Written by Lee about one of his many solo trips into D.C. – Trace
If you didn’t see the last post, you missed the Eisenhower memorial, the Washington monument, the Vietnam Veteran’s memorial, and the Lincoln memorial. Slacker. Before I get started on this one, I am going to talk a little about the problems I encountered related to CoVid and just get that out of the way so it doesn’t keep popping up and ruining the vibe. Overall I had a great time and the experience was wonderful, but I kept tripping over the CoVid thing and it really annoyed me.
First, I want to point out that being somewhere in the “off season” is preferable to me personally because I would rather trade some of the experience for a lack of people. Actually, it’s the crowds that I don’t like. I know I always joke about not liking people, but it’s not individual people, it’s the plural. People are awful. They are loud and they never shut up and will walk right in front of you and generally just annoy the hell out of me. So I don’t mind if it’s a little chilly while I walk along the beach if there are no people to ruin it for me. And it’s super awesome if I don’t have to spend most of my life removing them from photos.
Anyway, the CoVid thing is different. I don’t like wearing a mask any more than anyone else, but I do it. And I don’t mind that there are reduced capacities at places, because you know, less people=good, to me. It’s the odd closures and complete lack of being able to plan that drives me crazy. Places that were open had a requirement for (free) timed entry tickets. That meant, I couldn’t just see the National Gallery of Art without booking a time slot in advance. That wasn’t such a big deal BUT, when I arrived some places had restrictions on what I could bring in. There were no public lockers available so if I didn’t research the items that were allowed in advance it was a problem. If you get a ticket to go into a museum, and when you get there they won’t let you bring in your camera bag, and there’s no locker, then you’re just done. You can’t get timed entry passes same day, and unless you have a place to stash that bag, you’re just out of luck. And this info is rarely in an easy to locate place or obvious on the website. The reason this bothers me so much is that the fix is easy and obvious. The front page of every website should have a simple box showing potential visitors anything they need to know for their visit. A nice big box outlined in red, with big red letters that say “DON’T BRING XXXXXXX. LOCKERS ARE NOT AVAILABLE”.
Here’s an example of what I mean. I went to visit Arlington National Cemetery, and prior to my visit I looked at their website. There was no information on the front page about anything related to restrictions. There is a COVID tab, though, so I checked that. I didn’t see anything that would create a problem for me to bring in my camera bag. So off I went. When I arrived, and went through security, I was told that because I had a small tripod in my bag, I could not enter. I asked for clarification and was told that USING the tripod was not the problem, HAVING it was. And of course, there are no lockers, so that was the end of my visit to Arlington, unless I was willing to throw away a $150 tripod. When I got home, I did a search of the entire website, and the word “tripod” ONLY shows up in articles from the past about specific special events where they prohibit a long list of things. So there is no published general prohibition on tripods, but I still got turned away and was not able to come in because I had one.
So the message here is that I feel visitors should do their due diligence, but the agencies that manage these places have an obligation to post the information clearly. Of course, these are all first world problems, I know that. But I do live in the first world. I’m not whining so much as saying if you have limited time and resources, do your homework, and be prepared, but understand that you might run into situations you were not prepared for. For example, I went back the next day without my tripod and was very sad to discover that the tomb of the unknowns was closed for construction. When I got home I did find that on the website, I just missed it.
Anyway, back to the National Mall. We left off at the Lincoln Memorial, and I made like 8 trips into DC and saw lots of stuff in all different orders and many things I went to multiple times. In fact, I think every time I went I drove a scooter or electric bike from the Capitol all the way down to the Lincoln memorial or the other way at least once. So I’m not suggesting that you follow my route, or anything like that. This is just how I am presenting this stuff.
On the south side of the west end of this area the first thing you come to after the Lincoln memorial is the Korean War Veteran’s memorial, my favorite.
The first time I saw this I was pretty knocked out by it, but it can be a little disappointing because some of the figures are hard to see because you can’t get close to them. They layout is a large skinny “V” formation of statue soldiers, and towards the rear where the V is widest, some of them are not very close to the walkway. On past visits at night teach figure was lit individually, which made for a very dramatic effect, but while I was there this time those lights were never on. Also the Pool of Remembrance was empty. It always bothers me when any public art that has a water feature doesn’t have the water, because it’s almost always an integral part of the design. The lack of water makes me feel like the art is abandoned, or neglected, irrelevant.
I find these statues to be really compelling as well. -Trace
From here, it’s a pretty short hop south to and across Independence Avenue (cross at West Basin Drive, there’s a crosswalk) and down towards the basin to my favorite, the Martin Luther King Junior memorial. It’s the only major memorial on the mall not dedicated to a former president! I really like how imposing it is.
At this point you can either jump onto West Basin Drive, or the walking/jogging path that runs right along the edge of the tidal basin. I went along the path, because there have been lots of movies and TV Shows filmed along that path due to the great background view as you curve along. And as I said before, the Washington Monument plays hide and seek everywhere you go.
One of the things I really like about the FDR memorial is how spread out and sprawling it is. The map above doesn’t really show you how big it is, but this one below does a better job. It’s really big. From the bathroom on the left to the bathroom on the right, “as the crow flies” is 1000 feet, but the walk is not “as the crow flies”. I would be that it’s easily twice or maybe even three times the length of that. 7.5 acres! It’s just wonderful, the way it’s laid out. Lots of turns and reveals. And there’s a lovely mini-memorial to Eleanor, but I think she should get her own full blown memorial.
Before I dump all the pictures, let me complain a bit. I know I went in the “off” season, and I know that right now there is a lot of maintenance going on because of the reduced crowds due to CoVid, but the water features of this memorial are absolutely integral, it is just packed with waterfalls and pools and fountains all of them full of symbolism and they are in my opinion more than half the meaning of the memorial. Without those things, the soundscape is ruined, the smell is gone, and the overall feeling is just missing. I actually think that if the water isn’t there, the entire thing should just be closed, it’s that bad. If you read the Wiki article about the memorial you will see how important the water is. But I did go anyway, and took pictures of things that weren’t water related.
This is my personal favorite memorial (the Jefferson Memorial in full cherry blossom bloom is my favorite). I was going to make a special trip down to D.C. just to see the FDR memorial again, but when I heard the water was missing I decided to pass. That truly is what makes it so special imho – Trace
Once I was finished with the FDR memorial, I rode my scooter back down to the path along the edge of the tidal basin towards my favorite memorial, the Jefferson Memorial. There is a point where you have to come up from the water’s edge to cross the bridge on Ohio Drive, but that gives you a great view of the memorial as you head that way.
And look! There’s the Washington Monument playing hide and seek again, with Jefferson.
It’s hard to see in the picture above, but the Jefferson Memorial is having some cleaning work done on the roof. Here’s a page from the NPS website explaining it, and if you go to the two links inside that article there is some pretty fascinating (to me anyway) info on what they’re doing, and why. For you nerds: LASERS!!! Even though they’re doing work on it and most of it is covered in scaffolding and plastic sheeting, it’s open, which made me happy, because I like Jefferson and really wanted to see him. It’s not the most photogenic memorial because there’s not a LOT to photograph, and not too many good angles, but I tried.
And that’s all the memorials and monuments that I saw. But there are TONS of other statues and memorials and other stuff sort of tucked and hidden all over the place on and off the Mall. There are a couple at the west end of the mall that I skipped, they’re just kind of everywhere. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. Next time we go I will go see a bunch of those. Great excuse to get a scooter! The WWII memorial will be in the next post, see you then!
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