In 2020 the modern world as we know it stopped. This was also the year that my oldest, Will, was supposed to go on his 8th grade Washington DC trip. The cherry on top of his 11 years at Boulder Country Day School. He had been hearing about this trip since he was in the 3 year old preschool. The world had other plans. Needless to say, this monumental trip (traveling without his parents) would not take place.
Fast forward to 2022. Charlie is now in 8th grade, and he gets to go on the 8th grade Washington, DC trip (which a week later he was galavanting across Italy with me and his brother). So I got a wild idea to give Will his DC trip this year too. And why not chose the birthday of our country, 4th of July?
Little did we know when planning this trip a few months ago that DC would be ground zero for what I can only express as the worst thing to come out of SCOTUS. We just may have to pop into a drug store for markers and poster board and join the protests. Can’t say I’ve protested in DC before! Stay tuned…..
We started our trek with a layover in Minneapolis. So here are the boys chillin’ in the Delta Sky Club in Minneapolis waiting for our flight to DC (which of course is delayed, but pretty confident won’t be cancelled).
We stayed at a Hilton property that was a couple of blocks from the White House. It was a suite that had an adjoining room. Since this was Will’s DC trip, Charlie graciously let him have the side room and Charlie bunked on the sofa bed in our room. The room with a view….the Black Lives Matter plaza
Unlike our trip to Italy a few weeks ago, where someone else was the planner/guide and we had an hour on a bus each morning for me to share our previous day’s adventures….in DC, I’m the organizer and rallying us each morning. And by time we are back in the hotel room, I’m going right to bed. So today (actual morning of day 4), I’m playing a little catch up
Today (remember, it’s Day 2), I planned a 6 hour tour that only gave us a few minutes at some of the major tourist sights with the intention that we grasp a “lay of the land” and go back to any we wanted to spend more time at another day.
The bus picked us up right outside the Archives building. We definitely will try to get back to this building as it holds the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
First stop was the US Capitol. Maybe because the public hearings are going on now, so it’s top of mind, but it still seems surreal that this building was under siege just a year and a half ago. I’ve always held respect for that which is our government (even when I was completely against and pissed with what it was doing). Anyway, this trip is more about Will seeing DC than hopping on my political soap box.
I’m trying to get family selfies at most places and images of just Will at the same spots so he can have his own DC trip photo album
Next up, The White House. We got to make our memory photos
Then we head to the WW II monument. This one is new for me as it wasn’t here the last time I was in DC (which was maybe 2002? Sheesh! that was 20 years ago ).
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was next. I think our guide did a pretty good job of sharing the good and the bad sides of this man. And he did have one quote on one of the walls of this memorial that really applies today.
The next stop on this tour was a twofer, and both were new since I had been here last. The first of the two was for Franklin D. Roosevelt. And technically, you could say my baby, Charlie is named after him. Right before Covid, I learned from my Aunt Jane, that my father’s father loved naming his sons after US Presidents. So my dad, Franklin Eugene Simpson, was named after FDR. Charlie’s name is Franklin Charles Rands (we call him Charlie because my bro is a Jr, so just keeping things easier when calling someone). Hopefully you followed that thread of thought.
Anyway, this memorial was really cool and covers 7 acres. Lots of water features which make it really relaxing.
The other memorial was for Martin Luther King Jr. Growing up in Atlanta, we got lots of MLK education as kiddos. So it was really good to see him get a space in DC to recognize him as well. Especially since his I Have a Dream speech took place in DC. And the quotes they have on the walls are many in number and impactful at the soul level. He truly was a great man that was taken too soon.
Then we were off to the Lincoln memorial. An iconic DC landmark for sure. Got our family selfie with much complaining from the boys. But at least they aren’t to rebellious and still appease their mother’s wishes. The Korean and Vietnam memorials are here too, but Bill wanted to spend more time at those, so we will be coming back for that.
A quick drive by of Iwo-Jima memorial (and family selfie) and back on the bus.
Our next stop was in Georgetown for lunch and a Potomac boat ride. I swear I took more pictures than this. Ugh! We had a little more than 1/2 hr for lunch, but so grateful our guide said (get it in togo boxes as you can finish eating on the boat). Our food came out as we had to dash off for the boat. I guess you could say we had a lunch cruise
Dinner was at a place by our hotel called Mazi (which is the nickname of my cousin Amanda’s daughter, so of course I texted her while we were at dinner). Pretty good food too!
