Friday, April 13, 2012

Epic road trip...

I haven't had a chance to post much this week, but I have a good reason--I've been preparing for an epic road trip with my dad! We are going from Idaho through Oregon to see the Redwood National Forest in California. I've wanted to see that part of the country forever, and I'm so excited that I finally get to.  The journey begins tomorrow.  I'll keep you updated on what we are up to!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Washington DC - Days 4 & 5

Happy Monday!  How was everyone's Easter weekend?  Hopefully it was as good as mine.  I do love holidays that revolve around family time.

It's time to wrap up the remaining Washington DC posts!  I'm combining the last two days together so this will be the last post on my DC trip.  It's been fun to look through these photos and reminisce!

Jess and I decided to spend our Sunday visiting Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery.  It was a pretty dreary day outside, which was a big change from the heat we'd been experiencing the days before.  We started out at Mount Vernon which is the estate on which George Washington lived and died.
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Mount Vernon
I really liked Mount Vernon.  The rooms inside were all so colorful and unique.  They also have done a remarkable job of preserving the artifacts on site, and most are originals including the bed George Washington died on.

George Washington just might be my favorite founding father.  I think that most men would've let the power go to their head, but he always kept complete power at bay and because of that we don't have a monarchy currently ruling America.  Thank you, Mr. Washington!
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And you thought you were done with blossom photos...NOPE!
The estate is large and has some incredible views of the river.  While down at the wharf I was lucky enough to catch a bird making a nest.  Pretty awesome!
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Being a farmer's daughter, I was also really impressed with the 16-sided barn that Washington designed to help process the wheat.  Basically, they lined the floor of the barn with grain and then the horses walked on it to open up the wheat and let the seeds drop through the floor where they could be scooped up and cleaned.  Pretty ingenious.
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Also, it looks cool.
George Washington's tomb is also on site at Mount Vernon.  Grave sites never stop being a bit eerie and surreal.
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George Washington's Tomb
Overall, it was worth the trip out there to see where the father of the US lived and walked.
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The petals look like pink snow on the ground!
After we finished up at Mount Vernon, we headed to Arlington cemetery.  We had quite a rough time finding parking that was affordable.  We went on quite a random goose chase trying to get there in as cheap a manner as possible.  Luckily, our adventure placed us right at the footsteps of this lovely monument:
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Iwo Jima Memorial - Huge and Breath-taking
I think this might have been my favorite memorial of all the ones I saw in DC.  It was just HUGE.  Pictures don't do it justice.  Also, it's such an iconic image and they did a fantastic job of capturing it.  The gold lettering around the base is a list of all the American wars fought to date.  There are so many wars on there for a country so young.  I hope they never fill it up, but we all know that one day it will happen.

Arlington is definitely worth visiting, just to try to grasp the sheer enormity of the place.  There are so so many graves.  They have 100 funerals per week there, on average.  It was very humbling.
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Of course we also watched the Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  I think Jess and I could have stayed and watched the ceremonies all day if given the opportunity.  There is just something about the reverence of these men that guard this tomb day in and day out.  We were lucky enough to see not only the changing of the guards, but also a Wreath Ceremony.
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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We stayed at Arlington until the sunset and then headed back to Jill and Dave's place where they had a birthday cake made for me!  So very cute (and delicious)!  It was such an unexpected surprise.  I am so glad that we got to stay out there and spend some time with their family.  Being so far away from them is not fun!

On our last day there, we decided to hit up the famous DC Cupcakes.  There was quite the line at 10 am when they opened!  We got half a dozen to sample.
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DC Cupcakes
They were delicious.  My favorite was the Mint Chocolate.  We snacked on them throughout the day.  

Jess had an earlier flight out than I did, so I dropped her off at the airport and then headed back to the White House to try to get a better view of it since it had been closed off the day we had first visited it.  I lucked out!
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The White House
They were having some sort of picnic on the front lawn.  I tried looking it up, but I never found out what was going on.  In either case, it was good to get closer and see it in person.

Next, I hurried to the Metro so that I could go see the Supreme Court.  We had walked past the Supreme Court a few days prior and I hadn't even realized it.  I took pictures of it without even realizing what I was snapping a photo of.  Total fail.  Anyway, I wanted to see it one more time before leaving for my flight.
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US Supreme Court
I'm really glad I went back!  I happened to time it perfectly with the start of the debate on the constitutionality of Obamacare.  There were news crews and protesters all over the place.  It was quite a different scene from when we walked past earlier in the week.  It will be interesting to hear the decision from the Supreme Court on the case in a few months.

Anyway, that's my DC trip!  I hope to go back one day and spend more time in the museums.  There is just so much stuff to do in that region, and the vast majority of it is free.  Love it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Washington DC - Day 3!

By the third day of DC, my feet were toast. There was no hope of doing anything major because my feet just couldn't take it anymore. I think I might be dabbling with a little bit of plantar fasciitis on my left foot and let's just say that it was super pissed. Jess and I decided to just take it somewhat easy and rest so that we could be refreshed for the next day. Good plan.

So how did we spend day three? We went to the The Dulles Air and Space Museum, officially named the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, right by the Dulles Airport.  It is HUGE!  It is made to house all the big planes that the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at the National Mall can't hold.  It does a good job, but they certainly have the place packed!

