It was with a warm glow that we rode past Arlington Cemetery, across the Potomac and unto the National Mall.
My sense of well-being came from the Italian, Greek, Mexican and Thai sandwich I had for lunch; Sabra’s from the countless photo opportunities that presented themselves ahead. We also basked in the shared knowledge that we had bicycled two hundred miles to get here.
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” Hunter S. Thompson wrote years ago, and Sabra responded in like fashion. Suddenly, she was not only reenergized to get a photo of everything but to form a professional composition of each. For some logic I’ll never follow, this quest for flawlessness meant that there could be no butts in any photo. By butts I mean the derrieres of any the 100,000 odd tourists that walk around the mall daily.
This led to some frustration on her part and some unusual compromises. Rather than taking a shot of the brooding, larger-than-life statue of Abraham Lincoln from the front as probably a billion people already have, for example, she went around back and took her photo. The rear view was okay because no rears were in view. The photo will have to be labeled, however, since from the angle she chose one can’t tell what building is presented.
During the next two days we visited three war memorials (WWII, Korea and Vietnam), four presidential memorials (Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and FDR), the White House, and two Smithsonian museums (Natural History and National Air and Space).
We also had a great visit with Frank and Jan. I’ve written about them before. Frank is my oldest friend– we met in junior high. Among many unforgettable moments we unsuccessfully tried picking up girls together at the movies; went on successful TP (toilet paper) raids; and took turns being each others best man. They drove down from Philadelphia and we celebrated his 60th birthday together.
Everything was spectacular, especially the museums. Our education system would be miles ahead if every sixth grader in the country got a chance to spend a week touring the Smithsonian. It’s so fascinating, so well laid out, so people friendly– kids would learn in spite of themselves.
Saturday night a cold front moved through and our string of 10 hot and humid days came to an end. On a warm but not hot Sunday afternoon, we bid farewell to our old friends and the capitol and hit the trail for our next destination, Mt. Vernon. The Mt. Vernon trail proved to be paved and pretty but so crowded that it was dangerous. More than a few Spandex-wearing, beer bellied, Tour De France wannabes passed us and almost crashed into oncoming riders. It was nearly a relief to leave the trail after 15 miles for a final six miles of hilly side streets and a busy highway to get to our motel for the evening.
The next day we dropped our packs and cruised the six miles to George Washington’s home. We were both floored by the beauty and history of the site. It’s all still there pretty much as the first President left it: a plantation run by hundreds of slaves. I was especially impressed with cinematic presentation of Washington during the Revolution. When it came time to reenact the crossing of the Potomac, real snow was generated to drift over the audience.
Sabra loved the house, gardens, livestock and barns. Washington was ahead of his time in farming. He built a round barn with a special floor that allowed for horses to thresh wheat by walking in circles. He also experimented with ways of turning animal and plant waste into fertilizer. It was here that Sabra took the photo of a dung heap I referred to several installments ago. It was one of the few attractions that didn’t have someone standing in front of it, so it was easy for her to compose the compost.
Tuesday morning we hired a shuttle to return us to Meyersdale and the start of our last leg of our journey.