Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC

Collectively called the Smithsonian Institution, this world renowned museum complex in the District consists of 17 museums, galleries, and a zoo.  And it’s free!

From the origins of man at the Natural History Museum to the future of space travel at the Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Institution are a guide to the most fascinating aspects of our world.

Our sightseeing time was cut down to 4 days due to rain, but we still managed to visit 4 museums, including the Natural History, American History, National Archives, and the Holocaust Memorial.  You could spend days in each of them.  Some require a timed ticket due to their popularity.  The newest National Museum of African American History & Culture was booked out until August.

Jeff and I were most impressed with the Holocaust Museum.  It’s still difficult to believe that Americans had access to reliable information about the Nazi regime’s persecution of Jews as it happened, but most could not imagine a mass murder campaign was possible.  Though most sympathized with their plight, assisting and recusing the victims never became a national priority.

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Visitors to the museum’s Permanent Exhibition receive ID cards chronicling the experiences of people who lived in Europe during the Holocaust.  The cards personalize the events of the time, providing a biographical sketch of the person, their personal experiences and events, and finally the fate of the individual, whether they died or survived.

One of the traveling exhibits this summer was Remember the Children: Daniels Story.  It represents the experiences of many Jewish children during the Nazi era, Daniel narrates through his diary the history of the Holocaust in ways that children can understand.  The exhibit portrays life in a middle-class German home, in a Jewish ghetto in occupied Poland, and finally at the Auschwitz concentration camp.  We all were in tears.

 

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The world’s largest Natural History Museum’s highlights include the 45.5 carat Hope Diamond, Ocean Hall, Mammals Hall, Hall of Human Origins, Insect Zoo, dinosaurs, and the magnificent African bush elephant in the rotunda.  Rick loved the dinosaurs!

We wish we would have had more time, other museums recommended to us were the Newseum and the International Spy Museum.  They do have an admission fee, but have been told it’s worth it.

One rainy day cleared up by early evening, so we were able to take advantage of the Night Bus Tour that leaves from the campground.  The tour guide was very informative and funny.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to our nation’s capital.  We found all Washingtonians, from the bus drivers, tour guides, to staff at the museums very friendly and helpful.  They truly love their city and are eager to show it off.

Everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.  We can’t wait to return.

Next stop….Delaware Seashore State Park, Rehoboth DE

Washington D.C., a humbling experience filled with mixed emotions

Visiting Washington D. C. for the first time at 63 years of age was an emotional experience, despite wishing there was a different POTUS!  Sorry; this is not meant to be a political post!

We stayed at Cherry Hill Park, the closest campground to D.C. for a week.  This is an expensive park, but considering the location and amenities, it’s worth every penny.  It has 2  swimming pools, splash pad, mini golf, cafe, laundry facilities,  tractor rides, camp store, and even dog walking services.

Probably the best convenience is the on-site Metro Bus depot that takes you to the Metro train station.  The DC Metro is one of the cleanest, safest transit systems in the U. S., much cleaner than the NYC subway.  Once you learn the train lines, we found it very easy to navigate.   When you reach National Mall, you can hop on the Circulator Bus for an inexpensive way to reach the monuments and museums.   We didn’t realize this on our first day and ended up walking over 9 miles.  Ok for Jeff and I, but poor Rick!  It was a little too much for him and needed the next day to rest.  Bad Sister!

 

Day 1:  A Monumental Experience

Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool

  all I kept thinking of was Forest Gump!

The Washington Monument built to commemorate George Washington is made of marble, granite, and blue stone gneiss, and is the tallest stone structure in the world.  Construction began in 1848, but it was not completed until 1885 due to a lack of funds and the Civil War.  It officially opened October  9, 1888.

Lincoln Memorial

  • It took more than 50 years to get a memorial for Lincoln built and opened to the public.
  • It includes 39 columns of Colorado marble, one column represents a state in the union at the time of Lincoln’s death in 1865.
  • There are 87 steps from the Reflecting pool to Lincoln’s statue in side the Memorial.  The number 87 is for ‘four scores and 7’ per what Lincoln said in his famous Gettysburg Address.
  • Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered on the steps of the Memorial August 28, 1963.
  • Observers who are literate in American Sign Language have taken note of the positioning of the sculpted fingers, recognizing in their arrangement the signification of the letters A and L.  Lincoln was particularly invested in the cause of furthering the study of sign language, he authorized the creation and signed the Charter of Gallaudet University, the school for the deaf whose founder French had also sculpted.  The National Park service has dismissed this as an urban legend.
  • Rick’s favorite memorial!

National World War ll Memorial

The World War II Memorial creation was authorized be President Bill Clinton in 1993 and constructed between 2001 and 2004.  It was dedicated to the hundreds of millions of people who served, the hundreds of thousands of people who died and also those who helped support soldiers in battle.

All 48 states, 7 federal territories and District of Columbia are represented on the memorial with its own granite pillar and wreath.  A wall of 4,048 gold stars, each one represents 100 American military deaths.  That is more than 400.000 soldiers.

