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DC for Thanksgiving

Author: Randy H.
Date of Trip: November 2009

Our daughter is living in Maryland for a year. Two nephews and a niece with families are nearby so we took the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving in Virginia, Maryland and D.C.

We left late Tuesday night before the holiday. We (my wife Christina & I) were off to SFO to catch the red eye for Thanksgiving in Virginia (yes Christina, there is a Virginia)

The extra daughter, feeder of cats and other animals, drove us to the airport, dropping us off at the appropriate gate... an hour and a half before out flight is scheduled to leave...

We were carrying half a case of wine (we are bringing wine, our daughter is responsible for butternut squash.) The wine needs to be checked... and had included it as checked baggage (and paid the fee) when checking in on line... we went to the proper counter (People who have checked in but need to check luggage) to find all check in stations occupied... a short line which isn't moving due to a noticeable lack of any United Airlines Employees behind the counter... We had seen this before... on a previous United flight... again a busy evening... and all staff abandoned a counter with guests waiting, and waiting, and beginning to panic... This time, after 10 minutes or so a porter tells us to go to a different counter... a general check-in counter, not the "have boarding passes but needs to check bags counter"... Again, all stations in use... at least there is an employee this time... Another employee sensing my frustration comes over... I believe a supervisor, and gets me served... then off to the security lines... which are quite long... We get through and get to the gate, as they are calling our boarding group...

We get seats and bin space... others don't and have to gate check, some not receiving receipts for the bags... There has to be a better way to handle baggage and fees...

We arrive in DC about dawn Wednesday in a drippy fog... make our way across the airport... at Dulles this involves this involves shuttles between remote terminals that give you a second chance to experience de-boarding... Our wine arrives without damage at the oversize item area, the daughter arrives within minutes of us going outside and off we go in to DC traffic...

Breakfast in an Alexandria cafe... rendezvous with our nephew Matt (we are staying at his condo, he is going to Michigan for Thanksgiving... ) Matt lives next to a metro station... We board the metro and go off to the Pentagon for a tour... (thanks to our House Member Jackie Spear. Hint, your federal representative can book all kinds of free tours... including the Capital, the Pentagon and such... occasionally including the White House... you need to contact your local office... It is easier for those of us on the right coast... fewer of us visit) The Pentagon has high security (who would have thought that?) We clear security, then go to the waiting area... then the tour... It's a good tour, with various hall ways dedicated to military history and honoring various groups and events... the 9-11 memorial is small but powerful... Located at ground zero.

Leaving the Pentagon, we back track to the condo to pick up cameras and change... then off to D.C. We take the Metro to the Eastern Market station then walk one block to the market where they have moved the food stalls back into the old brick building after the fire a couple of years ago... In deference to Pikes in Seattle they don't throw fish here... but in one stall they were throwing turkeys... not for show, but to move them from a cart to the cooler... we have Crab cake sandwiches... We look but there are no butternut squash in evidence.

From the market we walk to the Library of Congress. I need to get to upgrade my card, so we go over to the reader registration room... I get a new card and Tina gets a card... Stephanie already has a card... All now equipped with current cards we take Tina for a tour of the Jefferson Building... since we all have cards we can explore the Jefferson reading room, the "temple of books"

From the LOC we walk past the Capital, to the mall... then split up, I am want to spend time in The Archive at the Museum of American History, but they are closed... I spend a few minutes with "Jupiter" a 1876 steam locomotive I am fond of... we rendezvous at the Museum of Natural History, Then explore the Museum of American History... We last until closing, then walk over to the National Portrait Gallery, via the Navy Memorial...

From the Portrait Gallery, take Metro to Union Station for dinner at the Capital City Brewery... then home via metro, then Stephanie and I go off in search of butter nut squash for thanksgiving dinner, plus more wine... I didn't see a need to carry the champagne from California when it can be found here, and its always nice to have a back up bottle or two... There seems to be a shortage of butternut squash in the DC area... none found near California Maryland... only a couple of small ones at the Eastern Market in DC... and Safeway has none... couple of stops later we have both...

The next day, (Thanksgiving day) Lawton Virginia... at my niece's house... The bird is in... the first bottle of champagne is open. There is food out on the counter... there are kids... my grand nieces and nephews under foot... its Thanksgiving as thanksgiving should be...

