This was supposed to be a short, easy day without a lot of miles, mostly spent touring around in Washington, DC before heading out of town a ways to somewhere near Baltimore. Before I went to bed, I had the "far" block of hotels picked out, somewhere around 35-40 miles away, as well as the "near" group at around 20-25 miles, which is really where I expected to stop. With maybe 15-20 miles spent cruising around in town, that would at least give me a somewhat respectable total without stressing me too much in the heat. Well, things didn't work out that way, as you can tell by the mileage total above, but I'll get to that later. First, I'm going to overwhelm you with more than 40 pictures from my day in DC.
I got up about 8:15 and found I couldn't get on the Internet, which the front desk explained was because the storm last night knocked that out and also damaged some cell towers, as well as knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people around the area. So without Internet I had no reason to hang around, so after the usual morning packing I managed to leave right around 9. I wish I'd thought the ramifications of this through a little bit more, but I didn't. Oh, I did have a light breakfast, too, seeing as they had a free buffet and I didn't intend to do much riding until way later in the day. In retrospect, this was an excellent decision.
But anyway, after leaving I headed down the road towards Arlington National Cemetery, and the first thing I came to was the Marine Corps Memorial showing that classic scene from the top of the hill on Iwo Jima.
From close by I got a really good view of the Capitol area. Notice how hazy it is already...even at this early hour it's already pretty hot.
Before reaching the cemetery I came to this bell tower, a gift from the Netherlands honoring the US's contribution to WWII.
At the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, I was told I couldn't ride my bike on the grounds, so I had to spend the whole time inside pushing it along, which got very tedious. It was that or lock it somewhere, but I won't do that...DC has a bad reputation when it comes to bicycle theft. So I and my bike walked through the cemetery side by side. The first thing we came to was this monument to women who gave their lives for our country:
I then headed in the general direction of President Kennedy's gravesite. I guess I didn't have any real idea how huge this cemetery really is. The grave markers just went on and on. I don't really like cemeteries much, either.
Another view of the grounds.
Eventually I came to the Kennedy memorial and the eternal flame over the tomb.
There's a ring of plaques also honoring JFK, but the throngs of tourists didn't make for a very good photo. Still, you can see the Washington Memorial in the background, which at least gives you a good idea where this is.
Another view of just how big this place really is. I'd walked along almost to the opposite side of the cemetery by this point, way further than I really intended to.
Some of the various markers and memorials were pretty elaborate. I don't even remember what this one was for, actually.
Heading back towards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I came across this monument, which is actually the mast from the USS Maine, destroyed in Cuba during the event that precipitated the Spanish-American War.
Close to that I found the memorial to the Challenger crew. I'm not sure why they needed to put a sign there saying "Do Not Toss Coins." I guess they had a problem with that for some reason.
This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (or at least the back side of it), also doubling as an ampitheater.
A close-up of the detail inside the dome.
Here's the actual tomb itself, with the soldier ("tomb guard") slowly walking his post. The inscription, "Here lies in honored glory an American soldier, known but to God," got me so choked up I had to turn away. The whole scene is very moving.
Leaving the cemetery, I passed a number of other markers and small memorials like this one.
Then, after finally walking my bike all the way out of there, I headed across the bridge towards the National Mall.
A better look at the Lincoln Memorial, which (like everything else) was packed with tourists.
And the interior...
The view out the front, looking out over the reflecting pool. I guess it's so hot most of the water has evaporated.
Then it was off to circle the Mall area, taking in all the various monuments and memorials, like this one honoring those who served in the Korean War.
Shortly after that I came to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Walking through a broken wall, I came to this rock, which says, "Out of the mountains of despair, a stone of hope." It seemed a bit slight, until I went further.
Then you can see what it's all about...he's emerging from the stone on the other side. Very cool and symbolic.
Next up was the Franklin D Roosevelt memorial, which doesn't look like much at first.
Then you notice this unimposing statue of the President in his wheelchair, and you're reminded, even with his disability he led our country through the Great Depression and World War II.
This seldom visited spot is the Mason Memorial.
