Spring 2013 Road Trip – Part Six – Washington D.C. and then to Reno by Train

Duke and I spent the month of May traveling in the American south east. We have been back for more than a month and I am just getting around to finishing my blogs about our trip. We started in New Orleans and drove to Washington D.C. where we turned in our car. This blog post is about the days we spent in D.C. and our train trip home to Reno.

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On Thursday, May 16 we drove in to Washington and left our bags at the Mayflower hotel where we would be staying. Then we drove out to Reagan Airport, turned in the car, and took the Metro to Grand Central Station. Our first sight seeing stop was the Library of Congress.

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The inside of the library was stunningly beautiful. As my friend Linda said, how can you not love a temple to books!! They had two fascinating small exhibits. One was of documents from the Civil War including a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. The second exhibit that we spent time exploring was of maps and documents related to the exploring of early America.

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Before we left on our trip Duke contacted the office of our congressman, Mark Amodei. The people in his office set up three things for us. One was a 45 minute docent lecture at the Supreme Court. The second was a tour of the Capital and the third was a tour of The Library of Congress. Our first scheduled event was the docent lecture in the Supreme Court chambers. The docent gave a fascinating lecture and then answered questions. I loved it!

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On the lower level of the Supreme Court there we saw a display case containing the original filing documents for the Gideon vs Wainwright case. In Gideon vs Wainright the Supreme Court ruled that all defendant are entitled to an attorney whether they can afford one or not. You can see in the picture below that the original petition was hand written by Gideon from prison.

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On our second day in Washington we went on the arranged tour of the Library of Congress. What the tour covered was very different from what we saw when we were exploring on our own the day before. We learned about the building and how it was restored and about the history of the Library.

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After the Library of Congress tour we visited the National Museum of the American Indian.

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Then the U.S. Boranical Garden

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Friday afternoon we went into the House of Representative office building to find Congressman Amodei's office and to meet our tour guide for the capital.

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One of Amodei's staff members gave us a wonderful personal tour of the capital.

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Each state is permitted to have two statues in the capital. The picture below is taken in Statuary Hall in the capital.

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After our tour we took the Metro to a station near the White House and then walked around the White House. Barak and Michelle did not invite us in.

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On Saturday we toured the National Air and Space Museum,

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the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,

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The Smithsonian Castle – the origianl Smithsonian Museum,

 
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and the museums of Asian and African art. Obviously we didn't see everything but what we saw was wonderful.

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 On Sunday the 19th we explored parts of the Museums of American and Natural History.

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We saw Dorothy's Ruby Slippers form the Wizard of Oz.

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By the time we got to the Museum of Natural HIstory we were getting tired and a bit museumed out. I know that is one of the museums I really want to visit again.

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 On Monday hte 20th we took the metro out to Arlington Cemetary. I had never been there before. It is difficult to describe how moving and beautiful it is.

 

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From Arlington we took the Metro back to our hotel, checked out and took a Taxi to Grand Central Station to catch our train to Chicago. We had coach seats so we slept in our seats for the over night ride. The scenery was beautiful and very rural. 

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We spent just one day and night in Chicago but we made the most of it. We toured the money museum at the Federal Reserve Building,

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saw the Picasso Horse statue in front of City Hall,

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and the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world in the old library building.

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We had a sleeping compartment for our two day train trip from Chicago to Reno. As we were pulling out of Chicago we had a great view of the Chicago skyline.

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I loved the train ride. It was beautiful and relaxing. The whole trip was a great adventure with many fantastic memories. I'm ready to go again.

Spring 2013 Road Trip – Part 5 – Virginia

Duke and I have now completed our spring 2013 road trip. I still have a couple more blog posts to write about the trip. This post will be about the time we spent in Virginia. We saw a lot but there were several additional things I would have liked to do. I think I could easily spend another two or three weeks in Virginia and probably not see everything I would like to see.

