123 Washington, DC to Solomons, MD

by

Oops

The formal claw foot chair had us laughing as we enjoyed its uniqueness. A tiny pair of eyes on the stiff formal chair back stared worriedly down and to the left. The chair leaned ever so slightly to the left as the left leg extended out with claw open and reaching to recapture the ball it normally grasped. The ball rested a tantalizing few inches away. A small plaque read “Oops.” This amusing work of art was new in the Renwick Gallery since our last visit.

Slowly we are meeting more of the live aboard community residents at Gangplank Marina. It makes it a pleasure coming back and being welcomed by people we know. Their stories about experiencing DC’s unusually harsh winter on the docks made us glad we’d gone south.

We made our rounds, checking out museums and galleries enjoying the changing exhibits and on occasion revisiting a permanent collection to learn a bit more detail. The interior exhibits provided comfortable exploring as we awaited the main event–Spring. We’d arrived a week later than last year and Spring was even slower in coming. Cold and wet weather held it back and challenged our abilities to keep Odyssey and ourselves comfortable. River water was too cold to get much heat out of our reverse cycle AC, and our small heater just barely kept us warm in the evening. On a few of the coldest days we poked around DC in winter jackets, hats and gloves. On one cold wet day, horizontal snowflakes were blasting by Odyssey’s windows. We stayed aboard that day.

Spring was not to be denied. The weather broke and it exploded like a fireworks grand finale. Everything burst forth in a compressed sequence of blooming. Cherry trees opened over night. Tulips pushed their way through daffodils that had just started to bloom and popped open to compete with their own colors. The Tulip Library, tucked in an obscure part of the Tidal Basin exploded as 95 different varieties of tulips tried very hard to all bloom at once. Trees got into the act, budded and began greening overnight. It turned cold and wet again but Spring continued to burst forth, adding bright new splashes of color everywhere to offset the gray cold damp days. The rapid changes provided an incentive to venture out and enjoy the rapidly changing pallet of color in spite of the weather.

We settled back and watched the world figure skating contestents practice. It seemed to be as much of a psych effort as it was a practice. One skater did a beautiful job of skating to his competitor’s music and seemed to out skate him. Others would start and stop their routines and then go over to chat with their coaches while their music played on. The impression they were trying to convey was that they were so ready they didn’t need to practice. Spectacular jumps and throws were mixed in with the just as spectacular crashes. We stayed longer than we planned, fascinated by the action and loving our front row seats.

The Smithsonian, ever resourceful, set up a butterfly house in one of the museums. By arriving just before the doors opened one morning we beat the long lines and had a treat of exotic tropical butterflies from all over the world flitting about all around us enjoying a garden full of orchids. Pictures were tough. We’d just come in out of 40 degree weather into 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity. Our camera immediately fogged over and stayed that way until we exited.

One of our favorite pastimes is finding new streets to explore and restaurants to try. We’d ride the metro to a new stop, get off and check out the area. Closer to the marina we walked to new neighborhoods and enjoyed the variety of housing.

Homeland security measures in DC seem weird at times. Some museums have metal detectors, others just poke into any bags or backpacks you are carrying but don’t bother checking bulky winter jackets being worn. The Washington Visitors Center will not let you in unless you can show a photo ID. As we entered the Washington Channel by boat the Coast Guard inquired by VHF about us, and our destination. Later we watched two huge private RV’s travel slowly through the heart of DC and knew that no one had bothered to screen them as possible terrorists.

A quick Metro ride and short walk brought us to the National Geographic building and the Friday NPR Diane Rehm Show. The sound was the same as on radio but now there was a fascinating visual component. Diane quietly chatted with her guests as the prerecorded lead-in introduction played in the theater and went out over the air. Hand signals and a count down timer were used to cue Diane so she could do the lead-in for program breaks. The week in review portion of the show was especially fun. There on stage with Diane were journalists from USA Today and the Wall Street Journal whose names we recognized but didn’t really know and Dan Shorr, now one of radio’s icons and a personal favorite of ours. It was surprising to see that such a strong voice came from a frail body now needing a cane for assistance when walking.

A 1920’s photo shows the garden staff of Dumbarton Oaks. At that time it was a private residence and the gardens were just being developed. The forty people in the photo reflected in people terms the size and grandeur of the gardens they maintained. We wandered garden paths for a couple of hours enjoying the results of their efforts.

Overnight cold drizzle streaked Odyssey with cherry blossom pollen and DC’s ever present road grime hanging in the air. If it hadn’t been so cold we would have taken some time to wash down before slipping lines and heading down the Potomac. The passing front and outgoing tide made down river running fast and smooth.

The sun was out and the afternoon warm as we tucked into a tiny cove off Smith Creek and anchored. Ospreys chirping, robins singing, and an occasional trill of a red-winged blackbird joined the whisper of breeze in tree branches hugging shore. Odyssey’s cockpit transformed instantly from a high tech helm to a sun-warm, snug lounge with a commanding view of our tiny idyllic cove. It was heaven to doze off, nod awake and take in another dose of waterborne charm before trying again to read the books we’d curled up with.

Heavy morning dew provided enough fresh water for an old fashion mop down that removed the last of the pollen and road grime and made Odyssey look more respectable. Sunshine working its way through newly leafed trees warmed the cockpit. We love lazy calm mornings at anchor so we decided to stay. Minutes later the sun cleared the treetops and turned on the wind much earlier than had been forecasted. The wind was predicted to continue to build so we changed plans again, brought the anchor up and headed for the Chesapeake for a bumpy wind-against-the-tide run to Solomons.

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