In March, Capitol and White House tours resumed. But you have to go through your representatives to get tickets. Sadly, we were not able to get White House tickets, but we were able to get US Capitol tickets for a tour. And the morning of Day 3 was our tour time!
Now it has been 36 years since I’ve been in the US Capitol. So I certainly don’t remember a damn thing from then AND…Charlie didn’t get a Capitol tour on his DC trip in May…AND…Bill doesn’t recall getting a Capitol tour in his DC trip way back when. So this was an adventure for all of us!
Their visitor center is really nice. Each state can have 2 statues of whomever they want at the Capitol. Some are in this atrium of the visitor center. One of Colorado’s is here. There is also the plaster mold of the bronze statue that is on top of the Capitol dome (Lady Freedom). Family selfie taken there You start the tour with a short 13 minute video in a theater.
Quick side note…it’s hot in DC right now. And humid!!! Us Coloradans live in 10% humidity…it’s like 86% here We be strugglin’. And after our trip in Italy where there is rarely AC, I just have to give mad props to the arctic air these hundreds of years old buildings have in DC! Ok…back to our regular programming….
After our visit to the theater, we meet up with our Scottish tour guide. Go figure! But he did a right proper job of telling us about our Capital.
We start off in what used to be the Supreme Court Chamber. It is a quaint room, but cool to see where judicial things happened 200+ years ago.
In this lower area, there is a marker that holds 2 purposes or meanings. The first is that it is the center point of DC. The smack center of it all. The second is that it was to mark the tomb of George Washington. However, as most of you know, George is not buried under the Capitol, but rather out at his home in Mount Vernon.
Then we go up a flight of stairs into our closest relic to structures in Europe, the atrium under the dome. Don’t get me wrong, this area is beautiful and impressive. I was just experiencing a trifecta of emotions while under this dome. 1) It sort of seemed smaller that I remembered or imagined and definitely the smaller cousin of the enormous structures we saw in Italy 3 weeks ago; 2) For all the talk of separation of church and state in The Constitution, the painting in the dome was quite religious in nature; 3) I sadly could not get the images of the heathens roaming through this area being destructive on Jan 6th last year….but I digress.
Next we were able to visit the old Senate Chamber. It’s not where the Senate meets today, but rather in days long ago.
Then we crossed back under the dome to the former House Chamber. This room today holds several of the state statues. However, when I first got into the room, I was drawn to Rosa Park’s statue and took a picture. Only to learn later in the tour that her statue is the only one prominently displayed that is not a state represented statue. She stands (or rather sits) for the equality of all.
After our Capitol tour, we hit our first Smithsonian museum: The American Indian Museum. This museum held such conflicting emotions for me. I appreciated the homage to all the tribes throughout this museum, and I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had in my life by simply being born in the US, but the way American Indians were treated (and tragically still are) is just wrong. The white man invaded their lands. Honestly, they should be the rulers of this land, not us. I know it was the way of colonization, but that doesn’t make it right.
I didn’t realize I only took a couple of pictures. I suppose I was engrossed in the exhibits and forgot I was walking around with my phone in my hand.
At this point I was starting to get hangry and the boys were not being helpful. Took us a while to find a spot to eat lunch. Again….so grateful for the air conditioning!! We ended up at a spot sort of heading in the direction of our hotel. So when we were done eating, I was mapping a walking route back to the hotel (in case we didn’t want to grab a Lyft).
And in the route was the Ford’s Theater. Being that we can do whatever we want and not on someone else’s tour plan, we went by there to snag some tickets. So our impromptu adventure was visiting the theater where Lincoln was shot and the house across the street where he ultimately died. And the gift shop had this really cool book structure/tower that was made up of just books about Lincoln.
At this point we decided to hail a Lyft. Sadly, this guys AC had gone out the night before, so at the hottest point of the day, we were traveling open window style. Later we learned it was 100 degrees that afternoon
We headed back to the hotel for some rest before our night bus tour. So our hotel configuration is a main room/suit with a sofa bed in it that Charlie is sleeping on, with an attached queen bed room that Will gets. Charlie said it was cool for Will to have it since it’s his DC makeup trip. How sweet is that But they have to share a bathroom. I don’t want that funk in mine and Bill’s
We hail a Lyft and poor Will has zero leg room But I’m not going in the way back. So younguns must suffer. Next adventure: Night Bus Tour!