Friday morning... we sleep in... we get up... Metro into DC... stop at a Starbucks for coffee and a danish... then on to the National Art Museum... They have a Di Vinci... then across the mall to the Air and Space Museum... We have special responsibilities, we are carrying a "Flat Stanley" visiting us from outside Chicago... and we need photos for Cassidy, his person... We meet another family carrying a flat Stanley in the Air and Space Museum... a group photo is needed... after a quick visit we are off to the Museum of the American Indian... The museum is challenging... it is hard to understand... I hated it after my first visit but now after 4 or 5 visits think it is an inspired museum which asks you to think... Tina is still not sure... we tried to eat in their cafe... but the lines were significant... off to a Mexican place behind the Library of Congress then back to the Botanical Garden, which had a special Christmas train and village exhibit... the exhibit was great... we spent more time than expected, then walked to Metro for a trip back to Matt's to reclaim the car and join everyone else at Gaylord's National Harbor... a destination Convention site and resort across the Potomac. Mike, Jen's husband works there and we were off for their "ICE" exhibit... an carved ice village in a tent... kept at 9 degrees... They issue everyone heavy blue jackets... we explore... we ride the ice slide... a week ago I was testing water slides... now Ice slides... then off to the hotel lobby for tree lighting, indoor snow, and water and light shows... there were fireworks outside as well... after enjoying the festivities, and deciding that eating in any of their restaurants would involve a wait of hours we made for old town Alexandria... ended up in a high end Italian place... the kids were well behaved... all was good... we had wine (all was good) now home... getting ready for bed.

Saturday... up eventually, shower, cleanup a bit and pack...

We start at a Starbucks for coffee in Alexandria, the off to D.C., driving this time... we park near the Vietnam War Memorial... Its Tina's first time... She calls a friend who served there... offers to make a rubbing of a name... From there we walk to the Lincoln Memorial... take pictures with the flat guy, then walk around the Korean War Memorial, and up to the World War II memorial... they are all very different, all reflections of the time and the people involved, and all made more powerful by the differences, and the proximity of the three... The Vietnam The Korean memorial is a group of 40 some statures, collectively a platoon of solders, bundled against the cold... The World War II memorial is classic, with columns, and Greek temples... memorial is a stark gash in the landscape, with the many, many names engraved on the black granite wall.

We continued down the National Mall to the Hirshhorn Gallery... Back across to the National Museum of History for a second visit, then walk by the National Christmas tree on our way back to the car, and off to California Maryland where Stephanie is living with Kellie and the kids... Nice evening, nice dinner... then off Sunday morning to explore Saint Mary's City, where Maryland was founded in 1634... Saint Mary's was abandoned by 1695 and forgotten under the plowed fields... Now it is a historic museum, under the auspices of the State of Maryland, the site of much archeology and some reconstructed buildings... The tobacco farm has first person interpreters... the site is well done, and doesn't suffer from the crowds that overwhelm Plymouth and Jamestown.. It was the last day of the year that they would be open... it was wonderful, well worth the visit.

Afterward, we meet Kellie and the kids for lunch on Solomon's Island... along the shore of Chesapeake Bay... There is a well known Tiki Bar in town... we drive by but don't stop, then head north towards Baltimore... We checked in at the our hotel at the airport, then drove north to Baltimore Harbor to walk around and get a snack... back to the hotel where we said good bye to Stephanie... She had a 2+ hour drive back to California Maryland.

Monday, 6:06 am... aboard United 295 from Baltimore... It's a full flight... they are looking for volunteers to be bumped... They have announced that there isn't enough room for carry ons.... "FAA will be inspecting..." "Please gate check if you bag doesn't fit..." I sense a bit of panic... Now in line to board, one man, challenged for bag size at the gate, empting his bag, trying to stuff it into the frame "your bag must fit in this"... People continue past on to the jet way, on to the plane, to their seats looking for overhead luggage space... then past their seats until they find the precious space, but then have to fight their way against the flow back to their seats.... The crew is announcing that if you can't find space for your bag return to the gate to gate check... considering the crowded aisles, an near impossibility... We found space near our seats... Now packed on like cattle on the way to slaughter we try to relax... Eventually we both napped... We landed at SFO about 9:00... we caught a taxi home... I was at work just after 10:00...

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