"You live in Hawaii and you're vacationing HERE?!?"
We just got back last night from a week in Washington, DC between weekends in Annapolis and with a side visit to Gettysburg. Our kid made a similar field trip a couple years ago and she wanted to do it again at her pace. We had a good time but it's even better to be back.
We based our Mall-marching marathon at the Meridian Manor B&B by 16th & U street. It's a century-old money pit, but it's only three blocks from the Cardozo Metro station and it's one of the few B&Bs in the area that welcomes kids. $185/night was cheap for their downstairs apartment. During five straight days we were on the Metro by 9 AM, at a Smithsonian or Mount Vernon or Arlington by 10 AM, and not back until after 5 PM. The Native American museum is fascinating and their exhibit technology is the best I've ever seen. The American History museum is closing this fall for a year or two so we were glad to catch that. Robert E. Lee's house at Arlington is also closing this fall to install air conditioning so our kid was happy to see it. The Air-Space museum is still my favorite.
USNA was a completely different experience from my last visit (1982). Our hostess lives in a century-old three-story 6000-sq ft home whose upper stories overlook downtown Annapolis from Gate #1. She had a lot of houseguests wandering through and we caught up on all the sea stories while sitting on her screened lanai sipping frosty beverages. It's weird to recall all the trouble we got into as mids and to realize that now we're running the place. I learned that John Paul Jones died with a 30-inch ponytail, so now I have a new long-term goal-- only about 14" to go.
Since our kid is starting 9th grade next week we visited the Admissions office. When they racked up the video I have to admit that I felt that ol' tug at my psyche inviting me to join the challenge. Unfortunately our daughter doesn't learn any faster than her parents and she's decided that she WILL join the Class of 2014 dammit. We spent the rest of the week telling her all our plebe stories but she still won't be ready for the shock & awe of Induction Day. Luckily we have almost four years to get her to come to her senses.
I can't blame our kid for being sucked into the marketing-- the grrl power was pretty impressive. We'd drag our sorry butts to Farragut Field each morning at 6 AM for the plebe Physical Education Program and sweat through a 90-minute supervised workout with a 1200 sweaty sleep-deprived teenagers (80% of them with shaved heads). I remember it being a lot easier 28 years ago but I wasn't gonna snivel in front of our hostess! Later we toured the classrooms & labs and walked all over the campus. I'm sure USNA goes through perpetual building cycles but the new construction is impressive. Additions over the last 25 years include a ground-control station for their satellite (launched on an earlier space shuttle), a new observatory (celestial nav doesn't use old-fashioned tables anymore!), a full-blown synagogue, and several new sports facilities. The chemistry labs have way more computers & hardware than in my day. Some of the old spaces hadn't changed a bit but today's midshipmen enjoy air conditioning in the dorm. The Midshipman Store used to be a tiny little room for school supplies & toiletries, but it's expanded to a full-size department store with a huge inventory that cleaned out our kid's savings in just a couple hours! Hey, it's her money and she's happy.
Our daughter's USNA highlight was meeting the Superintendent, VADM Rempt in all his uniformed glory, riding his three-star golf cart. He must be one of the happiest human beings on earth. It's the first time in her life that I've seen her at a loss for words. The highlight for spouse & I was working through all our old trauma memories with classmates whom we haven't seen for decades. We expunged a few nightmares, too.
Gettysburg is, well, Gettysburg. The Cyclorama is being restored while they finish the new Visitor Center in 2007 or 2008. The road tour is the same-- I think they're up to 35 monuments per mile with 40 miles of roads. I've read all the books and seen the Undiscovered History special so I didn't feel the need to retrace anyone's footsteps. It was 104 degrees and over 90% humidity so we parents stayed in the car (with the A/C blasting) and let the kid roam to her heart's content.
Annapolis-Gettysburg is the longest distance I've driven in over a decade. Everywhere the heat, humidity, traffic, & pollution were amazing. I grew up in that climate but it was still an unpleasant surprise after all our years in paradise. I've also forgotten how bad the mosquitoes can get. The people were another culture shock-- I used to dress in topsiders & polo shirts, too, but now everyone looks pretty odd in their summer clothes. The coat & tie guys looked like they were being tortured. It felt a little weird to be among such crowds-- especially on the Metro-- and we Hawaii tourists could spot each other across the room.
We found a great dive for yummy crabcakes-- G&M Crab in Linthicum-- but the basement caught fire three days later and they'll be cleaning up for another month. I also visited my first Famous Dave's franchise and demolished more BBQ than I've ever eaten at one sitting. A midshipman donated his summer white uniform and they framed it to show that he never spilled any sauce on it.
As vacations go this one was a marvel of accomplishments & endurance. However it was the kid's agenda, not ours. I'm glad we went, but I can't wait to return to the ER routine! My nephew the Army Ranger is staying with us for a couple more weeks (he's doing his summer training with an engineer battalion at Schofield) and tomorrow we're taking him out for his first surfing session... it's good to be back.
Jet lag sucks almost as bad as flying coach. Delta kept announcing these "Upgrade to first class for only $250!" offers at their boarding calls. I heard Cut-Throat whispering in my ear "What are you saving it for?"...
The book written on E-R.org, "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement", on sale now! For more info see "About Me" in my profile.
I don't spend much time here anymore, so please send me a PM. Thanks.