Friday, October 14, 2011

D.C. Again (Betcha can't do just one day...and not want more and more and more...)

Well, we couldn’t just leave D.C. at that. We HAD to return today! So, with coaching from our fair hostess, we hooked up the trailer, hugged everyone goodbye, and headed back north toward the city to check out two of the 19 Smithsonian museums there before sneaking out before drivetime.

After a bit of research, we discovered there apparently isn’t any large vehicle parking at the Metro stations. I checked out some parking options on the streets nearby and identified a likely mall parking lot about half a mile from the station we intended to take into town. But come this morning I chickened out. Even if I purchased a cup of coffee and morning snacks from a coffee shop in the mall, I don’t know if we could have gotten away with the customer parking for so many hours; and I really didn’t want to return to find the rig towed away.

We tried surface streets, but permits are required throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the Metro station, so we just drove toward D.C. hoping to come up with something. I’d read about oversize vehicle parking at Arlington National Cemetery, so was headed that way, but didn’t quite find our way there before meeting up with a ranger who pointed us toward Haines Point. Today there was ample parking (free) in the Potomac Parks, so we pulled into a shaded spot and flagged down a cab. (No metro stops out here, and quite a long walk from our intended museum destinations, though a great place to park if the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument is your first stop.)

It was a great call! We were at the Museum of American History within minutes and only a few dollars lighter. We cruised up to the First Ladies exhibit, found The Ruby Slippers (yes, that’s a capital T), played in the kids’ play areas, then headed out the doors of this free national treasure. We buzzed over to the neighboring Museum of Natural History where we headed (almost) straight for the Hope Diamond. Once there, however, we found ourselves entranced by the variety of gems and minerals (and metals) on display here. It would be easy to spend an entire day in this exhibit taking in the amazing creations of nature.

With the 2:30 warning alarm chirping, the race was on. We cruised back outside, hailed a cab, and found our rig waiting just where we’d left it. With clear and easy directions from our cabbie (“just follow the signs”), we were out of the city in minutes. The early crowd was clearly on the same page as we were: while I drove with the cruise control set on the speed limit, others were flying by me. I think they, too, were fleeing drive time.

I turned on the radio when we were west of Norfolk, far south of D.C., to pick up on the news and learned that we’d made the right choice in fleeing the city early; traffic was a mess behind us, and we were cruising south without a worry.

Had hoped to head to Hatteras today, but this portion of the outer banks is still devastated by August’s hurricane. Three of the northern islands reportedly are still cut off and authorities are asking those of us who haven’t already secured reservations on the overcrowded ferries to just stay away for awhile. We can certainly honor that – south we go.

Tonight, “camping” at Flying J somewhere in North Carolina. Not romantic. Not beautiful. Not even peaceful. But we’re welcome here, and I feel fairly safe out here under the security camera. The girls are already knocked out for the night.

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