Day # 6 – Philly & Washington D.C.

We had tickets to tour Independence Hall at 9:30am and according to the reservation email, we needed to be there to pick up our tickets at least 40 minutes early.  To be able to make it to Philadelphia by 8:50am, we needed to be on the road by about 7am, so we got up and was downstairs to check out just a few minutes after 6:00am.  As I walked out into the lobby, with suitcase in tow, I heard this voice say “You checking out already!?”  It was the same clerk behind the desk from last night!  I said, “Yep!” and tossed my key on the desk and kept walking (we did the express check out on the tv, so I just had to drop my key)…

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Best bagels I’ve ever had!

Four years ago when I was in this area with my wife we stumbled on a place called “Clifton Bagels”.  They had, without a doubt, the best bagels we had ever had.  With that in mind, I was going back to give them a try again.  I got an onion bagel with chive cream cheese and an everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese and they were awesome!  I didn’t realize, or remember, that Bob doesn’t like Bagels, so he ended up having a blueberry muffin that he said was “about the same as what you would get from a gas station.”  Dunno how that is possible, but ok.

The drive to Philadelphia was nice and quiet, easy going.  No rain, that was the most important thing at this point.  We got to Philly early so we had time to drive around and see a few things before having to get our tickets.  Our first stop was the Betsy Ross House.  It wasn’t open yet, but it was still cool to get to see it.  We drove around a bit (even opened the sun roof to get some air flowing, it was that nice), the streets in Philly can be confusing and annoying with all the one-way’s.  Finally, I knew where we were and the next stop was just up on my left, at the corner, so I parked there and pointed out the car to the left at Ben Franklin’s grave.  We got out and walked up to it for a closer look and of course tossed a penny on his grave.  Before we left there I pointed out to Bob the street corner right across from us, which is where I was standing 4 years ago (wearing blue jean shorts and a bright red t-shirt) as a group of kids drove by and yelled out, “Heeeeyyyyy Kooooollll-Aaaaaiiiiidddd!” 🙂 On the other corner, opposite of us, is the U.S. Mint.  As we got back in the car to go a group doing a walking tour came up and we sat there listening to their guide telling them things about Ben Franklin, some I didn’t even know.  What was sad though is that most of the kids in the group looked as if they couldn’t care less.  So much history, so much to learn, and they didn’t care.  I would have been going nuts to get a chance to do something like this at their age, holy cow!

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It was legen… wait for it… dairy!

We got our tour tickets and headed to the Liberty Bell Plaza to see it first, as we had time.  The Liberty Bell is just so cool.  It represents a time, an event, something so special for this country.  I must say that I was quite shocked at the amount, or lack there of, security to get in there.  4 years ago when my wife and I came through here we had to go through metal detectors, and a series of other security things. Today… NOTHING!  Since we didn’t have a bag with us, they just waved us on through.  I couldn’t believe that.  The same exact thing happened when we went through security to get in line for the Independence Hall tour, I still can’t believe it!!

As we got in line for the tour, I was able to get a seat on a bench next to a gal from New Jersey (forgive me for not recalling your name, sorry).  We got to talking, as it started raining, about how I need to get home to Western Washington so I can dry out!!  She then told me that her sister was there with her, from Portland, which of course is about 90 minutes south of us.  She said how her sister told her many times that it just don’t rain like this back home… so true!!  Bob had a similar experience as the people right behind him were from Seattle and made the same comment!

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Bob at Independence Hall, with George Washington’s chair behind him against the wall…

