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Friday, October 30, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP - Maine 1999

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The usual disclaimer, prices and info are vintage 1999...your mileage may vary...

On our swing through the northeast, Maine served as a chance to rest & recharge our batteries in between the more hectic pace of America’s large cities. This trip brought us downeast...to Wells and Ogunquit.

Public transportation here is pretty much nonexistent so a rental car is in order. I had a Ford Contour reserved, which would probably suit our needs fine, but I let the Hertz agent talk us into upgrading to a Ford Explorer for a few dollars more. As roomy as it looks, the Explorer is really a pretty poor choice for someone in a wheelchair. Oh well, time to move on.

Southwest, again the choice for wheelchair users on a budget, brought us within an hour of our destination from Los Angeles for a mere $99 each way. To get this rate, go to Southwest’s web site and sign up for their e-mail internet fares which frequently have coast-to-coast $99 deals.

We stayed at Village by the Sea, a condo complex near the Atlantic shore. In the fall, a huge 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo will set you back only $85 a night. Minus one bedroom and bathroom, the price is only $65 per night (the cost is about double in 2011 - Ed). The unit we chose was wheelchair accessible but did not have a roll in shower. The master bathroom had grab bars and a shower head on a hose.
Perkin's Cove and the Ugly Anne


There’s not a lot of action here in Southern Maine for those of you who live for the nightlife, but the scenery is spectacular. Ogunquit is your typical little Maine fishing village. Many boats depart from its little Perkins Cove to set traps for lobsters each day in the season.


Marginal Way
Marginal Way, a wheelchair accessible beach walk, winds a mile from the quaint cove along rocky beaches and finally ending up in the equally quaint downtown section of Oganquit.

To the north of Wells, the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge offers another accessible hiking trail through a mile of its woods providing breathtaking views along with the chance to get up close and personal with the area’s animals.

Diners head to Maine for another reason, its lobster. You can get lobster here...in season (spring through early fall)...in many ways. Lobster rolls, stew, chowder, pie, etc. It’s plentiful and cheap. On a tip from the hotel staff, we checked out the Sundog.

The Sundog is a local eatery here in Wells that has kind of an incongruous Alaska motif but serving good food at good prices in a slightly sterile atmosphere. It’s a bit of a shocker for those of us out-of-towners used to seing lobster as the expensive star of a menu. Here, it’s the cheapest thing. Lobster dinner - $8.95. Want 2? $14.95. A chicken dinner was $12.95 and steak was $15.95. The lobster here was sweet, delicious, and local. The service here the best of the trip. (The Sundog may no longer be in business, I can't find any listing for it - Ed)

Other dinners were had at the Shore Café and Barnacle Billy’s in Oganquit. The Shore Café served up some great food and decent service. Barnacle Billy’s was a bit mediocre, good service, a bit overpriced but came with million dollar views of Perkins Cove.

Another, even better, place to eat is Jackie's Too, on the wharf at Perkin's Cove. Along with the fresh caught lobster, they have the best burgers we'd find in Maine.

Since we were there in mid October, the fall colors were spectacular and at their peak. It is not without justification that New England is the most popular place for leaf peepers to visit each fall...although if you time it right the color is slightly more spectacular in the Blue Ridge mountains down south.

The weather was chilly and some towns, such as Old Orchard Beach, were completely shut down due to summer being over.

To sum up, spectacular scenery, a very relaxing pace, beautiful countryside scenery, and delicious seafood is what Maine has in store for the wheelchair traveler.

-Darryl
Copyright 1999 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall Crawl in the Inland Empire


To be honest, we were originally going to head up the mountain to the Oktoberfest in Lake Arrowhead but when we found that this 'free' event would cost us a minimum of $60, we changed our mind.

Instead, we decided to buy a case of wine, sip a beer, and have a great dinner instead aided by a $50 gift certificate for Galleano Winery we'd been sitting on.


Watch the Video!



It's a wonderful day for it, mid 70's, mostly sunny weather (turns out a big thunderhead was sitting over Lake Arrowhead, so that's another plus for changing our minds) and easy traffic.


