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Our Time in Washington, DC

Cherry Hill Park is located next to where I-95 meets the Beltway, north of Washington, DC. They have a bus stop on the property, where Metro busses pick you up. In the morning, they run several express busses to the College Park station on the Green Line subway. The campground is neat and clean and appears to be very well managed. They have a very nice store, with lots of RV parts and supplies. We had heard good reviews on this place, and we agree with them. Highly recommended!

Using the Mass Transit System is easy. I bought our SmartTrip passes at the campground store - Two Senior passes for us older folks and one regular pass for our grandson. These passes work like a prepaid credit card. You add money to them using vending machines at any subway station. You touch your card to the reader when you get on the bus, when you enter a subway station, and when you leave a subway station. Most of the readers in the stations also tell you how much credit is left on your card. The Washington Metro subway trains are fairly comfortable and are cleaner than they are in some cities. While you see all kinds of people, we didn't encounter anyone who was really scary. We did not have a car on this trip and we only took the MH out of the campground once during our stay (because we needed to leave before the first bus).

Being in our late 60's, it was a little different experience taking a 10 year old on our trip. It's been a few years since our kids were that young. Our grandson was a good sport nearly all of the time and we had only a couple of difficult moments. We let him bring his PC and his portable videogame system along, to help with some of the long hours riding. (This kid has not yet learned the fine art of relaxing!) We really enjoyed his amazement at the large bridges we crossed, at he subway system, and at the sights in Washington. He said that he really enjoyed the National Zoo much more than the Museum of Natural History because "stuffing all those animals was just wrong!" He would far prefer to see them alive. He also said he enjoyed Mount Vernon much more than the White House because, "at Mount Vernon they let you see the whole house." If you have an opportunity to take a grandkid on a good motorhome trip, I recommend it. It will make you feel younger!


On Wednesday, we went to Representative Chellie Pingree's Office first, because it was our understanding we had to pick up our tickets for the White House tour there. That turned out not to be the case - the paperwork they sent via e-mail was all we needed. One of the interns was Hope, a very nice college student from Camden, ME. Hope offered to take us on a Gallery Tour in the Capitol while we were there. We took her up on her offer. (We're glad we did, because we missed our "official" Capitol tour on Friday.) The security in the place is a bit of a hassle, but we got accustomed to the routine. You have to leave your electronics, etc in a numbered bin at the security station on the way to each gallery. You then have to go through a metal detector and take off our take out anything metal that would set it off - similar to airport security. The Senate wasn't doing much when we first went in the gallery. Some Senator was delivering a speech to a TV camera and a nearly empty room. Grandma and I were kind of disgusted to see that operation. In knew that was what happens, but it's not pretty to see.

We then went to the House Gallery, where nothing was happening, then back to the Senate Gallery, because they had a vote scheduled. The vote didn't happen quite like I expected. Silly me, I thought they would all come in and take their seats at the appointed time, then they would have a quick and orderly vote. Instead, the Senators came in, two or three at a time, gave the clerk their vote on the issue, visited with each other, and perhaps some staffers, then left. There might have been a dozen of them in the room at any one time. A very few of them sat in their seats briefly to look at some paperwork or something, but most just stood around chatting, until they decided to leave. We watched quite a while, but the vote was not finished. It probably took over an hour. I believe it was some nomination they were voting on.

After our visit to the Senate, we returned to Rep. Pingree's office to pick up the backpack we had left behind, then we ate in the cafeteria in the basement of the Longworth Building. We did not get to meet Rep. Pingree. That's just as well - she and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum anyway.

Our next stop was the Natural History Museum. Joey had seen the "Night at the Museum" movie, and I had hoped he could see the big T Rex skeleton. However, that exhibit was stored away for renovations. They did have the big elephant, the blue whale and lots of other stuffed animals. Perhaps it was because it was very hot, and the AC wasn't working very well, but I didn't enjoy this museum as much as I had years ago.


On Thursday, we visited the White House. We had an 11:30 tour time, but arrived over an hour early. When we reached the gate, we found quite a line had formed. It turned out that these were the 10 AM and 10:30 folks. We went to the Visitor Center, where there was AC, and watched the introductory movie. When it was our turn to check in, we had an unwelcome surprise. The "guest list" had Grandma's birthdate listed as 2003, which is our grandson's birth year. I don't know whether I had trouble with the online form when I applied for tickets, or somebody mixed things up when they transcribed the information. They put Grandma and Joey in an area that I called the "penalty box" and Grandma later called the "Group W Bench" (some folks our age will understand). I was told that I could wait for them under a lamp post farther up the sidewalk. Soon, there were others joining me, whose family members had also been detained. A Park Ranger came by and told us we could proceed into the White House and wait for our folks inside where it was cool. I wasn't about to do that! I could see my wife and grandson from where I was. I was prepared to leave with them, if they were turned away. After quite a wait, they decided that Grandma and Joey were for real and weren't terrorists, after all. There was another checkpoint yet to go, but they just called back to the first one when they also discovered the discrepancy in Grandma's birth date. We each went through a body scanner, then were allowed inside the White House. We saw a library and a reception room on the way in, then we saw several rooms in the main floor. We did not get to see the Oval Office. Was it worth the trouble? Barely. You could buy yourself a good picture book and save a lot of hassle.

