Posted by: lylescott89 | August 7, 2012

DC, Maryland & a Little Virginia Day 5: Mount Vernon and the Arlington National Cemetery

Hey kids,

Day five had arrived and since it was a Saturday, the breakfast at the hotel went all the way to 10:00 AM.  It was nice to be able to still sleep in and have breakfast at the hotel.  As usual, I had oatmeal and a bagel.  What was a bit unusual was that it was a cloudy and rainy day.

We had already purchased tickets to visit Mount Vernon and had a 10:45 AM entry time for the mansion.  It was not a long ride from the hotel and we left shortly before 10 AM.  It was not raining when we got in the car, but as soon as we hit the road the deluge occurred.  I love rain when I am at home, but I am not a big fan of it when I am driving.  It was so heavy it was difficult to see very far in front of the car and being that I was driving in an unfamiliar area I was a bit nervous.  Fortunately Meagan, the GPS, guided us through very well.  When we made the turn down the road the led to Mount Vernon the rain stopped.  Nice.

We arrived and parked the car and I was a bit surprised to see that it was much busier than I expected.  Now I understood the reason for the timed entry into the home.  Since we already had tickets that I had printed from home, we were able to walk right into the Ford Orientation Center.  A very nice guide gave Adam a little booklet for him to fill out as he explored the estate and another guide told me all about the property, what we could do prior to our entry time and where to line up at 10:45.  The entire staff there was incredibly helpful and friendly.  You gotta like that.  We had enough time to view a short film and then visit the Slave Quarters, Greenhouse, Spinning House and Salt House before we had to line up.

It was already 10:50, but that did not matter.  As it turned out, all the time stamp meant was that you could not get in line any time prior to the time you had.  The line was not long; it was not hot and not raining so it was not all that bad.  As we stood there we were visited by a woman dressed in the appropriate garb of the day.  She identified herself as Nelly Custis, the step-granddaughter of George Washington and granddaughter of Martha Washington.  Since Nelly Custis died 160 years ago I was pretty sure that this woman was part of the Living History of Mount Vernon.  She asked if I was her suitor and I had to break her heart and say no.  She proceeded to tell us some interesting facts about the mansion and told us to make sure to see the room where she grew up.

The line moved quickly and we were then let into the mansion itself.  As always there was no photography allowed inside, but we were free to take as many photos outside as we liked.  The mansion, which had been expanded several times, was beautiful.  It was depicted as it was in 1799 based on an inventory done upon the death of George Washington.  The tour itself was very interesting and lasted about 25 minutes.  Essentially we went from one room to the next and met up with a different tour guide in each room that would tell us facts and information about the room we were in.  When we eventually exited the house we were able to walk around the estate as long as we wanted.

For reasons I do not recall, Donna and Adam had to go back to the car to get something.  While they trekked back there I chose to take a seat in a rocking chair on the back porch of the mansion.  The mansion overlooked the Potomac and it was generally very peaceful.  It’s the kind of place that I could have spent several hours just relaxing.

Eventually I received a text that they were back and now visiting the blacksmith.  Adam was absolutely fascinated by the blacksmith.  He watched him work for over an hour before we explored the rest of the grounds and had lunch and then went back to watch him for another hour.  The blacksmith was making a hatchet and Adam thought it was really cool.

After lunch while Donna and Adam went back to the blacksmith I went through the museum portions of the estate.  One area did not allow photography, but the other did so I was able to take some photos.  One exception, however, was that no photos were allowed of GW’s false teeth.

I can only say that the visit to Mount Vernon was well worth the time.  Even the cafeteria there served a delicious lunch.  If I recall correctly I had the cheeseburger.

After we finished we decided to go back to the hotel and rest up for a bit and then head out and take the Metro to Arlington National Cemetery.  Unfortunately, Adam was a little grumpy and did not feel like walking around anymore, which I completely understood.  However, I thought it would be fun to go back out there and tried to convince him.  Donna then said she was tired and preferred a nap so they drove me to the metro and dropped me off at the “Kiss & Ride” area and I went solo.

Now the last time Donna and I explored Arlington they had a free tram that would take you around so I figured that I could ride that and avoid too much walking.  However, when I arrived I found out the tram was now $8.75. Since I am cheap and felt that the exercise would be good for me I chose to hoof it.  So I grabbed a map of the cemetery and began wandering around.  It was to be yet another mistake made by me.

I wandered around for a while and visited the Kennedy gravesite and several other places of interest before heading off to the Tomb of the Unknowns.  That has always been a must see on my visits to the DC area, but on this occasion I probably should have skipped it or, better yet, should have paid for the tram tour.  I stood there for about 20 minutes watching the Sentinel walk the mat and then it happened.  The second deluge of the day began to fall.  Not wanting to stand there in the pouring rain I began to make my way back to the visitor’s center.  In a matter of seconds I was soaked and so was my map.  The map tore and was almost unreadable.  It was bad enough that it caused me to take a wrong turn and kinda sorta get lost.  I was drenched and exhausted, but I finally made my way back to the entrance and started my walk back to the Metro.  As I began to descend the steps down to the train the rain came to an end.  As I got to the platform I saw that it was 14 minutes until the next train.  Wonderful.

I finally boarded the train and just about the time when we were pulling into the Crystal City station the power went out on the train.  I can tell you that there are few things scarier than being in a subway train in a tunnel with no lights.  Somehow we managed to get into the station, but we were unable to leave.  We all had to evacuate the train while they cleared the bad train off the tracks and waited for the next train to arrive.  Well, it was another 12-15 minutes before anything arrived and that was annoying.  What was really annoying is that the next train that was coming down the tracks was only going to the Van Dorn Station and not all the way to Franconia-Springfield where I needed to go.  So I called Donna and asked her to pick me up at Van Dorn instead and to also bring me some dry clothes.

Once they picked me up at Van Dorn we went to dinner rather than head back to the hotel because Adam and I were starving.  Donna had already eaten leftovers from El Paso the other night so she said she would just have some coffee and dessert.  We went to a place called King Street Blues.  It was a fun place and was decorated uniquely and the food was very good.  I had the platter with pulled pork, sausage and brisket.  Oh, and the sweet tea was very good as well.

Afterwards we went across the street to Kohl’s so Adam and I could get matching Washington Nationals T-shirts.  I wanted Strasberg, but Adam wanted Harper so we obviously went with Harper.  By this time I was completely exhausted and just wanted to get back to the hotel.  We were checking out the next morning and heading to Maryland.  More on that later.



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