The time-travel portal that is the entrance to the Galleano ranch takes us from warehouses so big they can be seen from space into a century old farm wedged between them and Interstate 15.

There are a lot of cars here today at this normally sleepy little vineyard. Inside the tasting room, we find out why...a class reunion has descended on it. 



It's packed and Jorge, one of the employees, sets us up at a nearby butcher block table to taste.  I let Letty and Tim do most of the tasting and we end up with a mixed case plus a jug each of port and sherry to take home.



On the porch outside, we find a quiet little table to have a picnic of bread, cheese, and summer sausage from Usinger's in Milwaukee.



Next, one exit down the freeway, lies an industrial park in Norco that hosts Sons of Liberty Aleworks. This constitutional themed microbrewery serves delicious beer and ale in a dark, revolutionary-era setting. 

We sipped a few samples, with their special Oktoberfest brew my favorite, while Letty liked the chocolate porter.

It's their Oktoberfest celebration here...kind of a quiet affair (ok, a VERY quiet affair)...with a barbecue trailer out back cooking schnitzel and brats.



The constitution is more than a theme here...the owner will be very happy to hand you a pocket constitution when you check into Facebook and a local college hosts constitution educations classes on Tuesday nights.



Winding up this day across the IE, we end up at one of our favorite restaurants, Centro Basco, a great Basque restaurant in Chino. We're about a half hour early for dinner so we chill in the bar with some diet cokes and the bartender who chats us up until dinner time.



Dinner is a feast of soup, salad, bread, tongue, cheese, beans, fries, chicken cordon bleu, and ribeye steak.

Very sated, we head out and call it a day of old and new Inland Empire landmarks.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Cocktail Hour - Tequila Party!

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Last year, we went to a tequila tasting event at Rudy's, a Mexican restaurant and cantina in Monrovia, California.  It's held once a year and is an invitation only event where different tequila companies come and let you taste their wares.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
jlastras under CC-BY license

There were three tasting tables featuring four different brands - Hornitos, Tres Generaciones, Chincao, and Asombroso.  Each brand had three varieties - silver (or platino), reposado, and anejo.


See the Video - Part 1

Each distillery was serving only 100% agave tequila.  The blue agave plant is similar to a yucca and has a core that looks like a pineapple.  These cores, or "pinas," are roasted then crushed to get the juice.  The juice is fermented into mezcal which is distilled into tequila.


Some lower brands and generics can mix other spirits in the tequila - these are called mixtos.  Under Mexican law, only tequilas that use 100% agave  (or 100% puro de agave) can be labeled as such and only distilleries licensed under Mexican authorities can be make agave liquor that can be called "tequila."  These are laws that the Mexican goverment takes very seriously.  An agave distiller in Temecula, California...who makes a very good product by the way...cannot call his product "tequila,"  he cannot even call it "temequila" as he tried to do.


See the Video - Part 2


There are three main varieties of 100% pure agave tequila.  Silver is not required to be aged at all.  Reposado must be aged a minimum of six months by law and Anejo must be aged at least a year by law.  Oak barrels are preferred for aging.  Some tequilas also use old whiskey barrels and the very good Asombroso La Rosa uses old French Bourdeaux barrels (more on that later).

Aging has a big effect on taste but older is not always better.  There are seriously good silvers such as Partida and Asombroso.  Anejos are very good but can have a strong whiskey flavor to them.  Our favorite of all tequilas is the Asombroso La Rosa, which is a reposado.  It is silky smooth, has a strong agave flavor (one of my favorite flavors), and has a pink color due to its being aged in old French wine barrels.


See the Video - Part 3


To prepare for this event, we decide how to get there.  We are not going to be drinking 12 varieties of tequila and driving.  We walk to the event, which is a two mile trek and helps us get some exercise to offset the drinking.  Going home, we end up walking half-way and taking the bus the rest of the way...which you see at the end of Part 3 in the videos above.

To answer your questions...yes, it is all you can drink.  Be good though or you won't be invited back next year.  A large buffet is served with rib eye steaks, pork medallions, crab & shrimp enchiladas, and ceviche along with all the chips and salsa you can eat.  Soft drinks and water are also available.