On Monday, May 13 we left North Carolina and entered Virginia. Our first stop was at the site of Jamestown. In 1607 104 English men and boys founded what was the first permanent English settlement in North America. Up until recently it was thought that the fort site was under water below the current river path. But since 1994 archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of the first Jamestown Fort and settlement. In addition they have recovered a lot of artifacts. The site and museum were fascinating.

 
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 We spent Monday night in Richmond, Virginia. Tuesday morning we toured the Virginia Capital building. It may very well be my favorite state capital. It was designed by Thomas Jefferson. The original model of the building that Jefferson had built and sent back from France. is on display in the capital

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The Capital houses the statue of George Washington that is copied in lots of other places. It is supposed to be a very close resemblance to him. The statue is life size (He was 6'2") and the face of the statue was created from a life mask made of Washington when he was 63.

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In 1870 the floor of a third floor court room in the capital collapsed into the House of Delegates on the floor below killing more than 60 people. The capital was repaired and rebuilt. More recently an underground approach to the capital has been built.

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We had a long talk with a lady who was working at the visitor information desk in the capital. She told us all about Queen Elizabeth's visit to the capital in 2007 to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. The visitor desk lady also had lots of stories about the filming of the movie Lincoln in the capital. I believe that this room was used as the office of Thaddeus Stevens for filming.

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From Richmond we drove to Charlottesville. Charlottesville is the nearest big town to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. We visited Monticello and had a lovely picnic lunch before touring the house and gardens. As we explored I could easily imagine Jefferson living there and walking where I was walking.

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You can't take pictures in the house but we saw all sorts of things that I have read about. Jefferson invented lots of gadgets to make his life easier and to make Monticello work more smoothly. We saw  the writing apparatus that would make a copy at the same time that Jefferson was writing a letter. We also we saw Jefferson's Great Clock. It is a 7 day clock. It is in the entry way and has a second face on the outside east wall of the house As the cannon ball clock weight descends a mark on the wall indicates the day of the week. We had to go to the basement to see the mark for Saturday. I loved Monticello's setting on a hill overlooking the country side and the vegetable gardens which were just being planted.

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We rode a shuttle bus up to the house but we walked back down and passed Jufferson's grave on the way.

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On Wednesday we drove to Mount Vernon to tour George Washington's home and gardens. No one has lived there since Washington. In the entry way hanging on the wall is the key to the Bastille that was given to Washington by Lafayette.

 
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The place was packed with school groups which was a bit distracting but I still really enjoyed seeing such an important part of American history.

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Mount Vernon is on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. We took a boat ride on the Potomac from the Mount Vernon wharf. You can see Mount Vernon in the distance in this picture.

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On Thursday we drove into Washington D.C. I'll talk about our stay in Washington in my next blog post.

Spring 2013 Road Trip – Part 4 – Georgia and the Carolinas

Duke and I are in week three of a four week road trip. We started in New Orleans and will take the train back to Reno from Washington, DC next week. Last Tuesday, May 7, we drove from Dayton Beach, Florida to Savannah, Georgia. Along the way we stopped at Fort King George State Historic Site. It was built in 1721 by the British and was the southernmost outpost of British North America.

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When I have ever talked to someone about Savannah, Georgia she has told me how pretty it is and how much she liked it. We stayed in Savannah two nights and it was wonderful. We stayed in the Old Harbor Inn right on the River. Savannah is one of the busiest ports on the east coast. It is also 18 miles from the ocean. Giant ships coming up the river were right outside our window and tey were coming and going all the time.

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We walked all over Savannah enjoying the old buildings, the big trees
covered with Spanish Moss and the squares every
few blocks with trees and statues. I had heard great reports about the food in Savannah and we
had two fantastic meals, One at Jazz'd Tapas Bar with live music and one
at the Old Pink House.

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The waterfront of Savannah is lined with old Cotton warehouses.

