Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on a year well spent!

As always at this time of the year, I like to look back and see what we have done, where we've traveled and "tally up the year".  Each year is different (yea!) adding it's own adventures and it's own challenges into the mix.  This was "year 4" for us, so a bit more experienced, and a bit more wear & tear on the coach, (and us) as we found out.

I love flipping the calendar backward, looking at all the places we've gone, revisiting them, so to speak.  It's an extra little reminder of what a wonderful life we have...this vagabond adventure of ours.  Seeing this incredible country, visiting great landmarks, National Parks, fabulous beauty, meeting interesting people and seeing old friends... all of it. 

When I do my "tallies" at the end of the year, I'm always amazed at the numbers...they are never as low, or as high as I imagined them to be.  Keeping track of our campground receipts is done by "stuffing" them into a small plastic bag that I keep up at the front 'Co-Pilot's' seat with me.  I don't pay to much attention to it all year, just making sure to carefully add each receipt to the bag so that at the end of the year I have them all in one safe place for my year-end calculation and blog.  Additionally, I mark our calendar with each campground we stay at, so I know how many campgrounds/nights we've paid vs nights we've stayed with family or friends, or at our time share.

Jack keeps track of mileage, gasoline, propane and maintenance costs.  Having a 2007 RV, she has started "showing her age" a bit, so this year's maintenance and repair bills were higher than ever - but, I kept reminding myself, if we had a sticks and bricks house, it wouldn't be much different!

This year's travels took us from 'coast to coast' as we wanted to see our eastern grandchildren and spend some time with them.  We also had a nephew getting married in Baltimore MD, so what better time to check off one of my bucket list items: Washington DC, while we were so close!  That was something I had wanted to do for most my life, and was not disappointed one bit!  I had high expectations, and they were even exceeded!  Such a thrill to go up into the Washington Monument!  I love our country, and to spend days visiting so many of the Smithsonian Museums was truly a dream come true.  I even had one of my pictures published in the Humanities Magazine and got to meet their Art Director while I was there.  So cool.

Another change this year was meeting up with special friends.  Usually we travel pretty solo.  Not that this is our preference, it's just that this is the way it just seems to be.  In February, we were able to snag a large two-bedroom suite in Orlando in our time share, so we invited some friends to join us.  It turned out one couple could make it the first week, and another the second week!  Yea!  Then, later in March, we joined some friends in Arizona for a couple of days, then were able to meet up with others in Vegas in April, and visit with Colorado friends in May & then they joined us in NM in Oct for a few days!  We made a quick stop at our friends in Utah before heading to family in WA for the holiday.  That's more "company" than we've ever had, but not nearly enough!  Here's hoping 2016 brings even more!


The ups & downs of the year...I have to say that the ups have mostly been the people and the places we visited (I guess no surprise there) and the downs have been the amount of repairs to the RV (& to me).  We've also not had the best weather this year as well as we've run into some really nasty spots along the way, from freezing slush to flooding!


Besides what I've already shared, I'd say some of the highlights this year have been the Great Smoky Mountains and Tennessee in general.  I loved Chattanooga and visiting Ruby Falls and Rock City and even seeing Dollywood!  We love train trips, and taking the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR through NM was an absolute delight.  We stayed a month in Albuquerque NM, traveling all over the area, really enjoying our stay there.  Of course, starting the year off taking a Caribbean cruise is pretty wonderful, then coming back and discovering the two great towns of Ft Pierce and St Augustine FL was fun lead-in to meeting up with our friends.


Here's our stats for the year:

We stayed at 58 campgrounds, for a total of 302 nights
Total campground fees: $11,293.36
(That averages about $37.39 a night, which is about right...some places were really low,  but overall, most places averaged around $40 a night with discounts)
Mileage for the RV: 13,984
Mileage for the toad: 12,268
Gasoline for the RV: $5,427
Gasoline for the toad: $1,210
Propane: $338
Maintenance & Repairs RV: (oil change, roof sealing, skylight replacement, waste connector replacement, wind shield wipers & motors(twice), slideout fix,  2 tires, hot water heater, water pump) $6,822
Maintenance on the toad: (4 tires, wheel bearings, brakes, 60,000 mile check-up) $4,055

Well, here's to next year!  This will be year number 5 for us, and another exciting one, I'm sure!  I know we are looking forward to it, so hopefully we will see you...down the road!