Here are our conclusions...



Best of Show - Asombroso La Rosa, described above.  Even better than the Asombroso Anejo, which at $250 for a 750ML bottle is around five times the price.

Best Anejo - The Chinaco Anejo which is aged in old whiskey barrels for a minimum of 5 years.  Like drinking a good whiskey, it is smooth but with a bit of a bite.  The taste is unbelievable.

Best Silver - Asombroso.  Smooth and with a hint of buttercream (?) frosting flavor along with the agave.

Best Bargain - The Hornitos Reposado...with its florally, perfumy taste...and the Hornitos Anejo...which is aged in old Jack Daniels barrels.  Both are about half the price of premium tequilas like Patron or Cabo Wabo but more than hold their own against that competition.

Also in the room, but not open for tasting, was the Asombroso super anejo, aged 11 years and going for $1,100 per bottle. You can see it in the videos above.

-Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
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Friday, October 23, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP: North Carolina, 2000 - Part 2

In Part 1, we went to a NASCAR race in Charlotte and just missed getting robbed. Now we head for the hills...

(NOTE: This is a 'Classic Trip.' Prices and other details have probably changed in the intervening years.)


After the race and another night, we caught the train to Washington, DC (which will be covered in another trip report) and took a week's break there before returning to Charlotte.

Now, we have 8 more days, no plans, no reservations, nothing in mind but we do have a rental car for the duration. We check in to a La Quinta Inn and press on.


We pull out a map and look for somewhere to go. We see that the town of Hickory is within a couple of hours drive so off we go.


The Blue Ridge Moutains Spectacular Fall Color


Being October, the leaves are putting on a show and what a show it was. The hills and mountains were literally ablase with color. Vibrants yellows, flaming reds, glowing oranges. A SoCal boy like me never sees anything like this. We were extremely lucky to hit right at the peak of color (we've been back since and have not been able to time it just right as we did on this trip).


Murphy's Mill, North Carolina


On top of the fall color, the countryside scenery is straight out of Norman Rockwell or Mayberry...which of course is set in North Carolina to begin with. Thousands of little country roads criss cross the state with breathtaking views around every corner. Heading up to Hickory, we round a bend and are hit with a view straight off of the cover of the Saturday Evening Review, Murphy's Mill.


We pull off to take a look at this historic grist mill. We later learn that the state is dotted with such mills. The banks of the placid mill pond with it's rushing waterfall are too much to resist picnicking at.


The General Store at Murphy's Mill


No lunch? No problem, turning around we see this pleasant little country store across the street with all the supplies we need.


At this point, may I just say that the people in the state are also top-notch. You hear about Southern Hospitality but it's something else to experience it first hand. The people here are very friendly and are a pleasure to deal with.


Arriving at Hickory near dinner time, we find another charming little Mayberry-like town that the state is full of. Now Mayberry is, of course, an unobtainable fiction and all towns have problems. But the towns we've seen are beautiful examples of small town America populated by some very friendly folks.


We pull in for dinner at the Hickory Station, a nice dinner and steak house set in the restored railroad depot. As my wife dines on some savory shrimp, Tim on a nice juicy burger, and me on a tender rib-eye, we enjoy the wonderful view of the twinkling lights of downtown and the hills beyond. After dinner, the host invites us into the kitchen to meet the chef and after a nice chat we head on back to Charlotte.


The next day, we head over to the hometown of Elizabeth Dole, Salisbury. Here, we ride on the historic restored steam train at the railroad museum. The coal fired locomotive gives us a clue as to why it's not used as a fuel on modern trains anymore. Our skin, hair, and even teeth are filled with a fine, gritty soot as the smoke from the burning coal settles over the entire train.


The town offers a self guided tour of its magnificent old homes, some dating back to the 17th century. We marvel at these grand old buildings and head back for another night in the big city.


No, it's not Lake Tillery but another beautiful lake, Lake Lure.


