I’m sitting along an off-ramp at Dandridge, Tennessee about 30 miles or so east of Knoxville. There are no open spaces at the nearby truck stop, so I make my home here tonight on I-81. This is my second pass through the state in just ten days and among that growing number of states I had never visited before… until just recently. Tomorrow morning I pick up a load at Chestnut Hill and head to Chambersburg, PA. just a short distance from Gettysburg.
Since I last wrote I’ve been as far north as Skowhagen, Maine and down to Greer, South Carolina. Then it was back to Front Royal, Virginia, about a 90-minute drive from Washington, D.C. After my drop of Sterilite products in Front Royal at a Family Dollar Warehouse on the 18th I spent the next 8 days in the Washington D.C. area visiting with Mercedes. She treated me to a great time and chauffered me around to visit the sights and a few of the old neighborhoods where I lived as a young boy in nearby Maryland.
One night we drove into the city from Virginia passing on our left the John F. Kennedy Center and the nearby Watergate complex. To our right we could see the Lincoln Memorial and Memorial Bridge connecting the city with the main entrance into Arlington National Cemetery. In the distance ahead was the Washington Monument. All were brightly lit.
Within a couple of blocks of the White House we parked the car and walked the short distance to the front of the “Executive Mansion” on Pennsylvania Avenue. I thought how small the President’s home looks when seen in person. Not as big I’m sure as many people imagine, but impressive none-the-less. A few people gazed through the large iron fence while others took pictures. A single protestor stood vigil across the street, sitting in a make-shift tent covered in a large clear plastic sheeting for protection from the weather. His cause I failed to note. Watching us close-by was a Secret Service police officer. I knew he was “Secret Service” as that’s what it said on the back of his jacket. I was struck by the number of uniformed police seen at nearly every street corner along the route from the Capitol building to the White House.
A few days later we would return to the city and spend several hours visiting Arlington National Cemetery. Among our stops was President Kennedy’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. While there we watched the head of Russia’s Navy place a wreath at the tomb with an American Navy Admiral. Just before, a Navy band played the Russian Anthem and then our own Star Spangled Banner. After the wreath was placed a female Naval bugler played Taps while a large contingent of Navy Honor Guard and flag-bearers stood by and then silently but precisely marched away. Within a few minutes we watched the popular “Changing of the Guard.” We also took a few moments to visit briefly the grave of Audie Murphy. In 27-months of combat, Murphy became one of the most decorated U.S. combat soldiers of World War II. Later he would become a successful Hollywood actor and played himself in the highly acclaimed autobiographical movie To Hell and Back.
Later in the day it was on to the memorials of World War II, the Korean War as well as the long black Vietnam War Memorial. Frankly I wasn’t as impressed with the Vietnam “Wall” as I had expected. I can understand those who were critical of it’s design. The new World War II Memorial (pictured above) however was quite impressive and spacious with a large fountain in it’s center. It’s in a beautiful setting — midway between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. At the end of our visit we stood at the base of the large seated Abraham Lincoln in the beautiful “temple” that honors him. As we left we rehearsed the scene from the movie Forrest Gump when Forrest spoke from those same steps we stood on.
After having been gone for so long (the last time I was in D.C. was in 1980), and especially growing up there as a boy, I had forgotten how beautiful Washington really is. Many of the government buildings are simply magnificent in their design and architecture. I was pleasantly surprised that the weather there wasn’t as humid and hot as it normally is. In fact I was reminded of the unpredictable weather we often experienced in Seattle. Rainy and a bit cold it was, despite it being August. That’s certainly not the “norm” for Washington D.C, but you won’t hear me complain.