Days III & IV: Washington, DC

We woke up at about 9:30, since we had to figure out how to use the Metro and get to Ford’s Theatre by 11:00. Our current hotel does not serve complimentary breakfast, and we did not have time to get anything on the way to the Metro.

The Rosslyn Metro platform is in a tube roughly 40 feet tall and a bit wider, located at an elevation of 97 feet below ground. The reason for such depth is the location of the entrance on a bluff overlooking the Potomac, which the train tunnels under. An escalator heads down to the station, and the depth left me in awe since I did not expect it. My father purchased cards for us, preloaded with a bit of money. I liked the cards, due to ease of use and convenience. The only problem is that we had to be careful not to have any money left on them at the end of the trip.

While I enjoyed seeing the interior of Ford’s Theatre and the exact place where Lincoln was shot, I did not find the museum in the basement as interesting. My parents purchased the audio tour, which continued for a very long time. The two hours we spent in there and the Peterson House felt like forever to me.

To anybody interested in the history of Ford’s Theatre or the Lincoln assassination, I recommend reading the National Park Service’s report on the Theatre’s design. It can be read online for free, or purchased cheaply.

We went to a Chipotle at the edge of the Chinatown neighborhood, and I got a bowl. The prices for food in DC are quite high, but we had to eat somewhere. The city was OK for a city, but being from the suburbs, I tend not to like crowds and crowded streets. Our family typically goes to quieter areas, but it wasn’t too bad doing something different.

Afterwards, we travelled down to the National Air and Space Museum. I saw quite a bit in the museum, but don’t feel like describing it in detail. After all, anybody can go down their and see the exhibits, and there are certainly countless accounts, photos, and videos of the exhibits.

We headed back to our room and rested a bit before getting dinner at a small bar known as “The Sign of the Whale”. It was located Northwest of the city, and served the usual burgers and beers. I liked the urban hole-in-the-wall feel of the place. Most of the customers were in about their 30’s, though I imagine they get more college students when school is in session.

The second day was another day mostly dedicated to visiting museums and other tourist attractions. We toured the Holocaust Museum, and proceeded to walk to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. We also saw the Capitol and White House from the outside, but did not have time to arrange for tours.

On our way back we went to a place on the campus of Georgetown University known as “FoBoGro”, which is short for “Foggy Bottom Grocery”. Upstairs is a convenience store for local students, and downstairs they serve hot sandwiches. I got a Cuban-style sandwich, and we all enjoyed the quality.

We got back to the hotel early, since the constant walking gets rather exhausting. My brother went down to the swimming pool, but I wanted to just relax.

The Best Western we stayed at had a number of problems. We switched rooms for the last night since our AC unit was not working, though the replacement room wasn’t too much better. The artwork was also poorly chosen. Each room contains two pictures: “Kissing the War Goodbye” and a stock photo of the Iwo Jima memorial. There were various photos of the Iwo Jima memorial everywhere, some taken from slightly different angles but a lot being repeats. One of the hallways even is overlooked by a six foot wide painting of the memorial. I could even see two copies of the same poster from some positions.

It was nice to be in DC for a bit, but I couldn’t wait to get out and explore the rest of the East Coast.


Day II: Pennsylvania

We had to get up at about 8:30 for the tour that my brother had scheduled. The campus of Juniata College is situated at the north-western end of town, and is composed of a mixture of both old and new buildings. I did not stay with my parents for the information sessions, since I have sat through quite a few of those during my own college search. I did give myself a little tour myself, and found the facilities to be of a high quality. They even have a business incubator, where students can receive capital in order to launch their ventures.

I walked about a mile down the street from which I came, to visit the shops and other attractions of the old downtown. The Motor Inn had a brochure for that area, and given my curiosity for small town gift shops and adventurous spirit, I had to check it out. The streets were lined with fine nineteenth century architecture, many buildings having plaques noting a National Register of Historical Places designation.

not remember the name of but will try to find, was a small antique shop. I walked in shortly after it opened for the morning, and saw a number of various items. The variety of books especially interested me, such as the old Arabian Nights edition with stunning illustrations, the Swedish translation of the Book of Mormon, and the fake book that had a secret compartment. But what interested me the most was a book, printed in 1897 (though initially published about ten years prior), used by a German immigrant to learn the English language. It contained over 2,000 engravings (sketches) of English word meanings. Considering the effort required to produce a book with so many engravings, it must have been an expensive book when it was new. I purchased it and after minor repairs will add it to my collection.