If you have never done the tour at Independence Hall, you gotta!  To be in the same room where the documents that shaped our country were debated, written and then approved,  is, well, breath taking!  The movie “National Treasure” does a scene from here that pretty much sums it up… watch it if you haven’t.  The thing I learned this time through, that I am not sure I knew, was that it wasn’t called “Independence Hall” by our Founding Fathers.  It was just simply known as “The Pennsylvania State House”.  I guess that totally makes sense.  The tour starts in a room, with everyone seated, and a National Parks guide giving everyone the background of events that lead to the delegates from the states meeting at the state house.  It then proceeds into the “Court Room” where court was held during normal times at the state house.  After a 10+ minute presentation there, talking about court and the King, we move to the next room.  This is where our Founding Fathers and the Continental Congress met.  Several things in the room are not original, but they are from the same period.  The coolest thing in the room is the actual chair that George Washington sat in when he over saw the proceedings.  On that chair is a sun engraved in the wood.  Ben Franklin had made comments about not knowing if it was a rising sun or a setting sun.  He is quoted as saying, when they were done signing the Constitution, “But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun”. How true he was, as our country rose to greatness from that moment.  Man I love to study that time in our country… things were so much more exciting!

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Located at Pat’s in Philadelphia

As we left Independence Hall, it was pouring down hard!  I mean, rain like we hadn’t seen yet on this trip and we had seen more than we really cared to!!  The fast walk back to the car wasn’t fast enough as I once again got soaked!!  That wasn’t the worst of it, as we got to the car, worried we might have a ticket cause our meter time ran out (we didn’t), Bob notices that the sun roof was still open and the inside was drenched!!  Luckily we had leather seats, so most of it just wiped up, but there must have been an inch or more standing in one of the cup holders, it was unreal!!  Bob wanted to hit Geno’s for another cheese steak before we headed out, so back to South Philly we went.  I know I shouldn’t have, yet I did, I decided to give Pat’s another try as well.   Bob kept telling me it would be a waste of $7.50 and, well, he was right.  I gotta say that it was much better than the one we tried a few days ago, but it still didn’t even come close to comparing to the ones from Geno’s.  This time around I went to Pat’s and Bob went to Geno’s.  I actually got parking right next to Pat’s, that should have been a sign.  After I ordered I was looking around and noticed on the ground a plaque that mentioned that during the filming of “Rocky”, Sly Stallone ate at Pat’s, as seen in the movie, on that exact spot, that was kinda cool, but the cheese steak still sucked! 🙂

The drive down to and basically through Baltimore was wet, very wet (I am soooo tired of rain!).  Bob was driving as we pulled into NE D.C. and just before we stopped to change drivers, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  As we got out of the car it was so freakin’ muggy and HOT!  It was awesome!  By the time we got to the Archives it was close to 85 degrees and sunny!  This is how weather should be when you’re on vacation.

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At the Lincoln Memorial

As we pulled up at the Archives, there was a huge line! So I told Bob he needs to get in it cause we both agreed, you can’t go to Washington D.C. and NOT see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.  I decided to circle around looking for parking and if I could, I would join him.  After about 45 minutes looking for a spot, with no luck, I gave up and started looking around town.  I saw the IRS Building (being a tax geek, that was cool), the Smithsonian Castle, several museums (from the outside of course) and as I sat at a red light I looked to my left and saw not only the Capital Building, but where they hold the Presidential Inaugarations.  That was pretty cool, cause when I looked to the right I was looking up the National Mall.  It’s just so amazing how much is in the area, so much to see and do.

I had finally found a parking spot, which was nowhere near the Archives, in the shade and while talking to my wife I started noticing the thermometer kept rising and it was now 90 degrees!  Bob called to let me know he was ready, so I picked him up, and we headed over to the Lincoln Memorial.  Again, parking was a problem.  This time we got lucky and Bob spotted a sign that mentioned ‘handicapped parking’.  Since I have a handicapped placard, we jumped on that and got to park really close up.

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Bob and Mr. Lincoln

The Lincoln Memorial is awesome.  Not only is it on the back of the Penny, it’s also larger than life.  The weather brought out the people and the place was packed.  This was my 3rd time to the Lincoln Memorial and as usual, I took the elevator up instead of the stairs and met Bob up there.  As I exited the elevator room, to my right sat Lincoln, on my left is the Gettysburg Address engraved in the wall.  Having been to the spot in Gettysburg where he gave that address just a few days early, well, I got goosebumps!  I joined up with Bob, walked around taking pictures and enjoying the view.  At one point as we looked out to the Reflecting Pool, we even looked for Forrest… no luck.  What we could see though is the World War 2 Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capital Building.  Talk about an amazing view.  From that vantage point you can also see the exact spot where Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.  There were a lot of people in front of me as I stood there looking out, but nothing like on August 28, 1963.  I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for him or any of the people that were there to witness history… chilling.

