We waited an interminable 30 minutes in the swamp heat, and finally a White House aide of some sort came meandering toward our gate. We could tell he was a government employee by the agonizingly slow way he moved. When he finally arrived at the gate he asked us if we were with the NCAA group (a large number of well dressed college student had been arriving for awhile). We told him we were there for scheduled tours, at which point he informed us that all tours had been cancelled for the day due to the NCAA event, which he also told us had been scheduled for some time. Even with 6 months advance planning, and a confirmation coming just a week ago, the government still managed to screw it up.
I'll be charging them for my wasted time on next year's tax return. A friend of mine who worked for a Fortune 500 company once had to buy galoshes on a business trip due to unexpected wet weather. When he tried to expense the galoshes, his expense report was turned down and the company refused to pay him for the shoes. He "reworked" the report, and when he turned it in, he told his boss: "Find the galoshes." Next year when I file my return, my challenge to the IRS will be: "Find the wasted morning at the White House."
We were extremely disappointed, but with so many guys with guns around, there wasn't much we could do about it. After leaving the visitor entrance (while another tour guest argued with the government drone), we walked across the park to the White House Visitor Center. On the way you pass a very large statue of General William T. Sherman of Civil War fame.
This statue represents some Civil War history that I wasn't familiar with. In May of 1865, Sherman sat on his horse on this same small hill for two straight days as more than 100,000 Union troops passed by in a parade commemorating the Union victory. Each unit saluted the general, and as he returned their salutes, they were effectively mustered out of the U.S. Army. Although the surrender at Appomatix Courthouse marked the end of Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, this parade marked the end of the Civil War.
The Visitors Center was mildly interesting, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to see it again. It actually had the toughest security we'd encountered the whole trip, with the possible exception of the airport. Mrs. HolyCoast commented that one of the downsides of this trip is that fact that everywhere you go people are telling you "no". Don't do this, don't do that, don't go there, don't eat, drink, spit, swear or breath, etc. I guess that's the nature of Washington these days.
We swam back to the hotel through the thick, humid air, and started working on what to do with the rest of the day. The kids had history burnout and were pretty tired, so they decided to just veg out for the day and stay in the room. Mrs. HolyCoast and I got the car and headed 16 miles south along the Potomac River to Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. We stood in line with a lot of other folks to tour the mansion.
It's hard to imagine that the home you're walking through used to be occupied by the guy on the quarter, and for the third time this week we saw the location in which a president died. (For the record, Abraham Lincoln at the Peterson Boarding House, George Washington in his bedroom at Mount Vernon, and John Quincy Adams in the old House chamber which is now statuary hall. He had a stroke while serving as a congressman following his presidency and died before they got him out of the chamber.) After the tour we took a scenic boat ride on the Potomac. I thought we'd get a good view of Mount Vernon, but we were way offshore when we passed by. I got the best shot I could under the circumstances.
After returning to D.C., we walked back down to the White House area to get some photos (this time in tourist garb).
Just a short ways down the fence from where I was standing there was a guy with a hand-lettered sign declaring that he was on a hunger strike due to the problems in Darfur. That boy's going to get pretty hungry because nobody was paying attention to him.
As we headed down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Renwick Gallery, we saw the news gaggle setting up on the North lawn for their evening stand-ups. Adding the hot TV lights to the already sweltering weather must be pretty uncomfortable. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of lefties.
Across from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building is the Renwick Gallery where much of the National Gallery of Art displays are being shown while the Gallery is being refurbished. We walked into one room that was wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling American masterpieces. It was a little overwhelming.
We did have a little excitement during our last visit to the White House area. The Secret Service swooped in and shut down 14th street just north of the White House. They brought in their big emergency service vehicle while they investigated something further down the block. We never did find out what the problem was, but I suspect it had something to do with a suspicious package or something.
On the way back to the hotel we saw a 6 or 7 limo motorcade being led and followed by a Pentagon Police car. Who knows, it may have been Rummy on his way to or from a meeting somewhere.
Tomorrow we bid D.C. goodbye and head south to Williamsburg. We're planning a lunch stop in Fredricksburg for a quick look at the battlefield there, and then on to the Kingsmill Resort and Busch Gardens where we'll be through Saturday morning.
Before I close, we'd all like to wish HolyCoast Mom a special Happy Birthday tomorrow. I won't say which one this is, but let's just say it has a zero in it and marks a milestone. We love you!
We'll talk more tomorrow.