Posted from Erie, Pennsylvania, United States.
We arrived in Washington, D.C. on Saturday afternoon and quickly participated in a baptism by fire as we drove Apollo into downtown. Although the city streets are planned well and logically, things like construction, road closings, and, uh, nerves, heightened our senses. But we prevailed in part because we are fabulous and also because our good friends were on the phone with us, talking us through the streets.
These good friends, in fact, are the reason we were even driving downtown. One was conducting at Wolf Trap that night, and not only did he give us free tickets (on the lawn – BYOB: Bring Your Own Blanket) but they VERY generously gave us the use of their suite on Pennsylvania Avenue for that night. After three days of camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we very thoroughly cleaned up and then explored some of the Georgetown neighborhood before heading to Wolf Trap for the concert. The concert was fantastic, the conductor was brilliant, and then we all celebrated the conductor’s birthday (which was that day) at another friend’s house with pizza and cake. Super fun day.
On Sunday morning to walked from the hotel to the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the White House. In the afternoon we ventured to Greenbelt, MD to meet our very first SERVAS host. (Visit the SERVAS website to learn more about this wonderful organization that we are occasionally participating in as we travel.) The host was warm and friendly and introduced us to his grown children, all of whom have had meaningful experiences as world travelers, including through Central and South American countries, and could offer us suggestions, stories, and advice. We introduced them all to Apollo and Maggi, and they were impressed with the amount of planning and research we (mostly Erik) had done to prepare for this trip. We also took a walking tour of Greenbelt, which is one of three very cool “green” cities planned as a cooperative communities by the FDR administration in the New Deal era.
Monday was a full day, and the weather was incredibly hot (temps near 100) and very humid. Our host took us into Washington, D.C. to see some sights. As a new member of the retired community, he also enjoyed seeing the monuments with new eyes even though he has lived in the area for over 30 years. We received a private tour of the HRC offices, visited the incredibly inspiring FDR Memorial (if we had to pick just one, this would be the one) and also the beautiful Jefferson Memorial. Then it was off to the Smithsonian to visit the Museums of African and Asian Art, which not only have wonderful exhibits but the buildings themselves contain some interesting architecture. Dinner that night was at a BBQ joint nearby where Erik indulged in something called the Five Meat Treat. Yes, there were five meats on his plate. No, he was not able to eat them all, but we did have a defibrillator standing by that night just in case.
Tuesday our host took us to lesser-known places in the DC area. Fewer than 15 miles west of Washington D.C. is Great Falls Park where we saw the Potomac River dramatically crash through rapids as it made its way towards the sea.
Running alongside the Potomac for 184 miles from Cumberland, West Virginia to Georgetown is the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. We walked along the canal tow path both here and also at another location farther downstream. These are beautiful spots of nature within the city that most tourists know nothing about – including us. No buildings, no traffic lights, no shops. Pretty great.
Wednesday morning we left Greenbelt at 5:00 A.M. and made the 7-hour trek to just outside of Erie, Pennsylvania to visit a childhood friend of Joe’s. The next couple of days were spent in their beautiful home which was originally built in the 1850’s and added on to in the 1880’s. It was like living in a museum with its beautiful high ceilings, original gas chandeliers that had been converted to electric, and original fireplaces that where incredibly ornate and went from floor to (high) ceiling. Luckily the kitchen has been updated since it was built. This house was actually a stop on the Underground Railroad, but the tunnel has been filled up for quite some time. On Thursday we went to Erie to see the peninsula and hang out on the beach. We were amazed that the water temperature of Lake Erie was close to 80 degrees. As we are both more familiar with always chilly Lakes Superior and Michigan, this was like another world to us. Relaxing with our friends was a great way to spend the day.
8:00 A.M. on Friday we bid adios to Waterford and began the 8+ hour drive to western Connecticut. It’s a lot of driving, but some days are just going to be like that. Apollo won’t have to make another trip until the middle of next week. Up soon: a trip to a friend’s bakery, a few days in Manhattan, and then reuniting with our canine friends Tess and Leo (with whom we stayed in Uptown Minneapolis) in upstate New York for a few days. And then we hit the road for Canada!