For our last day in Charlotte, we head over to nearby Morrow Mountain State Park and Lake Tillery. We rent a rowboat at the bargain rate of $2.50 an hour a take a leisurely cruise to the other side of the lake, watching the fall leaves drift down to the surface and the snapping turtles drift up. A wheelchair accessible platform hovers over a prime fishing spot on the lake. A few bucks for a license and a cheap rod and reel from Wal-Mart is all that's needed to dip a line here (licenses are free for disabled persons).


The Pinebrae Bed and Breakfast


For a change of pace, we head to the hills for the rest of our trip. Our home is now the beautiful Pinebrae Bed and Breakfast just outside another charming North Carolina town, Rutherfordton. We arrive at 9:00pm hungry. After checking in and unpacking, we head into town to see what's for dinner. Not much at that time of night.


The only place open (and for only a few minutes more) is a barbecue place just outside of town on the road to nearby Spindale. I'm sorry to say that North Carolina barbecue and me just don't get along...just way to vinegary. The food was atrocious but luckily, it's the worst we would have to endure.


The Pinebrae is a antebellum style mansion situated on 15 acres of prime western North Carolina countryside with woods to wander through, great expanses of lawn, and many wild furry visitors popping through.


The owners, Alan and Charlotte, tell us it used to be a home for troubled youths back in the depression years. Now it's a beautiful home with four guest rooms for travelers. And fellow travelers here tend to be nice and quiet since most of their guests are visiting doctors working at the hospital down the road.


This waterfall is not on any map, this is where our hosts led us to.


A great home cooked breakfast awaits everybody each morning and guests eat at a common great table in the massive dining room with Alan holding court leading the conversation. He also tells us of the sites nearby, off the beaten path, that lead to spectacular waterfalls and mountaintop views. This luxurious and homey retreat costs us a grand total of $69 a night including breakfast.


A country lane near Rutherfordton


Travelling through the countryside towards nearby Asheville, we stop at roadside stands to pick up home made jams, jellies, and preserves to take back with us.


We travel over to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hike up to the top of Clingman's Dome, the second highest point in the state and the highest point of neighboring Tennessee (the state line bisects the peak).


If you can make it, here is the lookout tower that awaits you at the top of Clingman's Dome


A note here for wheelchair users: although there is a smooth, paved path leading up from the parking lot to the top of the lookout tower with no steps whatsoever, the trail is very steep. A strong power chair with lots of traction and a full charge will probably make it. Be sure to bring a very strong pusher or be in extremely good physical shape if you attempt this in a manual chair. I pushed my son up to the top in his manual chair and was having some very serious doubts as to if I would make it to the end of this half-mile trail without suffering a coronary. It is exceedingly difficult for a manual chair and should be attempted with caution...remember, even if you do make it up, you have to negotiate that very steep downhill slope with a chair that wants nothing more than to break loose and make a mad dash for the fall line.


We did make it after much effort and the view into neighboring Tennessee is astonishing. After a hair-raising walk 'n roll back down to the parking lot, we head over to Dillsborough to board the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad.


The scenery of the Smokey Mountains is up close from the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad.


Here, we board a wheelchair accessible coach - with an onboard accessible restroom also - and take a 2 hour ride up the Tuckaseegee River and marvel at the countryside views of tobacco farms, villages, and the river itself. Just before a tunnel, we are treated to the spot where Hollywood created that fantastic train wreck scene from the Harrison Ford movie, "The Fugitive", complete with the destroyed locomotive and prisoner transport buses.


The train makes it back to Dillsborough at 6:00pm and after browsing through the few shops still open at that time, we have dinner at the unpretentious Dillsborough Steak and Seafood house for a delicious dinner before heading back over to Rutherfordton.


We spend our last full day here shopping for souvenirs in town and taking one last drive through the countryside. The next day, after having one last hot southern breakfast we say goodbye to our hosts and take that 2 hour drive back to Charlotte for the most regretable part of our trip...going home.


-Darryl
Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 19, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP: North Carolina, 2000 - Part 1

 




(NOTE: This is a 'Classic Trip.' Prices and other details have probably changed in the intervening years.)


Over the course of the years we've been to a lot of nice places. Sometimes really nice places. At the end of each trip though, we were always ready to call it a day and retreat to home sweet home. Out of all the places we've been, none have beckoned us beyond a visit except for one. North Carolina was a place I hated to leave and actually enticed us to try to relocate.