...on the road in California,  Marie

Monday, December 21, 2015

Adventures in Santa Rosa...Two days can sure make a difference!

It was Saturday and sunny, so we thought we would take advantage of it and go see the Charles M Schulz Museum while we were in Santa Rosa for a few days.  Good Ole' Charlie Brown and Snoopy are my all time favorite comic strip characters, so there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to go see "Sparky's" memorabilia!  Seems he lived and worked the last 40 years of his life here in Santa Rosa.  He was a "regular man about town", building an ice rink, naming it Snoopy's Home Ice, so he could enjoy his passion of ice hockey, right here in California!  He grew up in St Paul MN, so was used to snow & ice, so to speak!  (we visited his home town back in Feb, 2013)  He would walk from his office (two blocks away) each day and have lunch in the adjoining cafe (Warm Puppy Cafe) and watch the local skaters, talk with friends, etc. then walk back and work until about 4pm each day.  He started his own hockey team for "seniors", people from 40 to 75 years!  From the looks of the pictures I saw, it appeared like they had a lot of fun.



His museum was wonderful, not only filled with fun statues and artwork, but some of the original comic strips from the 1950's when he began.  It was really fun to see the changes in his drawings.  I hadn't realized they "morphed" like they did!  It was also fun to read and learn the history behind the names of his characters and stories, like every one's name is an actual friend of his.  He said once in an interview, that to read his strip, is to know him, because everything he writes is about him, one way or another.  When he knew his days were numbered (he had colon cancer) he discussed the future of the strip with his family (5 kids/2nd wife) and they all felt very strongly that no one could/should carry it on.  That once he was gone, it was done.  HE was the only one who had ever written, drawn or created Peanuts, so no one else should ever even try.  (Merchandise, etc. however, was another thing!)  So, now we only have "reruns", and that's how it should be.




The following day we had planned to go see Point Reyes Lighthouse along the Pacific Seashore...and wouldn't you know it...it rained!  "Oh well", we thought, "we'll go anyway, how bad can it be?"  So, we drove the 2 hours out there, from the 101 to the 1 then along the bumpy Francis Drake Blvd.  All the while the rain kept coming down.  The scenery was nice, with lots of moss covered trees and historic ranches along the way, but the road was rough and long.  Well...we finally got there and found that you couldn't see the lighthouse from the parking lot (that would be to easy!), you had to walk another half mile, most of it up hill...in the pouring rain, to the lighthouse visitor center.  My good natured husband didn't send me out alone (after all, I'm the one into lighthouses, he's not!)  When we got to the visitor center, which was small, but warm, we found out that the lighthouse was still out and around and down several flights of stairs and down a path and out to a far point...in pouring rain and blowing wind!  Well...I went out and around and took a look and decided that my camera lens could capture it "just fine" from there!  We had done enough craziness already, we didn't need to do anymore!  So, back into the little visitor center I went to "thaw out" a bit, buy a souvenir post card & magnet and tuck my camera back into my coat and take a big breath and head on back to the car!




Once we made it back to the car, we peeled off our soaking wet jackets and sat and ate our picnic lunch while the car heater blasted full on to help warm us up and see if it could dry out our soaked pants.  While there, we had wonderful lunch entertainment watching couples drive in, park, start to get out, only to change their minds and get right back in again and drive away!  Smart people.  ;-)   Then, we drove another two hours all the way back to our campground in the pouring rain again...

Cows being moved across the street at the 1869 Historic E Ranch, Point Reyes National Seashore CA

Cypress lined pathway to the Historic RCA Building (c1929),Point Reyes National Seashore CA

Dare I say that we should have switched the two outings?  If only we had known... 

...kicking back in Santa Rosa CA,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip (I took much more at the museum!), you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

There's rain...and then there's TO MUCH RAIN!

