Modesty Shields

Trip Start Jun 03, 2008
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Trip End Aug 12, 2008


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Where I stayed
Aquia Pines Campground

Flag of United States  , Virginia
Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's about 30 miles to Washington, DC from our quiet campground.  We picked up "The Tourmobile" at Arlington National Cemetery at 9am and proceeded to tour it. The various sections of the cemetery were fascinating and each had their own story.   My biggest surprise was Robert E. Lee's house, aka the Arlington House. We had no idea that he lived in town and was "one of the boys", then went on to be the South's most famous civil war general. It was insightful to me as in his writings and spoken words he  struggled between placing his loyalties with the government, city and nation that he loved or his home state and family.  Reluctantly, he chose the later one.  We found it curious that Lincoln chose that land for a civil war cemetery (after it had been confiscated for back taxes).  The final irony was no Confederates were buried there until many years later when several were exhumed and re-buried there.  Anyway, the former Lee Mansion is currently under restoration and will grace the area once again.  We also saw the Kennedy's Family grave-site and watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldiers.  A rather sobering way to start the day.  Audrey and Rusty hardly knew what to make of it.  Of course, we hadn't prepped them in anyway.

We changed Tourmobiles and headed into the National Mall area and whizzed around the monuments, sights, noteworthy buildings, statues, parks and the like faster than you could go click! click!  Fortunately, we had on and off privileges so, we hopped off at Union Station and went in for a bite.  A completely restored operating rail station is also a trendy mega mall of restaurants and shops.  We found a great spot on an elevated portion in the middle of the grand entrance.  Clarkism: Kids, did you know the 18 Mythical Statuary's that encircle this room were once nudes? They are all now holding shields in front of themselves called "modesty shields" due to some public outcry".  Were these men hiding something special?  After all, there were certainly many other anatomically correct gentlemen statues in this city that escaped censorship.  Ellen found it curious that they had to cover their ankles with petticoats, but their art seemed to be very revealing then, and now that we walk around with most of our bodies showing we are all too worried about showing men anatomically correct.    

We hopped back on the next Tourmobile and proceeded through the dizzying battery of sights.  After this orientation tour, which it was always intended to be, the Griswalds set out to explore the capital of our country in their own terms.  We started at The Lincoln Memorial and then went to The Vietnam War, Korean War, FDR, Thomas Jefferson, WWII, and Washington Memorials.  That wasn't enough so we checked out the White House.  By this time it was dark, but we still hadn't had enough so we re-visited some of  the memorials known to have a great effect at night; Washington, Lincoln and WWII.  They were definitely worth the effort. 

We rolled into space E-12 at Aquia Pines Campground just before midnight, exhausted, after this frenzy of patriotic cultural touring. We were numb for many reasons.  First, we had really walked and worked hard. Second, it was a long day.  Third, viewing cemeteries and memorials all day isn't exactly energizing. We found it to be very contemplative, as it should be.  Finally, for us anyway, DC has a buzz, an energy that is nearly overwhelming. The crowds, heat, constant deafening air traffic, unending screech of sirens, police whistles, and honking horns.  The drama of the city is big and ever present, from the young aggressive wannabe politicians to those that are trying to sell them something; from the disenchanted homeless to the angry protesters .  Collapsing into bed, we can only imagine what tomorrow has in store for us.                 
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