Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Washington DC - The Finale

Ok so it has taken me a little while to get to this last post. I guess partly because of adding all the pictures and partly because of a lot of crazy changes in life and my schedule lately. But here is my final post about my trip... it is for Fri and Sat and sadly my trip home... 

So on Fri morning we had decided to go to Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington was one of the places I for sure wanted to visit while there. I had hoped to go to the Temple as well but unfortunately it didn't work out this trip. So on Fri morning we again walked to the metro and started our day at Arlington. It is amazing how much you can be affected by a cemetery. I knew I would likely get emotional there and I did. When we got there we decided to take their tour instead of walking the entire time. The tour takes you first to the Eternal Flame and drops you off. Then you can take the "tram" to the next stop which is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and changing of the guards, then the final stop is the Robert Lee home. 

I remember having gone as a child to Washington DC and I know that I saw the WHite House and the memorials and the monuments and so many places that I saw again during this trip, but it's completely different when you're an adult and know the history, knowing the sacrifices and the events behind the places. It was emotional but I loved being at the cemetery. While there I kind of had a strange set of emotions, I was touched by the experience and knowing what I know now, but while there it really made me think a lot about my Dad. Knowing that my Dad is a Vet and that he will be buried in a national cemertery like Arlington really hit me. I was looking at the headstones and suddenly I felt as if I was in Los ANgeles at the National Cemetery there near the VA hospital where he goes. I was suddenly remembering how many times we have come close to losing him. It's bringing tears to my eyes writing about it and thinking of it now. I also seemed to notice a lot of birds on the headstones. For some reason this stood out to me as well. I thought about these birds and how they stood so tall and proud as if they knew the significance of everything as well. Maybe that is a weird thought but it really did seem that way to me.

So we started out at the Eternal Flame. I loved that most of the memorials and places we went in DC had quotes carved in the walls, concrete etc. Especially when they were from former presidents. It was really cool. I think I learned a little more in DC than I did in previous history classes. Or maybe it was just re-freshened in my mind. I have to admit I don't remember as much as I wish I did! I really enjoyed all the "history" parts of my trip. I loved getting to see COllin and Sharon and the kids, but I really do enjoy going to museums and historical landmarks and just exploring/learning! It's incredible how much there is all around us that we can enjoy and learn about on a daily basis! 

As we went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier I remembered watching a documentary about the guards. It is incredible the sacrifice they're making. I thought a lot about how our Heavenly Father knows the identity of that soldier and all the "unknowns" I wondered if somehow people who may be related or connected to that particular soldier if they can feel his spirit there? If they somehow know they're directly connected to him? I remember seeing the guards and thinking "they're so young" but yet they are incredible servants! What a tremendous experience they're having and what an example they are to so many others. What a great lesson they will be able to teach their families someday. As we finished and were leaving I noticed someone left an empty water bottle with some trash in it on the steps. I was kind of shocked by the lack of reverence of that person. To have witnessed something so touching and yet leave trash there. I am not trying to brag or boast of myself or anything but I picked it up and carried it until I found a trash can. It really made me feel for whoever dropped it, maybe that was me as a kid during my first visit, it was obviously someone who doesn't understand. It seems like such a small thing but it really left me feeling disappointed in humanity a little. I know I haven't always been the best person and I have a lot to learn but I hope that in circumstances like that I am not ignorant to the reality of my experiences. I was truly touched though by the changing of the guards. I almost felt as if I could've stayed there (melting in the heat) all day and been content. Just watching the guards pace and the changing regularly. Speaking of the heat though I was also impressed with the guard, in their uniforms they don't even seem to notice the temperature. I didn't even notice a bead of sweat! And to think rain or shine they're there! Again it is an incredible experience to be there and witness! 

After the Tomb we saw nearby a few other monuments for the space shuttles and other crews that lost their lives in service. It really is an incredible place with so much to see. I am thankful for our service members, past present and future. Even those who don't necessarily see war they have all made a tremendous sacrifice and should be thanked! I don't think that many people really know the significance of military. Unless directly  connected to our service members I wonder if people really understand. 

Then we went up the the Lee house, it is currently under renovation and restoration projects but there was still a good amount to see. There was also some slave quarters and showed their living conditions. I feel bad for the tall slaves because I am not even sure I could fit on their beds. Which didn't even have mattresses so they probably were not super comfortable to begin with! It was all so interesting to see. As we were on the tram back to the "entrance" area with the gift shop etc. I overheard something that made me smile, there was a family sitting behind us with an elderly female and she said something along the lines of "all I really want is a hot dog, we should've eaten lunch by now" Maybe that isn't funny to you but for me it made me laugh a little inside because you wouldn't expect an elderly person to want a hot dog! At least I wasn't expecting it! I mean if it had been a kid it would've seemed more appropriate! I am not sure what I would expect her to ask about for lunch but I guess it wasn't hot dog! 

