108 Hampton, VA to Washington, DC

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Six hours after leaving Hampton the first anchorage we’d considered was left behind. Two hours later we passed the second anchorage we’d discussed. With favorable winds and tidal current we kept going. We ran out of river and stopped. We were in Washington, DC. We’d covered 183 miles in 12 hours, a new record for us aboard Odyssey. Gangplank marina assigned us to the same spot we’d left four months earlier making it easy to find our slip in the early evening darkness. We settled in, feeling at home with our fourth visit to Washington, DC.

On the Mall near the Smithsonian Castle a magnolia in full bloom contrasted nicely against trees still bare. A sudden freeze doomed the magnolia but seemed to inspire other trees to burst forth. Flowers and trees changed so rapidly that we took morning and afternoon walks through some of the gardens to just to see the changes.

Arriving early one evening at Borders we got one of the last seats for a Ralph Nader talk and book signing. An hour later the place was packed to overflowing as Daniel Zwerdling (National Public Radio) acted as host and moderator as Ralph talked about the elections, 911, his views about the country, and answered questions. It made for stimulating evening.

With winter coats, hat, gloves, and umbrellas we braved the cold and rain to watch the St Patrick’s Day Parade. The early spring parade had a small town flavor in the big city.

Instead of subjecting Laurent and Judy to the traffic snarl resulting from an early morning marathon, we met them at the National Zoo. For us it was an easy ride on the Metro and a short walk. For them it was an easy drive from the campground where their RV was parked.

The zoo became a favorite. The animals, enjoying spring were very active. We returned to the zoo a number of times with visiting friends and caught: the tiger cub busy stalking and attacking mom; a rhino busy butting a heavy plastic box with force all over the compound; orangutan’s playing peek-a-boo with an old wash tub. Pandas remain the star attraction of the zoo. They draw large crowds and are a delight to watch.

Kites of every description and color filled the sky around the Washington Monument. Colorful banners, unique kites and streaming pennants marked local kite flying clubs’ picnic areas. A perfect spring day and brisk winds made the National Kite Festival on the Mall a huge success. We walked the area for an hour or more enjoying moms and dads helping little ones get their first kite aloft and marveling at some of the kite designs and color. We even pitched in, holding a kite or two aloft while its owner raced back to tug on the string.

Greg and Holly stopped by for a visit and time seemed to vanish as we compared notes on what had been happening in the five years since Greg and I had worked together. He’d just retired and they were starting their own set of adventures.

It took forever to convince the company holding our service contract that our laptop had a random hardware related screen failure. They insisted it must be software if the failure was random. Once convinced they sent a box, we packed the computer and sent it along with digital photos of what the screen looked like when it did fail. A week later we had the repaired computer back and now works correctly.

Cherry blossoms aroun Tidal BasinCherry blossoms were our incentive to be in Washington early. The associated Cherry Blossom Festival has a fixed date but the blossoms bloom to nature’s own unpredictable schedule within a 6-week interval. We watched the daily progress of the buds and mused at Washington Post forecasts as they adjusted their peek bloom predictions daily. As best we could tell Linda and Steve left 10 minutes before peak bloom and Joan and Rick arrived 10 minutes after peak bloom. During both their visits we did our best to walk their (and our) legs off. The daily event was to return to the boat and check my pedometer to see if we’d bettered the previous day’s walk. Ten mile and more days became routine and we all struggled to maintain the pace.

Cherry blossoms bloomed for about two weeks. We confirmed what we’d read and agreed that there were two days when they were at their best. However, the lead in and fade out weren’t bad either. As the blossoms faded the Tidal Basin and the water around Odyssey turned pink with pedals of fallen blossoms.

One morning Odyssey turned from white to yellow as she was covered with a fine coating of pollen from trees bursting into foliage. Pollen dust was everywhere, and we began regular wash downs to keep the boat clean.

With Linda and Steve we took a members only tour of the Smithsonian Castle for a behind the scene look at the building. It was fascinating. Traveling by Metro and shuttle bus we found Dunbarton Oaks with Joan and Rick in Georgetown. The gardens were fantastic. Heading home, Ruth and Joan managed to break the Metro as they held the car door open for Rick–his tired feet protesting our dash to make the train. The computer voice protested loudly about the open door and one stop later showed its contempt for people so bold as to disregard its warning by stopping the train between stations. After a delay the train limped into the next station and everyone was kicked off. We headed up the escalators looking to see if wanted posters were going up for Ruth and Joan.

The dryer portion of our washer/dryer stopped working just as Linda and Dean showed up. We left laundry out on lifelines to dry while we went off exploring. Based on information obtained from phone calls, Dean and I opened the dryer, removed the dryer fan and confirmed the motor failed. By paying premium shipping for Saturday delivery we’d have a new fan motor the next morning. We celebrated our victory at being washer repairmen into early morning. It was probably best that the motor failed to show up as scheduled. Linda and Dean headed south to take delivery of their new Endeavour 44, and we delayed our planned departure and waited until Monday for the fan motor to show up. My complaint about delivery yielded free freight.

Our delay turned into a unique event. The dryer motor showed up early and was quickly installed. We celebrated our last day in Washington by heading to a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Woman’s Museum. She’s one of Ruth’s favorite artists. The exhibit was outstanding. Along the way we detoured to walk through the midst of a huge pro Israel protest at the Capitol. After watching protests at the Capitol for years on TV it was interesting to actually walk through and see the full scale of the event.

Time had evaporated; we’d stayed a month. We still had people we wanted to see and places to explore that we hadn’t gotten to. We debated about staying longer to fit everything in, but decided to return again and continue on from where we left off. Trailing a wake of cherry blossom pedals and sadness about leaving we started down the Potomac.

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