Brief interlude: I noticed a lot of these red bikes roaming around, and turns out they're part of the "Capital Bikeshare" program. Basically, if you want to bike around the city, you can rent one of these at any station (like this one here). Then you ride it to wherever you want to visit and park it in the Bikeshare station at that location. When you're ready to move on you get a different bike and repeat the process. So you can rent a bike all day for like $7, as long as you keep parking it at a station (if you hang onto it too long you get charged more). Considering how big the Mall area is, this is a great way to get around, and you don't have to worry about locking it or getting it stolen, either.
Anyway, back to the tour...here's the Jefferson Memorial.
And the interior.
I rode over to the Washington Memorial, wondering why it wasn't surrounded by tourists, only to find they'd fenced off the area around it and trips to the top were closed for the day. Not sure why...maybe storm-related.
Shortly after that the President's helicopter flew overhead towards the White House and landed there...I have no idea if it was really picking up the President or not, or if it was just one of those decoy flights, but still, it was pretty cool to see.
Next up was the World War II memorial, which is ringed with pillars for each of the states and territories that participated.
Looking back from there, another view of the Washington Monument.
And the view through the WWII Memorial towards the Lincoln Memorial.
This is the Vietnam Memorial, the famous black wall inscribed with all the names. I didn't get much closer than this...it was too crowded, and storm damage had knocked out a lot of trees so bikes couldn't get through very easily.
Nearby I found this monument to the women who served in Vietnam.
Leaving the Mall area (finally) I headed through some of the actual city, which was already being decorated for the Fourth of July.
My bike has a look at the White House.
A better view without that pesky fence in the way.
Some passing tourist offered to take my photo. Wow, I've really lost a lot of weight this trip.
DC is full of status and monuments, like this one I told myself I'd remember the name of, but didn't.
The other side of the White House.
Heading through the museum area now, I noticed some of the buildings were being renovated. Also, they had this whole festival thing being set up all through the park area, but I found out later it'd been cancelled for the day because of the weather (otherwise it would've been packed).
Here's the Smithsonian Institution, which I almost rode past without realizing it.
My last stop for the day...the Capitol.
My bike gets a closer look, during a brief moment when nobody else was in frame.
Finally, it's time to head out. Stopping at a Subway to get a drink, I realized it was after 2:30, meaning I'd spent five and a half hours in town. Time to get a move on. My route out of town took me right past this, RFK Stadium, where the Washington Redskins play. One of the few stadiums left that haven't been named after corporate sponsors.
Now I rode along fairly easily for a while, taking my time since I expected to stop in no more than three hours or so, probably at that first block of hotels I mentioned earlier. Well, what I hadn't thought about was just how many people were out of power...I kept riding through towns like Laurel and College Station that had streetlights out, but it wasn't until I got to my first possible hotel stop that I realized there could be trouble. See, without power, and in this heat, people were taking their families and checking into hotels for the night so they'd have A/C. Which meant damn near every hotel in town was already full. I got on the horn to Phil the Hotel Guy, who started calling every hotel he could find, but the only place we could locate was almost 30 miles away...and by this point it was 6:30pm. That meant I'd surely be riding in the dark, but I had no choice...it's that, or sleep on a park bench someplace. Oh, and even if I still had the camping gear, there's noplace to camp. So on I went. Things weren't too bad initially, but then I came to Baltimore...
This is when the roads got bad, the hills got bad, and the neighborhoods got bad...sort of like this...only mostly even worse (I was afraid to get my camera out in most of these areas).
Fortunately, I made it through there before the sun set completely, but I was still over 10 miles away when it got completely dark. I put the lights on and kept going, but the endless hills just went on and on. I could only barely crawl along. When I finally got to the room (the last hotel room within 50 miles of Baltimore, no doubt) it was 10:30 and I was completely trashed. I then had to spend an hour hunting for someplace still open that would deliver to me, actually bribing a delivery driver $10 to go outside his range and get me some Chinese food. All I have to say about today is, it was a truly memorable experience, that's for sure...one I hope never to have to repeat.