For a couple of years, my son’s school has been planning a trip to the nation’s capitol. They’ve done meetings and planning and had money-making endeavors to help generate funds…all to get our sons and daughters to Washington, DC. And the day we are scheduled to go? The city shuts down.
That’s right…on October 1st, 2013, 87 kids and (what seemed like) just as many adults piled onto 3 buses and headed northeast to see the White House, Capitol Hill and a fistful of other well-known sites. The only problem is…Washington, DC decided it didn’t really care that we were coming and the politicians couldn’t see eye-to-eye about the new Obamacare legislation so…they pulled the plug. And…we were stranded…right? Nowhere to go in little ol’ Washington. But wait! That’s not necessarily true! Actually, we DID manage to see quite a bit and with a tour company that barely gave us a second to breath, we managed to see a few things that we may not have seen otherwise!
On Tuesday morning, we all boarded the buses bright and early at 6am. After a 12 hour trip with only a few stops that were more than 15 minutes or so…we found ourselves in Virginia near the Pentagon. Might as well get started then…right? So we stopped by the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the White House AND the ginormous Pentagon Mall before making our way to the hotel for the night. Upon arrival, I found myself with 3 very energetic young men who apparently had some serious gastronimical issues from their dinner! Nevertheless…I had them catching Z’s by 11pm and was feeling pretty good about myself until…
5:30am Wednesday morning came VERY quickly. And immediately we were up & running. First stop was Arlington National Cemetery. It’s beautiful and filled with so much history and at 8am, when there is very little going on, it’s very peaceful. Until 3 busloads of kids pull up…and then it’s a mad house!!! But seriously…we saw several famous burial grounds and tombstones and we caught the changing of the guard at the Tomb Of The Unknowns. It really was a great start to a long day!
After Arlington, we headed over to the Iwo Jima Memorial for a quick stop. Despite not having a lot of time to spend there, the enormous monument is quite impressive up close! From there we headed over to Christ Church, where George Washington and his family attended church services and then, after lunch at Roy Rogers, we headed out to Mount Vernon to see how that cherry tree chopper lived. His backyard has an amazing view of the Potomac River and is quite majestic. A quick tour of the house goes to show the differences in homes then compared to now. The rooms are very small and confining. One has to wonder how they got a big screen television in their living room…
After Mount Vernon, the kids were treated with a taco buffet and a dance aboard a showboat while the parents took a break. In the case of the dad’s, we headed over to a small little Alexandria village pub called “Bilbo Baggins.” There we enjoyed some pizza and adult beverages. After a couple hours of chillin’, the boat docked and we called it a night. THIS time however, the boys were exhausted from their long day and were sound asleep by 10:45!
Thursday, our final day in Washington, is a day that I will never forget. Not only did we get a personal tour of the Capitol building by Congressman Thomas Massie, but we also got to meet Senator Mitch McConnell. Although we didn’t get to stay very long, we DID get to see the Rotunda, which is VERY impressive!
After we left the Capitol Building, we headed over to visit the Washington National Cathedral, which is a beautiful church and the location for 21 funerals & memorial services for our past Presidents. Despite being a relatively new church, it has an old feel and the stained glass windows cast a glow around the church that sets it apart from most other churches.
Once we wrapped up at the Cathedral, we hopped on our respective buses and headed over to the Newseum, one of the few museums that remained open due to the work stoppage in Washington. Once we arrived there, we were escorted into a 4D movie which was 20 minutes long. Meanwhile, while we were watching the film, a shooting happened on Capitol Hill. Obviously THIS caused some concern back home as parents and students at the school called and emailed us immediately. Several of the parents, myself included, ended up being interviewed by phone as local Cincinnati tv stations hurried to make sure our group was okay. Needless to say, it was pretty strange being less than 5 blocks away from a situation that was happening and being covered nationally by television and radio outlets around the world!
Finally, our trip ended with a stop at the National Mall. Despite some of the monuments being closed, we still ventured forth to see what we could see. Our visit included the outside of the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
In retrospect, would we have liked to see the Smithsonian? Yes. Would we have liked to see the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Memorial up close? Sure. But I can’t say that we missed much due to the work stoppage in Washington DC on this trip. We saw about as much as we could squeeze into a 3 day trip to one of the most enigmatic cities in our country. Here’s hoping they get their act together soon and start working towards making this a great country once again! As for our 6th grade class? I have high hopes for them. And I’m HOPING that none of them get into politics…