We all have to put up with rain sometime...Traveling south along the Oregon coastline in December, one knows your just going to run into rain and fog sometime, it's inevitable.  Better that, than ice and snow we figure!  Last year, traveling south to California at this time, we took Highway 5 and did battle areas of ice and a little snow, so this year we decided that the coast would be a bit warmer, and a whole lot more scenic, to say the least. 

We started out in Portland, and headed south, with our first stop in Cannon Beach.  From the time we left Washington, it began to rain.  On and off, on and off.  But, the temperature crept up bit by bit as we headed south, so, we figured, that was an okay trade off. 

When we reached Cannon Beach, we decided to "hunker down" for a few days and see if the rain would lighten up enough for us to get out and see the area a little.   There were times when it would pour down so hard, you could hardly hear each other talk, then there were times it would stop for awhile...those times we dashed outside and went for it! 

We went to the tiny town of Cannon Beach and enjoyed some of the shops and had a wonderful late lunch then wandered down the beach a bit picking up a few pieces of driftwood.  There was only one other crazy couple and their dog out on the whole beach with us...




The following day, rain and all, we decided to venture out Hwy 26 and go see the Camp 18 Logging Museum.  It turned out to all be "outside" (not "inside" as we had hoped) so, we drove around it and looked around as much as we could.  The Loggers Memorial was closed, so we couldn't go in.  Their very large, and quit beautiful restaurant was open, but it was a bit early for us to eat, so we just looked around a bit, and I took a few pictures of their incredibly large chainsaw statues out front.  In spite of the rain, it was a fun stop. 


There's rain...and then there's TO MUCH RAIN...as we found when we finally left Cannon Beach after our three day stay there when we headed south.  We got about 45 minutes out from our campground on Hwy 101 and bang, stopped dead in our tracks - because the road was FLOODED OUT!  Not good.  Jack pulled over and went and talked with the Highway Patrolmen to ask them about which way we could go to get back to where we wanted to be, which was Florence Oregon.  They basically told him he couldn't.  The highway was flooded from here to Tillamook and parts were even caved in.  We needed to go all the way back north, the way we came, back by Portland to Eugene.  Bummer.  There went our three-day reservation in Florence.  I made the call to cancel.



So, back we went.  Guess who made an appearance the rest of the day?  The sun!  Wouldn't you just know it!  We made Eugene by 4:00 and called it a day.  One thing about traveling in an RV, the WEATHER is the one determining factor as to when and where we go, not us!  Oh well, another adventure awaits us tomorrow! 

...on the road in Oregon,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/ 


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Brrrr....

Brrrr....time to hit the road again and travel south!

Every year we spend the month of November in Tacoma Washington with part of my family.  The reason is two-fold.  You see, we got our most perfect coach by a "guardian angel" situation that just happen to take place in the month of November, so when it came time to register it, and knowing we were going to sell everything and move out of state, we had two choices:  we had family in California and in Washington.  With the cost of registration and taxes etc. it was a simple decision, Washington!  So, every November we make the trek to Washington, update our tags, see our doctors, visit family, enjoy Thanksgiving...and freeze our tushes off!  Then we hug everyone goodbye and promptly leave before the ice settles in!



Here it is December and we've only made it as far as Portland...but we always have to make a stop here for a couple of days!  After all...Powell's Bookstore is in Portland!  If you are any kind of a reader, you simply must stop at Powell's...there's just nothing like it anywhere!  We've been to bookstores all over the country, and none match this one.  A full city block square and four stories high, and 63,000 square feet!  Plus, a staff that really, really knows their stuff.  We love it (as if you can't tell...).  Then, of course there is always the little "reward" after going up and down all those stairs all day at Powell's, to Voodoo Donuts before we leave...



So, books in hand, we will head down the Coast Hwy 101 in search for the elusive sun in hopes that as each mile south the temperature rises bit by bit, because as the saying goes "you can take us out of California, but you can't take the California out of us"...or something like that, anyway....or..."once a sun-bunny, always a sun-bunny"?  Either way, all I know is that anything less than 70 degrees and it's to dang cold for me!  Brrrrrr

...on the road heading south,  Marie



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Through the eyes of friends...

