Colleen and I have been doing this thing for the last six or so months where we hang out just about every day, promise not to kiss anyone else, and make plans to get a place together with a dog someday. It’s been great, she has an adventurous spirit similar to mine and we generally have a good time together. So much so that when I got back from Guatemala last January I decided that, if possible, I wanted ol’ Collzballz on all my adventures. So we sat down and made a grandmaster list of all the “adventures” we wanted to do in the new year of 2016.
As you can see, the term “adventure” has a very wide-ranging meaning in our relationship. Day-hikes in New Hampshire, things just in Portland, and very broad entries such as “Iceland” all make the list. Our first “big” one from the list, we decided, was Washington, D.C. We’re both huge nerds, so the free Smithsonian museums were calling to us. We saved up a little bit of extra dough from our jobs stuffing bears and calling lacrosse games (equally unpleasurable, lacrosse is a made up sport and Build-A-Bear is no cakewalk), and set out on our first road trip as a couple.
Day One: Driving Out of Winter and Into Spring
We woke up on Friday, March 25th to a sudden and unwanted appearance from old man Winter, who had kindly coated everything in three inches of ice. Because what else would make an eight-hour drive better than making it ten hours due to bad roads? Colleen doesn’t want me to tell you guys, but she fell down on the ice.
We traveled through eight states, and I can name them all because I saw them twice. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and just a little bit of Virginia. Went a little crazy towards the end during a traffic jam in D.C. with under 15 miles to go, and repeated the joke “When ya go to D.C., you have to expect some gridlock!” four times until Colleen gave me a pity laugh.
Miraculously, we made it to the hotel in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. A prime 25-minute train ride from the city, Colleen and I delighted in the 65-degree weather and walked down the road a little bit to the mother-effen (Mom told me to stop swearing on the Internet) Cheesecake Factory. It was delicious and well worth the price-tag. We tried to go to bed, with visions of dinosaur bones and the Smithsonian Museum of National History dancing like sugar plums in our heads.
Day Two: The Day I Lost Faith in Humanity
We woke up bright and early and 8:00 clock for day one in D.C.
Actually, we woke up at 9:00am because I am not good at alarm-setting apparently. We rolled out of the hotel, jumped on the Metro Train, and rode it all the way to the Metro Center Station. We got off and were instantly amazed by the beautiful architecture of the Ronald Reagan Building and the EPA’s building. We like weird shit like cool buildings and funny business names. Segs in the City is the funniest Segway-rental business name I’ve seen to date.
The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Walking into the Smithsonian without paying a cent definitely felt criminal. The Easter Island figure was giving me a weird look, so I dropped ten bucks into the donation box to put my mind at ease.
Let me just say, if you haven’t been to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum you should probably go right now. We saw some of the most amazing exhibits in the world for the price of absolutely nothing. Behold;
So we got through there in a crisp five hours. Colleen and I actually like to read the exhibit signs and learn something at museum, contrary to the popular method which seemed to be to talk three times louder than necessary, make it through the museum as quickly as possible by any means necessary, and make sure to snap a “selfie” with the top attractions to prove to your Fakebook friends that you were actually there. Don’t worry, a picture of you fat, sweaty face with the Hope Diamond is EXACTLY what people want to see on their computer or phone.
Quote of the Museum: “What kind of skeleton is that?” – A middle-aged woman upon viewing a human skeleton.
After we left the Natural History museum, walked a few blocks up to a Shake Shack, saw the line out the door, and walked to Subway.
The National Gallery of Art
Colleen and I really like art. We don’t always understand it, but we like looking at the pretty pictures. One of our first dates was to the Portland Museum of Art, which I highly recommend. So when we learned the Smithsonian’s neighbor was the National Gallery and that it was ALSO free, we popped in. The impressive collection was too big to hit in the two hours we had before closing time, so we did our best to hit the highlights.
Quote of the Museum: “We’re from South Africa” – A lovely older couple we meet from South Africa
The National Mall
We ducked out of the National Gallery and journeyed over to the National Mall. The grass was green, the sun was out, and people were all over the place. We walked up Capitol Hill, saw both sides of the building (which is under construction till 2017), then walked a couple hundred feet over to the Supreme Court and saw that.Once we were done there, we took a short train ride up to the other end of the mall to check out the Washington Monument. From there, we went up to the White House, did not see Obama, and headed to the train station to head back to the hotel.
