The Capitol Limited left Chicago in early evening for our overnight ride to DC and we had dinner on the train. Daylight had completely evaporated by the time we passed through Southbend, Indiana; Toledo, Ohio was a blur at midnight; and a gloomy, overcast dawn didn’t emerge until we reached Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Snow had started to appear as we approched Chicago but it was thick on the ground in eastern Pennsylvania and western Maryland – this would be the most snow we’d see on the whole trip. We wound our way along the Youghiogheny River, then passed through Martinsburg, West Virgina over to the North Branch of the Potomac River and then followed that to Harpers Ferry, West Virgina – where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Potomac and John Brown made his stand. From there we paralleled the main Potomac River and the old C&O Canal right in to Washington, DC’s wonderfully restored Union Station for an early afternoon, ontime arrival after 780 rail miles.
My friend Carol – who I’ve known since our mountaineering days in California – met us at the station and dropped us at our hotel near Foggy Bottom. We had high-end cheese sandwiches for lunch at GCDC and – while Wayne & Diane were at dinner with friends from Maryland – dinner at El Chalan (a Peruvian restaurant). The next day (a Sunday, so still working Carol had the day off), Wayne & Diane went to visit these friends in Maryland, while the LovedOne and I met Carol for a short hike in Rock Creek Park. After the park, we had lunch at Comet Ping Pong pizza followed by a visit to the Politics & Prose bookstore – both the targets of the idiotic and utterly nonsensical “Pizzagate” conspiracy. Having thus stood in defense of rationality, we marched up to the District’s awesome 409-foot high summit – notable only because the forts there kept the Confederates from conquering the Capitol during the Civil War. After that, we said good-bye to Carol and headed back to the hotel for dinner there with Wayne & Diane.
The next day – assuming our tourist personas – we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (my cousin’s name is there), the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II memorial, and then tried to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Hirschorn Museum – good-luck with that: it was sold out far into the future. So we wandered out to Eastern Market for lunch at the Boxcar Tavern and then back into town so Diane could see the White House. We had just gotten in sight of it when the Secret Service inexplicably forced everyone back a full block in all directions, so Diane’s White House experience was little more than a white blur through the trees. Sigh. That night we fought our way in to dinner at the Founding Farmers – an insanely popular restaurant-of-the-moment being mobbed by throngs of well-heeled Washingtonians. Excellent desserts but not worth fighting the mob.
The next day, Diane wasn’t feeling well, so the three of us walked over to the National Building Museum only to find in closed ahead of a Congressional dinner that evening. So we went to the National Geographic Museum instead, where none of the spectacular images we saw there looked like they’d been taken from the window of a speeding train. After pondering this lapse in “artistic” photography, we went for sandwiches at Loeb’s New York Deli, visited the National Zoo, and then strolled back to the hotel. By then, Diane was recovered enough to join us for dinner at Bangkok Thai near Dupont Circle. This had been one of my favorite little restaurants when I worked in the District 20 years ago, and it was good to see it still staying busy.
On our last day in DC, we went back to the now open National Building Museum for a tour. It was originally designed as an office building to administer Civil War pensions and includes high ceiling rooms, spectacular interior columns, and a frieze, sculpted by Caspar Buberl, stretching around the exterior of the building and depicting Civil War soldiers in scenes somewhat reminiscent of those on Trajan’s Column. After lunch at Kelly’s Irish Times, we holed-up at the station to await our evening departure for New Orleans on the Cresent. During our brief stay in DC, there was little evidence of “drain the swamp” – in fact, the swamp looked bigger, deeper, and more fetid than ever. We left secure in the knowledge that no lobbyists were being harmed in the making of the new adminsitration. Sigh.