July 8

We woke up to torrential rain this morning.  I’m talking tropical downpour.  I borrowed an umbrella from the hotel and we took cab to union station even though it was only about one minute’s ride over there.  Our bus tour was to take 9.5 hours and called for us to be there on time.  There was a brief debate as to which shoes
Erin should wear in order to deal with the rain but that was quickly resolved.

Sure enough, the bus showed up at the appointed time but not before we got to see the bus company guy motoring around on a Segway in the parking garage.  I had never seen one of those in person before.  Anyway, off we went.

I used to think poorly of bus tours until we took Mel’s mom on one in San Francisco and now I’m sold.  They do the driving, they take you to all the cool stuff, they park the thing, and all you have to do is look out the window and get on and off the bus to take pictures.  We always had plenty of time to do whatever we wanted
to do.  We saw all the major monuments, the white house,  Mount Vernon, Christ church in old-town Arlington, Lincoln memorial, Vietnam memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, old-town Arlington, Embassy
row, Korea War Memorial, and lunch besides.

Again, at Christ church we saw the old pews of the famous names from the revolutionary war period.   Mount Vernon was the first significant thing on our trip that day though.

We got to Mount Vernon early enough to beat most of the crowds and late enough that the rain was starting to slack off.  I was struck by several things there.  The mansion was a bit smaller than I had expected but perhaps that was not unusual for homes of that colonial period.  It didn’t need to be all that big either since the kitchens, storage areas, stables and what-not were all separate from the house.  I was also struck by the fact that the house looked like it was made of stone but upon closer examination it had been made of wood and covered with a sand-filled paint to look like stone.  So George Washington, for all his other admirable qualities was apparently a frugal businessman with no particular desire to spend more money than he had to.  We learned that he sold lots of his crops; particularly the corn in the form of whiskey – again a man with an eye towards maximizing profits.  And finally, the woodwork inside the house was pine made to look like mahagony.  Many things about the plantation made me think of Washington as very much a regular guy who
happened to have a knack for political leadership.

Next, we had lunch at a buffet and then headed off for a whirlwind tour of the monuments.  We drove past most all of them and took time to stop and look at the White House as well as the Lincoln and war memorials.  We also stopped at Arlington National Cemetery and took a brief tour through there and the bus company had timed it such that we got to visit the tomb of the unknowns during the changing of the guard so we got to see the soldiers in the dress uniforms do that fancy thing with the guns.  I found the whole  experience pretty moving.

The Vietnam War memorial was interesting and I find myself mystified as to why so many people leave things there along the bottom edge.  I don’t really understand what would make someone want to leave an
artifact there and not, say, at the Lincoln memorial.  Whatever.  On we went.

When we finally made it back, we again had a quick dinner in Union Station and admired all the bomb-sniffing dogs and their handlers that were there due to the elevated levels of security.  The local TV
crews were interviewing some bigwig – the mayor perhaps about what he thought of the whole affair, whether he himself would ride the Metro, etc.  I didn’t actually see this – Evan reported it from one of
his trips to the bathroom.

Even though we were riding for most of the day, we were still exhausted but after this many days of continuous physical activity, we were getting pretty used to it.  We were getting into shape.