A presidential ride along Pennsylvania Ave
“If you are carrying any food or drink, throw them in the trash can over there”. Such was the welcome to the United States Capitol, the ultimate place to visit when in Washington DC. So we emptied our bags begrudgingly, but the guided tour (which was free of charge!) around the old Senate Chamber, Hall of Columns and the National Statuary Hall made it a small price to pay. The new Visitors’ Centre has opened up the Capitol to the general public as never before. And as we made our way through the Capitol chambers, I caught sight of a small plaque on the floor that revealed the spot where John Quincy Adams (6th President of the US) had had his desk when
he was a Representative in Congress. Why should this little plaque have tweaked my interest? Well, his ancestors hailed from the tiny hamlet of Achurch, of some 20 houses, just a few miles from where I live in the UK (click here), a historical fact that gives this diminutive community disproportionate importance in world history. But fascinating nevertheless.
Washington is a monumental city. There is a plethora of memorials, state buildings, museums and beautiful open spaces to discover, but in this city of national government, there are always threats to national security, real or unreal. In the few days we were there, an internet messaging board put out that the Capitol was occupied by terrorists, and hostages had been taken, and all this was supported by video-clips and photos. It was quickly revealed that it was a hoax, but it had been expertly staged. But not so the threat by a Boston man who had designed a remote-controlled model plane to deliver high explosives to the Capitol, to give a well-deserved ‘jolt’ to the enemies of Allah (click here). This was not a hoax, but had fortunately been nipped in the bud at a very early stage.
A fascinating piece of entertainment throughout our four days in Washington were the ‘abseilers’ on the Washington Monument. The east
coast of the US had suffered an earthquake, and worrying cracks had appeared in the monument, resulting in its closure till safety-checks had been carried out. So enthralling was the drama that TV crews were on permanent stand-by to film the proceedings.
The Capital Bikeshare scheme was just too tempting to ignore. “One day membership only $5” is what I read, but the small print (which I ignored completely) said something quite different! You
can tell what an urban bikeshare virgin I was! When I checked the credit card statement a few days later, I’d been charged a whopping $35 for my 5 hours of fun. But, without question, it was a lot of fun, and worth it. I would recommend it to anyone, but remember swap your bike every 30 minutes to avoid the charges!
Even better was the tandem ride along Pennsylvania Ave, with Jenny ‘wowing’ with delight on the back. Unbelievably, the cycle lanes run up the middle of the Pennsylvania Avenue, and as we proceeded from the White House towards Capitol Hill, we were not only privileged with the perfect view of the Capitol ahead of us, but we could wave ‘presidentially’ at the excited crowds lining both sides of the street as we progressed statesman-like on our ‘limousine-bike’. Can you imagine it?………;0)
We learned so much more about life in the capital (and in the US in general) from a former student of ours who is currently pursuing an accelerated Masters at Georgetown University. Quite a change from a small village environment in the UK!