April 15, 2013

The Shining City Upon a Hill

"…in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace…"  President Ronald Reagan

Carol writes:  After almost a week spent visiting some of the most well-known sites in Washington, D.C., I found myself recalling the words used frequently by President Ronald Reagan to describe his feelings about our country—a “shining city upon a hill.”  Our nation’s capital is a city without  equal in terms of American history, American values, architectural beauty, and world power. 

By chance, our first day coincided with the peak of the cherry blossoms, so we chose that day to take a walk on the mall along the reflecting pool, starting with a visit to a memorial that we had never seen before--the WW II memorial to honor “the greatest generation.”

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall--so many names, so many families changed forever.  We will never forget the sacrifice made by our generation.  So many of our high school classmates made the ultimate sacrifice, and some still suffer mentally and physically as veterans of that war.

I cannot add anything original to more than 15,000 books that have been written about Abraham Lincoln except to reiterate that he was God’s most valuable gift to America in one of its darkest hours.  An incredibly moving experience for me was the opportunity to visit Ford’s Theater, sit in the audience seats and look up to the presidential box where Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.  After President Lincoln was mortally wounded, he was carried across the street to a second floor bedroom in the Petersen boarding house, where an all-night vigil was kept at his bedside until he died the next morning at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, 148 years ago today.

   The majestic Lincoln Memorial

    Presidential box where Lincoln was shot

 Room where Lincoln died

For us, the most noticeable change to Washington, D.C. was the security presence--everywhere.  Our last visit was some time in the 80s with my brother, his wife and family.  In more carefree times, our most vivid memory of that visit was the free access we had to the Capitol Rotunda, followed by a memorable adventure on a Senate elevator that we took by accident.  Somehow that elevator delivered us to the bowels of the Capitol.  As the elevator door opened, we saw Senator Edward Kennedy and his entourage pass right in front of our eyes.  Then, Senator Howard Metzenbaum (Senator from Ohio for almost 20 years) got on the elevator, whereupon my brother (never one to be shy) took the opportunity to shake the Senator’s hand, tell him he was from Ohio, then proceeded to chat with him until a security guard kindly pointed out to us that we were not supposed to be in that part of the building.  How times have changed! Today access for tourists to most buildings is limited and is by ticket only, except for the Smithsonian museums, and visits there are still free and are the best deal in the city.

The White House, sparkling in all its majesty

The Natural History Museum—as in the film Night at the Museum, I kept waiting for the skeletons to come alive.  This was the ‘best of the best’ of all natural history museums I have ever visited.


Michelle Obama's inauguration dress

 The Hope Diamond
Chairs and desk used by Grant and Lee at Appomattox Courthouse
The National Gallery of Art became a primer for future visits to many art museums in Europe:

    Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci

 The Sacrament of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali

Main atrium of the National Gallery of Art

Napoleon by Jacques Louis David
Washington, D.C. was our first real test getting around on our own solely by means of public transportation in a big, bustling city.  We quickly learned how to obtain a senior discount metro card (just show picture ID and Medicare card, thank you), and used that, in addition to various free shuttles from our inn on Bolling AFB, to get wherever we wanted to go each day.  Al’s first learning curve was discovering he couldn’t enter a metro station gate by tapping the appropriate electronic hotspot with his room key card—that was nicely pointed out to him by a young teenage girl!  He used his metro card after that and had no problems.  LOL
I couldn’t think of a more appropriate city to visit than Washington, D.C. before we hop on a Space-Available flight out of Dover AFB to Germany.  Yesterday we took a short Amtrak ride from Washington’s magnificent Union Station to Wilmington, Delaware, then walked across the street for a last-leg Greyhound bus ride to Dover.  In the Greyhound terminal we were suddenly and graphically made aware that sadly, even in the "shining city upon a hill," there are still so many who have not even begun to experience the American dream. 
We sure felt proud to be an American after our brief visits to so many Washington venues that represent our nation’s core values and symbolize all that has been sacrificed for us in defense of our freedom.  It is no exaggeration to say we had goose bumps in the National Archives when it was our turn to view the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  Mindful and proud of all that it means to be an American, the words of Ralph Crawshaw best represent what we hope to accomplish on our RV adventure:
“Travel has a way of stretching the mind.  The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.”  Ralph Crawshaw  









  1. Carol,
    You capture a place so well. Thanks.

  2. We greatly enjoyed meeting you on the train to Delaware. You are a lovely and adventurous couple. Have a great trip! We will keep up with your travels.

    Terry and Jim

    1. It was a pleasure to meet you two. We thought of you when we were walking behind a young German lad with a Spiderman T-shirt.

  3. It's ok Dad, I tried to use my credit card at the gate instead of my military ID when I drove into work today.

  4. Great report and wonderful observations and comments! You covered a lot of territory in DC. I fully agree with the Great Man aspects of President Lincoln, I love his portrayal by Daniel Day Lewis in how he humanized him and showed his humanity and great sense of humor. He and George Washington our best Presidents. Looking forward to the first report from Europe and your reunion with the mobile outpost and home away from home.

    1. Thanks Jim. I agree 100%. I would also have to put FDR up there in the list of greatest presidents.

  5. I am thrilled that you guys toured the Anne Frank House! I can't wait to show Jillian. She just finished reading the Diaries of Anne Frank. I am having so much fun living vicariously through you both lol. Maybe someday you can host your own travel show ;)