Roadtrip #5: Washington, D.C. and the New England states
Happy Fall to all out there.
We are once again prepped for the annual roadtrip. Enough of the western half of the U.S. has been covered so it's time to go East Side for once! Our non-stop flight to the first and foremost destination (Washington, D.C.) departs at 12:50pm on Wednesday, October 14th. From there we will rent a minivan and drive a 2,500-mile counter-clockwise loop around 13 different states. Primary goals are to tour the big cities, including the nation's capital. Secondaries will revolve around fitting in more National Parks and Monuments, as well as helping to fulfill my 50 state capitol buildings goal, all while taking in the fall foliage colors.
The route has been finalized and laid out at Google Maps, highlighting the planned stops and destinations. You can also take a peek at the preview thread for this trip if need be.
As usual, daily blogs will be posted here, dependent on internet availability of course. Photos will be posted to the RTA Photo Albums upon our arrival home.
Final itinerary (Always tentative)
Day 0 - (Flight Day) Fly from LAX to DCA, arrive in Arlington, VA (3 nights)
Day 1 - Tour Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Day 2 - Tour Washington, D.C.
Day 3 - Visit Annapolis, MD; Dover, DE; Philadelphia, PA; Trenton, NJ; arrive in Red Bank, NJ (3 nights)
Day 4 - Tour Liberty and Ellis Island National Monuments
Day 5 - Tour Lower Manhattan, New York
Day 6 - Tour Upper Manhattan, New York; arrive in West Haven, CT
Day 7 - Visit Hartford, CT; Kingston, RI; Newport, RI; Providence, RI; arrive in Quincy, MA
Day 8 - Visit Boston, MA; arrive in Bar Harbor, ME
Day 9 - Visit Acadia NP, ME; Augusta, ME; Concord, NH; Bennington, VT; arrive in Albany, NY (tentative)
Day 10 - Visit Niagara Falls, NY; Niagara on the Lake, ON, Canada; arrive in Pittsburgh, PA (tentative)
Day 11 - Visit Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, WV; arrive in Cabins, WV
Day 12 - Visit Shenandoah National Park, VA; arrive in Arlington, VA
Day 13 - (Flight Day) Fly from DCA to LAX, arrive in San Juan Capistrano, CA
End destinations for days 9 and 10 are not set in stone, since I already know I'm attempting to fit in a multitude of stops over hundreds of miles, so we may not make it as far as I'm planning, but I'm pretty confident we can make up for lost time in case that does happen. Our schedule is pretty full, but I don't mind last minute pointers and additions if you think we can fit it in.
Visit reports of my previous roadtrips if you have some free time:
Roadtrip #1 - 48 States in 30 Days (offsite)
Roadtrip #2 - The Great West
Roadtrip #3 - The National Parks of Utah
Roadtrip #3A - San Francisco, CA and back
Roadtrip #4 - New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival
Roadtrip #4A - Sedona, AZ and back
You can also view pictures from all these trips in the RTA albums section of my profile.
Keep it tuned here. I'll see you on the road...
Last edited by Kinless; 10-10-2009 at 12:51 PM.
Reason: Forgot to mention the state capitols
Another day I'd look at carefully is day 8 - you aren't leaving yourself much time to see Boston. It's at LEAST 5 hours from Boston to Bar Harbor, and that's without stopping to see anything. Add even more time if you want to head up the coast from Brunswick instead of taking I-95 to Bangor.
Well aware of it, Captain. :) I pored over this day many times, and the best course of action is to start early in the morning (we're just doing the Freedom Trail and a quick lunch) in order to finish up Boston by about 2pm local time and then cruise up I-95 the entire leg. There are no planned stops on this day.
Originally Posted by glc
When leaving Maine, we may hug the coast for a wee bit using Hwy 3, from Acadia NP to Augusta, ME. That should be enough for us.
That's a shame in a way - the Maine coast has so much to offer that you won't even be scratching the surface. It really is unique in the United States.
===== Day 0 =====
I wasn't going to do a Flight Day update, but we did a few things before retiring for the night. I found it amusing that it was raining when we departed LAX (1:05pm PDT), and still raining when we touched down at DCA (8:30pm EDT). We shuttled over to the car rental and got to pick our choice of which minivan we wanted, so we take the dark blue Texas-plated Dodge Grand Caravan.
After checking into the hotel at 10:00pm, I saw the lights of DC beckoning so I hauled off my folks in the direction of the tallest Monument. Unfortunately, the bad 2005 memories of navigating the streets returned as I had a heck of a time trying to find the right combination of off-ramps in order to cross I-66 over the Potomac, even with the GPS. I finally just touched the approximate point of the Washington Monument so it would at least get us over there.