Our style of full-timing is that we are "on the go" 365.  We travel all year long.  We stop for a few days, a week or two at the most, depending on what there is to see and do.  We don't "winter" or "summer" at any given campground anywhere.  That said, we haven't set down roots of any kind (yet), and the friends we've made, have been either the ones we had before we started this lifestyle, or ones we've made along the way.

Being nomads of sorts, we seldom get "company", so when we do, it's a real treat!  This past week, some dear friends of ours that still live in a sticks & bricks house in Denver, but have the same model RV as ours and venture out camping from time to time, joined us in Albuquerque for a few days.

We had spent some time there this past April, and Rich used to come here quite a bit for work about ten years ago, and Deb had been, but not the surrounding area so much.  We all like this area, was familiar with most of it, but still had some areas that some of us hadn't seen yet, so it would be fun to show each other our "finds".

The first day's adventure was to Socorro to show Deb the Very Large Array.  Rich used to come out this way for work quite often, so he was quite fond of the area.  In our last visit, we had found a great restaurant that we wanted to share with them as well.  When we got to the small town of Socorro, we had one hit and one miss...our restaurant, the Socorro Springs Brewing Co, the lunch didn't disappoint, it still was great, but a (great) nut & jerky place that Rich used to love going to, wasn't there any longer (and no one in town knew what happened to it), so he was greatly disappointed.

We did get to see one new thing in town though, which was fun for us, and that was the inside of the San Miguel Mission.  It was closed when we were here last time, so it was nice to see how beautiful the inside is.


Rich, knowing the area, drove us on into  Magdalena and all around it, giving me the opportunity to get some really fun pictures!  We even drove out to their old cemetery!  We tried getting to "Riley" which, per their posted sign, is now a ghost town 30 miles away, but the road pretty much just petered out, oh well, we gave it a good try! 


As we drove over to the VLA, range cows and antelope came out to greet us.  Deb had never been out there, so it was fun to show her just how big those things really are!


The following day our goal was to head to the tiny town of Cerrillos!  Deb's son-in-law had a relative who had come from there and still had someone who was living there!  It's one of the town's along the "Turquoise Trail".  We had been to Madrid, which is also along this trail and a really fun town, so would be fun to show them and stop there for lunch.

Cerrillos was a hoot!  "Tiny" it is!  It's true"claim to fame" is it's beautiful and unusual turquoise.  It's a really pretty greenish color that's mined here, and at one time it and gold & silver were heavily mined in these hills.  Now, it's pretty much just this pretty turquoise.  The other thing the town's been used for is several movies have been filmed here including Young Guns.  It also had a pretty interesting Turquoise Mining Museum that had all sorts of things!  While we were there, a group of YPO (Young Presidents Association) folks were having a scavenger hunt, and showed up.  It brought back some fun memories, as I used to handle those groups in my "old event coordinator days"!


Deb & Rich did indeed catch up with "relatives" at Mary's Bar, took lots of pictures, and then we were off to Madrid!  As usual, we had a great lunch at The Hollar while we listened to the band Cactus Slim play for us! 


As usual, we found some "goodies" we couldn't pass up, as there is always something really special in this art-filled town!

It is so much fun, seeing places you've been before, through the eyes of friends!  To soon our friends were on their way back home...and we are off on yet another unknown adventure!

 ...On the road to Washington,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


Friday, October 2, 2015

Time for a little B, B, & B...

Barbecue, Blues and Barges!  One of the perks of being on the road full time like we are, is that after awhile you end up circling around again and the next thing you know, your rig just somehow finds it's way to some of your most favorite spots again!  That happened to us this week when we decided to take a different route to Texas this time, we just seemed to find our way going right through the heart of Memphis TN...one of our most favorite stops!  And the time of day, well, heck just right when we needed to spend the night, well two actually, since it had been a long drive and we needed a break, right?  So, where else to stay, but at our favorite resting stop, Tom Sawyer's RV Park of course! 

