Sunday, April 28, 2013

Washington D.C. - Day # 10 - Mt. Vernon and Alexandria

Our original intent for Saturday was to get an early start to Mt. Vernon, beat the crowds, and get home early, but then lady serendipity knocked at our proverbial door Friday afternoon when I got a call from my college friend, John Dickerson.  Way back in late September we spent a few days on his property in northwest Arkansas while on our way to Campbellsville, KY to work at Amazon.  

He had messaged me a few weeks before saying he, Cathy and Dakota were going to be in D.C. this weekend, but at that time I thought we would be long gone.....that was before I got sick in Huntington, WV and our travels were delayed a week.  Anyway, he wants too know if we want to get together for dinner Saturday, and I answer "YES!", of course!  So, instead of leaving around 8 am, we decided to leave at 11:00 to spend the afternoon at Mt. Vernon then drive 9 miles up to Alexandria to meet the Dickerson's in old town Alexandria for dinner.

Around 9:30 I got a call from the small engine place over in College Park that I took my Honda 1000 watt generator to for repairs advising it was ready for pickup......perfect!  Originally they didn't think it would be ready until this Tuesday.....the day before we leave D.C. for Indianapolis. So, this works out great.....had we left at 8 am for Mt. Vernon I would have had to wait until Monday to retrieve the generator.  We have been using the big 7.5 kw on board generator first thing each morning to put a little juice back into the batteries before the sun gets high enough to start charging the batteries via the solar panels.  At 1/2 gallon of propane an hour it is much more expensive to operate than the Honda at 1/2 gallon per 4 hours of regular unleaded.  We have had the Honda around 7 years, and in that time it has performed flawlessly without even a hickup until last Sunday.  As it turns out it was a BIG hickup, and it needed a lot of TLC....about $287 worth of TLC.....the carburetor needed to be rebuilt, the spark plug replaced, oil changed, air filter replaced...etc., etc.  Like I've said's only money, and the Honda is an important part of our lifestyle.

Amazingly it took me close to an hour to make the 8 mile round trip drive to Precision Small Engine.....Greenbelt Road east bound was reduced from 3 lanes to 1 lane for road work that suddenly appeared overnight....there was nothing going on Friday night.  It took me over 30 minutes just to get to HWY 1.  Then on the way back there was a bad accident on HWY 1, which further delayed me.  I was having flashbacks to rush hour traffic in Southern California!

I did finally make it home around 10:40, and we were on our way to Mt. Vernon by 11:30......we headed south on the Interstate past Washington D.C. and exited to HWY 1 in Virginia around 12 only to find bumper to bumper traffic the last 6 miles to Mt. construction and no accident......just really bad traffic.  We finally arrived at the parking lot around 12:40.  Tickets for seniors (62+) to tour the mansion, and estate are $16/person.  When your ticket is issued it has a time stamped on it when you may get in line to go through the mansion.  The line itself was a 100 yards long just to enter the house.  Our start time was 1:20, but they were behind about 10 minutes due to the large number of people visiting Mt. Vernon on this beautiful, sunny day.

While we waited our turn to get in line we toured some of the out buildings such as green house, sleeping quarters for male and female slaves, etc.  Then it was our turn to get in took about 20 minutes to reach the house.  It was amazing to think that George and Martha Washington walked the corridors of this home, and the walkways around it over 250 years before.  It is hard not to have goose bumps as you literally walk through "history".

No photography, or videography is allowed inside the house, so no inside shots today.  The view above was called "The Bowling Green" by Washington.  He loved mowed grass, and landscaping.

The "Necessary"....aka: outhouse

The "Necessary" is an example of Washington's pioneering idea to centralize the collection of human waste and dispose of it in a way that did not contaminate the land, or water.  There were a number of these little houses scattered around the property.  They had "drawers" that could be pulled out so the contents could be properly disposed of.....yep, that's the job I'd like to have!

The view of the Potomac from the "back porch"

Looking back toward the house from the bluff overlooking the river

Washington loved Mt. Vernon, but the call of duty to his new country was great and he spent little time there from the late 1760's until he finished his second term as President in 1797.  He left government in the picture of robust health at age 65.  He and Martha spent 2 years enjoying Mt. Vernon until December 12, 1799 when he spent a number of hours out in bad weather ranging from sleet to rain, caught a cold, and died of a throat infection 2 days later.  No doubt the antibiotics we take for granted today would have saved his life then.  It really is not possible to relate in this small space his extensive part in the history of the birth of our nation.  He was so well respected by people in the original 13 states that we was elected twice unanimously to the Presidency.  On site there is a large museum dedicated to his history from a young lad to his death.  We could have spent most of the day just in the museum.  

Over the years of Washington's life the estate at Mt. Vernon grew to some 8,000 acres.  He owned property all over the east coast, and is said to have owned close to 53,000 acres in total....mostly farming the time of his death.  Those who have preserved his estate have reconstructed, on site, the 16 sided barn Washington designed to speed up the processing of harvested wheat.  

The barn was a two story affair.  It was designed so that freshly harvested wheat could be laid on the latticed flooring (see below) and then horses would walk around the circle on the wheat separating the wheat berries from the stalk and chaff.  The wheat berries would drop through the lattice to the solid wood floor below and then be gathered by workers.  This design significantly sped up the processing of the grain, and enabled him to get his flour to market more quickly.  The reason for the 16 sides was to eliminate corners making it easier for the horses to walk in a continuous circle.

Around 4 we had absorbed as much history as we were able and decided to head back up to Alexandria for the rest of the afternoon.  Just as we got to the car John called saying we should meet at 6 pm at Murphy's Irish Pub at 713 King Street in Alexandria.  We arrived in Alexandria around 4:15 and spent the next 1.5 hours walking around the old town, which is quite lovely, and down to the riverfront.  In the picture above you can see the proximity of Alexandria to the Capitol.....not that many miles distant.  This view is looking straight north along the Potomac.

Left to right: Dakota, John, me and Cathy....TLE is taking the picture

We met John, Cathy and Dakota precisely at 6 at Murphy's, and enjoyed great conversation, and food.  As I have said often, this journey has become more about the people we have met, and spent time with along the way than about what we see.  Don't get me wrong......we are thoroughly enjoying all that we are seeing, but it is the people who are the most memorable, and extraordinary part of this journey.  Thank you John, Cathy and Dakota for taking time out of your busy weekend to spend time with us!

Thanks for stopping by!

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