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Dulles Air and Space Museum
We picked a good day to go--it was nice and rainy so we couldn't be outside much anyway.

This particular museum has a bigger focus on the "air" part rather than the space.  They definitely had an excellent pick of airplanes to view.  I wish I knew just how many they had hanging out there, but it was definitely in the hundreds!  I was a particular fan of the SR71.  Sexy, sexy plane.  I didn't know planes could be sexy, but this one proved they could.
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X-men, anyone?
Turns out that bad boy finished setting an air speed record by flying from California to DC in something ridiculous like an hour and 30 minutes.  Coincidentally, that was the last flight it made. It was on its way to this museum to be retired.  Talk about going out with a bang!

I know I said that the museum focused more on the "air" portion, but it definitely did have some pretty awesome "space" parts as well.  My favorite?  The Enterprise space shuttle.  Even though this thing never actually went out to space (it only flew test missions), it led to the awesome space program that we know and love.
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In a few months, it will actually be replaced with the Space Shuttle Discovery which has been on MANY missions.  That's super cool.

The most impressive part of the museum?  Definitely the Enola Gay.  For those of you that don't know, the Enola Gay is the plane what dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  It was by far the deadliest plane in the entire exhibit.  Seeing it in real life and realizing the impact this plane had during World War II was just incredible.  I can't imagine being the pilot for that mission.  What a burden to bear.
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Enola Gay
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It's a really big plane
You know how I mentioned that they really had the space cram packed full of planes?  Here's proof:
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Count 'em!
There is a Boeing 707 and a full-size Concorde jet in there.  This museum is HUGE.  Definitely don't miss it.

After we saw everything there was to see in the Air and Space Museum, we headed back to Jill's place.  Jess left to go drive to Harper's Ferry to be with her family who was also randomly in the area, and Jill and I just hung out.  We went and saw a model home in the area, and all I have to say is they have really really nice homes out in Virginia.  Dang!  We also had delicious Fro-Yo.  I wish I would've gotten a picture.  Yum!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Washington DC - Day 2

Day two was probably the busiest of the days in Washington, D.C..   We had to make up for the lost time from day one.  We started out at the Air & Space Smithsonian Museum at the National Mall.  It was pretty awesome!  They had a lot of really incredible planes to see, including the Spirit of St. Louis.
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(this is not the Spirit of St. Louis)
They also had some cool exhibits from space, including a lunar lander.
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It looks fake with all the gold foil stuff!
Jess, Jill, and I were all amused/horrified by the 1950s Flight Stewardess exhibit.  They showed the standards that stewardesses were required to meet, and suffice it to say, none of us would've been able to fly the friendly skies!
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Could you be a flight stewardess?
For example, the following requirements had to be met:
  • Height: Between 5'2 and 5'6
  • Weight: No more than 135 lbs
  • Age: Between 21 & 26
  • Education: 2 years college or nursing degree
  • Looks: "Just below Hollywood standards"
Wow!  It definitely wouldn't "fly" in today's world! (Ha--forgive the pun!)

Next we headed to the Holocaust Museum.  I don't have any photos of this as photography wasn't allowed inside, but it was well worth the visit.  It was absolutely horrifying, but so necessary to see and to realize how much evil humans are capable of when they get into a position of power.  The videos they played were especially sobering.
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More cherry blossoms!
After that, we headed to the Library of Congress.  Most people don't visit the Library of Congress when they come to DC, but they are missing out!  It was my favorite building that we went to!  The architecture inside was gorgeous!
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Library of Congress
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LOVED the architecture
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Reminded me a bit of Italy
They have a Gutenberg Bible on exhibit there, which was incredible to see.  It was also pretty empty, which I appreciated since I like to avoid the crowds.

Next (told you we did a lot!), we headed to the botanical gardens.  By this time, my feet were starting to kill me but I was determined to see as much as we could possibly see!
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Miss Jess!
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The gardens were well done, and they had a lovely orchid exhibit.  I'm a sucker for pretty flowers!
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After that, we headed to the White House but unfortunately the President was having a news conference regarding the Trayvon shooting so they had most of the walkways closed down to tourists.  You could see all the snipers on the room of the building which was pretty crazy!  

After the White House, we went to the National Archives to see the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.  I was surprised to find that most of these incredibly important documents have faded into being nearly illegible.  I'm glad that we have some great methods of preservation currently in place to prevent any further destruction.  Again, no photos (one of the prevention methods!).

Finally, we headed down to get to the Lincoln Memorial.  We had tried to get there the day before, but missed it because we wanted to be by the cherry blossoms before the sun set.  It was a good decision.  On the way to the Lincoln Memorial, we passed the Vietnam Memorial.  So many names...
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Too many to count
I think that all the war memorials in DC are so poignant and done really well.  It is crazy how many people have been affected by all the wars.

Eventually we made it to our last destination of the evening.
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Lincoln Memorial!
It was perfect timing as the sun was nearly set and my feet were SO ready to be done walking.  We sat on the steps and read the words of Abraham Lincoln engraved on the walls.  It was a perfect spot to end the day.
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Mr. Lincoln
My feet had had enough so we vowed that the next day would be much nicer to our poor feetsies!   Luckily, we had gotten most of my "must-sees" out of the way and so now we could enjoy the bonus sites of the city.

Have any of you been to DC?  What was your favorite spot?  Did you go to the Holocaust Museum?