Whatever was going down the previous night had apparently sorted itself out and Willow and I woke to just a few cars around us.Feeling dirty, I decided that it was time to bust out the old person shampoo hats my sister got us for Chistmas.
On the way from a cheeky McDonald’s toilet break, I was greeted by a guy outside Ruby who referred to himself as ‘The Major of Walmart car park’. His actual name being Matthew. He asked me about our plans in the van and then went on to tell me a little bit about his back story. Apparently, when he was younger, he had travelled a bit volunteering in Cambodia and Australia. By this point, Willow had joined the conversation.He had moved to DC to drive trucks but apparently suffered a seizure and so he lost his license. To make matters worse, one night he was involved in a hit and run. The supposed car dragged him 50 metres down the road and left him for dead.He now spends his days living in Walmart and at ‘The Warf’ which he offered to show us around if we had time.The Major then introduced us to his companion ‘Sir Ricksalot’. His 16 year old blind dog.
It was tragic to hear Matthew’s story, and what’s worse is that we have already witnessed so many others like him, spending their days living in their cars.You could sense how lonely Matthew was, an a part of me could of continued talking to him all day. We agreed to look out for him if we visited the Warf.We decided to park outside DC and to get a Metro into ‘The Mall’, that’s where all the monuments and the White House is.Upon trying to drive however, we suffered a very big problem with Ruby… As I went to pull away, I was unable to change from 1st gear. It was stuck. Panicing, I pulled over, desperately pull at the gear stick. It’s at these moments that I am truly greatful that I a traveling with Willow. She on the other hand was a picture of calm. Carefully going though her mind what the cause of the problem was. Literally in under a minute, she was outside test her hypothesis. She concluded that the front bush for the gear linkage had failed. Yes was correct. The bush is a cheap piece of plastic, which is responsible for securing the linkage into a bracket.
This was pretty good news as it is a cheap component. It also meant that we could temporarily push it back into place and keep driving.Ruby back on the road and me driving delicately so not to knock it loose again, we parked up at the Metro station and got a train into main DC.
Arriving at The Mall, we decided to visit the Air and Space Museum first, but quickly changed our minds when we saw the ridiculous queue heading out of the door.
Instead, we went to the botanical gardens so Willow could get some inspiration for drawing. I’m not one for gardens. It only interests me if you can eat it. I did see some interesting green things I suppose.
We left the botanical gardens and headed the short distance to Capitol Hill. Everything in The Mall is so close together, and it was free. I definitely didn’t think DC would be a place where we didn’t blow a big hole in our budget.
Uber, everyone’s favourite taxi company hire out electric scooters that you can book though the app. Seeing people fly by us whilst we dragged our feet was too much, so we decided to test them out (After a brief stop at an English themed pub)After tasting a poor attempt at curry sauce and ‘chips’, we were soon racing through The Mall, wind in our hair, weaving in and out of the common folk who hadn’t hired a scooter.
Our next destination was the White House. We pulled up next to a fence, crowded with people for a small glimpse of the iconic building that I have seen demolished countless times on movies. Like a Niagara Falls, I couldn’t help but think that it too looked smaller in real life.
With the scooters, it wasn’t long until we arrived at our next destination. The Washington Monument. Sadly we had used up our batteries on the scooters and so from this point would be carrying on by foot.
Considering we were paying nothing, it felt like we were really getting our monies worth from The Mall.We then went to pay our respects at the WWII monument.
It was getting on a bit, so we briskly walked past the reflective pool to Abe Lincoln’s Statue.
From here we walked to Arlington Cemetery. We had hoped to see Kennedy’s graveyard and the tomb of the unknown soldier. However when we arrived, we were informed that the cemetery was closed.Fed up with walking, we found another scooter, this time sharing just the one (much more cost effective!)Feeling hungry, we decided to visit one more site before heading off in search of food. The Pentagon.Nestled just outside The Mall, on the opposite side of the river, The Pentagon is actually really disappointing to look at from ground level. It just looks like a normal boring rectangular building.
Siteseeing complete, we made our way to The Wharf, our little scooter’s battery dying, literally moving now fuelled on pure desperation (and me pushing it!)The Wharf is an area by the river filled with bars and places to eat. We went to a bar aptly named ‘The Brighton’. Still can’t take Brighton away from the girl! Wanting to keep an eye on our spending, we decided to head back home to cook their instead.
Feeling a bit disappointed that we were unable to visit the Air and Space Museum or the cemetery, I was happy to hear Willow suggest that we visited again the next day. This time we would take our bikes to help us get around easier. I just had to matter of trying to fix the damage I had cause when I reversed into a powerline.The next day, we tried to find a camping shop to buy more butane for our camping stove, but as it was Sunday it was closed. Our venture had brought us out to the FedEx Field and it was game day. New England were in town. Due to budgeting costs, we were unable to make the game, but I was at least hoping to get a good glimpse of the stadium. I get disproportionately excited when seeing sports stadia. The gods were against me however. Streets were closed due to crowd management, so it seemed I would not be getting my picture. Still…at least the van was behaving this morning.
We parked up in the same metro station as yesterday and I set to work trying to bend my aluminium spokes back into place without snapping them completely. This would turn out to be too difficult, I large ‘CRACK!!!’ confirming that I had put too much strain on the bar. Looks like I would be walking the rest of the day!On the train, Willow had looked into bike hire and it turned out I could hire a bike for $6 and not pay anymore as long as I would ride the bike no longer than 30 minutes at a time. We set back off for The Wharf first of all. I had been craving some of the fresh fish food that they had on offer, so Willow had suggested that we should go try some out.We bought: a fish taco, a shrimp taco, crab balls and fries. Willow not being a huge fan of fish picked at the fish taco, before eventually passing it to me.
From The Wharf we rode back to the cemetery, this time determined to see Kennedy’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We dropped my hire bike just outside the grounds, uncertain whether we had made it in the free 30 minute time frame.
To enter the cemetery, we had to pass throw airport-esq security, metal detectors and all. You could tell it was a popular destination by the large queue waiting for the tour bus. Not seeing the need to be driven around a cemetery, we elected to walk. That way we were able to appreciate the sheer size of the pace. There were gravestones lined up for as far as the eye could see.
Kennedy’s grave was unlike anything else we had seen in DC. An eerie silence crept over everyone who was there. There was no awkward selfies. Everyone there just seemed to use the time to reflect.
We moved on to the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. The tomb was an auditorium, which I imagine is used for events such as Rememberence Day.
A crowd had gathered next to the tomb. A cadet group was holding a ceremony to hour those who had represented their brigade during the war. It was almost mesmerising to watch the guards go through their routine. Everything was choreographed, as the the guards followed an invisible path to lay a new wreath for those who had lost their lives.
We left the graveyard and collected another hire bike for me. It was starting to get late, so we set off for the Air and Space Museum.
The museum is free to visit and is full of defining planes, rockets and space memorabilia.
Done with The Mall, we headed back to Ruby and said goodbye to DC. From now we would be making our way down south to Florida.
I managed to squeeze in a quick detour to get my picture of the FedEx Field stadium.
We drove about an hour and a half out of DC, to a place called Mallows Bay. Another one of my weird online finds. Apparently it is a graveyard for old world war boats. The park was closed so we parked just outside and made dinner.
I had thoroughly enjoyed DC, but I was starting to crave some wilderness. Hopefully the journey from here would take us out more into the wild.