Tag Archive | Washington DC

Circus Road Trip 2018: Two Months In

 

Yesterday marked two months of being on the road.  I was having too much fun to write though!  I spent the last few days at a friend’s house just outside of Washington, D.C., and it was amazing!

Yesterday morning I went trail riding with a horse show friend from my childhood in Silver Spring, Maryland.  In the evening I had cocktails in historic downtown Alexandria, Virginia.

Today I visited the Antietam National Battlefield on the 156th anniversary of the battle.   Antietam has the distinction of having the single highest day of casualties for the United States in any battle; close to 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing in one day of fighting, and approximately 4,000 men died.

Unfortunately, it was raining, and then pouring today, so it wasn’t a great day to see the battlefield.  So, I am zero for two on Antietam, since the last time I was there, there was a little bit of snow and the visitor’s center and the battlefield gates were closed.  I did drive the auto-route and walked a little bit, but it was brutally wet.

I am on my way to Michigan for a family wedding.  Afterwards, I will begin the trek back west.  I do need to cut out the Southeast, due to time constraints, and the hurricane aftermath, and the fact that I have traveled a lot more slowly than I thought I would.  We will see where the return trip takes me.  It has been a great trip so far!

Me relaxing in Alexandria

 

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: Where Lincoln Died

Day 5, Sunday, November 12, 2017

My last day in Washington D.C., I was going to be heading to someplace that has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and I was really excited.  Hopefully you don’t think this is too morbid though, because I was going to visit Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen Boarding House.  The sites in Washington, DC where Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth and where he died.  I think anybody who truly admires Lincoln probably wants to see these two sites with their own eyes, so I’m sticking with that…

Admission is free, and you don’t have to have advance tickets, but they are recommended, because the spaces fill up quickly.  The days I was there, they only did the tours (I used the word tour loosely) until about 11 am, because there were rehearsals for a play after that.  Advance tickets only cost $3, which is basically a processing fee for buying them online.  It is worth the small price to have the guaranteed slot!

It is strange to see it up close and in person.  Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen Boarding House have been preserved, but the entire rest of the area around them has been built up with modern buildings.  It is a little like seeing the tiny little house in the animated movie UP, dwarfed by the skyscrapers all around.  After waiting in line for a bit (outside, so be prepared for weather), I was in!

 

Ford’s Theatre Line

The tour takes you up the back stairs into the upper balcony seating area of the theatre, where you have a great view of the stage, and the Presidential Box.  Only Mary’s chair is original in the box, but the theatre has been restored to the way it looked at the time of Lincoln’s assassination with period replicas.  One day, I would love to see a play there.

 

When I say I use the term tour loosely, I mean that the docent basically just answered questions – there wasn’t really any information she presented to the group.  Which is fine for me, since I have read about the assassination and know the players and how it all went down.  If you didn’t know the story, you weren’t going to get it there though.  It was interesting to see where Booth jumped from the box to the stage, and where he exited the stage after breaking his leg.  I was a little disappointed, because the “tour” was supposed to be longer, but they were kind of trying to rush us out of the theatre section because of the upcoming rehearsal. I hung back and waited for everybody to file out and was able to get some good photos after most of the people had gone.  The docents didn’t bother me, even though I was one of the last ones there.

 

Me with the President’s Box

Down in the basement of the theatre, there is a great museum.  It includes artifacts pertaining to Lincoln’s life and family in the aftermath of the assassination, the assassination itself, and the conspirators and the hunt to find them and convict them afterwards.  The museum has the Deringer pistol that Booth used to shoot Lincoln on display.  It was so small – it is hard to imagine such a small implement doing so much damage.  The museum has a lot of good information, so I spend a while there taking it all in.

 

The Deringer pistol used to kill Lincoln

My last stop was the Petersen House.  There isn’t a timed entry here or an issue with rehearsals, so you can visit any time after your theatre tour.  You might have to wait outside for a little while, if there is a line, because the house is very narrow and doesn’t fit that many people.  Like the theatre, not much inside is original, as the originals were sold off as souvenirs after Lincoln’s death.  The original bed that Lincoln died in is now housed in the Chicago History Museum (note to self: visit Chicago History Museum).

 

The Petersen Boarding House

The Ranger did point out where Mary Todd Lincoln sat in the sitting room when she was too upset to stay with Lincoln, and where the men discussed what to do outside of the room.  The small back bedroom is where Lincoln lay, diagonally across the bed, because he was too tall for the bed.  He died there at 7:22 am the next day.  The original bloodstained pillows are in the room.

