Summer vacation sure is different as a parent.
This summer, I’m keeping my family’s tradition of visiting historical landmarks as far away from the ocean as possible. These usually included a crop tour of the Midwest with 700 WLW playing for hours.
I now like to call these trips “edu-vacations.” I contacted my oldest sister in Maryland to see if we could say with her for a few days.
With her blessing, I loaded up the car, packed a few bags and headed to our nation’s capital to spend a few days with Evan showing him around all the sights of what makes America, well, America.
Like traffic and crowded subways.
I’m aware that our nation’s beltway isn’t for the faint of heart behind the wheel. Yet, I’m one of those who gets antsy when West Main Street is at a slow crawl and curse Troy’s ill-timed traffic lights and increased congestion on the west side of town. So just imagine me in D.C. traffic for a few days. It wasn’t pretty.
Gripping the wheel all week has inflamed my carpal tunnel, but I digress.
I prepared for my son’s first trip to D.C. by checking out every book on the city at the library and stopping by the local AAA office. I tried to convince him to let us stop at Thomas Jefferson’s estate at Monticello and maybe swing by his neighbor James Monroe’s plantation afterwards.
My 12-year-old wasn’t interested. So I decided that I should just start at the beginning and made George and Martha Washington’s house our first stop.
I’m amazed at the transformation Mount Vernon has undergone in the last two decades. When I visited 20 years ago (gulp) with my parents, it was a worn-down, tired site with few features other than Washington’s tomb and amazing views of the Potomac River.
Today, it has a multi-million dollar visitor’s center with a great interactive museum to make General George come alive.
Oh, and it has a restaurant and a cafeteria complete with a Pizza Hut. Evan was impressed. It was a great way to kick off our first day of vacation. We took a short Metro ride to the Mall area, had dinner at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden and headed back to Maryland to stay. The sculptures were intriguing and the fountain was refreshing after a hot day of touring. It was also convenient to rinse the Metro off my hands. As we ate at the Pavilion Cafe, Evan said he thought D.C. would be a lot more scarier. I laughed and asked why.
“Oh, you know. Politicians everywhere!” The landscape is ripe for political jabs, even a 12-year-old rural kid from Ohio can come up with a good joke here.
Since I’ve been to D.C. multiple times, I let Evan map out the itinerary this go-around. His main list was to see Arlington Cemetery and the Natural History Museum and the International Spy Museum.
Yesterday, we crossed off the latter two stops. We saw the Hope Diamond. We saw the dinosaurs. We paid $30 for lunch (including splitting a Diet Coke). We then ventured off to the Air and Space Museum. We found WACO references, Amelia’s airplane and I may or may not have taken a small nap in the IMAX theater before heading to Chinatown.
The International Spy Museum is one place I had not visited since it is fairly new to the long list of places of interest. So while Evan was testing out his ninja skills, I sat and watched videos of how the CIA and FBI uncovered informants inside their own operations. My favorite part was the Cold War intelligence schemes and cheesy, yet effective, devices used to gather information.
Evan’s favorite part — the Bond Girls.
We ended our day with ice cream bought from a street vendor as we headed back to the Metro. I’ll give my 12-year-old some credit. He can read a Metro map better than his mother.
As our vacation comes to a close, it was fun seeing D.C. through a 12-year-old boy’s point of view. I’m sure he’ll remember the time his mother made him change his T-shirt outside of Mount Vernon because he was covered in BBQ sauce by the time we arrived.
I may just turn on 700 WLW on the way home to make it a full circle experience for the both of us.
“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. There’s no place like home.