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                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

Episode 122 Road Trip Part 14 Washington DC

We were lost – or confused. On our third trip across Memorial Bridge we expected success. We had crossed this bridge going the same direction three times so we were familiar with the roads ahead. We had stuck to major roads on our way into DC. We had timed it to reach the edge of the city around two thirty in the afternoon. Traffic was not heavy going our direction. Brenda, serving as our GPS unit, was nervously handling pages of directions from Map Quest and plain old road maps of the city streets. We had a hard time telling which ramp kept us on the main road and which ramp would lead to a change. It was nervous time. We finally managed to find the entrance to the address we were seeking. It took us about thirty minutes from the time we first saw the building until we could get on the right road to actually enter the parking lot. Not good; it did require patience and a sense of humor. We didn’t move the car again until we were on our way out of town.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Our home exchange had been recently upgraded; it was spotless and comfortable. We had Internet and a great location. It was right next to the Marine famed monument of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. I did Tai Chi every morning on the quiet grounds about 30 yards from the base.

The day we came to town the winter weather ended. We were blessed with spring like temperatures of 50 to 70 degrees and clear skies. There were few people visiting all of the monuments and museums. We never saw a line. How lucky can you get?

We walked around the neighborhood the first evening. We stocked up on groceries, and got tickets to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. We went on-line to book the tickets. They wanted $270.00 per ticket. That seemed outrageous. I then found the actual Kennedy Center web site and clicked on ticketing. I got the best box seats in the house for $80.00 a piece. Imagine – there was a $190.00 per ticket price difference. A person has to be careful about where one buys tickets on the web.

The following morning we went into the metro for the first time. It took 5 or 10 minutes to figure out how to use it. The metro is a great way to get around in DC. We took it across the river to the Foggy Bottoms Station and then walked to the Kennedy Center to see it and pick up our tickets to the symphony. We stopped in a little coffee shop and then looked out the window and noticed that we were in the Watergate Building. That certainly brought back memories.

We walked to the Lincoln Monument and reminisced about all that had transpired around this shrine. The Vietnam Memorial was next. Brenda was in tears when we left. On the other side of the Mall is the Korean Memorial. Twenty bronzed soldiers dressed in winter gear and colored a ghostly white walk through low green shrubs. A reflective wall has many ghostly pictures of soldiers who died in Korea etched into the wall. When looking close to see the individual pictures the refection of the twenty marching soldiers is constantly visible. It’s a powerful work of art that reflects the harsh realities of war. We managed to sneak in a nap, a home cooked meal and then back to the metro and our symphony at the Kennedy Center. What a day!

The following morning we rode our bikes along the Potomac River out to the Regan International Airport. The view of the monuments across the river was beautiful. It was fun, but noisy. Between the airplanes and cars on all the roads it is not the quietest place to ride a bike. The city is built for cars. In the afternoon the Smithsonian was scheduled for a visit. The Hirshhorn and Modern Art Gallery had special appeal for us. But so did the Ruby Slippers that Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz and the kitchen of Julia Child. That night our home exchange hosts, Jim and Supie Wolf, took us out to dinner. Jim is a writer for Reuters’ News Service and they took us to the National Press Club. We were treated to a private dinning room and a dinner of swordfish and conversation that was sterling. Following the dinner they gave us a night time driving tour of the Washington sites. What an evening!

In all fairness I must insert here a note on walking; “Our dogs were dragging”. The city demands movement by visitors and walking is the method of choice. We tried to pace ourselves, but as all visitors know – time is limited and you feel like you would just like to see one more thing. We did try to be fair to our feet. Coffee shop stops and naps were included in every day’s activity.

Our last full day in DC was spent at the Capitol and Supreme Buildings and the White house.  A nephew of mine and his wife picked us up close to the White House and took us to lunch. It was great to see them and chat about their life close to DC. In recent years they had spent twenty minutes in the oval office with President Bush. My nephew was an M.P. or something like that. They had some interesting stories.

The nation’s capital is an armed compound; security gates, security doors, security cameras, security guards. They seem to be everywhere.  You can’t even go in the front door of the Capitol building. The new visitor center at the capital building really offended me upon entering; bullet proof glass, steel doors, guards and security wands. The entrance is in the rear of the capital. It appears that no one uses the normal entrances to the building. You are assigned a tour guide and given headphones. You must stick with your group – or else.

Once we started the tour my views quickly changed. The tour guide was great. She was knowledgeable, sincere, humorous, and friendly. Other tourists were few. We were the only ones – a group of ten – in the rotunda during our stop. Our guide explained everything and was very open to questions. There was no hurry. I left the tour very satisfied with our visit to this historically magnificent building.

We sat in the Supreme Court chambers and listened to a knowledge tourist guide give us a brief historical and architectural talk about the court. Then Brenda insisted that we walk around the perimeter of the heavily guarded White House. We left on the metro from recently refurbished Union Station for our stop in Arlington. Union Station, itself, is worth a stop just to see it.

We had spent five nights and four full days in DC and enjoyed it. Did we see everything? Not even close. There is so much to see and so little time. But we were ready to leave the capital. We were exhausted.


This is Retirement Talk.