A vacation within a vacation...
Earlier this year, my wife Rachael was invited to fly to Washington DC to be a representative for the Alaska Hospital and Healthcare Association (AHHA) at a national conference. While there, she would have the chance to meet with our state congresswoman and senators. When she received the phone call, she said she'd think about it, because the conference was smack dab in the middle of our family vacation back to the east coast. We would be in Charlotte, NC on those dates, and she didn't want to ruin our trip. I looked at her like she had lost her mind and said, "there's no way you're not going." I told her we would have plenty of family available to help me with the kids and that she'd regret saying no. The next day, she called them back to confirm the trip and gather the details! That evening, while sitting on the couch, she said to me, "I got you a ticket! You're coming with me." Needless to say, I was touched and excited. So, off we flew!
We landed in DC late in the evening and went straight to the hotel. The next morning, we had separate breakfasts and separate schedules. She went straight into conference mode; I went straight into being a tourist. The hotel was on Capitol Hill, so I was right in the thick of the National Mall. I found the nearest ebike-for-hire and set off. New to the whole bike rental thing, I quickly figured out that there are restricted areas all over the place in DC. I’d be zooming, then all of a sudden, I’d have to work hard to pedal. I wasn’t trying to get into a full sweat, with my new Alaskan blood and all, so I learned to avoid red zones while still getting as close as possible to all the things I wanted to photograph. And boy, did I hit that shutter button. For this trip, I equipped myself with my Canon R5. As for lenses, the RF15-35, RF28-70, and RF100-500. My wife thought I was crazy for lugging that weight around, but I had no regrets. They each performed beautifully and had their purpose.
From the Capitol building, I started down the Mall. I encountered several mama ducks and ducklings and loved them all. The Smithsonian Castle is quite picturesque and stands out like something from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Washington Monument never disappoints. I love the story about how construction was halted because the Washington National Monument Society ran out of money. When the government finally took over the project, 25 years had passed and they began quarrying marble from a new site. The different marbles have not weathered the same, so there is a visible difference in the two sections. I think it’s pretty cool. It's not perfect, but has a lot of character.
It was the ideal day to be in DC on a bicycle. Not too hot and very clear. I was a happy camper, for sure. The Lincoln Memorial was up next. They knew what they were doing when they designed it to sit at the end of the reflecting pool. I had so many emotions swirling within my chest, standing there reading Lincoln’s second inaugural and Gettysburg Addresses, then stepping out to stand in the exact spot where Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech was bestowed upon the world. Then realizing that America has come so far, yet may have even farther to go. Deep breaths were taken.
From the Lincoln Memorial, I headed past the Korean War Veterans Memorial, toward the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. When I arrived at the enormous carved stone, I observed a lady struggling to take a selfie, so I asked if I could take the picture for her. I could see she had tears in her eyes. When I gave her phone back, she grabbed my hand. With sweet emotion, she thanked me for stopping. A kindness for a kindness. That’s the stuff that fills up my tank.
Next, I took the very soggy Tidal Basin Loop Trail around to the Jefferson Memorial. The views along the way were wonderful. The way the Jefferson Memorial is nestled at the water’s edge is simply perfect. While I walked around reading his words on the walls, I couldn’t help but sing a bit of “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton. As I was walking out, I heard another voice in the crowd singing the same thing. I chuckled.
Rach called and said she was finished, so I raced straight to her at the hotel. The two of us revisited most of what I have already talked about. It was just as exciting as my first time around, because my beauty was there to share it with. Monuments, memorials, more ducks; we had a great time. To be honest, we hadn’t started the day off very well. I hadn’t prioritized her at all, because I was excited to get out and see everything. We both hit the reset button while we were apart, so coming back together later in the day was so nice. We saw the sights. Rach did a Rocky Balboa style run up the steps at the Lincoln Memorial. I stayed at the bottom and basked in her joy, while snapping a few shots.
We shopped and snacked at Penn Station. The arches and ceilings in DC Metro have always been one of my favorite details. They add so much to what could be a very boring and humdrum space. Rachael drank coffee from a milk carton that she seemed to enjoy. I bought colorful socks for the first time since childhood. The wonder and amazement of the day made me feel like a child again.
We rode to the hotel to get dolled up for dinner, then walked past the Supreme Court and Library of Congress while on our way to a Balkan restaurant named Ambar. The restaurant received two thumbs up and five golden star stickers from me. The food was delicious, the environment was special, and the service was incredible. Rach loves a good post-dinner walk, so we traipsed the long way back to the hotel, again passing the Capitol grounds and the Senate Fountain. The lights of DC sparkled and shined and led us to some much deserved pillows. We slept well.