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We figured the kids were old enough to get something out of our nation's capitol.  So we spent a week in Washington, D.C.  I used to live there (in the mid-1980's) and was really interested to see what had changed. 

On the way we stopped at Swallow Falls State Park in Garrett County, M.D.  Maria and I visited there just after we started dating so it was a nice repeat visit.  This picture shows the Muddy Creek Falls which are the highest falls in Maryland.
The next day we arrived in Springfield, VA.  The plan was to stay near some friends in the area and take the Metro into Washington.  The Metro is the ONLY sane way to get around D.C.  4 week-long unlimited passes cost about $130.  I ordered them online and they arrived within a couple of days.

We arrived in town and immediately headed downtown.  Our hotel was a mile or so from the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station  but the hotel had a shuttle service that got us there and back very well. 

It was a little late to do much but we did hit a couple of memorials and monuments.  Guess which one is pictured here...

The next day was mostly devoted to Arlington National Cemetery.  The kids had seen a documentary on it so they had a very good appreciation for what this place means.  We hit all the normal tourist spots and also got off the beaten path a little to see some of the less-visited spots.   One huge surprise was the "Faces of the Fallen" exhibit just inside the main entrance.   Artists created portraits of over 1300 men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Parents, friends, loved ones, and sometimes complete strangers have left notes and gifts on the portraits.  

We also hit several monuments on the Mall.  The only new one for me was the W.W. II memorial.  It is very well done and was too long in coming.  At left is the "Price Of Victory" wall.  Each gold star represents 100 American dead in the war.  Of course the Russian wall would be 40 times larger...

Next came the National Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum.  Both could have filled a whole day but when you only have a week you need to budget your time.   Both are hard to take pictures in due to dim lighting...  By the way the strange picture below is the business end of a Saturn V F1 rocket engine.

Wednesday we got up bright and early to stand in line for tickets to tour the U.S. Capitol.  We had tried this the day before but the day's tickets were gone by around 10:00 a.m.   Get there early!   The tour was well done but quite short.   For a better tour contact your local member of Congress and ask for gallery passes.  The picture at left shows the ceiling of the old House chamber.  This room suffered from bad acoustics and became way too small as the number of states increased so it is now used to display statues of distinguished Americans.
While waiting for our tour we ducked into the U.S. Botanic Gardens.  We could not get over the hundreds of orchids like this one.
This is Maria's favorite picture from the entire trip.  The gardens around the National Museum of the American Indian are planted in various native crops.  This particular small field is growing tobacco.  Notice the no-smoking sign....

Wednesday afternoon was spent at the National Museum of American History.   There is a lot of incredible stuff here (I really liked the fallout shelter exhibit).  The building has seen better days and will be closed for a couple years for renovations soon.  In fact the week after our visit the museum had to close when heavy rains flooded the basement.  At left is the Jupiter 4-4-0 engine.

Dinner that evening was in Chinatown.  For our nation's capitol it is awfully hard to find a good restaurant.

Thursday was a short day (we were TIRED).  In the morning we visited the Marine Corps War Memorial.  In the afternoon we made a quick trip to the National Zoo before retiring to the hotel in exhaustion.
On the way back to Ohio we made a side trip to the battlefield of Antietam.  This quiet few acres of Maryland farmland was the scene of the bloodiest day in American history.  23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded that day.  We took the driving tour and also scurried off the beaten path in a couple places to see the monuments and memorials spread all over the battlefield.

At right is a shot down the Sunken Road.  This road and fence served as a natural trench for the Confederates near the center of the battle.  The Union attack to take this road took four hours and left the road filled with bodies. 

The second picture was taken a couple days after the battle when most of the dead had been removed.