September 23. Today is our last day of being tourists in Washington. There is just so much here that you literally can’t see it all in less than a few weeks. We’ve decided to stop back here early next summer on our way north.
Washington has proven to be beautiful, clean, safe and cheap. It’s really been a very enjoyable week here and the people that we’ve met have been outstanding. But I do have a short list of complaints………..
Bike racks. There are very few bike racks around the monuments and museums. They have all these great 10 foot wide sidewalks that cry out for bicyclists and there are very few convenient places to lock your bike. Several museums have none at all.
Helicopters. Holy crap are there ever a butt load of helicopters barreling across the city. Most people don’t encounter the choppers the way we do. On one side of us is the city and we have Ronald Reagan Airport off on the other side. So the obvious flight path for the choppers is right down the river. They have to fly very low so as not to interfere with flight operations out at the airport so they come in a just above masthead level, right down the river. Think Apocalypse Now but with the choppers being faster, louder, lower and more frequent.
Most of them are marked, United States of America. They’re probably ferrying Congressmen from here to there. Every now and then it must be someone a little more important as there will be 2 or 3 identical choppers with a gunship escort.
It’s not unusual to see at least 30 helicopters or more in the portion of the day that we’re here on the boat. Don’t get me wrong; it is way cool to see these guys hard banking to follow the meandering river as they scream along at ridiculous speeds. The air traffic does slow way down at night but it’s not unusual to have a helicopter blast through at 0600.
So to recap, the lack of bike racks is short sighted and the choppers just take some getting used too, so things really are pretty good here.
Today we took a short ride over to the Jefferson Memorial. The time line of his life was full of one amazing accomplishment after another. He really was a brilliant man who deserves his name mentioned along with Lincoln and Washington whenever the great names in American history are discussed. I had no idea how much he had to do with the early success of our young nation until I saw his accomplishments listed one after another.
After that we hit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. He was the only 4 term president in American history and his memorial was about as long as his term. I had never even seen a picture of it before so I was surprised at the shear length of the monument. It’s a long row of brown stone blocks that’s a couple of hundred yards long. The stone work incorporates a lot of waterfalls along with quotes attributed to FDR. It’s quite unlike any of the other memorials we’ve seen so it was an interesting change. Kind of reminded me of the Polar Bear display at the Bronx Zoo.
Next up was the Holocaust Memorial Museum. First off, there’s no bike rack. The front of the building is quite stark with steel angle iron and plate steel all bolted together. It’s brown and gray, very somber but powerful.
The inside lobby of the building has a feel of a 1930’s train station or something similar. We were ushered into an elevator and whisked to the fourth floor to start our self guided decent back to the ground floor.
We’ve been debating whether or not we should see this museum. I was pretty sure I knew the story and really wasn’t looking forward to spending several hours watching people suffer. We were prepared for a very sad story of the genocide of an ethnic group with a madman in at the helm of all of Europe. Everyone we encountered said that we should see it when we got the chance, so here we were.
The story starts with the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party in the early thirties right up through the end of the war. It’s a story that is built on cruelty with instances of heroism and bathed in indifference. The building is full of artifacts, photos and video testimonials. I’m glad that I did go, I learned a lot more than I knew when I walked in, but I’d never go again. The trip through the museum was a well done, miserable experience. It’s what I expected given the subject matter. Lest we forget…..