On the way out of the White House grounds, I asked one of the guards for a recommendation for a good, reasonably priced, lunch spot. He recommended the Corner Bakery, a few blocks away. This place had a BBLT (like a BLT, but twice the bacon), which was great. This place is apparently a chain - sort of a more upscale version of Panera's.

After lunch, we walked to the Washington Monument. It turned out they only let people go up it in the evening (when it's cooler) and we would have had to wait for tickets. Joey had wanted to go up, but I was relieved that we couldn't. We stopped at the World War II memorial, then walked the shaded path along the Reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Thank God for the shade! We also got an ice cream bar from a vendor cart along the way. At the Lincoln Memorial, I read his 2nd Inaugural Address, which is inscribed inside the north wall. It made me think about what our country went through in the Civil War.

We walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Metro station at Foggy Bottom, near George Washington University. That was quite a hike, and it was mostly uphill. Our train was held up for a track problem two stops before L'Enfant Plaza, where we planned to transfer to the Green Line. We got off the train and walked to the Archive Station. I think we saved some time that way and we were moving - not sitting in a stopped train! We certainly got our walking exercise in on this day!


On Friday, we went to the National Zoo. Both Joey and I got some nice pictures of the inhabitants - a few of which are included in the album that I have posted here. We had hoped to tour the zoo, then get to the Capitol for the 3PM tour that I had tickets for. We didn't pull away from the zoo soon enough. It was a long walk to the subway station, and a long walk from the station where we got off to the Capitol. We went there anyway, hoping to get in to see the inside of the Rotunda. It turns out that you can't just come in off the street and do that (Like we had once in the early 1970's). I asked a guard which was the nearest subway stataion, and he said "Union Station" We did a very quick walk-through of Union Station while looking for the escalator to the Metro. I'm glad we got a peek at it. It was quite impressive. Grandma was almost totally out of patience by this time, so we didn't linger.


One of the women in Grandma's exercise group had recommended the boat trip from the waterfront in Washington to Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. We took this trip and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our vacation. I bought tickets online, for boarding at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning. When I checked with the Cherry Hill staff about when the earliest Saturday morning bus left, I learned that we could not get a bus early enough to take the subway ride and make our boat trip. Their first suggestion was a taxi. I wasn't confident in that option. On Friday night, I asked the staff whether they thought I coud park the motorhome at the park and ride lot at College Park station. They weren't sure about that, but said that some of their customers had been able to leave their coach at the Greenbelt Park and Ride, which is at the end of the Green Line.

On Saturday, we got up early and drove the coach to the Greenbelt Station. We found that they do not charge for parking on weekends. We were more than early enough to catch the first train, at 7 AM. We got to the Waterfront station, and walked a few blocks to the Spirit Tours dock, in time to pick up our tickets and board as soon as they let us on.

We had great weather for a boat trip. It was another hot day inland, but comfortable, with a light breeze, on the Potomac. They have done a great job of restoring and maintainng the buildings at Mount Vernon. In the house, almost everything is original. GW planned and organized the place very well. Thinking of that helps you realize what a great man he was. George Washington was considerably more than just someone who was in the right place at the right time. There was more to see here than we could take in during our 4 hours there. I would like to go ba again, perhaps when it is a bit cooler.

When we got back to Greenbelt Station, we found our motorhome unmolested. It was a little hot from sitting in the sun all day, but fine otherwise.


On Sunday, we stayed at Cherry Hill Park, trying to rest up before leaving the next morning. I finished reading a novel on my Kindle. We all went to the pool in the forenoon and Grandma took Joey to the pool again in the afternoon. In the evening, we hopped on the tractor-drawn wagon ride around the Park. The tractor was a Farmall H. I had a lot of hours operating one of those when I was a kid.

On Monday, we left for home. I definitely would like to stay in Cherry Hill Park and visit Washington again. I noticed that they are open year-round and have heat tapes on the water spigots. We didn't make our trip to Florida last winter. Maybe we'll do it this winter and stop at Cherry Hill on the way to or fro (maybe both).

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We stay at Cherry Hill twice a year...migrating between FL and NH.  It's always lived up to my high expectations, which are a result of our first "let's give it a try" stay. We've actually interrupted our migration to stay at CH for a couple of nights and use transportation there to "do" DC.  Highly recommend it.

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