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Washington DC – Day 3

July 5, 2015

Hello everyone, and welcome to Day 3 synopsis! I know, many of of you are wondering – “Why do you post this stuff Todd? Are you just trying to make us jealous?” Nope! Actually l find that writing about it helps me remember even better, and gives me something to reference later on. Many times I’ve gone back to an old blog posting and enjoyed the pictures, stories, and of course the delightful writing!;) And I know there are some people who just like to follow along, and wish they were here too! (We wish you were here, imagine how fun that would be?)

Day Three started out like any other ordinary, overcast DC day. We were wondering, is it going to rain? Is it not? What is the Fourth of July like in DC? Will people be crazy? Will it be fun? Will it be packed with crowds? We wanted to start our day with the Independence Day parade, but everyone we asked couldn’t tell us how early we would need to be there? So we thought, hey, if we’re there two hours ahead, hopefully we can find a place to stand. After all, who doesn’t like a parade? And we’re thinking a Fourth of July parade in Washington DC should be crowded and spectacular, right?

We’re thinking we’re getting smarter every day, so we thought we’d take the DC Circulator bus. This is a set of routes that cost $1 a person, and they loop around various places. There is a stop about 2 blocks from our place, and this would take us to Union Station, and then we’d hop onto the Circulator National Mall bus, and take us right down to Independence Ave for the parade! Seems like a good plan, right? Well about a half block from the bus stop, the clouds opened up and the water starts gushing forth. The five of us were trying to crowd under two umbrellas to stay dry, well that didn’t work so well, and by the time the bus got there, we were a little wet.

Not to let our spirits dampen, we carry on, get off at Union Station, and then cross the street to catch the next bus. It’s still raining, but not as hard, and we’re doing okay. We’re standing there for about 10 minutes, when finally another bus driver stops, opens the window and says “The National Mall Bus route isn’t running today, because of all the road closures!” What? Do you know how far Union Station is from the National Mall? It’s not like we can walk there in three minutes in the pouring rain. Sure would have been nice if the DC Circulator website could have had a simple message to that effect. So all the others who were waiting and us trooped into Union Station, to dry off, maybe find some rain ponchos and perhaps take the Metro instead.

We get into Union Station, and who would have guessed, but most of the shops and eating establishments are closed – it is July Fourth after all. Sheesh! So we head down to the metro (that’s like a subway for those of you who can’t get past my accent” Now we have to figure this out. We buy ourselves five Smart Trip cards, they have $8 on each of them, and down into the bowels we go. We have to go a couple stops on one train, then a stop or two on the next. If you haven’t experienced the Washington DC Metro, well, it’s a nice treat. The place is beautiful, busy, and there are lots of helpful people. It is clean, the trains are nice and clean, and overall it’s an excellent experience. Here are a couple of pictures. I can’t remember if these are at the right station, but it gives you a good idea.

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We come out of the metro, and the sun seems to be peeking out, and the rain has stopped – maybe this will be a great day after all! We are literally a half a block from Independence Avenue, and we start to see people. We’re now right across the street from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and people are lining the street. Now with all the detours and such, we are at about 30 minutes prior to the parade starting and inside I’m thinking “There is no way we’ll find a place to watch.” But we headed down the street, to see what our chances were. Not a block later, around 14th, we look across and there is literally no one sitting on the curb, on standing on the sidewalk for about a 300 foot section. We’re thinking this must be a special place, reserved or something. We’re at 30 minutes prior to the parade and it’s empty. So of course we ask the nearest DC cop, and he’s like “Sure, anyone can sit there”. We promptly cross the street, spead out some garbage bags on the wet curb, and get ready for the parade. Here we are as others start coming over too:

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As we’re sitting there, a family from Houston Texas sits down beside us and we strike up a conversation. The husband and wife are actually quite familiar with Calgary, as they used to work in Oil & Gas, and travelled to Calgary a number of times per year. This was their first DC Independence Day parade, and they had heard there were 50 marching bands in this one.  Here are a couple of samples. And notice the huge monkey balloon? There were lots of these that required a lot of people holding the balloon from floating away. And the stilts guy was incredible.

