It wasn’t possible to tour the U.S. without seeing our nation’s capital. Chris had never been, and my recollection of the capital only exist as fragments of memories from a lame tour bus over a decade ago. During the planning stage of our east coast tour, our scheduled route was NYC -> Philadelphia -> Washington. And now, here we were.
We had the fortune of staying with my friend’s brother outside of Washington in Germantown, Maryland. From there we took the metro (which by the way was perhaps the cleanest metro I’ve ever seen in the U.S.) in and out of Washington for the two days we spent there. The National Mall was much more massive than I remembered and we might have covered the same distances we hiked in the national parks.
Albeit an incredibly windy day with a high of 32ºF, we spent our first full day outdoors, walking from memorial park to memorial park.
According to our friends, the chances of scoring tickets to ride the elevator to the top of Washington Monument are slim. Wait times exceed several hours, with the day’s tickets often completely distributed first thing in the morning. Thanks to the off-season (a November Monday) and an unusual freezing chill, we simply showed up and were able to tour the Washington Monument immediately. YAY!
Both the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials were paired with a modest museum and a number of wordy plaques. Between these museums, lengthy plaques, long walks, and a late lunch, we hardly had any daylight left in the late afternoon. We speed walked all the way to the Capitol Building, which was an eyesore under renovation.
Two museums devoured our time the following day. First we took a free tour in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where all our crisp bills are made. Imagine your lifetime salary being printed out in a matter of minutes!
We then spent 4 hours at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, but we were only able to explore about half of it! Without charging its annual 30 million visitors any admission fee and housing the world’s largest collection of aircraft (including the first lunar space capsules, first “plane” or flyer, first planes to fly across the U.S., etc.), the Smithsonian Institution is in my opinion the world’s best collection of museums. Our final day in Washington was spent soaking our brain with knowledge, marveling at artifacts, and embracing current and historical navigation, space, technology, and exploration.
Staying an extra day in Washington to explore more of the Smithsonian was considered, but the desire to get back on the road was greater. Our time spent at our nation’s capital was not only educational but also inspirational; the thirst for adventure, exploration, and advancement is engrained in American culture. With a revived national pride ignited in our spirits, we continued our journey to a part of America I’ve never seen: the South.