January 25, 2017, Washington DC
|Coming out of Union Station|
The Silver Meteor pulls into Washington DC at 6:30 AM, nearly thirty minutes early. It’s dark outside, so I stop and eat breakfast in Union Station before heading out to explore the city. The place is still decorated for Trump’s inauguration which was five days earlier. There are huge flags hanging from the front of Union Station. The capitol’s dome, in early morning light, can be seen from the great hall.
|Capitol in Early Morning Light|
I leave the station at 7:15 A.M. I have nearly the whole day, but unfortunately the museums won’t open until 10 AM. I don’t have to be back at Union Station till 3:30 PM to catch my next train. I zip up my jacket as it is cool, yet unseasonably warm for January in Washington, and head to the capitol which is bathe in the rays of sun as it rises over the horizon. I walk around the north side of the capitol and kick myself for not bringing a better camera (I have my iPhone). I click photo after photo as I walk around the capitol. On the south side, the stage and platforms for the inauguration are still up. I head down toward the Washington Monument. The grassy area in the middle of the mall had been covered with two inch thick plastic flooring to protect it from the crowds who’d gathered at the inauguration. Along the side of the mall, media companies are breaking down their equipment. When I reach the monument, I take a break, looking out toward the White House. It’s only a little after 8, yet the city is busy with helicopters coming and going and flights from Reagan National taking over every few minutes.
|Plastic Flooring used to protect the Mall's grass|
There is a large orange construction crane a block or so behind the White House, the kind that is a couple hundred feet tall and a boom sticking out that’s almost as long as the structure is tall. My sarcastic side takes over and I think to myself that maybe they are installing an orange canopy over the White House to mimic Trump’s hair. As I continue walking toward the Lincoln Memorial, I notice a couple of very serious photographers set up at the base of the Washington Monument, their cameras mounted on tripods with massive lens pointed toward the White House. I think that maybe they’re trying to catch Trump as he comes and goes in a helicopter.
|A small section of the WW2 Memorial|
I first come to the World War II memorial, which is so massive (I had always through the monument of the Marines raising the flag was the memorial for this war, but now there is a massive memorial in the middle of the mall, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial). I walk through it, with pillars for each state. It is so big that it is impossible to catch with one photo and the sun’s angle makes it hard to capture the “Pacific Theater” side of the monument.
|Bronze Soldiers looking at Wall|
|"Pieta" in bad light|
Next is the Vietnam War Memorial, which I’ve seen a few times (including at night and I recommend seeing it then). While I have seen this one before, I have not seen the memorial to the women members of the Armed Forces who served in Vietnam. I am moved by this small memorial. There are three women, one is a nurse who his holding a wounded soldier in a fashion that reminds me of the Pieta (Michelangelo’s statue of Mary holding Jesus after he was removed from the cross). Unfortunately, the sun is behind this section of the memorial and without a strobe, I am unable to capture a decent photo of it. After a few minutes, I head on toward the Lincoln Memorial.
|Korean War Memorial|
After walking around the Lincoln Memorial, I head for the Korean War Memorial. This is another new monument that I’ve not seen and it is incredible. If you are in the Washington, check it out. The memorial is haunting as there are bronze soldiers on patrol that are reflected by a wall behind them. I’m impressed. After spending some time at the memorial, I head back up toward the Washington Monument. The museums are now open!
|Greenpeace's "Resist" Banner|
As I walk, I notice the photographers have packed up their cameras and as I get closer I see what they were aiming to shoot. On the crane I’d noticed before, that’s just behind the White House, flies a huge banner reading “RESIST!” I take photos and, upon posting one on Facebook, learn from a friend that six members of Greenpeace took over the crane and unfurled the banner. I stop and have a snack and remove my jacket and store it in my bag. It’s really warm for January! While I watch the banner wave, I wonder how long it will fly and if Trump has been tweeting about it. I now have to decide which museum I want to visit. I would really like to see the Holocaust and the African American Museums, as I’ve not been to either, but they are way too far from the train station (and I’m going to also have to eat lunch). I decide to go to the American History Museum (which I was last in when I was probably 15) and save the others for a longer trip in DC. So I walk back toward the capitol and stop in the museum.
The National History Museum is enjoyable as I really like GM’s exhibit of American transportation (especially the part about maritime history). After a few hours, I have lunch in their cafeteria and then head back to the train station. I arrive at 3 PM, allowing me enough time to duck into the Postal Museum that is adjacent to Union Station (which has an incredible stamp collection along with some interesting exhibits of the RPO (Railway Post Office) and the Pony Express. At 3:45 PM, I’m at the station. When the call for my train comes, I show my ticket to the conductor and he directs me to the car with my sleeper compartment. After dinner in the diner and a toast of Dewar’s in honor of Robert Burns (today is the birthday of the Scottish poet) I fall asleep as the train rocks it way through the Allegheny Mountains. In in the morning, I’ll be in South Bend, Indiana.