Korean War Memorial

This Memorial had special meaning for Rick and I since our father fought in the Korean War.  He never mentioned his experience, however years after our mother passed, I found a newspaper article about his experience during the Navy Battle of Casablanca.  He was part of an invasion task force of 102 American ships carrying 35,000 soldiers who approached the coast of Morocco undetected.  I would have liked to have had an adult conservation with him about it, but never got the chance.  He survived the Korean War, but was killed in a car accident in 1969 at the age of 42.  I was just 15.  Perhaps some memories are best left alone.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

This also stirred up emotions.  In our small town of 1200 people, we lost 4 young men to the Vietnam War.  Considering graduating classes typically were less than 60 students, 4 was a high number.

The Memorial was dedicated on November 13, 1982 and honors the men and women who answered the call to service during the most divisive war in the U.S. history.  More than 58,000 names of soldiers who gave their lives or are missing are inscribed on the black granite wall.

The staff are very helpful in locating the names of your loved ones and making an etching.

Jefferson Memorial

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Martin Luther King Memorial

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

 

Arlington Cemetery: a somber sight

The thousands of white grave markers against the green grass makes a dramatic visual and visceral impact.

 

Visiting all the memorials brought up memories of my childhood.  Growing up in the 60’s wasn’t as idyllic some would think.  It was often a confusing time of social unrest.  We may not have had the school shootings that students of today face, but there were race riots and Vietnam War protests, sometimes ending in violence (Kent State).  I remember the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy.  Young men were either drafted or enlisted.  Some chose to flee the country to Canada.  Those who were fortunate to survive, returned home to a nation of hostility.  There were no “Thank yous” or “Welcome home”.  They were met with hate filled protesters, screaming obscenities, calling them baby killers, even spitting on them.  Many could not bear the hurt and humiliation and would end up having problems with addiction to cope or even committing suicide.

Visiting these Monuments and Memorials is a moving experience.  They link the past to the present and enable people to remember and respect the sacrifice of those who fought for our freedom.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  George Santayana

Up next…museums

White Sands National Monument

a magical sea of sand

DSCN0106I have wanted to visit White Sands every since I read “Gone with the Wynns” RV blogpost 3 years ago.

This is the largest gypsum dune field in the world, located in the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico.  The massive collection of gypsum resulted from changes in ancient landscapes that started before the time of the dinosaurs.  Some 250 million years ago, what is now New Mexico was covered by a shallow sea, but the sea’s level eventually fell as the area began to dry.  The thick layers of gypsum settled onto the old sea floor.  About 7,000 years ago , the gypsum began to form dunes, and they continue to shift today, some of them moving as much as 30 feet per year.

Unlike silica sand, gypsum does not absorb heat from the sun.  So even on the hottest day, the dunes are cool and comfortable.   Gypsum is actually a clear substance, the dunes appear white like snow because the grains are constantly banging into each other.  The scratches then reflect the sun’s rays making them appear white.

Sledding is a popular activity!  I just had to try it.

Hard to believe that any vegetation could survive, but there are many drought tolerant plant species.

The beautiful white wonderland against the blue sky is unbelievably surreal.  But it is real.  A must for every bucket list!

As my Canadian friend Judy would say, “Pretty cool, eh?”

 

 

Patagonia Lake, a birding paradise!

After leaving Kartchner we went south to Patagonia on the recommendation of our friends, the Galloways.  They stayed there a couple of years ago and actually saw a very rare bird, the Elegant Trogon.   More than 300 bird species migrate, nest, and live in the riparian habitat along Sonita Creek and it is ranked as a world-class birding destination.

Patagonia Lake was constructed in the late 60’s by a group of citizens incorporated as the Lake Patagonia Recreation Association.   The Association soon recognized they did not have sufficient capital to meet the demand of maintaining the lake and recreation facilities.  After working through lengthy, complex negotiations, Patagonia Lake was acquired by Arizona State Parks in 1975 and officially opened as Patagonia Lake State Park on April 1,  1975.

The 2.5 mile long, 250 acre lake is popular for fishing, boating, swimming, and birding.  6EF9F43D-3030-4CD8-B2F7-91081DA8167D

You can take a $5 avian boat tour.

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Swimming beach and day use area

 

Meeting up with friends we have met on earlier trips is always fun.  Last year we met Robin and Craig at Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell.  And it just so happened that they were volunteering at Kartchner Caverns when we were there.  We got together for happy hour and then they came down to Patagonia for the day.  We shared travel stories, favorite campgrounds, and future plans.  Coincidentally, they will be in the Finger Lakes area when we are there in August and we have already planned on getting together.

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We also took advantage of the guided bird hike.  I know nothing about birding, can only identify the obvious robins, cardinals, and blue jays, but nonetheless thought it could be a learning experience.

Jeez, these birders are freaking serious with their $2000 pair of binoculars.  By the time I tried to focus on the willow straight in front, left of the limb next to the forked branch with my cheap $20 binoculars, the damn bird was gone.  They are ooohhing and ahhing about some brown crested flycatcher, not to be confused with the ash throated and I don’t see a thing!   Well, Jeff did manage to get a few pics.