Our next stop was the Vietnam War Memorial so Bob could find the name of his wive’s grandma’s nephew who died in action in 1971 (I think it was).  After looking up the  location in one of the books, Bob took off to get pictures as I waited up top for him.  He really wanted to do a “rubbing” but had nothing to use for it.  He got his pictures and on our way to the Korean War Memorial we passed the information booth where he was able to get a pencil and a piece of paper to do the rubbing, so he ran back and got that.  When he met back up with me he told me that as he was doing it there was people surrounding him taking pictures of him.  I thought that was a bit strange, but as he said, he was the only one doing a rubbing.  As we got to the Korean War Memorial a big group of people were walking around and we over heard one of them ask which war this was for and another one said, “The same one that Forrest Gump fought in” and another corrected him by saying “No! No! No!  This was the war from ‘Saving Private Ryan!”  Ok, how sad that both referenced movies to let them know about history and even more so, they were both WRONG!!

We got back to our car and not a moment too soon because the temperature just kept rising!  With the AC blasting on max we made our drive passed the White House on our way to Nationals Park, the temp had passed 98 degrees!!  Freakin hot, but the biggest thing is that after the rain the area got in the morning, it was incredibly muggy!  Thank goodness for the AC… and how ironic after complaining about the rain, huh?  This was still so much better.

Nationals Park

We got to Nationals Park around 5:45pm, we were plenty early for a change.  As we looked for parking I noticed a sign that said that parking was “$40”!  Are you kidding me?!?!  At that point I remembered that you can park at RFK Stadium across town and ride the Nats Express (bus) to the game at Nationals Park… for FREE!  So we set the GPS to RFK and headed that way ASAP!

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Welcome to Nationals Park…

My last game in D.C. was at RFK (May 1, 2005 – Mets vs Nats – an ESPN Sunday night game).  As we got to the stadium, we started looking around for the lot where you park for the Nats Express.  We did 2 complete loops around RFK and still saw nothing.  Finally, I decided to ask a D.C. Metro Police Officer for help.  She looked at me really confused and said, “What?”  I slowly repeated myself and she said she had no clue but she would call 1 person who should and she did.  Long story short, after arguing with this person (her superior) for a few minutes about what way to go to the get the lot we needed, she finally told us to cut across the grass right there by her (we were in a 4×4, so that was cool), take a right on 19th, a right on C Street and a left on Oklahoma.  Easy enough, right?  Right on 19th, right on C, left on Oklahoma… BOOMER SOONER!  So we took the right on 19th (check!), then a few blocks later we took the right on C Street (check) and we started looking for Oklahoma.  We didn’t find it and the next thing you know we are on the back side of RFK Stadium again.  So we looped around and went up the section of C Street that is a one-way, headed in the opposite direction of before, so we were looking for a right on Oklahoma… didn’t see it!  By now it’s just after 6:30pm, with first pitch in about 30 minutes and I am getting frustrated.  With one more try and not seeing a left or right on to Oklahoma, we decide to just head back over to Nationals Park and pay the fee there!  Oh, if it were just that easy!  Washington D.C. has so many one-way streets that the next thing you know I got to show Bob the U.S. Supreme Court building, which is about 2.4 miles from RFK Stadium and roughly 1.5 miles from Nationals Park… so we went the opposite direction of where we needed to go.  Btw, I have since checked with a map, and that D.C. Metro cop was WRONG!  First off you can’t access that part of C Street she told us we needed to from where we were (strike one!), even if we could it would have been a left on 21st (strike two!!) before you can take a right on Oklahoma, not a left (Strike three!!!)  Moral of the story, never take directions from a D.C. Metro Police Officer….