It didn't happen. Oh we tried, I even put in for a transfer to Raleigh, but it just wasn't meant to be at the time although we still hope for the right circumstances to allow us to make the move.


I wasn't expecting it to be that good. In fact, I'd never given the Tar Heel state a second thought until one day we were at my inlaws house, knockin' a few back while we were watching a stock car race on TNN. A commercial came on from the North Carolina tourism board with an offer to call an 800 number for a free visitor's brochure. What made me make the call? I don't know, maybe in the heat of the race (we're big race fans by the way) I thought it'd be cool to see a race at one of those good ole boy tracks down south.


Well the brochure arrived and the timing was right. There was a fall race at Charlotte and we could get dirt cheap tickets. We even found an open room at the Motel 6 nearby (as race fans could tell you, a cheap room during a race weekend is an extremely rare thing...try getting one at Indianapolis during Memorial Day weekend). This would allow us to see the race and then give us 10 days afterward to explore.


Flying to Charlotte, we took US Air which is about the only choice you have since they have 90% of the gates locked up there. It was a great flight and we had the bonus of several celebrities on the plane with us like Jeff Conaway, Don Knotts, and some we recognized but didn't know their names like the guy who played Kevin's older brother on the Wonder Years.

It was a fun flight (It's Jason Hervey - Ed).


Arriving at the airport, US Air have their sponsored car with driver Ted Musgrave waiting to greet arriving passengers. To those of you who wonder why it's a big deal, in Charlotte a big race weekend is comparable to Super Bowl weekend. Anyway, we did the meet and greet with Musgrave who was a superb gentleman and even put our son Tim in the driver's seat of his Winston Cup racer. All in all a wonderful way to start the trip.


We caught a taxi to our motel, which was just your basic Motel 6. Upon checking in, a young man came in behind us at the lobby and held the door for us as we went to our room. 10 minutes later, reality came down on us as the manager who checked us in came to our room and asked us if we remembered what that man looked like because right after we walked out he robbed them!


Luckily, no one was hurt. He just took the money and was actually polite about it. We gave our statement to the police and went on with our trip. We were a little shaken up, but that was the first and last bad thing to happen on our trip.


The motel soon turned into race central and was full of fans.  Motel 6, though basic, is pretty advanced when it comes to accessibility with a roll-in shower and two double beds.  Nowadays, I'd look for something a little more comfortable but back then, it was available and cheap.




We soon realized that Charlotte has one thing in common with Southern California...you need a car. God must have been smiling on us because after calling several agencies, we must have got the last available car in North Carolina at Enterprise Rent a Car.




The next day we drove over to the speedway for the race. Charlotte Motor Speedway is a marvelous place to watch a race. We had great wheelchair accessible seats in turn one and could see all the action easily. It was also quite warm, pleasantly so, we sat in our shorts and t-shirts soaking up the sun enjoying some great NASCAR Winston Cup action.


Stay tuned for Part 2 where we head to the hills of Western North Carolina...


-Darryl
Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 18, 2015

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Redrum



...redrum...RedRuM...REDRUM...

OK, little Danny Torrance...calm down. It's not murder to make one of these and they taste oh.so.good.

Watch The Video!

This week on the Cocktail Hour it's my Redrum, which is...not murder...but a red rum drink.

Here is the recipe...

INGREDIENTS (two drinks):

3 oz. dark rum
1 oz. Grand Marnier or orange liquer
juice of one lime
splash of grenadine
4 oz. cranberry cocktail

Put all ingredients into cocktail shaker 1/2 filled with ice, mix, and strain into two highball glasses filled with ice.




Cheers!

-Darryl

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Baltimore-DC-Baseball Nexxus...the trip index


Here's the index to all our recent posts from Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Baltimore



Part 1 - Getting through the airport, onto transit, and to our hotel was a bit of a pain in the rear. Read about it here...Arriving in Charm City.



Part 2 - Soaking in all the history Baltimore's public transit can provide for us...Chasing History in Baltimore.



