We arrived in D.C. mid-day Sunday and after a brief snafu with the shuttle from the airport (they sent the car to Dulles, not Baltimore!) arrived at the hotel immediately impressed with the location. Half a mile from the Capitol Building itself and within walking distance to just about everything on the National Mall. The day’s travels had worn Mom out, so she rested while I took a quick walk around the area to get my bearings and prepare for Monday’s start to our historic journey.
A few weeks ago, Mom asked me to see what wheelchair availability would be while we were here. I hadn’t realized her hip problems had progressed to that point and that was a hard thing to accept…but it was very brave of her to put it out there so easily. I happily reserved a push wheelchair for the week and it arrived on Monday just before 10, so that’s when we headed out. Our first stop was the Capitol Building, a truly awesome work of art and a strong symbol of America across the globe. Although it was cold and a little windy, we were warmed by the sun and our sense of unfocused patriotism. Boy, that sounds cheesy…but still true.
The next Big Ticket Items(tm) of the day were two wings of the Smithsonian: the American Indian wing (Mom specifically requested this one – and it had a lot of amazing artifacts and enough information to fill the entire week) and the Air & Space wing. I, of course, was like a kid in a candy shop around so many airplanes and lunar vehicles. Seeing such iconic craft like the Spirit of St. Louis & one of the Apollo capsules was a fascinating trip into the history of mechanical ingenuity. It’s amazing to see what the Skylab looks like and how big Saturn rockets actually are in person.
We still had a lot of day left, so I decided it would be a good idea to walk more of the National Mall and see how much we could accomplish. Sprinkles came and went as we walked through the park, past the original Smithsonian building and other beautiful government structures, until we arrived at the Washington Monument. It was still closed from earthquake damage a while back and we couldn’t go up, but that didn’t take away from the simple magnificence of the structure. Since we’d gone that far, I decided we could try for the Lincoln Memorial, too. After going through the new World War II Memorial, we walked by the reflecting pool and arrived.
The trip had already been filled with that electrifying feeling you get when seeing something in person you’ve seen so many times in books and on television, but I don’t think anything hit me quite like the Lincoln Memorial. Seeing the giant statue of the 16th President of the United States with my own eyes, being able to turn and see the Washington Monument and the Capitol Dome in the distance inspired a moment of silent reflection that made me feel proud; even with all of the things that have happened in this country that I’m not proud of, there are so many other things I am proud of. And we can all aspire to be someone better.
We visited the Vietnam Memorial and made our way to the White House, which had a lot of Easter festivities going on, and slowly made our way back to our hotel. We stopped for dinner in Chinatown and enjoyed the vast cultural diversity this city has to offer. All said and done, I walked seven miles not including the time in the Smithsonian Museums, all while pushing Mom around the sights. I was a tired puppy…but extremely excited for our next day, which would include a tour of the Capitol itself.