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# 30 current, # 41 overall

As we got back to Nationals Park we noticed a lot that was right on the corner of the stadium for $25.  Still spendy, and the most we have paid for parking at a game on this trip, but it was $15 cheaper than the other lots and that means $15 more for beer, so we jumped on it and walked up to the gate.   We entered via the center field gate, which looks really cool with its big iron bar gates.  As you enter you are right behind the “Red Porch”, in a plaza where they have a few stautes of former players of the team from Washington (back when they were the Senators), not the same franchise, but local history still… like Walter Johnson, “The Big Train” from Humbolt, Kansas.  I dunno how we did it, but we got there in time to see 1st pitch!   As I stood there in left center watching the first few pitches of the game and looking around, I got goosebumps!  Big Rocky Mountain sized goosebumps.  No, it’s not cause I like the Nat’s, cause I am imbevelant to them, but it was because I had recompleted a dream of mine.  In that moment I had acheieved something that lots of baseball fans want to do and only a handful actually get to do… I had seen all 30 (current) Major League Baseball Ball Parks!!  Not only was Nationals Park my 30th current park, it was # 41 overall for me. Not too shabby huh. 🙂

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1st pitch at Nationals Park

After the usual pictures, including one where I made a “30” with my hands, we went looking for food.  Our seats were somewhere up in the upper deck down the first baseline, but when I spotted stainless counter tops down the 3rd base line, I knew we wouldn’t make it to our seats. A short walk from where we were is the Ben’s Chili Bowl and I just had to have another chili half-smoke again!  Bob didn’t feel like one, so he was gonna go get something else, so we agreed to meet at the counter tops right behind section 110 and I got in line to get my dinner and opted for 2 of them, cause they are just that good!  After I made my way behind section 110 a guy wearing Nationals gear, as if he worked at the park, came up to me saying “Hey!”  I thought I had done something wrong!  When he got to me he says, “You don’t remember me do you?”  I went through the Rolodex in my head and no, no I didn’t.  He introduced himself as Tremaine and said that he was the one that cleared our table at the Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street back on Tuesday!  Ok, now I remember him!  He was working at this location today and when he saw me he told the people he was working with that he recognized me (my wife will tell you it’s because I am fat) and wanted to come out and say hello and thank me for visiting Ben’s in both locations, so he did.  We stood there talking for a bit about the trip and how these were my first 2 times at Ben’s before he had to get back to work.  That was pretty cool I thought, how he went out of his way to say Hello like that.  Really cool.

I had finished my first dog and I started looking around for some seats to hawk.  As I watched the game, still waiting for Bob to get back, I did my usual and took several pictures.  After a few minutes an usher walked up and I just knew he was gonna comment on the zoom lens I was using.  Nope!  Instead he asked if I would like to have a seat in the handicapped row in section 112!  I told him I would love it, but that I had someone else with me and he said that was no problem and even helped carry things over to those seats.  Rock on!  We scored some pretty decent seats down the 3rd base line for the game and that’s where we sat for the next 5 innings or so watching the game, enjoying the Presidents race (Jefferson won, cause Washington fell just before the finish line), and taking in the sights and sounds of Nationals Park while talking to our usher friend and another guy about not only this park, but others.  It was a beautiful night for a game.  The game itself wasn’t too shabby as the Nat’s pulled out a 5-3 victory thanks to a Willie Harris 2-run, game winning, jimmie jack in the bottom of the 12th inning!  To be honest, we missed all that excitement as we left a few innings earlier to go into town and see a few more sights before we had to fly home in the morning.  When we left, the Nats were up 3-1 and it was an official game at that point, as it was into the 7th inning.  No regrets.