Part 3 - Game Day in Baltimore as we visit #24 on our list of stadiums...Game Day in Charm City.



Part 4 - Leaving is almost as hard as arriving...Riding the Rails to Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.



Part 1 - A day long, non-stop journey to sample some of the city's monuments and museums...A Monumental Journey Across Washington, D.C.



Part 2 - Now it's time to visit #25 on our list, a very fun and festive Nationals Park...Game Day in Washington, D.C.

...and, of course, two more accessible stadium reviews for you on Fields of Dreams.



Oriole Park at Camden Yards



Nationals Park

Darryl

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.


I have to confess. As an Angels fan, I have a hard time warming up to the Nationals. Mostly, this stems from when Frank Robinson was manager of the then Expos (who moved to DC and changed their name). Robinson knew how, and would take every opportunity, to push Angels' manager Mike Scioscia's buttons. 

That's the past, I need to put it behind me because a game at Nationals Park is one of the greatest events in baseball.

Moving from Montreal to our nation's capital, the now Nationals played in an old RFK stadium until this park was completed and opened in 2008. The major history of the nationals goes back to Canada as the Alou's both played and managed here. They played in the flawed Olympic Stadium until moving here.   Major League Baseball seriously considered folding the team until the deal for the move was made.



These days, superstars like Matt Scherzer, Bryce Harper, and Jayson Werth call this park their office.

Here are the stats:


Opened: 2008
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
Construction cost: $110 million
Capacity: 45,971
Field dimensions: Left field - 337 ft; Left center - 377 ft; center field - 402 ft; right center - 370 ft; right field - 335 ft.
Home team: Washington Nationals (National League - MLB) 2008 - present
Events attended: 1 game

Although there is loads of parking here in surrounding lots, the completely accessible DC Metro drops you off near the left field gate via the Navy Yard station.

Ticketing is problematic when calling 888-632-6287 where you are directed to go to Ticketmaster. If you do go to their website and are a Federal Employee, however (or have a friend willing to help you who is)...this being Washington, DC...you can pick up a sweet 30% discount on seats, which come with a $10 voucher for food or souvenirs, and be treated like a king. Go to Nationals.com when single tickets are on sale (during the season) to take advantage of this and other special deals.


Accessible seating is available throughout the stadium at all levels. Pricing for tickets is a bit more than other stadiums, such as nearby Baltimore, and season ticket holders lock out the seats behind home plate on the field level.


Beer selection is vast but is around $2 more than average. The regular hot dog is atrocious but the kosher dog is very tasty.

Some things that are unique to Nationals Park...


The president's race where people wearing giant rubber heads that look like some of our presidents race around the warning track.


Soft (and delicious) pretzels shaped like the team's logo which somehow reminds me of the Walgreen's logo.


An area beyond left field called the Fairgrounds that serves as a large, communal tailgate party before and after the game.

The concourses are open so you'll not have to miss the game while you go out for another beer.

We're calling in number four in our list of stadiums for now, just edging out nearby Camden Yards in Baltimore.


The friendly staff, fans, and festive atmosphere make this a great place to take in a game.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserve

Photos by Letty Musick\
Copyright 2015 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 12, 2015

Game Day in Washington, DC


It's finally time to do what we came to this town to do.  Oh, all the museums, monuments, and historic sites are nice, but we came to see some baseball.  Tonight will mark the 25th team (and their stadium) we can check off on our list in our goal to see all 30 major league stadiums.

But first, let's talk about food...


So far, we've not been real impressed with the capital culinary options. So much so that I can find no pictures of food from our time here.The only decent food we've have is breakfast at a place called the Uptown Cafe near our hotel in NoMa.  We had another, OK, breakfast at the Constitution Cafe which serves as the cafeteria for one of the government buildings next to our hotel.



Watch the Video!



The most memorable lunch we had was not because of the food.  My first trip to Washington, D.C., was 41 years ago when I went on an eighth grade field trip there. We spent the week, with a couple of chaperones, at the Hotel Harrington.

It's lunch time and we happen upon the old hotel, which is celebrating it's 100th year here.


The lobby coffee shop makes a reasonable, decent lunch so we step in for a bite. While the food can be described as adequate, the service is remarkably friendly here.


