Friday, November 16, 2007

Veterans Day Weekend In Washington DC

Not really ready to test my knee on the ice just yet, I've been delaying getting back out into the mountains in favor of more treadmill and weights for rehab. It's a big difference between walking on tacky ground and slick ice. I'd feel foolish if I got hurt because I was in a rush to get out. Of course this is also a psychological barrier that everyone goes through, is it ready? Is it too soon?

My goal is to be mountain ready by Dec 1st and be doing some good hikes and climbs by the first of the year. This time of the year is weird. Lots of ice on the trails, not much snow. Still lots of mud too. Very clearly it's a transitional time of the year depending on altitude. But winter, the time of the year with snow on the ground, seems to get shorter each year and I'd rather make the most of that 3 month stretch than rush things.

So with that in mind we decided to take advantage of the down time and visit my sister in DC at George Mason.

We picked up the rental Friday afternoon, a PT Cruiser, and were on the road by 7pm. Both our cars are getting older, and rentals have free roadside assistance, and after you look at the maintainance cost per mile of driving your own car 800 miles over 2.5 days it pays to spend $70 on a rental for the weekend. Compare that with the government rate of 40 something cents a mile, or about $335 and rental makes more sense. Add in traffic on the I-95/ DC metro corridor and you are really abusing whatever you drive.

After making great time down to Newark, DE Friday night and staying at the Courtyard Marriott for $45 (not a bad price) we got to the National Zoo at 10:30am.

I've been to DC many times but never to the zoo, I wasn't all that impressed. It was at best average. Truthfully, the Memphis Zoo or Bronx Zoo are both better. The San Diego Zoo is one of the best. I'd expect more from the "National" Zoo. I should note though I'm biased, I actually hate zoos in general. Wild animals essentially in prison seems inherently wrong. Sure some of these animals are rescues but others are aren't. So for a zoo to impress me it has to be really good.

As far as the hoopla with the Pandas, these are the most boring bears. The funny part about Panda's is they are actually borderline bears. Genetically, they are closely related to the Red Panda which is more raccoon than bear. Which brings me to the most important part of this little rant...How can the National Zoo lack polar bears?

After the zoo we went to eat at Cactus Cantina a few blocks away. Honestly, one of the best Mexican places I've eaten at recently (actually in the last few years). The fresh tortillas were amazing and the chips and salsa were as well. The prices were very reasonable, and the portions were huge (based on other peoples orders). We just got appetizers (also fairly portioned) and sangria since we were headed to eat crabs shortly thereafter. The Sangria actually had enough alcohol in it to justify the cost (which again was reasonable) of $15 a pitcher.

Crabs!!! It's been a year since I've eaten Blue Claws with Heather and last time we each ate 24 crabs. This time we didn't even get close. Of course last time I was violently ill for hours after and this time I left comfortably stuffed. I was good on our 3rd tray but Heather had to be a smart ass and try to out do me, so she told the waitress to bring another.

Alright, lets play that game, bring it on biotch...Well, when the waitress returned she didn't bring the 10 she had been bringing per tray, but 18. Heather almost cried. We figured the waitress did it out of spite, but actually, after looking around the restaurant we were one of the last groups at 10pm and that was probably what they had left on the steamer.

Until we realized that though we spent quite a bit of time determining the optimal amount to eat to not look wasteful, after all, we were expecting 10 more crabs at most, not nearly 20. So we determined we needed to eat 4-5 each, but sadly after only 3 crabs Heather quit while glaring evilly at the waitress.

I won't go into the details but lets just say Heather was the one violently ill this time around.

Sunday, Aim and Heather got up early and got the Nintendo Wii from Target. It was supposed to be a birthday present from me but little did I know that 12 months after it's release it's still not in stock in the northeastern US. Target in Fairfax had 50 coming in and they got one.

We'll I was crab eating champ for 2007 after a tie in 2006 and I was GMU suite champ of Wii Sports Baseball.

After spending way too much time playing the Wii Sunday morning and eating Aim's birthday cake that Heather and Scott baked, we didn't get to DC till 4pm.

After I moaned groaned, and had cheese and crackers with my whine about missing all the Veterans Day ceremonies, I took a few shots. I didn't have much time and the crowds were obnoxious.

Originally, I intended to go in Saturday night around 2am to get my shots but I was too lazy, and getting around DC is about as inconvenient as any city in the US -at any time of the day. The way most people probably envision NYC is the way DC actually is, only unlike NYC which is amazingly well laid out and convenient and has mass transit 24/7, DC and the suburbs just aren't that well laid out.

The highlight of my trip was actually having a law enforcement officer be polite to me from the start. I had reservations about the rules of setting up a sturdy tripod in front of the White House and no sooner did I have it set up did a very polite uniformed Secret Service agent inform me I had to take it down. No problem, I kinda knew that was coming, and honestly, while most rules make no sense at all, allowing someone to put anything on a stable tripod in front of the White House would be a poor decision.

The trip home was as uneventful as any on I-95 I've ever had. We did the 400 miles from DC to Albany in just over 5:30 hours with 2 refueling stops and 2 pit stops.

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