Geese and History

Sept. 21, 2010   Headed out for Chincoteague Island, VA.  In this Wildlife Refuge, the water levels are manipulated by the park service to provide the best possible waterfowl habitat throughout the year.  The refuge is home to 300 wild ponies, which are culled through a herding and auction process which takes place every July.  Found a campground a few miles away from the entrance to the park.  Next morning we took off on our bikes to explore.  Serene tidal flats and grasses, forested areas and a lovely beach area were accessed by well maintained, asphalt trails.

La Plata, MD was our next destination, the home of my brother, Don and sister-in-law, Pat.  This town is within commuting distance of Washington, DC, so we were able to marry visit with family and trips into DC.  Drove into Union Station, the transportation hub of the city, to park and to get tickets for an off and on trolley which travels around the city, with driver/tour guides.  Problem with visiting DC is the overwhelming number of sites to visit.  Trying to decide how to hone down dozens of choices to a select few was the hardest part of the visit.

We exited the trolley at the Capitol building, but without prearrange tour tickets, our visit was limited to walking around outside.  Our next trolley sped by without stopping, so we decided to walk through the National Mall.  Flanked by Smithsonian museums and under the shade of the American Elms, it was a pleasant 2 mile walk down to the Lincoln Memorial.  Our July visit to Daniel Chester French's studio gave us an appreciation for the work which goes into producing a sculpture of this magnitude.

Along our route, we passed the Washington Monument with an elevator to the observation room at the 500 foot level, but we bypassed this opportunity.  Alan would have to be drugged and hogtied to go up that elevator.  The National World War ll Memorial, near the Reflecting Pool, includes bronze bas-relief scenes related to the war, two large pavilions which represent the two major theaters of war, the Atlantic and the Pacific, and a wall filled with 4000 starts to represent the 400,000 plus Americans who died in service, a somber reminder of the price paid for war.

Simple and yet powerful, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a polished black granite wall with the names of the dead from the war inscribed, was a disturbing reminder of part of our personal history. Over 58,000 names displayed, expressed as individuals, our thoughts went to the spouses, children, parents who will have the void of these deaths forever a part of their life.

Our next stop was the International Spy Museum, where devices and techniques of espionage are displayed.  Interesting cases involving spies throughout history are told in various formats, ranging from reenactment on film to interviews with CIA staff responsible for sifting through facts surrounding espionage and tracking moles back to their own agency.  First known reference on spying was the "Art of War" written in 500 B.C. and it has been a part of how nations interact ever since.

Following day, we started with the Air and Space Museum.  Exhibits cover aeronautics from the Wright brothers to present day.  All visitors have the opportunity to touch a moon rock.  Throughout the museum are planes, spacecraft and rockets, which reflect aviation history for the last hundred plus years.  One gallery included incredible, large-format photos of the planets taken by rockets which are currently orbiting them, hard to fathom how any of this is possible.

Moved on to the Nation Museum of Natural History, where we took time to watch a 3D, IMAX film. Wild Ocean, with a story of preserving our oceans highlighted by an area off the eastern coast of South Africa, where marine parks have been established.  The"Bones"exhibit included extensive collections of skeletons from snakes to rhinos.  The precious gem and mineral collection included the extraordinary Hope diamond.

Went to the National Archives--home to the Declaration of Independence, the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but also a place of safekeeping for billions of pages of documents, hundreds of thousands of film, etc., a great resource for anyone wanting to research historical occurrences or do a genealogical search.

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