“Mary’s bargains” largely dealt in entertainment and video games, but also had hotwheels cars and various toys for children. The lady who was working (presumably Mary) told me that students would often patronize her store. A staff member at the college later confirmed this, claiming students utilize it as a source for bicycles and DVDs. Her husband avidly enjoys video games, especially for older systems, having “every single system” according to her. Boxes sat under the counter of various games for systems of bygone generations, with a significant collection of NES and Genesis cartridges. As the name implies, the pricing is bargain in nature, but demand has grossly inflated prices of older games and even bargains are more than I am willing to pay.

I also checked out the library and historical society. A prominent citizen of the town donated two grand houses next door to each other for them many years ago. The library seemed popular among the local children spending their break, though there were also adults. Two clerks manned the desk, and I figured that while the collections couldn’t have totaled more than ten thousand volumes or so, it was still significant for a town of such a small size.

The historical society had several exhibits outside on the lawn, such as a parade float from the late 19th century, a canal mile marker, and an old train station sign. I decided not to go inside due to time constraints.

After being done seeing the town and college, we drove down to Gettysburg to see the battlefield. We followed the recommended driving tour route, and saw a large number of monuments and signs. The Pennsylvania monument was the most amazing, being a hundred feet tall with stairs to the top.

We made it to the hotel at about ten, and wanted to go to Chili’s afterwards. We drove to one in Arlington, but due to the lack of parking, continued on to the next closest one to our hotel in the suburb of Bailey’s Crossroads. The restaurant was understaffed, and the staff present did not do a good job. For instance, I did not get the item I ordered. I got a similar item, though they charged us for what I got so I wasn’t too upset.

We got back at 11:30, and went straight to sleep. We had an exciting day ahead of us, and couldn’t wait to see the city.


The “Wild” Ride

Yesterday, I rode across the endless flatlands of the Midwest and into the hills of the East. We left at about 2:20 yesterday, among heavy traffic leaving the city. My mom and I ate at Chipotle (because Chiptopia of course!), while my dad and brother ate at Chick-fil-A off of US 20 in South Bend. We also saw in Elkhart a McDonalds with a castle-esque exterior, though it possessed a typical interior.

We drove into the night, across Ohio and half of Pennsylvania. I tried to get a sundae in the McDonalds at the Brady’s Leap Service Plaza near Youngstown, but ten minutes after I paid, the cashier informed me that the machine was not operating at the time. In addition, I received extremely sluggish service – during my wait, they called only one customer’s order, and they still had several to go before reaching mine. Despite being left unsatiated, I enjoyed the relief of not having to wait for an even longer time.

I find the Ohio Turnpike’s Service plazas peculiar, in that their similarities trigger a feeling of déja vú. Yet I am often left uncertain as to whether I had actually been to that plaza or if it’s another location I’m reminded of. I even once remembered an event having occurred at a plaza, then after remembering a detail, recognizing it could not have been the same place.

We descended into not only the valleys of the Allegheny range, but also a dense fog. My father driving could only see a few seconds in front of us, and we had to slow down on the interstate.

At 3AM, we arrived in the quaint town of Hundington, nestled in an Alleghanian valley bisected by a picturesque river. Located within the town is Juniata college, a liberal arts college which my brother is considering attending. We stayed at the Hundington Motor Inn for our short rest, due to its status as the cheapest lodging near the college. Despite detestation of the place from my parents, I found the room acceptable, though the pillows were quite thin.

I am uncertain if I will finish the post about today this night. Nevertheless, I look forwards to telling you about exploring both Huntingdon and the site of the sanguinious Battle of Gettysburg.


Family Vacation 2016

Tomorrow, my family and I are leaving on a vacation to the East Coast. My sister is not coming with, since she is employed back in Grinnell, but the rest of us are driving all the way to Washington DC.

I got quite a few books to read during the trip. I checked out a copy of Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49” and James Joyce’s “Dubliners” from the library to read during the drive. I also am bringing a science fiction anthology I picked up at a thrift shop in late May.

Unlike last year’s vacation, I should have reliable internet throughout my travels, and intend to update this blog every night.

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I look forwards to sharing my adventures with you,