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Rising From The Ashe

July 30, 2012

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been to Washington, DC. School trips in elementary, junior high, and high school, plus several as an adult. The Hamster isn’t even 11 yet and he’s been there twice himself: once about three years ago on a long sightseeing weekend with his sister, his mom, and me, and once last year to meet President Obama and help kickoff to Soldier Ride. DC (at least downtown DC) is fantastic: it’s clean, it’s bustling in the good way that a big city should be, and its architecture is extraordinary. But I was still planning to skip it on our trip through the south. Thing is, you have to drive pretty stinkin’ far to get to the deep south from New York. DC is not only far and close enough to make it a reasonable stopping point, but it’s kind of unavoidably directly on the way to everywhere else we’re going. So I made it our first stop–reluctantly, until I figured out one cool thing neither Sam or I has ever done in DC: tour the Capitol Building.

A word of unsolicited advice: if you ever plan to take a guided tour of the U.S. Capitol, arrange it through the office of your senator or representative. With just one simple phone call and only a few days notice, we were given a tour by an intern in Senator Kirtsen Gillibrand’s (D-NY) office. This meant that the tour started in Senator Gillibrand’s office, which was cool on its own but (much cooler) necessitated a ride in the little Senate subway from the Russell Senate Building to the Capitol.

Going through our Senator also meant that the tour was led by a New Yorker who not only gave us an excuse to talk about home but also made sure to point us in the direction of NY-centric features in the bulding.

From the Capitol we headed over to a pretty good deli called Eli’s for what will probably be the best meal we’ll have all week if not longer, and then south to our second capital city of the day, Richmond, VA.

Richmond is one of those cities that you see on the map and think there must be some cool stuff to do there. But there isn’t. The most exciting thing to do in Richmond is to drive down Monument Avenue, a double-wide street that runs through what claims to be downtown Richmond but looks more like a suburb. The street’s name comes from several statues of famous Virginians that can be found at intervals along about a mile stretch of the road. The statues include Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Arthur Ashe. I believe it was Mr. Rogers who used to sing, “One of these things is not like the other…” My guess is that the Ashe statue is some sort of lame attempt to mitigate the embarassment felt about having giant monuments to the leaders of a bloody attempt to continue the practice of slavery. OK, that’s mostly conjecture, but the Ashe statue is both the smallest of the statues and the furthest from the center of town. It’s also by far the least regal looking, and it almost looks like Ashe can’t decide between keeping a book away from some eager children and beating them with a tennis racket:

We also made a quick stop to see the Virginia State Capitol building, which was nice enough I guess, but seeing it right after seeing the absolutely stunning U.S. Capitol is like eating a pretty good hot dog after spending the day at the Sorbonne.

All told we had a pretty fun first day. Almost 400 miles of driving was exhausting but gave us lots of time to chat and to start spotting license plates from every state, and a we really enjoyed the U.S. Capitol. And at our very last stop we learned the most important lesson of the day: if you keep your eyes open, you can always find love–even at a rest stop in New Kent, VA.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2012 7:01 am

    wasn’t it the electric company and not mr. rogers?

  2. July 31, 2012 9:13 am

    That is an awesome statue. “Please, Mr. Ashe, may we learn something or watch you play tennis?”
    “Grovel at my feet, children!!!”

    And “One of these things…” is a Sesame Street bit.

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