Washington D.C. July 2013

Kal is a big soccer fan, watching the English Premier League every weekend and as much of MLS as she can.  We also enjoy watching the World Cup every four years and the US Men’s and Women’s team qualifying matches the year before the World Cup.  We had both become familiar with the Men’s team and therefore was very interested in the Gold Cup, which is a tournament of CONCACAF for the North American soccer teams.  We learned from William that if the US made the quarter-finals of the tournament that their game would be played in Baltimore, Maryland on July 21.  Since this is less than 30 minutes from his home in Maryland and since we had nothing else to do while we waited for the house to sell, we decided that this must be one of the reasons we had retired.  So we bought tickets for the game and made our plans.  William talked us into “making a beer run” at the Hi-Wire Brewery in Asheville so we dropped in on my daughter, bought a case of Bed of Nails (the Brown Ale), and took her to dinner.  We had not originally planned on taking her to dinner since we arrived in Asheville early afternoon, at least a couple of hours before she got off work, and wanted to get closer to Maryland before stopping for the night.  However, Asheville has always been a confusing town for us and it took us over an hour to find her Walgreens store where she works as a pharmacist, after circumnavigating the city.  At this point we decided it was time to purchase the GPS unit we had our eye on for RVers.  The next day we drove on to my son’s home in Maryland, which we found with only a slight detour.  Since the soccer game wasn’t until Friday, William took Thursday off and we spent the afternoon in Washington D.C.  As I have mentioned before, one of my retirement dreams is to visit all the locations in the National Park System.  I don’t know if you have looked at it, but a LOT of the National Park System is in Washington D.C.  I’m sure you are aware that all of the monuments are part of the NPS, but did you know that just about every city park is also administered by the NPS?  In any, case it is going to take multiple trips to D.C. to see them all and we thought a good start would be to knock out a bunch of the monuments.  I had visited most of the monuments as part of a trip during high school, but Kal had never seen them.  William, on the other hand, has seen them multiple times taking friends and family.  He didn’t seem to mind seeing them again so off we went.  It is about a 20 minute drive to the closest subway station from his house and then a long trip by subway into the city.  At least we did not have to deal with the traffic and parking in the city and the subway takes you right to the National Mall.  After lunch in the city we proceeded to visit as many of the monuments as we could in one afternoon.  Beginning with the outside of the White House,  we visited the George Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, George Mason Memorial, and Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  Along the way we stopped at the Lockkeeper’s House at the intersection of 17th St and Constitution Avenue.  It is at the location of lock #5 on the Washington Branch of the C&O Canal system.  Since Washington D.C. was built in a swamp, the roads were often muddy and transportation of goods was difficult.  Originally a system of canals were planned in the city and this branch was completed in 1833.  It was abandoned 30 years after construction since it got so little commerce due to the advent of the railroads and because it smelled like a sewer.  In the 1870s it was filled in and became Constitution Avenue.  Even though the building is not much to look at, it was a neat find on our trip.  Especially since it is not listed on any of the NPS sites, even though the interpretative signs clearly state it is part of NPS.  While we did not see all of the monuments in Washington D.C. it was certainly enough for one day, especially for a sunny day in the middle of July!

Prior to the soccer games (it was to a double header with the US playing El Salvador followed by Honduras playing Costa Rica) we took the morning to visit Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.  If you are familiar with the Star Spangled Banner, then you are familiar with some of the history of Fort McHenry, since this was the site of the battle during the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to the song.  The melody, unfortunately, was not an original composition as it was composed by The Anacereon Society, a London Gentlemen’s club.  We ate lunch along the harbor and proceeded to the soccer game.  Unfortunately we did not take the camera into the game, but it was exciting and a lot of fun.  The fans for all the teams had set up a massive tailgating party outside the stadium that made an interesting trip into the stadium.  Both El Salvador and Honduras have green team colors and their fans easily outnumbered the US fans both outside and inside the stadium.  Even though the Gold Cup was used as on opportunity for soccer players in the US to earn a spot on the national team, we got to see a number of players that are now members of the national squad.  In particular, Landon Donovan who was the one of the US roster stars in the last World Cup.

The following day, Kal and I set off on our own to see a few more of the NPS sites on the outskirts of Washington D.C.  Or at least we thought they were on the outskirts.  By the time we found the Battleground National Cemetery, we realized our mistake.  Anything inside the beltway, even a little inside, is a part of metro D.C.  We managed to find a parking space right outside of the cemetery, which was fortunate because this was not a neighborhood that I would have wanted to do a lot of walking around.  Fort Stevens was only a few blocks from the cemetery, but it was still in the same residential area.  Both sites were very small and took less than a hour apiece, so then it was onto Rock Creek Park which was less than half a mile away.  Once we entered the park along Rock Creek it was the difference between night and day.  While the park has a high end use it was still a large natural area.  Within Rock Creek park we visited Fort DeRussy, which along with Fort Stevens (both of which were mere gun emplacements rather than “forts”) were part of the Civil War defenses for D.C.   Also within Rock Creek Park is Pierce Mill, an old grist mill.  We continued south out of Rock Creek Park which turned out to be a mistake as it led directly onto the Rock Creek and Potomac River Parkway which has only limited access.  We did manage to get off at the next exit, but this put us within sight of the Washington Monument!  Our intention was to stay out of the traffic in D.C., but we had managed to get ourselves into the middle of it.  Next time, we will have a GPS unit!  All we could do was to head north according to our road atlas and for the next hour and a half dealt with the traffic as we worked our way out of town and back to William’s house.

Having enough of downtown D.C. and its traffic we decided the next day to seek out the Civil War battlefield known as Monocacy National Battlefield northwest of D.C.  It seemed strange at the time that there was a major battlefield to the northwest of D.C., but it was known as “The Battle That Saved Washington”.  It was an attempt by General Early to capture D.C. in July, 1864 and nearly succeeded.  At it turned out the Confederate victory here led to the fighting at Fort Stevens that we had visited the day before.  Once again the need for a good GPS unit was obvious as there were few signs for the battlefield and the location on the atlas was only approximate at best.  While the country in Maryland is very picturesque, we certainly saw more than we intended.  However, in comparison to the day before, this was a relaxing and enjoyable day spent exploring the multiple locations that make up the battlefield.

Thankfully, the interstates found our way home the following day (after stopping off for a night with my sister in Tennessee) without any further incidents.

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