Speaking of lunch it was already after 2 I think by this time so we were ready for lunch as well. I was feeling a little bit of heat exhaustion I think because I was kinda nauseated, and with the heat I didn't really have much of an appetite, but we went back to the metro and got off at some mall (i think it was a mall) and got sandwiches at a place that I think was called "Pot Belly" or something like that (memory is slipping a little now) but i think that's it because I remember there being a pot belly style stove thing along one wall behind us where we were in line to order our sandwiches. I got a sandwich, some chips, a glass of water and soda. I drank the water before Collin had even paid for his sandwich. We sat and ate. For how I felt I did pretty well eating my sandwich, but saved the chips. Towards the end I kinda pulled some of the bread off so it wasn't so thick. It was tasty. 

We walked from there a few blocks to go to the Thomas Jefferson memorial. I am not sure if I saw that one as a kid or not. But it was really beautiful. It is along the tidal basin and eventually during the trip we walked completely around the basin. We walked around there a bit and then walked from there around the basin to the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial. Which I think was one of my favorites. Partly because I really enjoyed the quotes they shared of his and it was a bunch of waterfalls. It was really peaceful and inspiring. From FDR we walked to the fairly new (Collin said about 6 months) Martin Luther King Memorial. Walking there we heard a little thunder and got a few rain driplets. I was hoping it would start pouring! It was another hot gross muggy day and the few droplets actually felt nice! It didn't start raining at that time though :-(  Darn it! I was glad we were done after that and heading back to get ready for dinner because my knee was getting really sore by the time we had even hit the FDR Memorial. I felt like I was starting to limp a little.. (and it was a no-cane day... I know I brought it and should've been using it, but it's hard. I am right handed so I like having my camera ready in my right hand, and use the cane on the right side since I have a bad left knee)

That night Collin had made some plans for us to have dinner with some of his friends. So after the memorials we headed back so we could meet them for dinner. As it turned out we had to kinda push back the time a little since we were out longer than anticipated. We walked back to the metro, and back to the condo. I showered and then I used the oven door as a mirror to do my hair and make-up so Collin could shower. We got ready and were only a couple minutes late for dinner. As it turned out James and Andrea were a couple minutes late as well. So it worked out nicely. While we were at dinner it rained! It was a lot of fun meeting them and the 4 of us had a fun time at Chili's. We had shared some BBQ and Buffalo wings appetizers, and had our meals. The guys had beer, I had a virgin strawberry margarita and Andrea only had water. We all ordered our meals and we talked and laughed. James was kind of picking on the waitress a little but I don't think she minded because she dished it right back at him. (plus she hung around our table probably longer than she should've) It wasn't too busy in there though so I don't think she was ignoring other patrons. I hope not anyway. After dinner we headed back.

We sat on the floor and I was showing Collin pictures from my trip to Sacramento for the CHP academy and the museums I visited while there. I was also showing him my blog and some of my poetry. I am fairly certain I had included him in my email telling people when I started my blog, but I think it was when he was on the ship so he may not have really known. So a lot of my writing was new to him. We had a good time talking about things and it was nice sharing with him some of my writings. I still don't feel as if I am very eloquent or talented when it comes to my occasional poetry but he seemed impressed. 

Sat morning he was showing me his pictures from his recent Europe trip while we had breakfast. Then after getting ready we headed out. We stopped at the marine corp base again and got discounted tickets for the aquarium in Baltimore. We drove to Baltimore and had lunch on the harbor "next door" to the aquarium. It was already getting later and by the time we went to the aquarium we barely had an hour or so before we were going to need to leave for the airport. So we kind of rushed through a little and didn't see all the exhibits but it was an incredible aquarium! If I am ever back in that area I want to plan a trip again and really get to experience it. I want to see more of the exhibits and maybe the videos they offer. I loved it! We ended up being there a little longer then we should've but it was worth it. 