 

The Petersen house also houses an extensive Lincoln archive; you can tour that too if you are so inclined (I opted not to, as I was getting pretty hungry at that point).  There is a very cool tower of books written about Lincoln in the front room of the archive building. Floor to ceiling Lincoln books, 34 feet in all– this nerd was in heaven!  I was pretty proud of myself, because I had read at least half a dozen of the books included in the tower. I stared at the tower for a bit, thinking to myself, “I’ve read that one, and that one and that one…”

The Tower O’ Lincoln Books

 

On my walk back to the car, I stopped in at Capitol City Brewing Company.  I had a crab cake sandwich and a beer; so good!  You even get a homemade soft pretzel as a starter…

 

Capitol City Brewing Company

 

All in all, I had a really good trip – it was a great long weekend with a good mix of relaxing and sightseeing.  Sadly, it was time to head home, so I made my way back to the Baltimore airport to check in for my flight home.  On the way, I checked out a bit more of D.C. from the car, and saw a bit of Baltimore.  I will have to get back and explore more at some point!  But for now, I boarded the plane and made my way home…  Another wonderful trip had come to an end.

Accidental Airport Selfie – I was taking a pic of the plane hanging above…

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: Museum of Natural History

Day 4, Saturday, November 11, 2017

After seeing part of the National Mall, I was getting really hungry, and tired of walking, so I headed over to the Museum of Natural History for lunch.  My short time in D.C. meant that I only had time for one Smithsonian museum – I wanted to go to several, but that just means I will need to make another trip.  I had lunch in the museum café, which was pretty good; I had a pulled pork sandwich, tomato salad and a beer.

Museum of Natural History

Then I went upstairs to see the exhibits.  The museum has a lot of cool artifacts.  I saw a tyrannosaurus rex skull, several other dinosaur skeletons including another nearly complete tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, a whole exhibit on different kinds of rocks, minerals and precious and semi-precious gems.  The museum is home to the Hope Diamond.  Let me just tell you, the Hope Diamond has a pretty fascinating history, even if you don’t believe in the curse that it supposedly has.  You can read all about it!

I also saw a great wildlife photography exhibit, a seemingly random collection of jewelry, taxidermied animals and African tribal artifacts.  Did you know the Egyptians used to mummify cats?  And lots of other animals too, including ibis, bulls, and snakes.  However, they also wrapped linens to look like mummies, even though the inside was empty.  Egyptian trickery!  The museum has a large collection of mummies and other Egyptian artifacts.

 

They also have early hominoid fossils. Taung Child is there, a fossilized skull of an Australopithecus africanus, one of the precursors to homosapiens.  The child is thought at around 3-4 years old, and may have been killed by an eagle, based on damage to the skull.  Another interesting reading foray!

Taung Child Skull (a replica)

I finished off my visit with a viewing of the marine exhibit, including a whole section on Narwhals!  I loved Narwhals as a child, even though I have still never seen one, except on TV.  The exhibit had a couple of Narwhal skulls, so you can see where the tooth erupts from their skull.  It is actually a tooth and not a horn or bone.

In Inuit legend, the tusk was created after a woman was dragged into the ocean with a harpoon rope tied around her waist after the harpoon had struck a large narwhal. When she was transformed into a narwhal; her hair, became the spiral tusk.  Fun facts: only 1 in 500 male narwhals grow two tusks, and only 15% of females even have one tusk.  One female narwhal with two tusks is known; its skull was found in the 1600s.

A rare, two tusked Narwhal skull

Last but not least is the African Elephant on display in the rotunda.  This elephant has an interesting history too!

African Elephant – first displayed in 1959

What a fantastic museum!

After having my fill, I briefed checked out the original Smithsonian building and a small exhibit on Smithson; the man who donated money for the creation of the museum.  He had never even traveled to the United States! Smithson was an born illegitimately in France, and later naturalized as a British citizen; he went to university and became a scientist.  He led a nomadic lifestyle, and never married or had children.  When he died, he left his wealth to a nephew, with the stipulation that if the nephew didn’t died without heirs, the money would go to the United States to create “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”  Through some strange circumstances, Smithson’s body was moved to the Smithsonian Castle in the early 1900s; it is still there under the floor.

By this time it was about 5:30, and I was tired of standing and walking.  My subway ride home was uneventful, and after resting up a bit at the hotel, I ventured out again and had a fantastic pasta dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy.  It had been years since I had a meal there and it was delicious.  It certainly wrapped up a wonderful day.

The End