So, I was supposed to leave for DC on a 5:50am flight on Saturday morning. I checked the status of the flight before I left the house at the ridiculous time of 3:45am. As I rolled into Nashville at about 4:30am, I got a phone call letting me know my flight was cancelled. LAME! So, I went to work, changed my pickup time for the car rental, and then actually did some work for a few hours. I took a 20 minute nap, and headed to the airport for my rescheduled (and significantly longer due to a layover in Chicago) flight at 8:55am. Apparently, low cloud cover all over the eastern half of the US was leading to delays on a large chunk of flights. As I waited for my late flight to Chicago, the gate next to mine departed directly for DC. It wasn't even booked completely. Thanks American Airlines... That's LAME! So, my flight to Chicago was 30 minutes late, and then the flight out of O'Hare was also late. I arrived in DC at 3:30 and finally got into my rental car at about 4:30. I made a beeline to the south end of the Yellow Line of the MetroRail system. I parked the car (for free, apparently most/all of the outlying parking lots are free on weekends. The Train ride to downtown DC was.... Interesting. A homeless guy called my a lying MFer after I said I had nothing to give him. A young group of African Muslim guys were all shaking hangs (one of them looked like Weezy... high and everything) and the very tall guy he was with started saying "Alhamdulillah" (Praise to Allah) when the train arrived at the capital stop where many were getting off of the train. He also said "F white people, F You" several times. Pretty crazy!
I got off of the train at the Capital South stop, and headed toward the Capital Building. Unfortunately, by the time I was there, many of the tourist areas were closing. I had an 11:20am tour of the capital, but obviously had missed that. Since many/most of the things I was interested in were closing, I decided to walk the mall and check everything out. I checked out the Capital, Supreme Court, and started to walk the Mall. What an amazing place! I walked by all of the Smithsonian museums, as well as the area that George Washington University was holding commencement ceremonies all weekend. I was great to see everyone walking around in there gowns and mortarboards. After walking the mall, I made my way to the various memorials on the western end of the mall. The first is the towering Washington Memorial. I've been to the similar Jefferson Davis memorial in Kentucky, but this thing is MASSIVE! Very, very impressive! I next came upon the fairly new World War II memorial. This was a neat memorial. It recognized the efforts of each state and territory that contributed to the war effort. The wall of stars also puts into perspective of the number of deaths from the war. Each star is equal to more than 100 deaths. Very impactful. After seeing this memorial, I headed for the Korean War memorial. This memorial was the most emotional to me. The memorial is a reflective wall that has been etched with faces and scenes from the war, plane missions, Korean villagers, and soldiers in there free time. Parallel to the wall is a statue group (platoon?) of soldiers in rain gear. The ground is planted to resemble what I believe is supposed to be swampy ground. The soldiers are wearing ponchos and their faces all heavy weary, tired expressions on them. It was very sobering, I can't quite explain why.
After seeing this memorial, I passed the Lincoln memorial. I didn't get very close, but took some pictures from the base. There were a ton of people at this memorial, loads more than at the Washington memorial. Apparently this is the last stop for many of the guided tours and there were a ton of buses here as I went by. After seeing Lincoln, I made my way to the Vietnam War Memorial. This is the extremely well known wall that lists all of the dead and MIA from Vietnam. There was a large group of people going through this memorial, so it was hard to stop and appreciate it. seeing the letters and pictures (and beer) left for the dead was touching.
I headed back east for a few blocks, and then made my way north toward the White House. WAY COOL! Nearly every block holds something really cool, so just walking around revealed tons of huge buildings that I had no idea I would see (Treasury Building, IRS, EPA). It was starting to get dark, and it looked like it might rain. I had walked a bit more than 5 miles already, and I hadn't eaten much all day, just a crappy chicken biscuit at 4:00am and a half back of trail mix throughout the day. I jumped back on the Metro train and went back to the car. I headed back North and ended up passing Afghan Restaurant in Alexandria. There appears to be a quite sizable Afghan population in DC, and this place has the most generic name. I had not looked into the reviews before going, but there was a hugely reprinted newspaper review from 1994 on the wall. The critic raved about the nan bread, and the prices, but said much that the made was better from other restaurants but that the fact that it was so cheap made up for it. Prices have obviously gone up since 1994, but I really enjoyed my meal. I had Chicken Kubideh which I believe is ground chicken mixed with potatoes, vegetables and spices and then is grilled. It was served with a chopped tomato salad, a HUGE piece of whole wheat nan and an oddly spiced rice blend that I really liked. Everything was extremely tasty, but the kabob was amazing. Darkened in spots, crispy too, and tender were not charred. Wonderful! The kitchen was only taking to go orders and while I was waiting on my food all of the serving staff was changing into dresses. The banquet hall apparently hosts Afghan dancing on Saturday nights. A DJ quickly began placing music, and within a few minutes you could hear a bunch of people clapping and hollering, obviously having a bunch of fun. Check them out at http://www.afghanrestaurantva.com
I stopped and grabbed a cherry coke and a huge bottle of water and then returned to the hotel. It had begun raining just before I got to the restaurant, and it was absolutely pouring on the way to the hotel. The weather coupled with the road construction (everywhere in DC and Northern Virginia, from what I've seen) made for an exciting trip to Vienna. By the time I got to Vienna, my mouth was watering immensely due to the smell of the food. I checked into my hotel (http://www.viennawolftrapmotel.com/) and heading straight up to eat. I unloaded the rental car (A Kia Soul, DIG IT!), called Karen, and then chilled out. I didn't go to sleep until about midnight, but slept extremely well.
See more pictures here: http://s290.photobucket.com/albums/ll256/sandalscout/DC%202011/Saturday%20-%20Day%201/