Saturday, June 04, 2005

Vacation, How Do You Get Away?

Today is the last day of school in my area, which means that the kids are freed from classtomb, I mean classroom, obligations until late August. Why do I feel a sudden twinge while I sit behind a desk and type away on a computer keyboard? I need to get out there. Where? I have a few ideas, but I have a few weeks to think about them. I usually wait until August to take my VACATION. No real hurry, then.

Meanwhile, I shall look back over the last few years and reminisce about some of the vacations that I have taken with my family. Let's start with my visit to Washington, D.C. in 2003. I had made a brief trip that Spring for the funeral of an uncle who had lived at the "Old Soldier's Home" for many years and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I was allowed one day off from work for the death of an uncle, which meant a lot of driving in a rather short amount of time. We got up at around 4 AM, toting four sleepy children out to the car, leaving before 6 AM, and arriving at the viewing sometime after 11 AM. After about an hour or two, we traveled as part of a motorcade to Arlington (passing the National Zoo along the way) and attended the gravesite service. We had to leave almost as soon as the funeral concluded, and arrived back home late in the evening. We were so impressed by what little we saw of Washington that day, that we made up out minds to return as tourists when we took our annual vacation in August.

And so we did.

We began by stopping to look at the World War I Memorial (not National, but District of Columbia):


This was followed, naturally, by the World War II Memorial:



Yes, it was still under construction. How did you guess? This will have to be on the agenda for the next visit.
Then we walked over to the Washington Monument:

Apparently, if you get too close, you can't photograph the top very well. Perhaps I should have laid upon the ground to take the picture.

We were only going to be there for one days and decided to skip the Washington Monument interior tour. So we turned our sights on the next major attraction:

I enjoy a good walk, and I certainly don't get nearly as much exercise as I ought to. You might think that the walk from here to there would be refreshing and relaxing. If you think that, then you have never been to D.C. in August. It is the time of year when most politicians desert the city. If it hadn't been for visits to the horrendously expensive food kiosks just to get something cold to drink, I might have easily lost ten pounds or more. What relief could I get from the heat?

By the time I had gotten this far from the Washington Monument, I was ready to pass out on a bench. See those ducks near the lower right-hand side of the photo? They were dipping into the water for a swim. I almost joined them.

After what seemed like a slow stroll through the deepest pit of hell, we finally reached the Lincoln Memorial.

I was a bit wary of this, since the Memorial only makes the news when a gang of hippies are protesting about something. This was a family-friendly day, I am happy to say. Can you imagine the smell of hippies standing out in the swampy summer heat? Olfactory assault, that would be.

Having passed the World War I Memorial and (soon-to-be) World War II Memorial, plus memorials not unrelated to the War for American Independence and the Civil War, it was only natural that we would next encounter the Korean War Memorial:

I loved this one. I didn't know it existed until I got there, but this was great. With all of the life-sized human figures in a state of motion, it was certainly the busiest memorial that we saw. If you came up behind it, as we did, you almost feel inclined to follow the men to see where they are going. (In fact, my children almost did.)

Somehow we managed to miss the Wall, a.k.a. the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. I swear we should have walked straight through it twice, based on the maps we were using. We also missed the FDR Memorial, which was in a more difficult to reach location. When we got lost looking for it, we came across this:

It's the George Mason Memorial Coach Stop! I actually liked this one better than either the Lincoln or Korean War Memorials. You can't sit next to Lincoln, and you can't jump the chain and mingle with the soldiers. But George Mason has his own bench that you can sit upon and you can spend time with him. I dare say that, due to the effects of the excessive heat, I feared that if I had spoken to him, he might have turned to me and started speaking back.

Beyond Mr. Mason sits another of what you might call the "Big Three" along with Washington and Lincoln:

You might recognize this as a replica of the Emperor Palpatine statue that gets toppled from its base on Coruscant at the end of the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi. Fooled you! It is actually Thomas Jefferson, cloaked by the shadows of the ceiling, inside of the Jefferson Memorial. This gets high marks as the most educational of the monuments that we visited. We only had a day to spend in the city, but something like this, with its interpretive center and exhibits, requires several hours to appreciate.

Some things needed less than five seconds to be appreciated:

The American Couch Potato Memorial resides in the middle of a traffic island somewhere between the Lincoln Memorial and the Potomac River. An attractive, nicely-shaped woman flashes her naked body at her husband and he still won't get up off the couch. What a Bozo. (This is alternatively known as the Desperate Housewives Memorial.)

Following that bit of levity, we arrived at a most solemn destination across the river: Arlington National Cemetery.

The rank and importance of the deceased can be determined by the size of the funeral party. My funeral of my uncle, a non-com, was handled by a military chaplain, and one soldier firing off a memorial shot. At the conclusion of the service, they quickly trodded off to the next one. The above picture shows a coffin being carried on a horse-drawn wagon. We also saw funeral processions that included brass marching bands. They were quite nice, actually.

From the section of Arlington where my uncle lies buried, you can see the Pentagon:

It is kind of tricky to see, but about halfway down the photo, just left of center, you might be able to make out something orange through the trees. This is orange construction fencing around the section of the building that was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

And that, my friends, was my family vacation to our nation's capital back in the Summer of 2003. If you have never visited, I encourage you to go there some day. And plan on spending more than one day, and a week if possible. We never did get into the heart of the city to see the Capitol and White House. Next visit, however...

And be sure to check back from time to time for more vacation memories. By the end of summer, I hope to have a whole slew of new ones to dwell on.

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