So, en route there, I give them a quick call...can you believe it, they were almost full and I had to practically beg for a site along the river?  Yikes!  Seems "rally folks" have caught on that this is a great place and have taken over, one group after another!  Dang!  Anyway, she gave us a site that they normally save for the big 5th wheels, that actually turned out to be the best one there!  A clear shot straight at the river, yea for us!  Now, this place is not fancy by any means, and not for everyone, but we just love it here.  It's just a bunch of sites all along the Mississippi River,  but quiet and peaceful and best of all you get to sit and watch barges being pushed up and down the river by big ole' tug boats all day long!  The sun shines, the breeze blows, there's nice grass & space between each site...it just makes me smile.



Then, the very best part is...Memphis and Beale Street is only 20 minutes away!  And that means barbecue!  Not just any barbecue, but the best barbecue we've found across the country...and trust me, I've eaten more than my share of ribs from California to Maine and this small cafe on the corner of Beale St has the best ones going!  It's called Blues City Cafe and all they really serve are ribs & catfish and the stuff that goes with them.  It's all good.  The meat falls off the bones, there's just enough sauce to give it flavor without drowning them, and for us, a half rack leaves your tummy so full (along with the beans, coleslaw & fries) that your moaning when you leave.  I start missing them the minute I leave, knowing it will be a long time again that my mouth will have such a treat again...




As we walk down Beale Street, blues eeks out from several of the restaurants, and you hear it as well when you go into some of the stores, it's it soul here...you can just feel it.



To soon we had to leave...but we'll be back, our rig knows the way!

...on the road to Texas,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Visiting Colonial Virginia

After the intense schedule of Washington DC, all we wanted to do was rest for awhile, so we just headed down the road a ways to Willimsburg Virginia and parked ourselves for a bit.  It was actually close to the one thing Jack had on his "bucket list" to see, which was the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, in Newport News.  He has wanted to see this bit of history ever since they were able to bring the turret up and put it on display a few years ago.

I had caught a nasty head cold, so all I wanted to do was bury myself in the covers, so I sent him on alone to enjoy himself at his leisure, my camera at hand.  He did, stopping at the  US Army Transportation Museum en route back as well.  A day well spent for both of us!

Model of the USS Monitor Turret, Mariners' Museum, Newport News VA


Having rested, I was up for a little leisurely sight-seeing.  We had been to Colonial Williamsburg about ten years ago, and since it's a full day's activity, and quite costly, we decided to skip it this year.   Instead, we took a nice drive over to Jamestown and Yorktown and enjoyed going through the two areas "where it all began" so to speak.  Reading the history of the original three hundred colonist, my respect and my heart went out to them...I surely don't know how they did it (of course many didn't).  Tough, tough times.  Boy, if people think they have it tough now, they should read what these people went through, then thank their lucky stars for what they have!

 Jamestown: (L-R) Earliest known burial ground, Capt. John Smith (1608), Replicated Palisades (1607)
Yorktown: (L-R) The Moore House 10/16/1781 officers from both sides met to negotiate the surrender for Cornwallis's army, Grace Church (c1697), Replica of the Charon, George Washington & Admiral De Grasse, Cemetery, Grace Church (c1697), Colonial Parkway
The following day we made a trek to Virginia Beach to check out some lighthouses and to treat ourselves to probably the last bit of fresh seafood we'll get again for awhile.  The one thing we've been doing while we've been on the East Coast is getting our fill of flounder for Jack (he can't get any on the West Coast) and crab and lobster for me.  We've had it served just about any way you can think of, and it's all been great!   We sure are going to miss it again when we leave though...

Anyway, we did have some fun finding those lighthouses.  Two of them were on an active military base that practically gave us a strip search, well, our little truck anyway!  ;-)  It was worth it though, "two for the price of one"!  A 1792 & an 1872 year old.  Nice!  The other one was on an old Fort, with a moat around it no less!  I'd say it was a pretty successful jaunt! 