Since we were at the aquarium longer than expected it meant we were running behind getting to the airport for my flight. Luckily we were not too far from the airport, but we hit some traffic due to road work or something. It was weird because they had part of one interesection closed off and it made me that much later. I almost didn't mind because I wasn't ready to leave anyway. I looked up my flight though and knew it was running about 15 min late so I knew that gave me a little bit of time. But I also knew that little bit of time would be taken off my layover (and plane change) which was only going to be about 40 min already! So I was nervous about that. On the way to the airport I was starting to cry and so I kept looking out the passenger window so that hopefully Collin wouldn't notice. I got most of my tears under control before we got to the airport and was feeling a little stronger and was trying not to let him see still. But as we got out and he was hugging me goodbye it was getting hard. He was telling me he had a good time and he hoped I did too, and all I could do was nod (otherwise I would've lost it) I felt bad for not really saying thanks or goodbye, but I couldn't do it! He told me to get going so I wouldn't miss my flight and so I got my suitcase and headed inside. 

This is where the story gets interesting (I don't think I told Collin about this part...) but I got inside and checked it and my suitcase was 8 pounds overweight! (sorry Collin, since you carried it for me!) I am not sure how that happened since it was under by 20 pounds on the way there (must've been all the sweat in my clothing!) and I didn't really buy any souvenirs so I had to take stuff out. So I grabbed my scriptures, my sweater and all the fliers etc. I had collected during the trip. Eventually I got enough stuff out of it and shoved into my backpack so that it was right at 50 pounds! I then went to the security checkpoint and waited in line.. I was starting to get really nervous now, since I had gotten to the airport with less than an hour prior to my flight already and had to do the suitcase stuff... finally I get up there and am going through security and they pull my backpack and ask to check it. UGH!! So she opened it up and pulled out a bottle of soda I forgot I even had in there. She ran my bag again and everything was ok. It was an unopened soda and I asked if I could have it because it wasn't opened and she said if I did I would have to drink it and then go through security again. I didn't have time to do that! So it got tossed! Go figure! I didn't know how far it would be to my terminal but luckily it wasn't too far. I quickly used the bathroom, when I got to my terminal they were already boarding. I had my cane with me I was able to get on without waiting for my boarding group. 

That flight didn't go too bad, we had a plane change in Atlanta and because there were several people who had short times between flights the attendants kept making announcements for people who had more time to please allow others to exit first. I had to wait a little but luckily several people let me go before them. I was glad that my other terminal was only like 2 away. They were boarding that flight already too. I had my cane and literally went from one plane to the next. I got my backpack etc to my seat and used the plane bathroom before the plane filled up. My flight home again went fairly well. My stop in Atlanta allowed me to see the sun starting to set a little. It was cool, but a little weird too because then as we continued to fly it got brighter again, but then I landed in the dark! So I saw the sun set, but then there was still sunlight, then darkness because I was too high to see it "set" again! 

After landing it seemed to be that I was at the far end of the airport or something because it took me forever to get to the baggage claim. Then I had to wait quite awhile for my luggage. So long that I was beginning to worry that it didn't make the plane change with me in Atlanta! It seemed like there were several luggage drops and then nothing! I think the screen was even showing a different flight! Finally though my bag came and I headed out for the flyaway. I debated about waiting for the first flyaway and seeing if it was full or not, or walking down to an earlier terminal. I decided to walk, and as I was starting to walk one came by (darn it I should've waited) so I went to 4 and waited there. I decided to take my chances and if it was super full than I would walk again. But I got lucky and it wasn't bad. My driver was way enthusuastic and talked non-stop during the drive! It was interesting! At least she has a great attitude about her job. I probably should've sent in a good comment about her. But I guess it's too late now. When I got back to the flyaway my mom was almost there with Deann to get me. I only waited a couple minutes. Then we came home. I had to work Sunday morning at 10 am so when we got home I basically got into bed. But since I didn't go in early I was able to get some sleep. Of course I got some early texts on Sunday but I didn't mind. 

Well that is my trip in a nut-shell.... or rather in 3 blog posts! I had an amazing time and even though at times it was hard on my knee and the heat sucked I really am glad I went! It was completely worth everything! Through it all I had a great time! I loved that there was no TV or anything else to distract us and we were able to just hang out in the evenings and catch up on life! It was really cool! Plus like I said I won all games for eternity! Although that's a little sad too because I love games and have quite a collection actually! The next few weeks at work didn't go well, and if nothing else the fact that I was working where I was and making more money and able to get that time off for my trip, I am thankful for it! What a tremendous trip it was and I learned a lot about myself and even a little more about Collin! I love that we are so close and he is such a great example to me! He encourages me, supports me and helps lift me up probably more than he realizes. Over the past 21 years i've grown a lot and a huge part of that growth is because of friends like him! I am so blessed! 

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