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My brother and his wife have a vacation rental property on the beach at Hilton Head, South Carolina. They happened to be at the house last week so from Savannah we drove to Hilton Head. This was the first time we have seen the house. It is right on the beach and is really beautiful. If you ever want a fantastic place for a vacation check out the rental web site here. We walked on the beach, sat on the patio and read and then enjoyed a wonderful dinner overlooking the ocean.

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 Last Friday we left Hilton Head and drove to Columbia, South Carolina. We thought we would be able to get a tour of the South Carolina capital but it turned out it was closed because of Confederate Memorial Day.

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The capital grounds have a statue of Strom Thurmond who ran for President of the US in 1948 as a candidate of the segregationist States Right Democratic Party. He was the senator from South Carolina for 48 years. After he died it was revealed that he had a mixed race daughter whom he had supported. The statue had been altered to reflect this.

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The capital grounds also had a powerful African American History Monument.

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On Saturday we stopped at Morrow Mountain State Park near Charlotte, North Carolina and had a short visit with one of my daughter's friends who I watched grow up. Amanda now has two little girls. It was fun to see her and to meet one of her daughters. The park is on top of a mountain that early people used to quarry and create stone tools.

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From Columbia we drove to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to visit my nephew and his wife. We had a wonderful visit. They just got married last December so it was so much fun to see them. They drove us through the Old Salem, the historic district. It was pouring rain so we didn't get any pictures. It looked like a fun place to visit on a future visit.

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 From Winston-Salem we headed east. We stopped briefly to see Duke University in Durham.

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Next we stopped in Greenville, North Carolina to visit a High School friend of Duke's. We had a wonderful visit. We enjoyed an evening of music and got a tour of Eastern Carolina University where Duke's friend is a proffessor.

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From Greenville we drove North into Virginia. I'll talk about Virginia in my next post.

Spring 2013 Road Trip – Part 3 – Florida

Last Thursday May 2 Duke and I drove from Biloxi, Mississippi through the southern tip of Alabama to Destin Florida. We stopped outside of Mobile to see the Battleship Alabama. It is moored there as a museum.

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In Pensacola, Florida we visited the National Naval Aviation Museum. The planes, spacecraft, ship models and other displays were fascinating. I enjoyed our tour guide explaining to us how planes are launched and recovered from aircraft carriers. We spent about three hours there and could have spent all day.

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In Destin we had a yummy boiled shrimp dinner at a local bar called Elmo's. It rained very hard the whole time we were there. They were getting over an inch of rain an hour.

On Friday we drove from Destin to Duke's Brother's house in Tampa. It rained most of the way so it was a good thing that we didn't have any site seeing planned.

Saturday we visited the Dali Museum in St Petersburg. They have a large collection (almost 100) of Salvador Dali paintings and drawing. I learned a lot about Dali. He lived from 1904-1989. I think my favorite is the large painting that up close is a naked woman gazing out a window and from a distance is Abraham Lincoln .

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The museum building is stunning too.

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 Sunday afternoon we drove from Tampa to Orlando. Monday we drove to Daytona Beach. Along the way we stopped at Blue Spring's State Park and took a two hour boat ride on the St John's River. We had a very knowledgeable guide who also had a few good jokes. The St John's River is the longest River in Florida. It flows north. According to our guide this is not because Georgia sucks but because the river drops 30 feet over it's 310 mile length.

The boat ride was wonderful. We saw several interesting birds, alligators ranging from babies to giants, lots of turtles, and what was most amazing and interesting, a water moccasin snake crossing the river on top of the water.

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We have taken lots of alligator pictures on this trip. I never get tired of seeing alligators. This next picture is the giant we saw on the river bank and the picture after that is several young alligators

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The guide says it is rare to see a Purple Gallinule but we saw several of them. They have big feet that allow them to walk on top of the vegetation on the water.

 
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This turtle is warming his feet in the sun. Since turtles are cold blooded this is apparently how they warm up their blood.

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 After the St John's River trip we spent the night in Daytona Beach. Our hotel was right on the Atlantic. We went for a walk along the water, sat and had a drink outside overlooking the Atlantic and had a great dinner in a restaurant called Ocean Deck that was open air and right on the beach.