We see a lot of the spots from yesterday’s tour, but it’s as the sun is setting, so it’s different. Only place to get off is the Lincoln Memorial, so we get a quick family selfie and drinks and hop back on the bus.
We have a late night dinner at The Grill in the Wharf. Will gets to experience Wagyu beef and loves every juicy piece of this delectable meat. I had salmon for lunch and filet mignon the night before at dinner, so pretty much my only option on this menu was a burger (I don’t do seafood other than fish and it was a seafood heavy menu). But my burger was perfectly fine.
By time we got back to the hotel it was well after midnight. But tomorrow is a relaxing start to the day. No rushing off early in the morning.
Today was definitely a slow start day. We didn’t even leave our hotel room until 12:30 I suppose we all needed a slower start to the day. Although I was up by 9am, which is certainly late for me.
We ended up grabbing lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. Don’t judge…we lost our’s in Boulder a few years ago, so it’s been a while since we have been paralyzed with indecision on a menu
Then we headed to the Museum of Natural History (Charlie’s fav from his school DC trip). We started off visiting the most expensive piece of jewelry in my collection, The Hope Diamond. Yes, I am partial owner of this beautiful piece. And to live up to the childhood mantra “Sharing is Caring”, I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that you too are part owner of the Hope Diamond. That is, if you are a US citizen
I really enjoyed hanging out in the Gemology exhibit. Especially with my latest jewelry making business. There were truly some beautiful gems in there I was envisioning many ways one could display these pretties.
We had dinner plans with friends planned for 7pm, so in my uninformed mind I thought “Oh, we’ll just hang out here until we meet them”. When we got through the second floor, we went down to the first to check out the exhibits there when I kept hearing some guy yelling indistinguishable things. We meander into the first exhibit we come to, and I start hearing the yelling again. In my head I’m thinking “Man, this guy sure does have an unruly group he is dealing with.” Then I look at my watch, see it’s 5:26, and a very slow processing of the brain takes place. I finally make the connection that the museum closes at 5:30 The guy was yelling the announcement of the museum closing. WE were the unruly group not listening to him haha!
So we chillax outside for a bit and then decide to walk over to the Washington Monument. While sitting admiring it, we get a text that our friends were on their way to the restaurant. So we starting walking over to meet them.
It was great to catch up with Susan, Will and Liam before they head off to live in Kuwait for a couple of years. Then it was back to the hotel to crash hard.
Today we spent most of our touring time at the Smithsonian Zoo. Today’s temps weren’t as high, but it was certainly more muggy than it’s been. I looked like a drowned rat most of the day. Just a big pool of sweat.
Probably the coolest exhibit for me was the panda bears. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one “in real life”. Just on TV. They were not digging the heat either. Just staying in a perpetual chillaxin’ mode.
After lunch we decided to head back to the Museum of Natural History since we were so rudely kicked out the previous day For reasons I can’t comprehend, Charlie’s favorite animal (at least these days) is the Capybara. So I made him pose in front of the stuffed one at the museum
There are only a few states in the US that allow you to have one. And Charlie’s question of the day was “Which would be easier, moving to a state that allows them or trying to get the laws changed in CO?” I’ll let you know what he ultimately decides
We headed back to the hotel for some down time only to wake up from our naps to find DC experiencing torrential rain. I’m talking flash flood warning rains. Well played Rands….well played! So we ended up having dinner in the hotel bar instead of becoming drowned rats (again).
Today was a pretty busy day with two separate tours. The first one was out to Arlington Cemetery for a walking tour. The worst tragedy of war is the loss of life. And you can really grasp the magnitude of loss from the wars our “young” country has had when you gaze upon rows and rows and rows of headstones. Then one must take into account all the lost lives that are not in these hallowed grounds. Granted, Arlington is not a cemetery of just KIA persons, but many are.
Up on Justice Hill (at least I think that’s what our guide called it) we got to see RBG’s final resting place. (our pup is named Ruth in her honor). As well as other former Supreme Court Justices. And our guide pointed out the cluster of justices that rendered opinions FOR abortion in Roe v Wade back in 1973.