Old Cape Henry Lighthouse (c1792), & New Cape Henry Lighthouse (c1872)

Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, Fort Monroe (c1802), Hampton VA

Alas, time to say goodbye to Virginia, for now anyway...

...on the road again,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Whirlwind Vist of Washington DC!

When you only have five days to "do the DC area" of Washington, you really have to cram a lot in to your days!  Luckily Jack and I had been to the city (many years) ago and had "done" the monuments, so those were not on our agenda this time.  That in itself takes days to really see, and we just couldn't have done it all.  What this trip was going to be about, was museums!  Jack's dream was to spend the day at the newest Smithsonian, the  National Air and Space Museum, Steven Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.  That's where the largest planes are now housed...all the ones they haven't been able to show in the one in DC.  He had been to all the Smithsonian Museums, years ago when he lived back east, so seeing the DC ones, were for me.  My previous trip there, I had never had the time to see any of them, and had always wanted to...so now was my chance...that, and to finally go up, inside the Washington Monument!

Quite an agenda for five days...that added to a commute of an hour plus each way with our campground being in Dumfries VA....but we were determined!

First day...Off to see the BIG PLANES! National Air and Space Museum, Steven Udvar-Hazy Center -  Now, I confess, this visit was really for Jack...as I'm not really "into" all this "war stuff"...but, I have to say, it was pretty impressive!  I mean, how can you not get blown away by something as big as the Enola Gay, that's as big as most people's homes!  Jack, he was more impressed with the Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird, that's what he couldn't wait to see, and he wasn't a bit disappointed either.  I was surprised to see the Air France Concorde there (pretty!) and enjoyed listening to a gentleman explain the Wright Brother's 1908 Military Flyer's design.  Of course we managed to spend the entire day there wandering from early planes to the space shuttles and listening to docents sharing information and stories.  I knew "my turn" would come...

Enola Gay (top) Wright Brother's 1908 Flyer (bottom)
Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird (L), Air France Conconrde (R)
Day two - We realized we were "just down the street" from Mount Vernon...and since I had never been (and always wanted to go...) well, off we went!  What a glorious day it was too!  Not to crowded (after school started, yea!), the clouds and rain went away and the sun came back out and treated us to a perfect day.  They give you "timed" tickets to view the mansion, having you line up to enter, then keep you pretty much that way all the way through.  They have docents explain what you are viewing, then quickly move you along (no dawdling) then out you go!  Once you are out of the mansion, you can take all the pictures (none inside) and all the time you want.  We sat outside on the back porch (just like George & Martha) and enjoyed the view of the Potomac River, it was lovely...It would have been nicer if we would have had a cool glass of fresh lemonade, but hey...I guess you can't get everything!

The grounds were beautiful, all in bloom.  Jack, of course enjoyed visiting with the Blacksmith, and I enjoyed talking with one of the "man servants" about slavery.  It was
especially interesting to see Washington's original tomb, and then their current one.  When George died in 1799, he noted in his will that he knew that the current site of his "vault" (what it was called at the time) wouldn't last, so he made provisions for a new one to be made of brick for he and his family members, so in 1831the Washington family were all moved to the new brick tomb location according to his will specifications.  Impressive.



Day three - We finally made it to DC!  First stop, The Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  Wow, what a grand place!  I knew it would be, but it was even better than I had hoped for... When you first enter, you are hit right away with the "biggies" the Star Spangled Banner, the American Flag waving in metal pieces, made in Lego's, and then you enter a dimmed room where the original flag is all laid out in front of you, while you are quietly listening to Francis Scott Key's Star Spangled Banner.  Your not an American if tears don't well up in your eyes...truly emotional.

Moving on, the museum seems to have one of everything!  I mean, from the Greensboro Lunch Counter Student Sit-In to a fragment of Plymouth Rock to Dorothy's ruby slippers to Alexander Graham Bell's big box telephone to 48 different patents of disposable coffee lids!  They even had Julia Child's Kitchen from the 1940's!  I'm surprised they didn't sneak in and steel my old bedroom!  (maybe they did, and I just didn't get to that part of the museum?)  After 5+ hours of walking, we were pooped...I'm sure there were spots we missed, and I'm sure you could spend days in there and not see it all!  But no matter what, it's worth it!  Wow, just wow!



