Saturday, March 1, 2014

PAEMST Recognition Trip - Day 1

We made it to Washington! I know that flying in the winter, especially in the Northeast can cause all kinds of trouble, but our trip was uneventful and smooth.

After a fun day at school yesterday where I helped a group of really cool second graders record and produce a video to share their Haiku poems and learning about Japan, Lori and I made our way to Scranton/Wilkes Barre International Airport in plenty of time to have a very mediocre dinner (there's only one restaurant there) before boarding our first plane.
Leaving Home

Scranton/Wilkes Barre Intl Airport
Since we needed to switch planes in Philadelphia, both flights were less than an hour on 37 seat turboprops.  The plane from Scranton to Philly was the dirtiest plane I've ever flown.  I joked that it was a dumpster with propellers.  That didn't stop me from having a huge smile on my face the entire flight.

The Flying Dumpster

 The flight into Reagan National was pretty cool.  Right before landing we flew past the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Capitol.  In the picture below you can see the Capitol in the distance from the tarmac. 
It took us less than a half hour from the time we stepped off the plane to get our checked bag, hail a taxi, check into the Hilton Garden Inn, and get to our room.  That was awesome.  Exhausted, both Lori and I passed out right away.
This morning, in true Soskil travel style, we were out of the hotel early and went to a Cosi for a light breakfast. I like this place.  I ate there before both of my first two half marathons that went great.
After breakfast we walked the two blocks to the White House.  In all the times I had been to Washington, I don't think I'd ever gone to even see it.  I'm not sure why.  It was kind of cool to think that I'd be on the other side of the fence in two days. After walking past the front lawn, we walked around back to the South Lawn.
Afterwards we walked down to the Mall to look around.  We had a little time to kill before the Museum of American History opened at 10AM, so we had some fun with the camera.
 The Museum of American History was fantastic.  I especially liked the Hall of American Presidents and the room devoted to the Star Spangled Banner that inspired our National Anthem during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in there.

In the First Lady exhibit, it was kind of cool to see that Mary Todd Lincoln's White House stemware was made by Dorflinger Glass up in our rural little part of Pennsylvania.
In the American Life display, I found Kermit the Frog.  Coincidentally (really, it wasn't planned) I happened to have a Kermit "Hop to it, Do good today" t-shirt on, so I had Lori take a picture of me with my favorite frog. 
After a few hours in the museum, we found on Yelp that there was a little cafe in the Sculpture Garden nearby that had a decent lunch.  When we walked over, we found that there was also an ice-skating rink there.  We had a nice lunch near a window overlooking the rink, then rented skates and took a few laps.  Lori, who took figure skating lessons as a kid loved it.  I didn't last long.  I can skate fine having grown up playing hockey on ponds, but the rental skates made the arches of my feet hurt.  I enjoyed watching her having fun.

 When the Zamboni came out, we returned our skates and walked across the Mall to the Smithsonian Castle.  There were some neat exhibits there.  I took a picture of the Lego model of the Castle to show my 8 year old son, who's a big Lego fan.

Next, we headed to the Air and Space Museum.  I loved this place as a kid, and Lori had never been, so we spent an hour or so wandering through some really interesting exhibits before we decided we needed to take a little break.

Hubble Space Telescope Backup Mirror
We walked back to the room and looked for a place to have dinner.  The Old Ebbitt Grill was recommended by Danielle Miller Peterson, one of the winners from Alabama, who had eaten there last night.  It also got great reviews on Yelp, so we called to make a reservation.  The only available time was 4PM, and it was 3:40.  We made a quick decision to skip the resting and head out to dinner early so that we could get a self-guided evening tour of the monuments in afterwards.  

It was a great decision.  Dinner was excellent.  We shared grilled oysters and Korean pork belly tacos for appetizers.  Amazing.  For dinner I had Rockfish, which was good.  Lori had Osso Bucco over sweet potatoes that was fantastic.  We split peanut butter pie for dessert.

We started our walking tour by going past the Washington Monument and visiting the World War II Memorial.  It looks a lot different in the winter with no water in the fountain.  Unfortunately, the computers weren't working, so I couldn't look up my two grandfathers.
Then, we made our way to the other end of the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial.  It had been years since I had been here.  Seeing pictures or seeing it on TV just don't compare to the feel you get when you visit.

 Before visiting the Vietnam Memorial, we called the kids to see how they were doing.  It seems like they are having a great time with Lori's Mom.  Michael was very excited that he almost finished building the giant Lego set he got for his birthday.

While visiting the Vietnam Memorial there were a few loud high-school aged girls acting like loud high-school aged girls.  I appreciated that a park ranger came over and tore into them for not respecting those whom the memorial was built to remember.

 From there we walked over to the Korean War Memorial.  Like the World War II memorial that we visited previously, and the FDR Memorial that we visited later in the evening, being at these places made me miss my grandfathers.  Especially Poppy Buddy who had brought me to these places when I was younger and shared so many stories about his younger days that are echoed in the words and statues on these memorials.
 Even though our feet hurt from all the walking, we decided to loop the Tidal Basin to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, FDR Memorial, and the Jefferson Monument.  It was a little weird, but very nice to see each of them at night and with almost nobody else around.  At times while we were walking, there was nobody else in sight. 

At the FDR Memorial we briefly tagged along behind a park ranger who giving a tour.  It was interesting to hear him describe how choices were made when they were designing the outdoor rooms that make up the Memorial.

 There were some great views across the Tidal Basin as we made our way to the Jefferson Monument.

On the way back to the hotel we decided to pass by the White House one more time to see it lit up at night.

Tomorrow is another busy day.  I'm planning on getting a long run in early on the Mall, around the Tidal Basin, and up the Rock Creek Trail.  Afterwards, we have reservations at Georgia Brown's for their Sunday Jazz brunch.  Then, we're heading up the Omni where we'll be for the rest of the trip.  The PAEMST events get started with a Meet & Greet at 4PM.  I'm really excited to finally meet the other winners face to face.  Getting to know them in our Facebook group has been fun, and they seem like an amazing group of people.