The weather the last few days has been perfect, in the 70s and sunny with just a few clouds. This is a great time of year to visit Florida.

Spring 2013 Road Trip – Part 2 – New Orleans

Duke and I are in week one of our Spring 2013 road trip. Monday and Tuesday we spent in New Orleans. This was my first trip to the city. We stayed in the French Quarter and did a lot of walking and exploring.
We drove into New Orleans from the north on the more than 23 mile long causeway over Lake Pontchartrain. 

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On Monday we took a river boat cruise on the Mississippi on a steam driven paddle wheeler called the Natchez. It was fun. The size of the Mississippi and the shear volume of water it contains  blows me away. At one point on the river they told us the water was 240 feet deep!!

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 Tuesday night we had tickets to see Charlie Hunter and the California Honeydrops at the Little Gem Saloon. We have seen Charlie Hunter with his band at Yoshi's in Oakland several times. It really cool to see him on his own at a much smaller venue. I love his music.The Little Gem Saloon was a great small show room too. I bet there were only 100 people there.

I had never heard of the California Honeydrops. They were high energy and energetic. Everyone was out dancing and having fun. I would love to see them again some time.

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Before we left New Orleans yesterday we explored the cemetery and the cathedral and lots more side streets. We drove to Biloxi, Mississippi where we spent the night.  It has also been raining quite a bit and we got wet a few times but it was fun.

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The Beginning of our Spring 2013 Road Trip – The American Southeast

Duke and I are on a road trip again. Friday we flew to New Orleans. Our plan is to drive to Washington, D.C. exploring along the way. We'll be back home in Reno in about a month.

We have already had two rental cars. Renting the car for the trip at New Orleans airport would have cost us about $1000 more than renting it in Baton Rouge. The tax alone would have been more than we are paying for the whole rental! So we did a one day rental Friday night when we arrived. Saturday we drove to Baton Rouge. We visited the old capital and the current capital along the Mississippi. The current capital is the tallest capital building in the country. The view from the top included the river, Baton Rouge and all the surrounding country.

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We picked up our second rental car, the one we will drive to D.C.,  in Baton Rouge and drove back to New Orleans to drop off the first car. Then we headed south to Grand Isle. We drove through the swamps on causeways and saw lots of fishing boats. As I looked out the car window at water on every side I was struck by the fact that we were visibly at or below sea level.

Grand Isle is a narrow Island due south of New Orleans right on the Gulf. Their are lots of nice houses and it looked like a great relaxing vacation spot. Every building is on stilts including the church, the Post Office and the school. After looking around a bit we headed back north and spent the night in Morgan City.

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For dinner Saturday night we ate at Susie's Seafood. What a great experience. it looked like a dive and the tables were covered with brown butcher paper. We soon saw a big bin of boiled seafood coming out of the kitchen. The bin was dumped in the middle of the table of the people who had ordered it and they dug in.We had a fried seafood platter with frog legs, shrimp, fish, crab balls and some other stuff. it was really good.

 
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This morning we went to Avery Island to see the Tabasco factory. It was interesting and the gift shopping and sampling were fun. But the best part of Avery Island for me was exploring the more than 150 acres ofJungle Gardens that were created by the McIlhenny Family. We drove through the gardens and got out multiple times to explore.We saw several alligators. The weather was humid but it was overcast and in the 70s. An absolutely perfect day. Don't miss the alligator in the picture below.

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The gardens include an artificial lake with platforms built above the water to allow snowy egrets to nest. It is called Bird City and is a heron sanctuary. The map for Jungle gardens says that 20,000 nests are built each spring. The sanctuary was created to help save the snowy egrets that were almost wiped out by plume hunters. The sight of all those beautiful herons in one place was stunning.

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Here is a short video of the birds at Bird City.

 

From Avery Island we drove to Mandeville on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain where we are tonight.

If you would like me to share my trip photo stream with you drop me an email and I will add you to the list.