Then we walked over to Kennedy’s eternal flame and grave. It’s only gone out twice since being lit. Once during a hurricane and another time when overly eager Catholic young ones doused it with Holy Water . Off to the side of JFK’s grave, we saw his brothers’ graves.
Our guide shared the significance of tombs with horses on them and whether or not the legs of the horses were raised. And I may get this wrong, but here goes. If the right foot is raised they were injured but didn’t die in battle. If a right foot and left foot were raised they died in battle. If no feet (these are all of the horse, not the soldier) were raised they were never injured or killed in battle.
One soldier insisted on being buried under a canon. So the military officially decommissioned one that was used in war and put it on his grave.
At the amphitheater, we learned every president since it was built (don’t ask me when that was) has given a speech in it. On the backside is where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is.
Off the front side of the amphitheater are 3 memorials (I don’t think actual graves) of those that perished in the Discovery and Challenger explosions as well as from the Iran Contra Affair.
Next up is the infamous changing of the guards. There has always been a sentient standing guard of these tombs since the 1930s. Without fail. It was started so that no soldier in Arlington would ever be left alone. I think this is one of the most honorable things our country does. The ceremonial changing only happens during open hours when visitors are there. Our guide said at night they just sit in the post shed in the corner. And sentinels in training will practice after visiting hours. They must serve 5 years and then they pretty much can have any post they want afterwards. There have only been 700 since it’s inception. So quite an elite club.
We then saw Joe Louis’ grave for which Bill aptly wore his Joe Louis arena shirt. Detroit was in da houz!
We had about 3 hours to kill before our next tour, so we caught a Lyft to to the National Archives. We should’ve been dropped off at the 700 block of Independence. But he dropped us off at the 1700 block And we didn’t realize the mistake until after I gave him 5 stars and tipped him I was PISSED!!!!
Anyway, pictures are not allowed in the building, but we got to see the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. They also had some great auxiliary exhibits that covered things that have changed since their inceptions (like slavery, voting rights, Womens suffrage, etc). We breezed through those to go grab lunch before our next tour.
Next stop…Mount Vernon. I only had vague memories of coming out to Mt Vernon when I was 13. So it was really like being there for the first time. And the museum they have on the property certainly wasn’t there when I was a kid. We went through the museum first, then went through George’s house. I believe I heard one of the guides state the house was over 11,000 sq ft. But it seemed much smaller to me. Then again, I don’t have a good spatial brain.
One interesting yet smart feature of homes back then was having the kitchen as a separate building from the home due to fire hazards.
After checking out the auxiliary buildings, we saw George and Martha’s tombs as well as their slave cemetery. Through modern technology, they have determines where individuals are buried in this cemetery and they are outlined with twine.
On the way back into DC, we drove through Old Town Alexandria. Our guide was going too fast for me to get any significant pictures. However he did take us down the last cobblestone road and I got a picture of that
And that concluded a very exhausting day in the DC area.
Today we once again slept in and took it easy in the morning as we knew it would be a late night with the DC Fireworks. Will had fashioned a fro on his head during the night
Tried to grab lunch at the famous Old Ebbits Grill, but there was a 45 min wait (and they didn’t take reservations on the 4th). So we walked around the block and snagged lunch at MXDC (a Mexican food spot).
Then we walked down to the mall and checked out the Futures exhibit in one wing of the Smithsonian Castle. And since we were there, checked out the Castle as well. Learned that the Smithsonian was created by James Smithson. And he never saw it in his lifetime. But something like 75 years after his death he was brought to the Smithsonian Castle for all to visit.
Next we crossed the mall to check out The American History museum. Sadly a lot of the exhibits were completely or partially closed. We got to see the original Star Spangled Banner, but pictures are not allowed to preserve it. We toured the First Lady exhibit showcasing inaugural gowns and china used for entertaining during their stays in the White House. In the President exhibit we saw Lincoln’s hat There was also a ship (I think the Pittsburg?), but didn’t go all the way into the exhibit. Charlie and I were so beat to shit, we sat on a bench while Bill and Will went into a war exhibit. They said there was a Nam helicopter in there!
The clock struck 5:30 and we were herded out of the museum into the oppressive heat. Have I shared that it’s hot as hell in DC right now??
