sunny, blue sky day. The 4 of us from yesterday got to be dropped off at Arlington Cemetery. I say that because we, in essence, didn’t have to choose between the Capital and Arlington having the good fortune to see the Capital yesterday, instead of Smithsonian activities all day long. Normally you get a full day of monuments for $45 each (discounted 10% for seniors) and a 2nd Smithsonian day for $25 each (same discount).
Arlington National Cemetery: Leila’s tip: take the tour mobile ($8/senior) to save time and walking, so we did. Here we got to see the Kennedy’s grave site and the eternal flame there. Apparently a few weeks before he was assassinated, President Kennedy remarked in a meeting that he would love to spend eternity here, so his family honored that wish. Next we arrived just in time for the half hour changing of the guard for the Unknown Soldier. The Old Guard is the unit responsible for this responsibility. Everything is done with immense precision. Civilians can pay for a wreath to be placed here and join in the placement ceremony. It takes a minimum of 6 months to arrange. Next stop: Arlington House, where Robert E Lee lived for 30 years before he resigned from the US Army (unable to bear fighting his own countrymen of Virginia), then had to live his beloved home. He lived there because he married the step great granddaughter of George Washington. Her father, George Washington Parker Custus owned it. GW Custus was Martha Washington’s son’s son. He built this house as a memorial to GW who raised him as his own. I will let the pictures tell the story of Lee and his beautiful home at Arlington that was taken from him by the US government. While his family was away to fight for the confederacy, a tax was waged on the estate but they wouldn’t let the housekeeper (slave) pay it. They insisted that Mr. or Mrs. Lee pay, so created the opportunity for it to go to auction, then buy it. They originally used the house for the signal corps and a hospital. Later the Secretary of Defense (who hated the Lees) arranged to bury many Union soldiers there.
Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.
At Arlington House:
This painting was painted by GW Custus then rolled up and kept in another home until someone unrolled it in 1970. The next two images are also by Custus, painted on the wall of his home.
Mary suffered rheumatoid arthritis, so used these steps to get into bed.
A little about Lee:
Now Leila took us to Ford’s Theater, passing out our timed passes she’d picked up while we were at Arlington. Since it was lunch time she encouraged us to have our lunch at “Lincoln’s Waffle House” which was just across the street from Ford’s Theater. It’s a small diner, but good basic morning/lunch food at great prices for being in the middle of a large city. Very good service as well – in and out. So we made it to Ford’s for the time on our passes only to learn that the actual theater, where we’d have seen the balcony he’d been sitting in, was closed today due to some rehearsals. Darn. Still, we did get to see the museum and cross the street to visit the Peterson House, where the stricken Lincoln was taken. The gun you see is the one that killed President Lincoln. It was a .44 caliber pistol, made by Henry Derringer of Philadelphia. One shot was all that Booth had. The gun was favored for its small size – it could easily be concealed inside a pocket. It fired a single, round lead ball weighing nearly an ounce, and was most accurate at close range. This shot changed the course of history because the Vice President who would become President (Andrew Johnson) was not concerned for African Americans nor interested in a forgiving reconstruction, as Lincoln was.
The Peterson house:
Mary Lincoln waited here with family in between visits to Lincoln’s bedside. The Secretary of War held council with the cabinet in a room between this one and the one Lincoln died in (April 15, 1865).
Posted: “There had never been anything like it, the vast, rolling pageant of grief that lasted 14 days and covered 1700 miles. An estimated 7 million Americans (1 in every 3 living outside the former Confederacy) viewed the presidential casket in 11 cities or glimpsed the funeral train as it slowly traced a route similar to the one Lincoln had followed to his first inauguration.” The final image is a tower of books about Lincoln.
Time to see the Washington Monument. [Note: the small block building near this monument has all the National Park Passport Stamps for the District of Columbia area Parks]. Our 2:30pm tickets were precious-Leila almost couldn’t get them this morning but she sweet talked the Park rangers into squeezing us into this time frame. Imagine the time it would take “regular” folks to walk to that monument, get a timed pass ticket, then wait a couple hours and walk back again to see it. Washington, by the way, was 6 feet, 2 inches tall and the statue inside the monument, opposite the elevator, is his actual size. An imposing man. Such great views at the top!! Note the 2 different colors of marble. They had to stop for a few years (funding) and when they started up again they had to get the marble from a different quarry. At 555 feet it is the tallest free standing mason structure in the world. They built it tall to reflect Washington’s physical and edifying stature. In the first view you see the Jefferson Memorial (south), in the second the Lincoln Memorial with the Reflecting Pool in front of it (west). Next you see the White House on Pennsylvania Ave with the Ellipse near the Washington Monument (north) and finally the eastern view of the National Mall leading to the Capital (congress), with Smithsonian Museums lining the Mall. Note: Mall means gathering place, not shopping! Our capital city was designed by Pierre L’enfant (French aide to Washington). He based it on similarities to Paris and Versailles with spaces for large buildings and very wide avenues, so it would appear imposing. I love it!!
Another ride, this time to the White House:
Dropped off at the Jefferson Memorial to walk on to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and Korean War Memorial. The last had change a LOT in the 14 years since we were last here. All were most touching/inspiring. In the Vietnam images you can see John and our US Tour friends John/Jane from Wisconsin.
Time to head home on our wonderful HOV lanes:
Once again it was pitch dark and late when we got home. Nice looking forward to a chance to sleep in!