I enjoyed a bed for the first time in days and woke up to a pretty view of the country side. Amtrak first class was quite a change to what I had gotten used to the nights before. Although it was nice on the train, I never felt like I belonged. I was easily half the age of everyone onboard and probably the only one who hadn't been married for 20 years. But I did enjoy a couple of good meals and took plenty of naps.
When I arrived in D.C. at 11pm I headed into the terminal. It was already late and I had no idea where I was going to for sleep the night. I started to exit the terminal when I noticed the statues and pretty, high ceiling.
I headed out and checked out a neighborhood near the station. I don't think I will ever get sick of those rows of houses. I went around a corner and saw the tip of the Capitol Building sticking out of the trees.
Then, I made my way over to the Capitol Building. When I arrived I couldn't stop staring. The building I had seen so many times in movies and history books was right in front of me. I could talk all night about the feeling but without being there it's really hard to explain. I ended up standing and staring at the Capitol till almost 3 am. I chatted with the police a few times because they were curious why I was just staring. I eventually started freezing my ass off and headed toward the Washington Monument.
The walk from the Capitol in the cold felt like a lifetime as the monument crept closer and closer. The closer I got the more shocked I was by the size of it. I arrived and circled the monument in awe. The thought of sleeping on a bench nearby crossed my mind but I decided that this night I would not sleep, at least not intentionally.
I crossed a street nearing the pool and I woke up about 30 minutes later crashed against something. I looked around and it was quite a bit brighter now. By the time I stumbled halfway down the pool, the sun was beginning to rise. With a good amount of distance to go I decided to set down my house bag and run to the far end of the pool to catch the sunrise in time. I underestimated the size of the pool and needed a longer lens. I shot a round of images but then ran back to retrieve my bag. I got back to my spot after a newfound burst of energy just in time and captured some beautiful images at sunrise.
Behind me stood the Lincoln Memorial. Behind was another one of those buildings like the Capitol building. I saw the building from far out so I knew which direction the pool was. At this point I had seen Lincoln, but I hadn't looked him in the face; I was oddly afraid to.
By the time I was done photographing the memorial building from the outside, and was ready to face Lincoln, the sun was just about up.
I shot a few series of images walking up the steps. I reached Lincoln and he was just as big as I would have guessed, but I was still in awe at how big of a piece of history this place was. I sat on the top step and fell asleep for a good 30 minutes under the single stream of sunlight available. I moved after waking to the base of the memorial and fell asleep for another hour or so. I woke up to someone throwing some change at me and moved on to the next destination, the Arlington National Cemetery.
The cemetery was probably the only thing I saw which did not surprise me. I knew about the sheer number of graves at this cemetery and it's history. I walked through and then onto the US Marine Corps War Memorial.
There was so much to this memorial. The images I have seen before of it were always silhouettes; I had never seen the expressions on the men's faces. They made me feel honored and proud to live in the United States. I sat once again and stared for a bit before moving on.
I walked straight from there to the Vietnam Memorial, photographed, awed and took the scene in once again. Afterward, I headed directly to the White House.
The White House was nothing like I expected. It was hidden and the tourists were kept caged far away like animals. It also wasn't close to the Capitol building in any way. It didn't have that "Oh my god, that's the White House" effect on me. More like, "Eh, oh hey Obama."
I checked out the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and enjoyed the large stuffed animals. I know I fell asleep during one of the informational movies for a bit. Tired and sleep deprived, I made it back to the train station to escape the night to Philadelphia.