After successfully meandering into DC, our stomachs told us to set a course for food, so I chose the coords for a Wendy's. Aaaand it took us to a McDonalds instead.... *sigh* freakin GPSes, ugh! Fine, McDonalds it is. We barely made the 11pm closing time, and according to the signs you could only eat for 20 minutes, after which they considered you "loitering." Sheesh, alrighty then.
On the way back, I invented a few turns and made our way to the front of the lit US Capitol. I ignored the permit-only parking spaces since it was almost midnight and there were maybe 1 or 2 cars parked there. I ran over and did some SLRing before deciding it was too cold. We also hit 10th street and passed by Ford's Theater just to scout its location. We'll come back here in the next 2 days.
We've lost 3 hours, but we're not tired. Oh, and it's supposed to be "raining horizontally" tomorrow. Oh yay, this will be quite an adjustment. Wish us luck.
===== Day 1 =====
No driving today. The primary memorials of DC and the Arlington Cemetery were to be discovered completely on foot today. Unfortunately the entire day was rain and wind, but we didn't let that deter us. Raincoats and umbrellas were the saving grace.
We left the hotel and walked straight for the Iwo Jima Memorial across the street. Passing the Netherlands Carillon, we crossed the boundary fence into the Arlington National Cemetery. The first stop was the visitor center for a quick bathroom break and souvenirs, then we headed up to the Tomb of the Unknowns for the Changing of the Guard. We were lucky and also caught a wreath changing ceremony as well. Whether you're the patriotic type or otherwise, it's a must see on your list.
Back down to the visitor center we walked. Instead of taking the Metro all the way around, we decided to test our insanity and walk over the Potomac across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, still in the rain. This way we could hit all of today's goals without having to double-back.
First stop after crossing the border was the famed Lincoln Memorial, taking pictures galore. Next was the Korean War Memorial on the southern path, then walking the corridor to the World War II memorial (my personal favorite), then continuing to the Washington Monument (only walked up to it, didn't go inside unfortunately). By this time our feet were very angry with us, but we had no choice but to keep our eastward trek to the first available Metro entrance by the Smithsonian. We took the blue line back to Rosslyn, but we still had another half a mile walk back to our hotel.
Yah, way more walking than I anticipated, but we got a lot of things checked off our list. Hopefully we regain enough energy for another mile or two. Tomorrow will be tripping via Metro to the US Capitol, Smithsonian Castle, and Ford's Theatre. We may walk'n'gawk the White House if there's time.
===== Day 2 =====
We used the van today. For a total of 0.8 miles. Because we didn't feel like walking to the Metro station in the rain. :)
We're not quite used to east coast time yet, as we overslept a bit, making for a late start railing back into the heart of DC once more. The first hit of the day was the Smithsonian castle. We didn't have too much time to spare so we decided on the Museum of Natural History, with the accompanying IMAX dinosaur presentation to go with it. We also stopped briefly at the Air & Space Museum but time was not on our side so we only stayed 25 minutes for that.
Eastward we walked towards the Capitol Building taking some great shots, and around we walked to where the entrance of the Visitor Center was located. Unfortunately it probably wasn't the best idea. We had to go through a strict security process (a little too strict in my opinion) and when you got in you had to stand in a long line to get tickets for the main gallery, which you couldn't even bring in your camera. Completely lame so we just left and took the Metro to our last point of the day.
We arrived at Ford's Theater around 3:15pm EDT, in time for the final tour of the day. Thought the museum depicting the life of Lincoln and the theatre were great, as well as getting to view the house across the street where Lincoln passed. From there we Metro'ed home.
Our feet/ankles/legs/knees by now are screaming bloody murder. That's what happens when you're either a senior (aka my folks) or severely out of shape (yours truly).
Tomorrow is our first real set of driving - through 4 states - to get to our next destination. Plenty of capitals to see, including another Historical Site. Good times ahead!
There has been a bit walking thus far!
Yeah, nothing like walking miles your first two days and spending 10 hours in the car. You think your knees and hips hurt now?
Enjoying the report!
===== Day 3 =====
Yesterday we overslept, but this morning we could hardly sleep, up and getting ready before 5:00am EDT. Are we ever gonna get used to this time change??
And let's not forget that I still haven't seen the sun since this trip began. It hasn't fully stopped raining yet.
We attempted to dive through downtown DC and shoot off to the east, but the President must have been out jogging, because all the police cars were out flashing their lights and blocking off just about all the roads from Constitution to Pennsylvania, as well as all the numbered streets. *sigh* Really, DC? Really?
