THIS IS HOW IT STARTED...
NOW, SEE THE REST OF THE TRIP!
Day 1: Monday, September 12
We got up early. Well, that’s not totally true. We slept in three hours longer than we usually do on a workday, up at 5:00,with plenty of time to meet Home Spun Tours and the Lamer’s motor coach in Eau Claire, hitting the road at 8:10, on the way to our great adventure. A couple of hours into the trip, I had to earn my keep, so to speak. Bill Richards does a phone commercial on the Moose with me at 10:20 on Monday mornings. This time, Tess Morgan was at the studio, and I took Bill’s part on the bus. After that, we settled down a bit, met some of our traveling companions and started asking, “Are we there, yet?” “There”, in this case, was not our ultimate destination, but our first biffy stop. Great news for Home Spun travelers: Bill is not known as “Ole Iron Bladder,” and plans plenty of “necessary” stops along the way. We had a break in Black River Falls, got to meet and visit with our driver, Dave, a bit. I’m generally a white knuckle passenger, when somebody else drives, but I was totally at ease with Dave, as was Sherry.
We stopped for lunch at the East Towne Mall in Madison, chowed down and hit the road again. Next break near O’Hare Airport, Chicago, then on to South Bend, Indiana, and a delightful tour through the Notre Dame Campus. It was everything we’d always thought it would be. It was surprising to us that the student body is relatively small, compared to many universities, some 13,000. We thought it would be more like Madison or Michigan, with a student body of 20,000 to 30,000 or so. After the campus tour, we checked into our luxury suite at the Inn at St. Mary’s. Sherry and I loved the accommodations, which were way more luxurious and expensive that what we’re used to on our trips. Very nice.
After cleaning up and relaxing for a short time, we went next door to the Hilton Garden Inn for dinner. Bill had told us on the bus that he had a surprise for us, and so he did: performance by an award-winning Elvis tribute artist. Then, back to the room and a good night’s sleep.
FLIGHT 93 MEMORIAL, SHANKSVILLE PA
Day 2: Tuesday, September 12
Up at 4:30, showered, etc, bags out for the bellmen by 6:00 and down for an excellent breakfast. On the road at 7:00, headed for the Ohio Turnpike. A mid-morning biffy break on the Ohio Pike, and later, lunch at a food court on a Service Plaza.
Mid-afternoon, another short break, then on to visit the 9/11 United 93 Memorial near Shanksville, PA. The site is situated in the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, and, approaching the area, it’s hard to imagine such a tragic event taking place here. Dave pulled our bus into the visitor’s area, and a Park Ranger came on board to tell us a bit about the memorial. Her name was Kate, and she was incredible. She not only refreshed our memories of the flight and the events which took place, but she told us something of each of the passengers who’d been aboard, bringing it all very close and personal to us.
After some time to wander around the memorial, we moved on, many of us in a pensive mood, to our night’s lodging at the Hampton Inn in Bedford, PA. Once again, as all the way through the trip, excellent accommodations. After settling into our rooms and cleaning up a bit, down the road to a great dinner at Ed’s Steak House, and a chance of meet some more of our fellow travelers.
Day 3: Wednesday, September 13
Yup, up again at 4:30, showered, etc, bags out at 6:00 and down for breakfast and on the road at 7:00, headed for Gettysburg.
Sherry and I had just finished hearing an audio book about Gettysburg a few days before the trip was to begin, a 23 hour history of Gettysburg, by Alan Searles. We arrived at Gettysburg around 9:00, did what we always do first, and returned to the bus to be greeted by historian David Eisenhart, who has been doing tours with Home Spun for many years. There are not sufficient words in our vocabulary to describe Dave’s value to our experience. It wasn’t just a matter of knowing what there is to know about Gettysburg, the battle, the town and the entirety of the Civil War, but his ability to bring it all to life was extraordinary. When he was describing Pickett’s Charge and the battle for Little Round Top, you could almost see and hear the guns and the cries of the soldiers as they launched themselves into battle. Dave gave special emphasis to the units from Wisconsin and Minnesota. It was too short a visit, but Sherry and I will go back to spend a few days there, perhaps next year. After our tour of the battlefield, we spent some time in the gift shop, where we picked up, among other treasures, a 30-disc audio book on the Civil War by one of our favorite historians, Shelby Foote.
