Presidential Pilgrimage

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Days 26-27:  Washington, DC
Still recovering from all our frenetic letterboxing with Pam over the weekend, we spent much of Monday in the apartment, catching up on laundry, correspondence, relaxing, and planning where we're going next.  After some shopping and letterboxing in the late afternoon, we targeted the local P.F. Chang's for dinner.  As usual, it did not disappoint.
Today was our last day in the city of Washington since we have a field trip planned for tomorrow and will be leaving the area Thursday morning.  Unlike in New York, where a 7-day unlimited MTA pass is good for any seven days, the same type of pass on the Washington Metro is valid only for seven consecutive days.  So even though we used the passes we bought last Monday for only five days, they had expired and we had to buy a one-day pass.  And while we're comparing, New York's pass, which costs considerably less ($29 vs. $47), covers fares for both subway and buses, but in Washington unlimited bus rides will cost you an extra $15.  We're just sayin'.
Oh, and one more thing... the $9 one-day Metro pass we bought couldn't be used until after 9:30 a.m.  (Sigh)
Other than spending another week in the Smithsonian museums, which we clearly don't have time left to do on this trip, we mostly went into the city today to visit the area around the White House, which we hadn't ventured near in all our meanderings.
Since we failed to plan and make a request of our Congressional representative six months in advance, we had no chance of scoring tickets for an actual tour of the President's residence.  And with all the personal information required on the application for tour tickets (birthdate, social security number!, etc.), we probably wouldn't have been in the queue for the tour even if our planning were a bit less spontaneous.
So we walked through Ellipse Park and saw the Zero Milestone marker just south of the White House.  When it was set in 1923, the marker was intended as the starting point from which all roads in the United States should be measured.  Today, only roads in the Washington area measure distances from it.
South of the zero marker, in a wide expanse of President's Park, workers and vendors were busy dismantling barriers and other equipment used in yesterday's White House Easter Egg Roll.  North of the marker was the south lawn of the White House (pictured on previous page).  Between the area where the public was allowed, five fences and other barriers separated the unwashed masses from the Presidential grounds.  We weren't completely surprised by all these layers of security until later.
After strolling north past the spectacular monument to General Sherman and into Lafayette Square, we reached the approach to the White House's north lawn, where we marveled at the contrast in security measures from the south.
White House north lawn
Anyone and everyone could (and did) walk right up to the fence, the single barricade between the public and the White House.  Yes, there certainly was a significant security presence, but why the contrast with the five fences?
Expecting a museum of the type we found in the Capitol Visitor Center, we hopped over to the White House Visitor Center in the nearby Commerce Department building.  Though it had a few interesting exhibits about the lives of children in the White House and the history of its construction, we found it disappointing overall.
Having visited George Washington's birthplace and childhood home on this trip, we decided to drive the 15 or so miles to Mount Vernon this afternoon to see his beloved plantation home and burial spot.  We left soon after we arrived, however, because we found it too "bussy."  There must have been 85 tour buses parked along the road, and almost every auto parking place was filled.  Maybe we'll return in January or February, or whenever the slow season is.  We're confident George will wait for us.
Tomorrow we'll be visiting Point Lookout, Maryland, and packing up to move northward.
"Poor George!  Do you think he and Martha prepared enough for this many guests?"  -Ken, when we arrived at Mount Vernon