Day four - We thought we would get in to the Washington Monument, but by 10:15 they were all out of tickets!  We were informed that one needs to be there by around 8am "to get in line".  Tours start at 9am, every half hour, until 4pm.  Oh my.  Well, tomorrow being our last day, that means we best get up bright and early to be sure and get a ticket then!  ;-)

Well, then, we headed over to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to check out a couple of their exhibits I had read about (birds, mostly).  The first thing you see when you enter is their very large African Bush elephant, who is 13' and weighs 24,000 lbs!  Impressive...even for me, who worked in a zoo for 20 years!  Well, once I got around him, we headed for the birds, because those lovelies usually don't stand still long enough to really enjoy their beauty...and this way "I can"!








It turned out that they had "down-sized" their bird section to only a very small selection.  Some extinct birds (Passenger Pigeons, Great Auk, and the Carolina Parakeet) and some local area birds.
Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, Birds of DC, Blackbirds & Grackles,Blue Jay

From there we wondered over to the gems...because, after all...that's where the Hope Diamond is!  Couldn't miss seeing that!  ;-)  Lots of pretty baubles to oh and ah over as well there... They did have a couple of other "wow" factors, including a large meteorite fragment that had been found in the 1700s in Tucson and used by some blacksmiths as anvils and other things.  It wasn't until 1851that a visiting scientist discovered what it really was!


After a bite to eat, we then moved on over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to see yet more planes (albeit, smaller ones!).  I did want to see the Wright's very first flyer, and Amelia's Vega and Charles' Spirit of St Louis...couldn't pass those up! 


Day five, our last day - Up at 6am!  With our campground a half hour away from the Metro, and the Metro another 40 minutes out from the city, we needed to make sure we were at the monument in time to get our ticket!  We were.  Yea!  We got a 9:30 spot!  Hey, we even caught the sunrise on our drive in, who can complain about that?  The sun was shining and it was a clear day, just right for viewing and great photos!  Unlike the Mount Vernon tour, they didn't rush you through, once you were up there, you could take all the time you wanted, which was really nice.  Each window had a display explaining what you were seeing, which helped too.  Inside the monument itself was a statue of George Washington as well as some nice plaques and as the elevator comes back down, they show you some beautiful memorial stones that were placed there.  All in all, it was even more wonderful than I had anticipated.  Well worth getting up that extra early hour for!

Jefferson Memorial,  (L-R) Supreme Court, US Capitol, Library of Congress, National Museums and Art Galleries, Ellipse (forefront) White House,  (forefront) WWII Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial

As we were walking toward our last museum, we discovered a wonderful little garden, just tucked back in.  It was the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden along side the Smithsonian Castle.  Quite beautiful.  All the plants labeled and well tended with a lovely fountain and benches, so serene and peaceful.  They had a really unusual plant there I had never seen before called the Dutchman's Pipe from Brazil that captures flies, plants their pollen on them, then releases them to go and spread it!  Pretty cool of ole Mother Nature! 
After our respite there, we ventured off to the National Gallery of Art to find some of our favorite artist (and discover some new ones).  We both love art, so several hours went by without any trouble at all.  Soon we needed to stop for a bite to eat and to get off of our tired feet.  Afterward I wanted to make one last visit to their outdoor Sculpture Garden before we called it a day...There you can always find "art" and "whimsy", and we did!
Rodin's The Thinker,  McCartan's Isoult, Van Gogh's Self Portrait, Monet's The Japanese Footbridge
Graft by Roxy Paine & Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje Van Bruggen

Time to bid goodbye to DC... One could spend many more days, weeks, and months here and still not see it all, I'm sure, but I guess that just gives you a reason to come back again!  We crammed a lot into those few days and our bodies felt it too, but no regrets, we loved every moment of it!  One things for sure, not matter the politics, or problems of the day, I'm proud of our heritage and proud to be an American...and a trip like this is a wonderful reminder.


...On the road in Virginia,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the many photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/