I enjoy nature and wildlife, strenuous hikes and leisurely walks, but realized early on this was not for me.   You walk 20 steps, then stare into the trees for 30 minutes and wait and wait and wait.  It was kind of amusing to hear them politely debate whether it was a neotropic cormorant or double-crested one!  Lovely people, but just not our cup of tea.  We thanked them for their patience with our ignorance and bid our adieus.

All in all, a very nice park, sites are a mixed bag, some not very big or level.  We had a pull-through, however it was on a slope, not the easiest to level, but we managed.   If we were staying longer, I would have launched the kayak.

We’re off to White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.

 

 

Tombstone, AZ-The Town Too Tough to Die

Sometimes you just need to do the sappy, touristy trap thing.

Tombstone, AZ is one of the last frontier boom towns of the old American west.  It was rebuilt twice after two devastating fires and became a tourist attraction after WWII.

Its mostly known for the infamous shootout at the OK Corral between the Earp brothers, Doc holiday and the McLaurys and Clantons.   As with most tourist attractions, everything here is a fee.  We did opt for the enactment of the shootout, mostly for Rick’s enjoyment since he loves Western movies.

We found the Historama Theater interesting with Vincent Price narrating Tombstone’s history-the silver boom, fires, OK Corral gunfight, Geronimo’s Apaches, and assassination of Morgan Earp.

There are stagecoach tours, silver mine tours, and ghost tours.

We ended the afternoon at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon for lunch and a beer.   There was live entertainment and Rick even got to request his favorite Western song, “Happy Trails”.

So, it may not be one of those “bucket list”, must see kind of things, but it was a fun afternoon!

Happy Trails!

Kartchner Caverns….best kept secret!

reflecting_cavern_lake-300x225Can you imagine stumbling upon an untouched subterranean wonderland of creativity and keeping it secret……for 14 years?  That’s exactly what Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen did after discovering a breeze coming out of a crack at the bottom of a sinkhole, which led to a cave that had never been touched by humans.   The formations that decorate the cave are called speleothems which takes its determined form by whether the water drips, flows, seeps, condenses, or pools.

I imagine them getting together with their college buddies for a beer and one asks, “what’s new?”  They want to proclaim that they have just discovered a pristine, living cave, but they simply say, “Oh, not much!”   It must have killed them!!

Secrecy became an obsession, sneaking into the area carefully, hiding their gear so they could explore the cave for the next 4 years.  But, it was inevitable that somebody else could discover it and potentially be vandalized.  They discussed the paradoxical notion of protecting the cave by opening it up to the public, but with scrupulous safeguards.

It wasn’t until 1978 that they told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner about their amazing discovery.  Working with the Kartchners for ten years, they decided the best way to achieve a tour cave would be through Arizona State Parks.  The discovery of the cave was finally made public in 1988 when the Karchners sold the area to the state.  Prior to the grand opening in 1999, the state spent $28 million on a high-tech system of air-lock doors, misting machines and other equipment to preserve the cave.

Karthner Caverns is home to:

  • The tallest and most massive column in Arizona, Kubla Khan-58 ft. tall
  • One of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites- 21 ft. 3 in.
  • The world’s most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk.
  • The first cave occurrence of “bird-nest” needle quartz formations.

Disclaimer:  Cameras are not permitted in the Caverns, the pictures below have been borrowed by non-copy righted sites.

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Kubla Khan:  the tallest and most massive column, 58 feet tall

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Delicate soda straws

 

There are two tours, Rotunda/Throne and Big Room.  Both are a 1/2 mile in length, take approximately 1 1/2 hour to complete and are wheel chair accessible.

The Big Room tour is closed from mid-April to mid-October, as it serves as a maternity ward for about 1,000 female cave myotis  bats.

We were in awe of the beautiful colorful formations, but equally fascinated by the story of discovery.  These young men in their early twenty’s had the presence of mind, patience, and due diligence in the planning and protection of the Caverns for future generations.

The campground is just as nice with large, nicely spaced sites, some pull through.  As in most state parks, it’s W/E only but the dump station is easily accessible.

If you’re in the area, highly recommend going here.

Until next time…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Blog or Not to Blog?

What happened to 2017?  I stopped writing for the entire year, due to many reasons; we didn’t have unlimited data and frankly we were just busy living this new life, learning on the fly!

I attempted to post on FB about our travels and adventures to at least have a written record for us to look back on.

But, the other day when I was having lunch with a good friend, a more experienced full-timer and regular blogger, we discussed perks of blogging, namely connecting with other RVers.

We have met some amazing people on our journey, fellow Grand Design owners, camp hosts, and just friendly folks at the parks.  There is a special camaraderie among campers, especially Full-time RVers.  We share a wanderlust, a need to explore new areas and experience exciting adventures.  We get it!  Sharing stories around the campfire, admitting mishaps, and learning from each other.  It’s a mobile community and we love to connect and meet up.

We are leaving soon to begin our trek to the New England states and the East coast, I’ve decided to start writing again.  Thanks, Faye for the inspiration!

See you on the road!

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