The host tells us these days, it's mostly European tourists staying there because it's the cheapest option for a clean hotel in the middle of the city. Then he points to a nearby table of French travelers to make his point.


Hunger sated, we return to the hotel to rest up for the night's game.




It takes two rides on the Metro to reach Nationals Park, situated near the Potomac on land being redeveloped out of the Navy Yard. A one block stroll leads you to the left field gates, past a large, open area surrounded by old shipping containers called the Fairgrounds or Bullpen, depending on what sign you're looking at.


It's basically a large, outdoor bar with bands playing on one end, corn hole being played on the other, and drinks served in the middle...a large, permanent tailgate party if you will.  


For now, we'll continue on and go into the stadium where we see lightning bolts coming out of the clouds nearby.




We find our seats by first base readily when an announcement comes over the PA system, "attention fans. Severe weather is headed this way. Take shelter in the concourse. Do not enter the seating bowl." Our seats are just under the overhang of the second deck so we're allowed to stay there and watch the light show coming out of the sky. We are wondering if we will see a game tonight, though.


About a half hour later, it had been awhile since we saw any lightning bolts or heard thunder. The ushers take down their ropes and the fans are allowed to find their seats. The tarp is removed from the field and the pre-game activities begin.




We will see baseball tonight.


The Nats are hosting the Atlanta Braves.  It starts out bad for Atlanta and only gets worse from there. In the meantime, we sample the food and beer. Good kosher dogs, one of the worst regular hot dogs I've ever experienced at a ballpark, decent popcorn, and a nice but expensive beer selection.



The ushers here are fantastic and the view spectacular from our seats.  It's a very comfortable place to watch a ball game.

In the end, even though only one ball left the yard, the Nationals absolutely crushed the Braves by a final score of 15 to 1.



The fans are happy. They are literally dancing in the streets after that victory.

Sensing that the subway would be packed very tight right now, I suggest to Letty and Tim that we check out that tailgate area, the Fairgrounds, before we leave.



There's a light crowd and security checking IDs at the gate to make sure we're over 21 but inside (free admission) it's still party time. 



A cover band plays on the stage, people dancing and mingling, and the beer is cold and cheap.  It's a great way to end the day at this very festive ballpark before we catch the last train back to the hotel.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Pictures by Letty Musick
Copyright 2015 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Monumental Journey Across Washington, D.C.


Tony Arceo shouldn't have even been there that summer morning between my 7th and 8th grade years. A young robber stole a rifle at a pawn shop in neighboring Baldwin Park. The clerk managed to set off a silent alarm and Officer Arceo, from El Monte Police Department, gathered with the other officers outside, responding to a request for help from another police department.

The robber came out, guns blazing, hit Officer Arceo, who was immediately killed. Other officers returned fire, killing the suspect.

Officer Arceo was the first police officer killed in the line of duty in the department's history.



Today, there is a park named in his honor across the street from El Monte High School.

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We're here at the Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial in Washington, D.C., looking for Officer Arceo's name. It doesn't help matters that I first think his last name is "Arcero" and that I don't know that Tony was his middle name. He's listed under "Manuel" but we eventually find him in the locator book located at the end of the memorial where slips of paper and pencils are provided.



It takes us a few minutes to pick out his name from the thousands that are engraved here but we do find it and Letty takes a rubbing of it with the slip of paper.

Sitting directly over the Metro stop where we exited, this is our first stop on a day full of monument and museum touring here in the nation's capital.

We've been to DC before and it's been exhausting. There is so much to see and do here, you can go nonstop for a week without making much more than a dent on the surface. This time, we've set aside one day for monument and museum hopping, trying to see new things that we haven't seen before.

That means we'll try to avoid the stuff we've already seen...no Capitol Building, White House, Natural History Museum, Washington Monument, and more...but there will be a couple of revisits along the way.

A colleague at work suggests the Spy Museum is a must so we trundle up the street to see that.



It seems more like an amusement park attraction than a museum. A lot of stuff here is from the world of fantasy, especially from the works of Ian Fleming.  A lot of movie props from the 007 series are on display here. Cars from the movies, costumes, and other props.



