Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ford's Theater and D.C.

Karen had only a couple of specific requests for her latest vacation visit with us. She wanted to see President Lincoln's Cottage, Ford's Theater and Peterson House, and walk the perimeter of the White House and get pictures. Last year we visited the White House and took the tour, but they don't allow you to take anything in with you. Not a purse or a camera or a cell phone---just car keys and a wallet for id and money. As a result, we have no pictures of the White House exterior. Karen wanted to correct that lack and so did I. It does requires some planning though because the distances to the White House, in terms of walking are great. None of the Metro stations nearby are that close, either.

As for fulfilling Karen's requests--we saw President Lincoln's Cottage on Wednesday. We discovered then that Ford's Theater was closed for a seven day maintenance cycle. It was planning to re-open for the weekend, however, so we headed to D.C. early this morning. Well, early for US, anyway. We rarely leave the house for our sightseeing expeditions before 9:00 am...well, we've NEVER left earlier than 9 before. Usually it's more like 10 or 11. Today we managed to get out of the house by 8:30 am. WOW!

We determined to try our luck with parking somewhere downtown for a change. (Usually we park at Arlington and use the metro.) I had the addresses of a couple of parking garages but our Garmin GPS did not seem to recognize the addresses. Frankly, D. C. streets are so bizarro with the same streets in different quadrants that I'm amazed anybody figures out anything with regard to traffic/driving/navigating. As luck would have it, we went to F street and parked in a great parking garage right next to Ford's Theater. I mean, RIGHT next to it. And it was only $10 for the whole day. That is unbelievably cheap for in the city.

The line for the 10 o'clock ranger tour at Ford's Theatre was down the block and around the corner. We got in line, but we couldn't get tickets for entry until the 11:00 o'clock show. We chilled in line. It was cool and the breeze was pleasant and we were in the shade. The time passed quickly. They seat everyone in the auditorium for the ranger talk which does take a bit of time. The ranger, Arthur Doyle (middle name: Luke) did a very interesting talk about this pivotal moment in American history---the assassination of President Lincoln. You are allow to take all the pictures that you want to take which was really nice. To really have great background knowledge and context for the tour, I recommend the books, Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer about John Wilkes Booth; The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln , and Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. They are highly readable and reliable.

After the presentation we went across to Peterson House, which is the house where Lincoln actually died the next morning. I had imagined a completely different physical set up based on my reading and photographs. I thought they took him to the second floor, but it was actually on the first floor. I also imagined that the bed upon which they laid him, was across the room--in actuality, the bed was right beside the door.

After a quick visit to the gift shop, (I had to get a magnet for the Wall of Fame) we walked around the corner to look in the alley behind the theater where Booth had a horse waiting, and from which he was seen exiting. It doesn't appear to still have an opening into it from the back of the theater.

We then walked down to the White House with a stop at the Spy Museum restaurant for a snack. The thing to always remember about D.C. The blocks are LONG and the pavement is HOT. The heat just bounces off the white pavement and the glare of the reflected light makes any journey seem to last forever. The blocks really are extra long, I think.

We arrived at the White House and headed down along E street to get photos of the back of the White House. I was moving a bit faster than the others and I arrived sooner than they did. As I finally got to a spot where I could see the back of the White House, a metro police officer started loudly telling everyone to keep walking and to stop taking pictures. The rumor was that either A) the Obama children were coming out to play and the area had to be secured; or B) Obama was coming in by helicopter and the area needed to be secured. Those were just rumors that the crowd made up. We later found out that there were some protests occurring in the front of the White House and some security concerns developed and that was why they cleared out the area. The result of all this hullabaloo was that I got one photograph of the back of the White House and it was fuzzy because my camera focused on the fence not the house.
Judy and I were pretty wiped by this time. So while Karen was still gung-ho and wanted to head for the front of the White House; we headed for the air conditioning of the White House Visitor Center. Ali went with Karen in support. I shopped while Judy read the exhibits. Eventually Karen and Ali came back with photos and stories about protesters and the area being cleared three times total for security concerns.

Now we were all tired. We stopped for drinks. We stopped to buy a purse from a vendor. Then we hit the car and collapsed. After an interesting tour of some never before seen neighborhoods in D. C. (the word "lost" was bandied about) we eventually made our way out of the city via 295 and then home.

I love it when a plan comes together.


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