Visiting the capital & breakdown #2

Today we had planned to visit Washington and we were doing our usual morning routine. Our leisure batteries were pretty low, so we had to turn the engine on to make tea. This drew the attention of a guy who came over and introduced himself as the major of Walmart carpark, his dog is named Sir Rixalot. We chatted to him for a bit while we waited for the kettle to boil. Like many of the people you meet in Walmart, he was homeless and living in his car. It’s always interesting to hear people’s backstories, and it turns out that Mathew (his actual name!) had had a pretty interesting life. He’d had his dog for 16 years and had travelled a lot of the world, including England, before losing his job due to health reasons.
After a while he left us, and we packed the van down in order to go to the metro station.

We didn’t make it more than a few feet before it turned out that the van was stuck in first gear. The good thing was we hadn’t made it out of the car park so it was easy enough to pull over and have a look. It turns out the gear linkage had managed to come out of place as the bushing had split, a easy fix to get back on the road but we did now need to order a new part and be a bit careful with the gear changes.

Turns out there’s free parking on the weekend which is a bonus. The guy in the ticket office was kind. Having instantly twigged we had no idea what we were doing, he came out from behind the desk and set up to metro cards for us with the right amount of money on each to get there and back. He got us up with some maps, told us which train we needed and we were off.

The train arrived at Smithsonian, right in the middle of the National Mall. As you emerge you are immediately surrounded by museums and monuments. Unlike New York, a lot of things are in walking distance and also free.

We started walking down towards the Capitol building, past the Air and Space museum which we wanted to go into. However, the queue was all down the steps and onto the street, so we kept walking and headed for the Botanical Gardens. This was right up my street and made me want to get my sketchbook out. I could have spent all day in there, but we had a lot of things to fit in, so we moved on.

The Capitol building up close.

View down the National Mall.

We went to a nearby pub which claimed to do British food and had a beer and some chips with curry sauce while we planned out our afternoon. The curry sauce wasn’t right and the beer was extortionate. $9 for a Guiness!!

Although things weren’t too far apart, it was still quite a walk to get down to the Washington Memorial. The city has the usual public transport, but also has the option to hire electric scooters through Uber. We decided to give these ago and after looking on the app, found two available ones which we managed to hire. These are brilliant fun, pretty fast to get around and not particularly expensive. These were also particularly appealing to me as I was a complete crippple after my minor jog and the less walking the better.

We headed past the White House, for the obligatory photo.

And on towards the Washington Memorial.

Here we left our scooters at the Washington Memorial as Lee’s was out of battery, and headed down towards the WII Memorial.

We walked down the reflective pool towards the Lincoln Memorial.

The memorial was pretty busy, it was a Saturday after all, but we could still get around and see everything.

We wanted to head over to Arlington Cemetery, and there were no more scooters, so I slowly started hobbling over the bridge towards it. On the other side of the bridge, there was one scooter available so we decided to share, much to the amusement of passers by. We got to the cemetery, but it had literally just closed for the day, so we went to look at the Pentagon. After a slightly hit and miss scooter ride, we got to the Pentagon which didn’t really look like much, but I can at least say I’ve seen it.

From here we headed back over the bridge towards The Wharf, an area of the city where there’s lots of bars and places to eat. The scooter was working pretty hard with our combined weight, even though we were probably a lot skinnier from our single jog. We just about made it to the wharf with the battery warning flashing and Lee have to help scoot up the hills.

We went for a walk up and down the seafront and then went to The Brighton, because I felt like I should and it was a bit pricey (as you would expect really). We had a drink and then decided to head back to the van to make some dinner and save some money.

We were planning on only spending a day in Washington, but as we hadn’t got to see any of the museums or the cemetery we decided to go back the following day.
We decided that bringing our bikes to get around would be a good option and was also free. The only problem was that Lee’s bike was all bent from the reversing incident, we tried to straighten it out in the car park, but in the end the frame just snapped making it definitely broken. I still took my bike and we decided we would hire one of the city bikes once we got there.

Being a bit more clued up on the metro we managed to work the machine ourselves and then figured out how to hire Lee a bike. We went to The Wharf again for brunch as I knew Lee was dying to try some of the massive variety of seafood on offer. He ordered some crab balls and a shrimp taco, while I had a fish taco which I didn’t really like and some battered chips which weren’t that great. He was happy with his seafood though, which was the main thing.

From here we cycled towards the cemetery to make sure we didn’t miss it this time.

The graveyard is absolutely huge.

We walked through the graveyard towards the Kennedy’s grave which we wanted to see.

We then went to the Tomb of the Unknown soldier which was really interesting.

The tomb is guarded 24/7 by a guard and it is apparently one of the greatest honors in the American army to serve as a guard to the tomb.

Heading back out of the cemetery, we decided to try our luck with the Air and Space museum. This time we walked straight in, we had an hour to look around before it closed and saw some pretty amazing things.

We saw a scale model of the hubble telescope.

Some warheads.

A space pod that had brought two astronaughts safely back to earth, the outside was all burnt from reintering the atmosphere. The sides had also been signed by the astronaughts, apparently a customary thing to do when the aircraft had landed safely.

We saw the plane made by the Wright Brothers.

And the space suit Neil Armstrong wore when he walked on the moon.

We also saw Amelia Earhart’s plane. In case you didn’t know, she was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. She disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, while trying to complete a round the world record.

And The Spirit of St Louis, which was the first plane to complete a non stop transatlantic flight in 1927, flown and donated by Charles Lindbergh.

The museum closed and we went to try and buy a fridge magnet without much luck. I did get a pretty amazing Oreo milkshake instead though, my reward for eating seafood in the morning. Feeling that we had now seen Washington properly, we headed back to the van.

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