Since we had 3.5 hrs until the fireworks, and Bill wanted to watch them from the Lincoln Memorial, we took a leisurely stroll from the mall out that way. Once we arrived we checked out the Vietnam Memorial and Korean War Memorial.
Then we got some sweet spots in the soft grass (in the shade) in front of the Lincoln Memorial to sit for a couple of hours until the fireworks started. I have to say I actually dozed a little. It was so nice to just chillax for a spell.
After decades of seeing the fireworks in Boulder (which I cherish….don’t get me wrong), it was spectacular to see the impressive show in DC! Wow! They were bigger and lasted probably twice as long. And they had some that spelled USA! A memory we will hold close to our hearts for sure.
We thought we would grab a late dinner after the show, but so did the other 999,999 people that attended the show I don’t know the actually count, but it felt like a million. The dinner bar in our hotel had zero availability. The restaurant Bill and Will walked to was closed, but on their way back to the hotel, they saw a Domino’s delivering to our hotel. So I opened the app and we ordered more food than we could eat and had it delivered to the hotel.
With tummies disgustingly filled, we all crawled into bed.
Well, today is our last full day in DC and it by far was the shittiest
There were no plans pre scheduled for today, so we all slept in again. I of course was the first one up, so I did some searching to see what we could do. Ended up finding a night ghost tour that I signed us up for.
When everyone got up, we went in search of food (lunch to be precise as it was after noon). We head to a sandwich place and Charlie starts feeling lightheaded and had blurry vision. Then he rushed up as he felt he was going to be sick. Bill went with him and Charlie ended up having to sit on the floor in the hall to the bathroom as his vision went blurry. He did end up getting sick
So we left the sandwich shop and headed back to the hotel with me detouring to CVS to grab a Covid test. He takes the test and it pops positive So we all head to an urgent care to get tested. But the closest one is a pcr test that takes 48-72 hours. Our flight is tomorrow
So we head off to another cvs (long story on not getting more of the one I bought first) and grabbed 4 tests. We go back to the hotel and test all of us. Me, Bill and Will all test negative and Charlie tests positive again with a different brand test. So now decisions need to be made.
One peculiar thing that happened was when we were at the urgent care earlier they kept saying “Airlines don’t require negative tests to fly”. As if we should all fly and just get home Bill and I are like, but we need to keep others safe. It was really weird.
Bill says he’ll stay behind with Charlie so we book another room for a week at the same hotel and cancel Bill and Charlie’s flights. Hopefully Bill stays negative and this version runs through my Peanut quickly.
Charlie’s symptoms are a sore throat, vomiting and feeling lightheaded earlier. But he curled up in bed all afternoon and didn’t feel too bad later in the evening. We ordered some Five Guys via DoorDash to the hotel and he ate his burger.
Bill, Will and I decide to still do the ghost tour as it’s an outside walk. Charlie stayed in bed at the hotel. The ghost tour was *meh* and even though it was 10pm at night, we three were soaked rats by time we got back to the hotel from sweating. It was so humid from the rains that morning. Ugh!
Then it was back to the hotel to barely sleep as I wore a mask all night
Will and I flew home and Bill stayed in DC with Charlie. It really was hard leaving my baby behind. Fingers crossed Bill stays healthy
Pediatrician said 5 days of isolation (both are vaccinated and boosted). Maybe they can come home on Sunday
On our layover in NY, Will was insistent on trying grapefruit juice. I tried to tell him he wouldn’t like it. He regretted that life choice
When we got home we tested ourselves and both of us were still negative. Yay!
Bill and Charlie stayed in DC until Sunday (Will and I had left on Tuesday). Bill miraculously stayed negative the whole time being shut in the hotel room with positive Charlie. By Saturday Charlie tested negative, so they booked a flight home on Sunday (donning masks the whole time).
However, by Saturday, I was testing positive. I managed 2+ years not catching this damn virus. It was totally our fault. We had masked up the first half of the week. Then we got lazy and quit wearing them. I personally think it was on the Mount Vernon tour. It was a smaller bus/van and the guide was hacking the whole time without a mask on. I really think it was that tour that got us.
Anyway, Bill and Charlie made it home Sunday just as I was getting worse and Will started testing positive. I went on Paxlovid and by the end of the next week was completely fine and testing negative. Bill managed to stay negative the whole freaking time as this virus worked through the rest of us.