After lunch, back aboard and on to Washington. Bill had told us that this trip was a sort of “sampler” of so many sites and sights that we’d want to re-visit. The U.S. Holocaust Museum certainly fit that description. There was so much to see and to contemplate, and there was so little time. We’ll go back there again, as well.
Next, on to the White House and Lafayette Park. George, our Washington guide, led us around the White House and through the adjacent park. Apparently, the public is no longer allowed to tour the executive mansion.
Then, on to the Hilton Garden Inn that would be our resting place for the next four nights. Another delightful dinner, a chance to visit with some Veterans who were there from San Antonio on an Honor Flight, then hit the sack.
Day 4: Thursday, September 15
Slept in till 4:45 this morning, down to breakfast at 6:15 and headed for Washington by 7:15. We really liked getting on the road early, with so much to see and so far to walk. (Did we mention, there’s a lot of walking involved?)
We stopped and visited the World War II, Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials.
I was most moved by the World War II Memorial, because, even though I was a kid at the time, I remember so many events in the war, and still remember the families in my neighborhood that were affected by it. Sherry especially liked the Korean War Memorial. The sculptures were so lifelike and set in a scene that gave one a feeling of seeing these brave men on patrol. The sculptures were haunting; the expressions on the faces of the individuals showed their determination to go onward. Sherry had seen the Vietnam War Memorial a few years ago. I had seen the moving wall. It was still as touching as before. We both had seen the Lincoln memorial, and it is still one of the most sacred places in Washington. While we were in the area, a group of Marine recruits were visiting, in formation. Everybody applauded and cheered for them.
After the memorials, onto the bus and to the Capitol itself. Security was intense in many places around the city, especially so at the Capitol. It took quite a while to get inside, but nobody complained. We walked all around the outside of the Capitol and George gave us its history. Boy, did we walk. Finally, we were allowed to go inside. We had lunch there and then a tour of the building led by a Capitol guide, who took us through as much of the building as was allowed and shared a great deal of its history with us.
From the Capitol, we visited the incredibly beautiful Library of Congress, then on to the Supreme Court building. It was there that I realized my pedometer was off, so I turned it on. At the end of the day, from that point on for the rest of the day, we hoofed another 3.6 miles. (We did mention there was walking, didn’t we?)
Next, back on the bus and on to Ford’s Theatre, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, with the Peterson House (where he died) just across the street. Then, on to visit the Martin Luther King, Junior, memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial and the tidal basin. The King memorial was magnificent. The FDR memorial had some marvelous sculptures of FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, Falla, and other pieces that reflected his presidency. We strolled along the Tidal Basin, then back to the bus and back to our motel around 9:00PM. A long day, but what a day!
THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL
THE CAPITOL BUILDING
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
THE TIDAL BASIN, MLK AND FDR MEMORIALS
Day 5: Friday, September 16
Up at 4:30 again, getting ready for breakfast at 6:00 (served by wait staff in tuxedos, no less). At 7:00, on the road again, this time to the Marine Memorial. It’s hard to imagine anyone not having seen photos of this remarkable monument, but the best photo we’ve ever seen does not do it justice. As we arrived, the flagstaff appeared to be at a 45 degree angle, but as we went around the sculpture, the flag seemed to rise vertically, until it appeared to be a nearly a 90 degree angle.
After a thoughtful time at the Marine Memorial, it was on to Arlington National Cemetery. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been here, it’s still breathtaking in its solemnity and dedication. We were there for the changing of the guard. It was indescribable. A tram took us all around Arlington, including a stop at the eternal flame, marking the grave of President Kennedy. For some of us who were old enough to have been here when the President died, and those of us who witnessed the aftermath on television, seeing the eternal flame seemed to close the circle. Of all the things we saw at Arlington, I’ll always remember riding around the grounds in the tram, just reading names on the grave markers. Just ordinary names of ordinary men and women, who did such extraordinary things and saved the world.
Upon leaving Arlington Cemetery, we went to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for a walk-around, and we imagined all the talented people who have performed there.
Afterward, it was on to the National Cathedral. Look at the photographs. Then intensify what you see by ten times, and you’ll come close to the experience we had.
