Day 5: October 7, 2014
Fight and Flight

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William E. Ebbitt established Washington's first known saloon in 1856. It's been moved and refurnished a few times since then and today may be a little classier than the joint that Bill initially operated but Old Ebbitt Grill is still going strong. That's "honey pecan butter, local apple maple syrup and artisan breakfast sausage" accompanying my better than average French toast. Bet they didn't have that in 1856. Excellent.

A short walk from Ebbitt's brought me to this scene of the Zero Milestone being used, as it typically is, as a camera stand. That's somewhat understandable, given the background view, and, to give this particular photographer his due, he did notice the stone's engraved lettering and did take a shot of the side facing the White House. Not many do. I did get several moments alone with the stone before the next group in search of a camera support arrived. The affect of just over ninety years of human contact is evident on the stone.

I vaguely recall seeing this building as I drove by on US-50 but don't believe I've seen it close up or knew what it was. Once upon a time, there was a Washington City Canal and in 1833 it was connected to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal at just about this spot. This toll house is the only thing remaining of the Washington Branch of the C & O Canal.

I entered the World War II Monument from the north. The memorial is trully impressive and the pools and fountains are certainly beautiful but I can't help wondering what it will look like when the electricity goes off. Without whirring pumps to spray and circulate the water, I fear it will look a lot like an idled swimming pool at another defunct Holiday Inn. I much prefer the simple "self powered" elegance of monuments like those for the Vietnam War or Napoleonic Wars.

Groups like this add a lot more beauty than the dancing waters ever will. Seeing this Veteran's Honor Flight from New Mexico was a wonderful coincidence and the highlight of my day.

Those veterans were no doubt still on my mind when I snapped this picture of an older (i.e., my age) couple pausing to watch some ducks in the Reflecting Pool. Reflecting is good.

Each of these pictures of the Korean War Memorial contains a granite wall. In one it is the wall backing the semi-circular reflecting pool. In the others it is the wall along the walk running beside the statues of the soldiers. The wall reflects the nineteen statues and makes it look like 38 which represents the 38th parallel which was an important line in the war. Very clever, I suppose, though I knew nothing of the trick before today. This was at least my third visit to the memorial but I have no memory of ever even seeing the wall before. So sure was I that it was a recent addition that I asked a ranger when it was built. Confused by my question, he explained that the whole monument, walls, pool, and statues, had been dedicated in 1995. Pictures of the dedication confirm that the wall was there. From the minute I first saw them, I've felt that the trudging soldiers -- not, marching, not walking, trudging -- were the perfect illustration of everything I knew about this war. They don't need no stinking wall or pool. Maybe I really didn't notice the wall and pool or maybe I chose to pretend they weren't there. Old photos I've taken don't really help. This one from 2004 seems to show that there is no wall but I believe it's just framed, perhaps intentionally, to keep the wall out of view. The expressions, stances, and overall appearances of the statues are all this memorial needs. They tell the war's story with uncommon elegance. Now that I've had to acknowledge the existence of the wall and pool, I'm going to try to re-forget -- or at least ignore -- them.

When my great-grandparents passed through Washington in the spring of 1921, Granny wrote of seeing "the monument". The Lincoln Memorial was entering its final year of construction then and I've always assumed it was what she meant. Maybe not but it seems reasonable. The Reflecting Pool was not there yet so Granny would have had to do her own.

The Vietnam War Memorial could be the best example possible of that "self powered" elegance I spoke of. No tricks or mirrors and no batteries required. Just a simple and solid listing of the cost of a war.

I had left the hotel with plans for breakfast and a walk by the Zero Milestone before boarding the Metro for the museum I'd missed yesterday. But I got tugged toward the Washington Monument then the World War II Memorial and beyond. Fortunately I realized this before it was once again too late. The trip requires both train and bus and can take a couple of hours. I boarded the train a little after noon and reached the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center about a quarter to 2:00. The timing was perfect for the next guided tour.

The place is huge and hours or days could easily be spent exploring. The two hour tour covered just highlights and I'll cover just the highlights of the highlights. The first picture is of a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The Air Force museum in Dayton has one so this wasn't new to me but the mach 3.3 aircraft is still an attention getter. Next up is the Enola Gay, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Her last surviving crew member, navigator Theodore VanKirk, died just weeks ago at age 93. The Boeing 307 Stratoliner was the first commercial airliner with a pressurized cabin for high altitude cruising. The Air France Concorde was the world's first, and so far only, supersonic airliner. The fifth photo shows a Martin X-35B lift-fan propulsion system with one of the aircraft behind it. Note the swivel nozzle on the engine (left) which, along with the lift-fan (right), support short takeoff vertical landing (STOVL). The production version is the F-35. The aircraft in the last picture, which may be a little tough to make out, is a reproduction of Samuel Langley's 1903 Aerodrome A. Langley had successfully flown unmanned models of the tandem winged craft but the full sized human carrying version naver quite made it.

Udvar-Hazy Center's latest star is the Space Shuttle Discovery which went on display in 2012. It's very big and very impressive. An only somewhat blurry picture of the no-two-alike tiles is here.

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