Day Three: The Zoo at the National Zoo
We woke up at 8:00am on Sunday (Colleen set the alarm) and headed off for another day of fun.
The National Zoo:
The National Zoo falls in the Smithsonian family, so once again, it was a free attraction. I actually brought a bag this day, because the forecast called for a lot of rain later in the day. After getting through the gates, it was onto the animals. We saw three of the twelve pandas in the United States, introduced Colleen to red pandas, and saw people freak the f*** out over pandas.
Quote of the Zoo: “*grunt noise* *grunt noise*….yeah, I bet that’s a deer.” -Middle-aged woman at the antelope exhibit
After the Zoo, which was cut short a little due to dreary weather and an even drearier amount of people at the Zoo, we scooted over to….
The National Museum of American History
Another Smithsonian museum, the American History museum was something I was pretty excited for. Contrary to the Natural History Museum, getting into the American History was like getting on a plane. We had to go through metal detectors, bag checks for everyone, all that jazz. But once inside, we saw some of the craziest American artifacts you can imagine. For example, I knew the flag that Francis Scott Key was looking at when he wrote the National Anthem was here. However, I didn’t know it was a 30’x42′ monster. Photography is prohibited in that exhibit, along with many others, however I snuck a few.
Quote of the Museum: *screaming* – Small toddler for a whole hour non-stop. Impressive, to say the least.
After that, we took a jaunt down the National Mall, past the Washington Monument again, and towards the Lincoln Memorial. We stopped at the World War II monument, found the Maine pillar and took an obligatory picture, then continued on to…
The Lincoln Memorial
This was THE stop for me. There’s a reason I saved it for last. Ol’ Abe has been one of my favorite historical figures since forever. Whether it be due to my dad’s interest in the Civil War rubbing off on me, or just being a history lover myself and reading about all the great things this man did, or a combination of the both I’m not sure. But walking up the steps was such an exhilarating moment for me that I almost missed the tile that marked the spot where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech. After that, I entered the Lincoln Memorial.
The inscription behind Lincoln’s head declares this building a “temple.” A temple. You know who used to get temples build for them? Gods. The fact that this string-bean from Illinois managed to do enough extraordinary things to warrant a monument reminiscent of those built for Zeus or other major deities hundreds of years ago is awe-inspiring.
You would think most people would feel floored enough to kind of stop and read either the Gettysburg Address or Lincoln’s Second inauguration Speech that are carved into the walls of the temple. Or at the very least stop for five seconds to absorb the moment.
Well you’d be wrong. I got asked to move three times just in the time it took for me to read the twenty-four words behind Lincoln. Because poeple needed the perfect selfie angle, or needed to snap a family picture fast enough to get on the move again and keep bagging monuments. Selfie-takers and monument-baggers were enough to put just a hint of negativity on one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. And it was all it took to remind me of why I stay out of cities.
When I was a kid, and we’d be at Disney World or any other really crowded place, I would be baffled as to why my dad would get angry or frustrated. How could he? We’re at Disney World!
Well Pops, I get it now. People are morons.
If you’re reading this, do me a favor and go to some significant place just once and leave your cellphone, camera, walkman, whatever in the car. Don’t pack a pack that extends three feet off your back and causes you to mildly assault 5’4 girls named Colleen and make me have to tell you to watch it only for you to look at me with a stupid face on and just act like you couldn’t help it. Just be in the moment. For once in your life, don’t be connected to everything and everyone. Just be connected to the moment.
After that, it was a quick jaunt over to the train station with a little stop at the Vietnam Memorial. Then we were on our way back to Maine in order for me to make it back to class on Tuesday morning. Overall, our stats were pretty impressive;
- 15 miles walked, give or take
- 6 new postcards for our postcard collection
- 5 monuments visited
- 4 museums visited
- 3 large fries from McDonalds
- 2 near homicides committed by me
- 1 unforgettable trip
Was that too corny of an ending? I don’t care.
Thanks for reading, and keep Livin’ Deliberately!