Next, it was on to the Smithsonian for an all-too-brief visit. Sherry and I chose the Museum of American History, but first a bit of lunch in the Smithsonian restaurant, including some great barbecue, cornbread and collards for the Rebel guy. We’ll come back sometime, when we have a month or so to wander through all of the buildings.
It had been planned to have a visit to the top of the Washington Monument, but just days before our arrival, there were problems with the elevators, which were not in use. Nobody seemed to want to see if we could climb to the peak.
On to the 9/11 crash site at the Pentagon, where all of the victims were identified on the wall and on benches all around the area.
Our final stop for the day was the U.S. Air Force Memorial. Much to our surprise and good fortune, the Air Force Band was there to present a concert, honoring the 69th Birthday of the Air Force. We got to listen in, and the music was outstanding.
Finally, at the end of another long but fascinating day, back to our room around 9:00PM.
THE MARINE MEMORIAL (IWO JIMA)
ARLINGTON CEMETERY, THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWNS
THE KENNEDY CENTER FOR THE ARTS
THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL
THE SMITHSONIAN (MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY)
THE JEFFERSON MEMORIAL
THE PENTAGON 9/11 MEMORIAL
THE AIR FORCE MEMORIAL
Day 6: Saturday, September 17
This morning, we slept in. Breakfast wasn’t scheduled until 6:30. On the bus at 7:30 and on to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Having been through the National Cathedral, we couldn’t imagine any church being more spectacular. Wrong. So many paintings, sculptures, chapels. Trying to conceive of the ability of the craftsmen who built this structure was beyond us.
Then on the road again, and in fairly quick succession it was the Policemen’s Memorial, paying homage to law enforcement personnel from all over the country, who’ve given their lives in service to their communities. Then a quick look at the National Building Memorial, before moving on to the U.S. Navy Memorial. The sculptures that surround the fountain at the Navy Memorial are magnificent, portraying virtually every aspect of navy life and history.
Where next? Mount Vernon, the home of our first president and his family. What a beautiful home! We enjoyed a brief film, then a guided tour of the mansion. But first, lunch. It was delicious. After wandering the grounds at Mt. Vernon a bit, we loaded up the bus and went to Alexandria, Virginia, stopping in the historic district for some time on our own, to wander, to see the street art show and have an incredible dinner at “The Wharf,” where we started with Bacon-wrapped Scallops for an Appetizer and then we had the triple-crab special of the day: blue crab, soft shell crab and crab cakes.
After all that, back to the motel and a good night’s rest.
THE SHRINE OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
NATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS MEMORIAL
NATIONAL BUILDING MEMORIAL
Day 7: Sunday, September 18
A “late” start today, rolling out at 7:30 for breakfast, with bags out, as we were to leave for Colonial Williamsburg. We hit the road around 8:30, arriving in Williamsburg near 11:00AM. We got a quick peek at our lodgings (Woodlands), then we were set free in Colonial Williamsburg with passes, maps, and a date to meet the bus at 4:30. We had a great lunch at the Hot Dog House (not exactly Colonial, but very tasty), then we walked, and we walked, and we walked some more. Along the way we had some interesting and informative stops, culminating with our stop at the Capitol. Among our stops was the old courthouse, where an interpreter told us about the system of jurisprudence in early Williamsburg. Oh, we found an ice cream shop, too. The temperature was 90 when we go off the bus and around 92 when we dragged ourselves back on. It was an afternoon of going back in history, and it was most enjoyable.
Then back to Woodlands and onward to dinner at King’s Arms. (Did we mention that the food on this trip has been incredibly good?)
Day 8: Monday, September 19
The day showed up cloudy and rainy, but our driver, Dave, delivered us safely to Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in fine order. We enjoyed an excellent tour of the mansion, hearing a lot of history of the house and its resident. Afterward, it was on to lunch at Michie Tavern.
This concluded most of the sightseeing part of the tour, but as we headed out for our next overnighter in Morgantown, West Virginia, we saw even more spectacular scenery, as we traversed the Shenandoah Valley.
Day 9: Tuesday, September 20
Up in the morning, out to the bus, and on the road at 7:00 for a full day of travel. This gave us the chance to visit with more of our fellow travelers and share experiences and impressions of our journey. On the way, we passed through the magic portal that brought us back to Central time and a final night on the road at the Hyatt in Deerfield, Illinois.