11 July 2008

A visit to D.C.

Well, I arrived back in St. Louis early this morning. My flight was scheduled to depart Dulles Airport at 10:25 p.m., but we did not get out until after midnight - I am not a United Airlines fan. I have only flown with them a couple of times, but my worst experiences with air travel have been due to their mismanagement.

My time in the nation's capitol was quite enjoyable. I was there for an I.T. conference put on by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

My first stop after arriving and checking into my hotel was Arrlington National Cemetery.

It is a sobering experience to walk these grounds where so many of our honorable veterans are buried. Throughout the cemetery can be found burial plots of soldiers who fought in every major American conflict dating back as far as the Civil War - including WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and even the most recent theaters of battle in Afghanistan and Iraq. I spoke with one security officer on duty at the cemetery. He said that during the worst time of the Iraqi conflict, active duty burials topped 30 per day at Arlington alone.

The Tomb of the Unknowns. Interred in this tomb is a soldier from World War I whose identification is unknown. Also, added later in front of the tomb are three unkonwn soldiers from World War II and The Korean War. The Tomb is guarded by a platoon from the army 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Their watch has continued uninterrupted since 1937 - regardless of weather or any other inconvenience. It is quite a sight to see the honor these men take in their duty.

The Marine Corp War Memorial. This statue meant a bit more to me since I have read the book Flags of Our Fathers which details the lives of each of the men captured in the photograph from which this statue was inspired.

A beautiful view of the sunrise over the Potomac River from my hotel room.

I cannot visit a new city without taking in a game at the local ballpark. This is the first year the Washington Nationals have played in their new stadium - uncreatively named Nationals Park. Unfortunately, this park is wanting on all counts. In a city with such history and tradition, I expected a unique integration of America's capital with our favorite pastime. Regretfully, the ballpark was generic and bland. Great parks must have character. Who fails to recognize Fenway's Green Monster, Wrigley's ivy wall, or Yankee Stadium's upper-deck white arches? Other clever efforts to tie the ballpark into its city's culture include Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati - which sits on the Ohio River - where they built a riverboat replica in the outfield. Whenever a Red hits a home run, fireworks shoot out of the boat's smokestacks. In Denver (the Mile High City) they have a row of purple seats in the upper deck indicating exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. The St. Louis franchise wisely positioned their ballpark such that in straightaway center field the stadium grandstands frame a beautiful skyline of downtown St. Louis - featuring the famous St. Louis arch.

Unfortunately, Nationals Park did not measure up to my high expectations.

This is the problem with traveling alone - I always end up with a lot of self-portraits. The National Mall was my last stop before heading to the airport.


JamieN said...

I love everything about this post. Like I've said before, Washington DC is possibly my favorite city I've ever visited. I got a little choked up seeing the Tomb of the Unkown. How corny am I? It's just that I really do have such a deep appreciation for what people have sacrificed for this country. It is awe inspiring and humbling. I love being an American and all that it means.
I'm glad you got to see so much. Hope you didn't mind traveling along.

The Jensens said...

I am glad you posted about your trip. I like all the pictures, especially the self portraits! One of these days I will make it out there. It seems like an amazing place to visit! And how fun to be there during the patriotic month of July!

hbentley said...

Those pictures are amazing. I think that is so fun that you are able to go and visit many of the sights that define our country. I bet the cemetery is amazing. I am sure it is very reflective of how many people have faught for our country over the years.
Love the view out your hotel window. BEAUTIFUL!!

bjensen said...

The National "mall"? I do not see any stores! I think that title is a little misleading! Looks like you had a fun time, I would love to get back to D.C. sometime. I think every American should get back their to see our Nation's heritage! I'm sure you had a lot of fun, but you probably would have had even more fun if I was there. Right?!

bjensen said...

P.S. I want to see pictures of your hotel room!

Shelly Karren said...

Jake. I likewise know the challenges of traveling alone. It's just easier to do the self-portrait than to ask someone to take the photo. Good thing you have perfected the fine art of self-portraiting.

Cali said...

Hey, I know you don't know me but I kind of stumbled across your blog on accident and felt inclined to leave a comment. I really enjoyed reading some of the things you wrote, especially about your dream to visit every major league ballpark. That's one of my life goals too...although so far I've only been to Safeco and Angel Stadium. Looks like I've got a ways to go! Anyway, just thought I'd say hello. Take care and good luck on your quest!