My mom woke us all up early. She was in the Army as a nurse for 20 years and is still on those early morning schedules. I would have preferred to sleep another 12 hours, but we really did need to get going before noon to keep on schedule.
They were also leaving to catch a plane that morning, so we couldn't stay there forever. She cooked us some breakfast and we chatted for awhile on all the things we'd seen and our plans for the next few days. We packed up the car with our massive amount of bags, took a group photo and kissed everyone goodbye.
We left Newport News, Virginia at about 11 AM taking the 64 west towards Richmond. At Richmond we connected with 95 north heading for Washington D.C. The trip was uneventful with little traffic and took about 2 1/2 hours. We did have a little mishap in Arlington, Virginia -- our first stop -- when the map I had printed out took us to downtown Arlington and not right to the Arlington National Cemetery. We asked for directions and quickly found our way there.
We walked through Arlington National Cemetery amazed at the amount of headstones. There are just so many. I had been here before when I was young, but back then the impact isn't as great and I reflected a lot as I passed sections I recognized. We stopped at the Bataan section for a minute. My wife is Filipino and the meaning of those who died in Bataan definitely intersect both of our lives. Without those brave men we would have never met.
After stopping for a minute we walked the small hill up to the John F. Kennedy plot with the burning Eternal Flame. This kind of brought things full circle for us having stopped in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas along our cross-country journey.
Jackie Kennedy is buried next to John now.
From the JFK flame we walked on to the Tomb of the Unknowns. We watched the changing of the guard. I explained to the kids about the monument to our unknown soldiers.
As we left I took a picture of the building that stands in front of the tomb. It is really a beautiful building. As we headed back to the front of the cemetery we stopped so I could see Joe Louis, the heavyweight champions, grave.
Arlington National Cemetery is really large and we didn't get to see it all, but just the parts we did see make you think about the true sacrifice that has been made by those before us for this country.
We got back in the car and drove across the bridge into Washington D.C. and then drove around the Lincoln Memorial in a circle about 3 times while I tried to find a place to park. After the third time around I gave up and just headed up towards the White House in hopes of finding a place to park up there. We did find a spot eventuallyin the vast expanse that is Washington D.C. We walked down the streets passing all the vendors selling shirts, hats and other souvenirs. There sure are a lot. It was dreadfully hot that day.
To say the White House is well defended is an understatement. There were Secret Service and checkpoints everywhere. You can't help but think of all the cameras watching you as you walk along. Not that they're obvious or visible, but you just know because you can feel it. We finally got in front of the White House for some pictures.
We moved on. I had a small map of downtown and we stopped as we walked around at spots I wanted to see. Out front of The Treasury Department I stopped for a photo of the statue of one of my personal hero, the first geek, who was known as Alexander Hamilton. The guy was a pure genius.
Across the street from Hamilton is a monument to General John "Blackjack" Pershing. The area was pretty vacant. I doubt many everyday people know who Pershing is or what he did for our country. Hell, nobody has probably stopped at his monument in years to say thanks. Pershing is particularly interesting to read up on in this day and age of Muslim extremists.
From there we headed down towards the Washington Monument and walked around it. It's just as impressive today as it was when I was a kid.
There's a new addition to the area since I was here so long ago and that is the World War II Memorial that has been placed between the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool. We sat there for awhile and the kids dipped their feet in the water for awhile. At first I was going to tell them not to, but you know what, those guys who served in World War II -- and those who died -- would probably smile if they saw two little girls sitting there dipping their feet in a pool that they made possible, so I decided not to say anything.
Did I mention it was hot? The wife and youngest decided they would stay there while me and the oldest walked down the reflecting pool towards the Lincoln Memorial. It was a long walk in the heat that went a little faster due to my crazy kid chasing the geese into the pool over and over. I was sweating by the time we got down there. It was a much longer walk than it looked and we still had to walk back!
Abraham Lincoln was a great man.
We walked back after hanging out there for a little while, stopping to watch some people play softball and soccer along the way.
We rested once we got back to the World War II Memorial for a little while and then took a leisurely stroll around the Washington Monument again before we started heading back to the car. We didn't get to the Capitol or any of the museums, we just didn't have time on this trip. We stopped and bought some t-shirts and hats along the way and then got back inthe car.
We were getting hungry and decided we'd hit Chinatown for dinner. We ate at this great place. I think it was just called China Express. It had a window in the front where you could watch a guy make the noodles. We had a nice dinner.
After dinner is when things went downhill a bit. We decided to check our funds and found out that we were running extremely low and that meant we weren't going to be able to head out of town and find a place to stay for the night. We'd have to finish the journey in 11 days instead of 12! It was depressing and I was pretty pissed for a moment, but I got over it rather quickly and felt I could make it all in one shot, but it would be close.
It was already late, around 10PM or so, as we drove out of Washington D.C. The trip to Rochester, New York would take us through Maryland, Pennsylvania and all the way across New York. It was a 7-hour Journey. We took 270 north out of Washington D.C. 270 is a huge highway, I think it's 6 or 7 lanes on each side at one point. 270 turns into 15 north and we followed that for several hours into Pennsylvania. There's a 30 mile little detour you have to take near Williamsport on 180 west to connect back onto the 15 north. It is a little strange how it does that.
We took 15 north all the way into New York and then hopped onto 390 north. 390 north is only about an hours drive to Rochester, but by that time I had been driving for nearly 6 hours after several hours drive in the morning, hours of walking in the hot sun not to mention the previous 10 days of driving and excitement. It was a real push to make it all the way into Rochester, but I did it. We arrived early in the morning around 6 AM. I was exhausted and it was a bittersweet moment finally getting to our house here.
Getting here was a relief. After 11 days, 4,850 miles, 100+ pages of trip plan, many hotel stops and countless tanks of gas, we had completed our plan and arrived safely without major incident.
It was the end of an excellent adventure and exciting trip that had made us, as a family, grow closer together and experience things as a family that we constantly bring up daily and probably will for the rest of our lives. Even as I sit here and write this I am a little sad thinking back on it, not because it was horrible, but because it was such a great experience and it is over. It is a part of our history that we can never recreate no matter how hard we try.
The kids will never be this age again. Going back to day one and looking at the picture of us in the ocean having fun makes me sad because one day they won't be here. One day they will be off on their own. One day they wont want to ride on daddy's back in the ocean...