Our stay in Washington was pretty good; the campsite was one of the best (and most expensive) we have stayed at.
Heated washrooms! A sitting room with an open fire open until bedtime! Local transport that accesses the city every half hour until night time! We had learned our lesson on the first night and bought a small electric heater for the tent, invested in copious wood for the fire and we were well set up for the autumnal chills heading our way.
We headed into Washington on each of the three days we were there, feeling as if we were in a futuristic, distopian sci fi movie, as the stations were very harsh looking and very dimly lit. We enjoying the major sights of the national Mall. It is just as you see it in all the movies, with the Washington Memorial being the largest needle in memorial history,
the Lincoln memorial being just as big as you imagine it to be
and every government building framed by columns that reach up to the sky. The whole place seems designed to make you feel small and insignificant, a massive exercise of ‘I am way more important than you’. There are, however, some great bits of art littering up the place from the sculptural garden
to the Navy memorial
to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (OK, this was actually a fossil).
We went to the Smithsonian Space and Flight Museum, which was reasonable and had hods of space stuff (unsurprisingly)
but it felt a little….thin. Having been to the Science Museum in London recently, (which felt pretty scholarly), the Smithsonian didn’t come out well. (I was a bit gutted, however, to realise that the moon lander in the Science museum was a model….childhood fantasies came crashing down faster than an out of control space probe, meh!!!!) We also cut through the Art museum, which looked quite bare, but it occurred to me that the Americans are probably not being pursued for the return of things like the Elgin Marbles and a whole lot of other European swag…
We were really impressed by the free open spaces between the buildings and when you stood in just the right spaces the views were spectacular.
I loved the Botanical Gardens, yet another free place to visit, so long as you didn’t use a tripod or try to photograph your wedding. You could see the place was well used by the locals, eating their picnic lunches and it was truly delightful.
On our last day in Washington we had planned to take a quick look at the White House (as we were way too disorganised to book a tour)(as usual) and then have a nice lunch, followed by a look around the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. We saw the Capitol Building, rather interestingly clad in scaffolding, like a project for a third year art student,
had a chat to the local police
(this one was miffed that I caught him unawares and insisted that I took another photo of his best smile)
(this cop told us that he had to keep his Harley shiny so he wouldn’t get told off when he escorted the president!).
We passed the FBI building (J Edgar Hoover Building)
where this was the message
We were perplexed by the local taxis
(until we realised that they had to wear the local livery) and had a quick look at the Obama mansion
(We had met up with the Obamas at the campsite)
It all went well until we tried to find a good place for lunch. Everything either cost a fortune or shut before we could get there. We came upon a sign for an establishment called Boss that promised us ‘Honest food and drink’, which seemed kind of appealing. We went down some stairs to a surprisingly glamorous-looking place, which we really liked the look of. Unfortunately the restaurant was closing but they said we could get some food at the bar. It turned out to be ‘Happy Hour’, and we managed to buy beer and wine for $5 a glass, along with some very tasty snacks. We went there at just after 2pm and we had a real blast.
We met Ryan the barman who had stayed in Ruislip as a 20 year old with his brother, who was then in the force,s and had a fantastic time. He was about to head off to Los Vegas with his girlfriend, and he was a delight to talk to. I got chatting to two blokes, Palmer and Rich, who are employed by the government to provide video documentation for one of the senators. They were a hoot! They get to follow their guy around and have to make him/her look good, but their jobs remain, even if said senator gets booted out, as they are then assigned someone else. We had an extremely intellectual conversation about Star Wars, Star Treck and a range of other sci fi, as well as the relative merits of Top Gear, and did the producers make Jeremy and the team pint their car pink with the slogan ‘we are gay’ when they were travelling in the deep south of the USA.
In the meanwhile Tim was chatting to a very nice local solicitor called Christian who was one of 400 or so partners in a huge practice, who were basically meant to sink or swim in the hope of making it to the top. He worked about twelve hours plus a day plus a bit when he got home in the evenings. I think part of the discussion was about various types of Scotch.
We also met Charles, a very friendly but rather sad guy who gave us a load of advice about where to visit on our way down south.
When we finally wobbled out at about 6pm, the museum was shut…oops!
Back at the campsite we met John, who was cycling from Boston to Florida and then right across the southern states to California to raise awareness of forces veterans’ homelessness.
If you are interested in how he is getting on, you should check out his Facebook page; Road Worrier Cyclist. We gave him a few bucks for a meal and he gave us a tee shirt!
As we were packing up we met a delightful young couple from Quebec and felt really good telling them all about our travels so far. I asked Tim if he needed me to see him out, but we both thought it would be totally unnecessary, so it was a bit of a shock when Tim backed up and something went BANG!!! A rogue tree had jumped out and caught the back of the truck just on the spare wheel such that it pinged the rear wind screen and bust it. ***** etc said Tim.
There were bits of glass everywhere, but we cleared it up as best we could and looked for the nearest Land Rover dealer. There was one half an hour along the outer Washington ring road, so we headed there to see if they could help us. They not only had a new window in stock but they found us a guy to fit it, we just had to drive for half an hour the other way around the ring road and meet him at a commercial centre, where he was doing another job. After a bit of hanging around, eating a surprisingly delicious sub sandwich, we met up with the window guy who ripped out the remans of the old window, ran window glue all round the edge of the gap and the popped the new window in with minimum effort (well apart from the massive strength involved in cutting the original glue out). He was genuinely surprised that we managed to find a Discovery 3 window in stock as they are as rare as hens’ teeth, apparently. When we went to pay him with our credit card it was not possible, as his machine needed a zip code and it would not accept the letters of a British post code. We paid him all the cash we had, which was about $20 less than his bill.
We did offer to go to a cash machine with him, but, bless him, he said that the $160 we had would do. So for $650 for the wind screen, $160 dollars fitting and then $100 hotel (as we were too late to camp) plus a very nice steak meal at the local Texas Steak House we were on our way to Gettysburg.
The restaurant was interesting. You could see all the steaks on display as you went in
and it had a nice atmosphere
but the poor waitresses had to do a little dance every hour and whenever anyone there to celebrate their birthday they had to do a whole other routine that involved a whole lot of hollering. We gave them a bigger tip than usual, because it looked like cruel and unusual punishments going on.