Saturday, May 31, 2008

DC - a Powerful Place

I recently returned from a successful trip to Washington DC as a chaperone for an eighth grade class trip. Despite my initial thoughts about how I may decide to throw some of the louder ones off of the Washington Monument or push them in front of a bus I actually made it through the trip pretty well. It was one of those regimented, over scheduled, jog through the sites to say you did it kind of trips - the ones that leave you wondering where you actually went by the time you get home and look at the pictures. We left on a Saturday morning at 3:15 AM and returned back on the following Saturday at 1:14 AM.

If you looked fast, you saw basically everything there was to see in Washington DC, and parts of Virginia and Maryland. If, like me, you like to actually READ the placards on the displays and study the fine detail in objects then you would either have to come back on your own or miss the bus. This was the one hour and twenty-five minutes at the Air and Space Museum, one hour and thirty minutes (lunch included in that time) at the Natural History Museum, jog up the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial (at night no less - the pictures suck as we didn't have tripods), the blitzkrieg tour of Gettysburg, etc. Did you get a picture of the Iwo Jima memorial? No, my flash wasn't charged before we had to run back to the bus. The downside of course was the incredible rush to get from place to place without spending any time to really enjoy them while we were there. The upside is that we can say, "been there, sprinted through that" about most of the things in the area. Let's see, my list shows that we saw:
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • Museum of Natural History
  • Newseum
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Jefferson Memorial
  • FDR Memorial
  • Washington Monument
  • White House tour
  • Capitol Building guided tour
  • Gettysburg battlefield guided tour
  • Gettysburg visitor center and museum
  • Mount Vernon tour
  • Monticello tour
  • Vietnam Memorial
  • Korea Memorial
  • WWII Memorial
  • Busch Gardens (yes, a whole 6 hours there riding roller coasters!)
  • Water Park
  • Hauntings Tour
  • Colonial Williamsburg tour
  • Jamestown tour
  • Attended President Bush's speech at Arlington Natl Cemetery on Memorial Day (in the Amphitheater - had to get there at 8:00 AM)
  • Dinner / Dance cruise
  • Yorktown tour
  • National Archives
There may have been more; those are off the top of my head. Anyway, it was a bit strange being a "kid herder" (no, not the little goats). We had to make sure they didn't touch the walls or display items in Monticello, hit each other and be loud at the President's address at Arlington, fight about the time to go to sleep, shine laser pointers in people's faces on the bus (yes, they did that on the bus back to the airport - teachers, if you want names, call me) - all the stupid and sometimes evil things 14 year old kids do when they are awake.

Anyway, we made it back - and didn't leave anyone behind. We did have a few stragglers on a couple of occasions - mostly the parents if you can believe that. I guess the worst items were:
  • Hotel changed the keys from the credit card shaped magnetic ones to an RFID wristband lock during the day and we had to all get new keys.
  • One hotel's magnetic key lock failed and a person couldn't get some of their items out of the room and we got delayed by 30 minutes (plus the items will have to be shipped back).
  • Kids fighting with their roommates because many are irresponsible and won't go to sleep and insist on watching TV at all hours of the night.
  • A couple of kids got dehydrated on the dance cruise and caused a bit of a scare (but they are fine).
On the plus side, tour guides Richard (Bus 1) and Beth (the "cool" bus) did an excellent job with the limited amount of time we were able to spend at each venue, contributing their unique blends of solid historical information and light humor to keep the kids engaged and paying attention (as much as that is possible). The teachers (Bob, Jacey, Shoba, and Pam) did a good job of organizing and keeping the chaos to a minimum although I think maybe a bit more communication with the chaperones so that we can help more would be an improvement for next time. Looks like I'll need to go again in two years when my other kid is in 8th grade.

Here's the President's address at Arlington:

Here's the WWII Memorial:

Here's the Washington Monument shot from the side of the Jefferson Memorial:

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