This parade was absolutely fantastic! Lots to see and enjoy! But it was a little long. After about 90 minutes of parade, we’d had enough, and apparently so had many people, as they started to get up and go. I think it might have been the heat and humidity and the call of lunch.

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By now it is about 2:00 PM, we headed off to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. We’re thinking we can sit in the cafeteria, get some lunch, cool off, and then see the exhibits. Wow, I think 100,000 other people had the same idea! But no worry, there is A/C, the food is okay, and it worked. The Smithsonian’s are incredible, and we saw some crazy huge and ugly insects, fossils, displays about ocean life, and even Bollywood. It was a great couple of hours for sure. On the way out we see rain ponchos for $5, and we’re thinking we should pick some up, but then decided “naw, we’ll be fine.”

This picture is of a very colourful beetle…

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A crazy big centipede:

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A picture of some Rhino’s: (and our kids)

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Yep, and a whale (no it’s not real, but it is huge!)

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We’ve now been inside for a couple of hours, we’re cooled off, and thinking we’re ready to go outside again! Now I’m thinking a good thing to do is A Capitol Fourth -> This is an evening concert on the Capitol grounds with all kinds of incredibly talented musicians and singers, and it finishes with a Symphony playing the 1812 Overture with cannons! Yep, the military brings in some cannons and they are part of the music! Sounds great, right? We trek over to the Capitol, which is no short walk, make it through security, and up onto the grounds. (Interesting security note: There are huge garbage barrels full of umbrellas. We ask the security guy about it, he says those are ones that people had to leave, because security wouldn’t let them in (too big maybe?) But as we arrive, we really something – this is a made for TV setup, and the visuals are terrible from the Capitol grounds. Most acts you can’t see directly, only on a screen, and many of them are actually facing away from the crowd. We make the decision that maybe this isn’t a great idea, and start to head towards the exit. But as we make this decision, the clouds open up again, and water flows down, gushing even harder than we’ve seen. We quickly get out the umbrellas and hide under a tree, hoping it will pass soon. 20 minutes later everyone, the thousands of people, all the security folks, absolutely everyone is completely drenched, soaked to the bone. And security comes over and tells us they are evacuating the grounds to a parking garage about a block away. We didn’t need any more encouragement. Trudging through ankle deep water, torrential rain, we head out. We get to the parking garage and they’ve got security, dogs, and police tape around a section inside that we have to hang out in. People come in by the hundreds. And a few minutes in, we see why we were evacuated, lightning. We all hung out in the parking garage for about 30-40 minutes, and then the rain subsided. Some people headed back to the Capitol, others, us included, headed to the nearest Metro.

This is us in the parking garage, with hundreds of our closest soaking wet friends:

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After we leave the parking garage, here’s a picture:

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As we cross the street, we came upon another memorial! The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.  IMG_2661

Now to the Metro, back to our place, and get some dry clothes. Wow, we were wet! We dried off, had some snacks, and then, like the taskmaster I am, I dragged everyone out.

Next stop: Fuel PIzza and Wings for some supper! Not bad, had a Large BBQ Chicken pizza, and 18 boneless wings. Everyone enjoyed supper, while we watched a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest on TV (must have been a slow sports day). The winner finished 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. It was a little much.

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Of course now we’re about an hour away from Fourth of July fireworks… What to do? Well of course we walked over to the Whitehouse, staked out a curb and sat down with a couple thousand other folks to wait for the fireworks. Truthfully we could have gone over to the Lincoln Memorial, or the National Monument, the Capitol, or anywhere on the Mall, but this seemed like a great place. And it was. While we were waiting we saw lots of firefly’s. That was fun, you don’t see that often! We took a lot of fireworks pictures with the Whitehouse in the foreground, and finished off a nice evening.

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Once the fireworks were over, we walked the 15 minutes back to our place, ate the last of the Georgetown Cupcakes, watched the repeat of A Capitol Fourth – we were glad we didn’t stay, and off to be.

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