We detoured north to New York Avenue, which was really the Hwy 50 we eventually needed, and used it to trek into the next state of Maryland. Here we arrived at our first stop of Annapolis. While it was an extremely quaint town, we were there a little early and everything was closed. All we could do was snap pictures of the capitol building and move on.
We continued east over the massive US Naval Bridge (which the mom loved) and kept going until we reached the border of Delaware. Soon after, we entered the next capital, Dover. The rain kept us doing from much else besides glancing at the museum and taking yet another pic of the State House. Time to head north.
There was a scenic route we could have taken, but with the rain and being so dreary, it probably wasn't going to be worth the extra time taken, so the vote was for the Expressway which launched us quickly over the border into Pennsylvania and targeted the destination for the famous Philadelphia, arriving by 1:00pm.
Here we viewed the Liberty Bell and took the 30 minute tour of Independence Hall. I was reminded of how badly I did with Social Science in grade school. At least I could now appreciate the history at this age. Our ranger was well versed and knew his stuff throughout the entire presentation.
One more target for the day was capital #3, hitting Trenton immediately after hopping into New Jersey. It was late, so once again I was limited to just snapping pics of the State House. Good enough to count towards the 50 capitols goal.
That's it... we used I-195, transitioning to the Garden State Expressway, to make our way to Red Bank, NJ by 5:30pm. We are staying with mom's friend from high school and we'll base-camp it here for 72 hours while we all make some day-trips to New York and put our legs and feet through more misery. Can't wait!
===== Day 4 =====
Another day, another waking up to the pitter-patter of the rain. OK seriously, it isn't funny anymore. I've done forgotten if the earth even has a sun.
We left Red Bank at 8:30am EDT and headed for our main attractions for the day: Ellis and Liberty Island National Monuments. We pretty much take toll roads for most of the 45 miles up (which is so much better than trying to avoid them like in 2005). We park, enter terminal, pick up tickets, then get on the ferry.
The first stop was Ellis Island. It has 3 stories of immigrant and ancestry history to pore over, and contained lots of tidbits that answered a lot of questions about the purpose of this place. All I can say is, it makes you realize what you take for granted the kind of lifestyle we live today. I wouldn't trade living back in the early 1900s for anything. We spent more time there than I thought I would, but that's all right.
Over we hopped to the highlight, the Statue of Liberty, which met our gaze as the ferry rounded the island to drop us off. After getting something to eat and picking up our tickets, Dad and I split off from Mom and her friend so we could start our long trek to the Crown. Just getting up to the Monument pedestal was a feat in itself, as our feet were still reeling from days past. I'm thinking if it's this hard to get to the pedestal, I'm dead meat for the Crown goal.
It wasn't even half that bad. The winding staircase to the top had rails everywhere, which made it extremely helpful to hoist yourself up the steps. There were over 200 stairs to conquer, but with a little perseverance, Dad and I made it to the top.
Best. Thing. Ever.
Great views all around. Two rangers were up there to help answer questions and take pictures of anyone adventurous enough to make it up. It was very windy, and as such you could feel the whole thing wobbling back and forth a bit, which of course it was designed to do. Loved it. Put this goal on your list of things to do before you die. Do it.
Down down down we went, back to the pedestal, scouting the perimeter for more picture opportunities before heading back to the ground level. We caught one of the last ferries off the island and made it back to the Liberty Park terminal shortly after 5:00pm, catching the spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline all the while.
As we headed home, we stopped briefly at the Harbor View 9/11 memorial, which is a little-known sculpture in Bayonne, NJ (called the Tear of Grief or Teardrop Memorial), donated by the Russians, and engraved with all the 9/11 victims. We would have stayed longer but the wind was ferocious so 15 minutes was all we could stand, then gassed up and headed home. The sun briefly poked its head out before it set, as the 5-day-long storm was finally moving out of the area.
The only annoying thing of the day is once again the security. Not only were no food or drinks allowed in the Statue, virtually all items except cameras were prohibited. Our wallets, bags (big or small), spare change, watches, cell phones (unless that was your only "camera"), etc. all had to be stored in lockers before entering the monument. Apparently they want nothing loose and metal entering the monument (for fear of etching graffiti onto the sides of anything). You also have to stand in this life-size receptacle and they shoot 6 blasts of air onto you to make sure you have no "dangerous chemicals" stowed on your person. It's really getting to be a pain. Understandable, but still a huge pain. I'm only mentioning this paragraph to serve as 411 to others who want to go visit.
OK... back to the Big Apple tomorrow (Lower Manhattan), and it's supposed to be sunny! That will help greatly.
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