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Quite the sight to see, lit up at night…

We drove around seeing the monuments lit up, but our main goal was to get pictures by the White House.  This was the last night of our trip and we still hadn’t done that, so we headed for the White House to complete the mission.  As we drove by the back side, we could see people standing out in the field, by the fence, which is still a ways from where we were driving, but we figured if we could get parking, we would do the walk, so we circled the block.  As we were going around I spotted a better view and told Bob THAT’S where we needed to get pictures from, so I dropped him off and set out to find a place to park.  By now it was pushing 10pm and I still couldn’t find a place to park the car.  After making a couple loops, I got lucky and was able to park right next to where I dropped Bob off and so i set out on foot to join him.  I went through Lafayette Park and found myself on Pennsylvania Avenue looking at the White House, which was beautifully lit up.  This was wicked cool!  Right across the street from the fence to the North Lawn, was a protest, a peaceful protest, that says it’s been there, non-stop, since 1981!  Bob told me when the person who was there got there and took over for the gal that had been there, it was like shifts changing at work.  These people are dedicated, that’s for sure.

After getting some pictures, some video and talking to a Police Officer about when they closed Pennsylvannia Ave down, we headed back towards the car where we grabbed a bench and just sat there watching people come and go, looking at the White House, enjoying the lightning bugs and reflecting on our trip.  It was a lot of fun and it couldn’t have been a better night to do that, cause right around 11:45pm, it was still in the low 80’s, but felt so nice.

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Just to prove I was there…

Our hotel was actually just 3 blocks behind where we sat on that bench, on Connecticut Ave.  I booked us there on purpose knowing that we would be that close to the White House so we could walk up and check it out after the game if we wanted to.  However, we did that first, which was good cause we needed to check in, get everything packed and ready, cause we had to be on the road by 4am in the morning.  So we got checked in, a little after midnight and got to our room.  It was an awesome hotel and our room was pretty cool looking, until you really started checking it out…there was hair all over there place, on the floor, the end tables and chairs even.  It wasn’t enough to make me freak out, especially knowing that we would only be there about 3 1/2 hours before we had to go.  Our room did have a mini bar, so we checked it out.  The list of items said there was a bottle of champagne for $35, so I pulled it out to look at it and the bottle was so tiny, I bet there wasn’t but about 12 oz in it, if that… for $35! Holy Cow!  So I set it on top of the mini fridge and we kept looking.  We didn’t find anything that was really worth it, but then we noticed a plastic bag so I grabbed it to see what was in it and it was a 1/2 eaten Subway sandwich!!  Seriously?!?  Needless to say I put it right back in there and Bob shut the door.  I then noticed the bottle of champagne and went to put it back in there so we wouldn’t be charged and well,  the door was locked!!  We tried several things to get that door open, but couldn’t.  So I ended up packing that bottle cause while we didn’t want to drink it then, if we’re gonna be charged for it, I was gonna take it home!

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Bob outside the White House

The short few hours later as we went to leave I had called for someone to help with our luggage and after a 20 minute wait, we gave up and just carted it down ourselves.  As we got to the lobby there was nobody around and I stood at the desk waiting for help for a while and still nobody.  Bob took our valet ticket and walked outside hoping to get help, yet the only person out there was the night security guard.  He did help us by getting others to come to the desk.  So I was told that if we got our invoice, we were checked out. I stood there for a moment and when I wasn’t asked how my stay was, for the first time on this trip, I said “Not that you asked how our room was, but there was hair all over the place and when we looked in the mini bar, there was a 1/2 ate Subway sandwich in there.”  I kid you  not, the guy says to me, “Oh, someone else must have left that there then.”   DUH!!  I told him I thought that was really gross and I left to go wait for our car… which was another problem.  See, the place was by no means busy, people just weren’t doing their jobs and the night security guy went and got the night hotel manager to go get our car.  So there we stood our front of the Mayflower Renaissance waiting for our car, talking traveling with the security dude.  It took almost 20 minutes to get us the car.  Was an unbelievable experience to say the least.  I can also say that as of right now, I have yet to be charged for that bottle of champagne or the valet parking… it better stay that way.

We did make it to BWI in time to get the car back, catch the shuttle and get to our flight with a little bit of time to spare, not much though.  The flight home was a long 6 hours, but I slept a good 5 hours of it, which was a total shocker to me!

What an amazing trip we had… just wish we had more time!!

Team123456789101112RHE
Blue Jays (37-33)000001020000390
Nationals (20-46)0000120000025110
W: Tavarez, WSH (3-4) L: Richmond, TOR (5-4)

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