There are some interesting real life spy items on display here like poison tipped umbrellas, invisible ink, tiny cameras, and listening devices.  I'm not sure is justifies the over $20 admission to get in, though. They also won't let us record video so it's on to other interesting DC sights.


A short walk away, we cross the Capitol Mall which is undergoing a massive renovation and is a giant construction zone. This displeases my wife but we continue on.



The next stop is the world's most popular museum, the National Air and Space Museum. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, this one is a rerun for us, too, but it's always a worthwhile stop.



Tim was only a little beyond being a toddler last time we were here so it's nice to show him such iconic craft as the Spirit of St. Louis and the Wright Brothers Flyer.



They're also building a new exhibit in the lobby where a barely acknowledged space capsule that carried Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in the Apollo 11 mission sits almost unnoticed in the corner.


Next up is another rerun, Ford's Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was shot.  It's different than two decades ago. The basement museum has been completely redone to the point that I can't find anything that used to be there. Not sure that's an improvement.

You also need a ticket to get in, now. These are free and available at the counter. I don't know what good they do since we were there at the height of the tourist season and after getting them were told to go right in.


You can see the blood-stained pillow that the president laid his head on as he breathed his last, though (see below).





The theater itself hasn't changed much, if at all, in the intervening years since our last visit. It's still a somber place to think of the history-changing pull of a trigger that happened up in that flag draped box.  Wheelchairs can't get past the last row in the auditorium but can still see the box from there.



Across the street sits the Petersen House where the mortally wounded president was taken to. You'll be glad to know that three years ago an elevator was installed allowed wheelchairs access to all areas of this part of the site.

First, we take in the room where officials drafted a letter to Andrew Johnson, preparing him to take the oath of office. Even if the president had somehow managed to survive, the damage to his brain would have been so extensive as to render him unable to continue in office.



Across the hall is the room where Mr. Lincoln expired.  We're told the bed is not the same one but the bedding and pillows are original.

The Metro takes us over to George Washington University where we plan to walk along the river back to the Lincoln Monument. There's another, extremely historic, site here that sits unmarked and unnoticed by most. It's massive, though.

Several large, curving apartment and office buildings sit on this parcel next to the Lincoln Center.  The name, Watergate, gave us a suffix that forever means corruption and cover-ups.



A small breakin here led to the larger cover-up of the crimes of people in the Nixon administration.  It would lead to that president's downfall and resignation, triggering one of the biggest crisis in our nation's history.

From the back of the property, it's a long hot walk along the river to the end of the Mall where the Lincoln Monument sits.  Hordes of tourists clamber over the marble steps of this tribute to our 16th president.



Elevators take us up to the statue hall but the best part is escaping the crowds by going back out and to the back porch of the building.

Pushing on, we come across the city's newest monument, this one in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It's supposed to be a chunk removed from a mountain (a 'mountain of despair') with Dr. King's image in relief on the front of it.



Some people here are saying it's not a good likeness. It commands a great view over the tidal basing, looking across to the Jefferson Memorial.

It's striking and a ranger is on hand to provide more background information on Dr. King and his life but I think we learned more about the man and his struggle at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  Of course, we had much more time there to soak it in.

The visitor's center, gift shop, and bathrooms here are also a great place to relax, charge your batteries, and get ready for the next part of our exploration.



Around the edge of the basin, on a sometimes treacherous path for the wheelchair, we come around to the massive Frankin Delano Roosevelt memorial that seems to stretch on forever.



Waterfalls commemorate the TVA, bas reliefs the depression, and the large statue of FDR...not in a wheelchair, by the way...are some of the highlights here.



At last, we come upon the Thomas Jefferson Memorial where a statue of the man looks longingly towards the White House.  We're spent so it's nice that this memorial lacks the crowds of the more popular Lincoln Memorial.



We read some of his writings engraved on the walls before calling it a day.  The DC Circulator bus picks us up out front and takes us to Union Station.

Dinner is here, expensive but not that memorable, then it's back on the Metro to chill and relax after this very long day of exploring this city.

Darryl
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