Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day 23: Good evening, Virginia

Note: The only photos I have for the last few days are from DC, and I have plenty, so they won't necessarily follow the timeline of the rest of the post. Sorry for any confusion.

Note number 2: If anyone has ever wondered, no I don't re-read and edit these posts. The thought just occurred to me (after writing most of this) that it may sound like complete disjointed babble at times. Such is the nature of the roadtrip blog I guess.

More evidence that the oblivious humans
would have been devoured had we lived with
On this trip, I seemed to have developed a keen ability to get myself semi-lost in the sketchiest parts of a city. On Friday I left breakfast and headed into Philadelphia via the road my hotel was on. It looked to be a fairly major road, so I hoped it would lead me to an interesting place in the city (and hopefully, a place where I could get some wifi to research sites to see in Philly). The road certainly did drop me into an interesting place, but not in the way I had hoped. For the better part of an hour, the only direction I was able to judge was correct was towards the skyscrapers in the distance.

I had always thought that when the word "dirty" was used to describe a city that it was meant figuratively or metaphorically. Experience has proved this wrong. Trash literally lined the gutters and along the sidewalks, run down and boarded up buildings accounted for a good portion of the landscape, people hung out on steps just sitting, watching the world pass. However, despite all of this I didn't necessarily feel unsafe; many people were walking around the streets, and it had the feel of a community. All in all, I could have been lost in a worse place, but it certainly wasn't what I had been looking for.

By the time I reached downtown proper, it was midday, and traffic was basically horrendous. My intention was to find a place to park and do a bit of a walk around, as there were quite a few places of historical significance nearby. This plan had two problems, however:
  1. There was no place to park, anywhere

I guess Friday afternoon wasn't the best of times for me to try this, so needless to say gave up looking after about an hour, plugged in the address of my next location, and hit the road.

I'm not even sure what this is
A friend of mine, Matt Chin, who I had met at Intel and lived with in Corvallis is currently in the DC area for an internship, so thankfully I was able to stay with him for a few days. The night I got there, Matt took me to an amazing BBQ place just up the road from his house; I'm a sucker for pulled pork and fries.

It seems that the area of DC Matt lives in has the highest crime rate, even though it has the highest concentration of police patrols. I can't back this up with any data, but it certainly felt that way. Also, Matt's car was broken into the first week he moved there, and they have had stuff stolen off of their porch. Needless to say I was slightly concerned, but I usually bring everything of value out of my car where ever I'm sleeping for the night (thankfully nothing happened).

The original blood diamond
Interesting thing about the house: at one time as many as seven guys were living there, so it's quite large. However, all of them are temporary interns around the DC area, so the house is mostly void of any kind of substantial furniture. This meant no couch for me to crash on. No problem, I thought, I have my sleeping mat for camping, I'll just toss that down on the carpet and be good to. In theory, at least. A word about this sleeping mat. I had purchased one the year before for camping trips, but discovered after a couple of extremely uncomfortable nights that it didn't so much stay inflated the whole night as it had at least one major leak that emptied all the air out in under 10 minutes. I had intentions of patching the hole(s) before leaving for this trip, but ran out of time and simply purchased a new one (of the same brand and model, since it was one of the cheaper ones, which in hindsight was probably an indication of its quality). It performed amazingly in Glacier luckily, however somewhere between there and here the gods of air mattresses smote me once again, tearing a small seam in the upper corner. This meant for two nights the only support under my back was two layers of plastic and the carpet.

But enough complaining (for now). The accommodations were free, which is all I can really ask for.

Not pictured: Me flipping the bird
The next day, Matt and I headed into DC proper. Our first stop was the Holocaust museum, as it tends to "sell out" very early. An awesome thing about all of the museums in DC is that they are entirely free. As in, you pay nothing to go in. Due to the popularity of some museums, however, you are required to get tickets to enter at specific times. The Holocaust museum was one of those, but luckily we arrived early enough to get tickets and go right on in.

For those who have not seen it, this museum is a definite must for anyone in the DC area. The material is extremely powerful, and it is very tastefully and respectfully put together. It begins with the rise of the Nazi party and the history of Jewish culture in Europe, and continues through the end of the war and beyond. The shear amount of information, pictures, and videos is amazing. The room of remembrance at the end is particularly moving. There really is no way to describe this experience and do it justice. Highly recommended.

Deep respect for the names on this wall
After it took us an hour to finish the first half of the first floor, we realized that we probably couldn't read everything if we planned on doing any other site seeing that day. In the end we spent the better part of 3 hours in the Holocaust museum, leaving plenty of information and exhibits unvisited.

Walking around the Mall (the blocks of DC which contain most of the memorials, museums, and important buildings), we visited:
  • The Smithsonian - more of a meta museum, covering information available in the more specific museums in the area
  • The Museum of Natural History - yay dinosaur bones!
  • The Washington Memorial - yet another obelisk on the east coast. That's two they have to our none on the West.
  • The White House - I couldn't see the snipers, but I'm sure they were there.
  • The Lincoln Memorial - probably the most impressive of the outdoor memorials we saw. The structure surrounding the statue is amazing; beautiful marble columns on the outside, transcripts of two of Lincoln's famous speeches carved into the walls inside. And then of course, the statue itself is enormous. I was surprised at how close security allows the public to get, with only an area about two or three feet from the base of the statue roped off.
  • The Vietnam Memorial - It is truly unbelievable how many people lost their lives in Vietnam. The memorial really shows you the magnitude of this conflict.
  • The Air and Space Museum - This was pretty cool, although some of it was redundant from the earlier Air Force museum I visited with Graham.
After an exhausting day of walking up and down DC, we headed back out of the city on the subway and got some delicious steak.

Nothing phallic about this whatsoever
This morning I headed out of DC and down the coast again towards Jamestown. I arrived in the early afternoon, and promptly headed west for Richmond. Call me cheap, but I really wasn't in the mood to pay $25 to see some reenactments and old wagons. Maybe if I was more of a history buff, but I figured I could read about all that stuff on Wikipedia if I was truly interested.

I'm holed up for the night at a Motel 6 next to the airport (and I just realized I can hear planes land, this should be fun tonight). Tonight I'm heading downtown to catch Eye Alaska play, and hopefully get a tasty brew somewhere. Tomorrow I think I'll check out some of the historical places around town (the Confederate White House? Sounds interesting), before continuing my journey back inland.

Stop signs ran so far: Two, but one of those was in Canada so it doesn't really count (it was in French).
Miles from home: ~6100 and definitely in need of a service now.
Music keeping me distracted recently:
Pink Floyd - The Wall (Disc 1 and 2)
Eric Clapton - Nothing But the Blues
Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope
Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory and Meteora
Kanye West - College Dropout and Late Registration
Common - Be

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