Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Memories - What We Did On Our 1998 Mid-Atlantic States Vacation

I have found more of my memoirs that I wrote after some of our summer vacations, and many of them included genealogy highlights. So I'm going to share these memories in a series of posts.  Maybe I'll even find some photos to illustrate the posts.    

What We Did On Our 1998 Summer Vacation

Linda and I took an 18 day grand tour of the Middle Atlantic states, during which we visited Washington DC, Williamsburg VA, Charlottesville VA, Frederick MD, Gettysburg PA, York PA, Lancaster PA, Philadelphia PA, and Ellis and Liberty Islands, and Milford NJ. Whew...warm and humid everywhere! Lots of historic sights and sites, even some genealogy!  We flew in and out of Baltimore, and rented a car.

Washington DC was worth a week of our time. We stayed in Springfield VA (in order to reduce our costs) and rode the Metro into the city most days. The Metro took about 45 minutes into the Smithsonian area each way, but sure eased the access problems! It was very clean and efficient, as advertised.

We went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for a day - very impressive, yet it seemed small! I thought it would be all the world's airplanes/spacecraft, and it was only some! We took a guided tour and the docent was a retired aerospace guy. He had great stories about the Wright's and the early astronauts.

The Smithsonian Museum of American History was very disappointing to me: there was nothing addressing the colonial times, the Rev War, or the forces that led/drove our country to its formation. It seems to have just "happened". There was no over-arching sense of events, leaders, attitudes, forces. It's as if Jamestown, Plymouth, Roger Williams, Stuyvesant, Penn, Oglethorpe, Edwards, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et al didn't exist! But there were the political correct exhibits about Indian displacement, slave holding, even a New Mexican exhibit from the 1500's. Nothing significant about immigration, westward migration, settlement of the West, etc. There were plenty of collections of stuff. There were some interesting exhibits about Thomas Edison and the Manhattan Project. The only mention of the Revolutionary War was a display about a storekeeper in Longmeadow MA who had his store ransacked because his prices were too high and he was thought to have loyalist tendencies. More PC.

The National Archives shows the Declaration of Independence and parts of the Constitution under green glass encased in helium - very difficult to read and the line was kept moving.

We took a bus tour of DC that promised the White House, Capitol, Lincoln and Washington monuments, Viet Nam/Korean War memorials, Smithsonian, and Arlington Cemetery. We went the day of John Gibson's funeral, so the order of events was modified. We drove past the Washington Monument, stopped at the Lincoln/Vietnam/Korean War area, and then stopped at Arlington. We walked to the JFK gravesite, then the Unknown Soldier/changing of the guard area. Then back on the bus, to lunch at the Smithsonian American History Museum (and we had to wait for the funeral to pass down Constitution Avenue). No White House tickets were available, so I walked around the WH and saw a bit of the film at the WH Visitor center. Then off to the Capitol, where we waited a while for tickets to enter, and got into the Rotunda and the lower halls of the Capitol, but not to the galleries. I did see Sen. Phil Gramm in the hallway. There were wreaths outside Tom DeLay's office. Nice artwork in the Rotunda and in the ceilings of the halls.

On a Sunday, we drove to the Jefferson Memorial, then up to the National Cathedral, down Mass Avenue past all the embassies, around the Capitol, over through Georgetown and finally into downtown Arlington for lunch.

Linda went to the Holocaust Museum, the old Post Office Building pavilion (nice photo opportunities at the top of the tower), and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. She tried to go on an FBI building tour, but couldn't get in.

I spent two days in the Library of Congress doing genealogy research, but did not take the time to take a tour of the building.

Williamsburg VA was great. We saw most of the historic area, and went out to Carter's Grove, which was well done. We saw a play and a musical review in the evenings. We ate in two of the taverns, also. Jamestown was interesting - but we only went to the National Park and went on two ranger tours in the limited time.

We added Charlottesville at the last minute. Great decision, since Monticello was excellent! Very knowledgable docents, good displays, etc. We also visited the Luray Caverns - amazing!

Gettysburg was beautiful. We took a double-deck bus tour (two hours), which was narrated using headphones. It stopped at two places for photos and rest. I got the sense of the landscape, the strategy involved, and the movements of the forces. Then off to York PA, where I spent two hours in the York County Historical Society doing research. That night, the fire alarm went off in our Motel 6...yawn - false alarm.

We got to Philadelphia about noon, and went to the Visitor Center, had a Philly cheese steak sandwich, and then saw Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and Franklin Court. The guide at Independence Hall was poor - didn't know some basic facts. Franklin Court was super - great displays and a good film about Franklin's life and times.

We stayed two nights with my cousin Jack (and his wife Joan) in the Milford NJ area. They have a beautiful farmhouse on 6 acres in Little York, with a stream and a deer herd nearby. They took us to see Ellis Island, and we saw the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline (new for me!) from the boat. Ellis Island was excellent - it really portrayed the experience well, I thought. Great photos, lots of personal stories.

Lancaster PA and the PA Dutch area were interesting, but very commercialized. We took a buggy ride and visited a number of shops. Great food!

Then it was back to the Baltimore airport and we flew home to San Diego.  Linda figured she could use some of the materials we gathered for her 4th grade class.

All through the trip I tried to stay abreast of the national news, and the status of my Padres. The Washington DC newspapers/airwaves were full of l'affaire Lewinsky, while the hinterlands paid little attention. TV at each hotel was spotty - some of them didn't have my favorite cable channels. The radio in the car didn't work (the antenna broke off the first day) so we cruised with the windows down through the countryside. People were very friendly and helpful - we enjoyed talking to other travelers and the folks at the sites we visited.


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