On Friday we had originally planned to take the Spirit river boat on the Potomac River to Mt. Vernon. It seemed that a one-way trip on the boat using the Metro and public bus for our return trip was a good idea. The ticket takers at the Spirit phone sales could not quite comprehend why anyone would want to do it this way, and had a very hard time figuring out the cost. At $84, it was only four dollars less than the round trip, so we thought better of that plan. It was a lot of money for just a short river trip. We also would have needed to board the bus at 5:40 am, take the Metro to unknown zones of the city in the dark, and try to get on the boat by 8am. After five days of museums, we looked at each other and said, "All this for one more wonderful museum?" Maybe not.
Instead, we took a slow relaxed morning and planned to catch the Metro at 9 am. For the first time since we have been here, our trusty shuttle let us down. There were too many people for the van, and the driver had to return for us half an hour later. A couple of other minor things went wrong that morning as well, so the tone for the day was set at a fairly low point. Thinking maybe it was time to go up in the Washington Monument, we emerged again at the Smithsonian stop. It was only around 10 am by then, but all but a few of the tickets had been distributed. We stood in line to get our tickets with a tour time of 1:30 pm. We hemmed and hawed a bit because we really wanted to somehow get on the river. An afternoon boat ride would have been nice, but the tour was right in the middle of the time of day when we would have to manage transportation; either to a dock in Alexandria or in Georgetown. No matter how we tried, we couldn't figure out how to do all the things we wanted to do, especially if we had to be back at the monument at 1pm.
Our solution was to walk north of the White House to check out the actual front of the building. For some reason there was a plethora of big pumper trucks and hoses blocking the view, so we weren't able to get close to the fence. It was a bit disappointing. "Let's keep walking and find the Mayflower Hotel", I said. Mo responded, "I am not that much into walking a lot today. Are you sure we are going the right way?" We were and eventually found the hotel quite impressive in both architecture and history. Many photos of presidents are hanging in fancy rooms with plaques describing the events.
We boarded the metro at a nearby stop and emerged again at the Smithsonian exit in time for our afternoon tour of the Washington Monument. It was sunny and very warm with a stiff breeze that kept the temperatures tolerable. We have had perfect weather and clear skies the entire visit, so the bit of smog visible on the horizon was surprising. Even though our tour was scheduled for 1:30 pm, the line had already formed all around the platform. It was a good thing we got there early, because many people are scheduled for the same time, and entry to the monument is allowed only in groups of eight.
Security is very tight for the monument and we all just waited patiently for our turn. Once inside, however, it was worth all the hassle. The monument elevator rises to the top in just 70 seconds. The elevator operators are knowledgeable tour guides offering enlightening explanations of how the monument was built and some of its history. The views from the top are worth the wait. Looking at the monument from below, tiny little rectangular peepholes are barely visible at the top. Those are the windows that all the tourists crowd around to see the views. I finally got a full and complete view of the city in all directions.
Later in the afternoon ,we took the Metro to the southern part of town toward Maryland, hoping to find our way to the Water Street docks and the river. Suddenly we were in a completely different Washington. Switching from the Orange Line to the Red Line placed us in a world of lots of working people in a hurry to get home. Fewer suits and more jeans and dresses, and we were suddenly the minority in the crowd. It was a very dramatic shift. At the exit there was a lot of construction and few signs, so we followed what seemed to be the right direction and found the riverfront. There were a couple of large river cruise boats, but we couldn’t find any kind of water taxi or short afternoon river ride. Instead, we settled for a beer with chips and salsa at a fun little open air bar. Our waiter filled us in on some local history, saying that this part of DC is still trying to catch up to the development in other parts of the city, and is doing much better than before. He also told us about the cross town Circulator Bus, leaving every 10 minutes from right across the street. Just a buck (fifty cents for seniors) to go north and south, and another buck to transfer to the east-west Circulator.
We sat down to enjoy the ride and got a real taste of city girl stuff when a young woman sat down across from us. She was dressed like a business person, talking on her cell phone using ear buds, and facing us directly. Looking me right in the eye, she was talking fast and furious, and I thought I had better answer her, since she seemed to be talking to me. I couldn’t understand a word she was saying with her strong ‘hood’ accent. It was really awkward and funny. She finally asked where we were from and when we said “Oregon”, she burst into derisive laughter, and told her phone friend, “Oh (some derogatory word) it’s Laverne and Shirley”. She obviously thought we were about as hick as they come. What she probably didn’t know is that our opinion of her wasn’t much better! It made for a very strange experience on that bus!
We finally made it back to the Metro stop, and then home after a day that turned out well.