Dear Reader, we have arrived in Washington, D.C. safe and sound. By and large, travel was a breeze, thankfully, and most everyone had an opportunity to both relax and get to know each other in our vans.
We made it out of Maumee UMC by 7:30 a.m. – not bad for aiming for 7 a.m.! Each van has a designated pair of drivers but we mix up the passenger family each time to help people get to know each other and build community. In the morning, everyone draws a colored lot (blue, green, or purple) and that’s their van until the meal break when we do it all over again. I personally appreciated this because I got a chance to interact with nearly everyone on the trip already in those first two days this way, though many of us commented on how not everyone ended up in all three vans or even next to everyone, yet. That’s called “luck of the draw.”
Wow, the states to our east are beautiful. Rolling up and down hills in Wisconsin (complete with scattered bluffs), then majestic tree-filled valleys sweeping through Ohio, followed by a deep breath of the Appalachians in Pennsylvania. The route proved scenic, varied, and worthy of lots of commentary from passengers. One highlight was driving through a mountain tunnel. We got some video footage that hopefully turned out and that we can post here for your enjoyment. Don’t bother playing that game where you hold your breath to see if you can “stay underwater” in the tunnel. You will not make it! Sadly, I didn’t get any video footage of Elliot waking out of a dead sleep to belt it out and sing along with Estelle on “American Boy,” but it was definitely a highlight for the blue van!
During our time in D.C., we’re staying about 6 blocks from the National Mall at the William Penn House, a bed and breakfast with a specific intention. The William Penn House was founded around 50 years ago at the height of the Vietnam Conflict as a place to house and train conscious objectors who were raising concerns about administration policies regarding international military actions. The building itself is over 100 years old, which seems old until one realizes the neighborhood is much older. Long ago, there was a fire that took out many homes in the neighborhood, leading to many homes built of brick and many homes resembling what you might find around the nation, from San Francisco to New Orleans to New York City, etc. Streets are narrow but easily navigable, and I was surprised to see how low to the ground the buildings in the neighborhood are. I don’t see any homes over four stories, perhaps.
We arrived in the afternoon, right when we planned to, which was exciting! We settled in, ordered pizza from Pizza Boli’s, and pies arrived hot, fast, and delicious. And not a moment too soon, because the Old Town Trolley Tour arrived on time, too. It also came right after a brief and sudden rainstorm so D.C. decided to make it nice and muggy for our evening out. Our tour guide, Mike, took us on a three-hour tour (you sing it, we already have) around the National Mall, into Virginia, and to series of classic and new monuments in the area.
We drove as close to the National Mall as you can get, thanks to OTTT’s arrangement with DC police for safety. Next, we drove past the Washington Monument (the inside is closed because the elevator is in need of major renovation after a 5.5 earthquake last year – or Spider-Man, who knows?), then went across the Potomac past the Jefferson Monument and stopped at the place where the FDR and MLK monuments meet. After around a 30-minute walk, we hopped back on the trolley and over into Virginia for a walking stop at the large bronze statue immortalizing the flag raising at Iwo Jima. Mike gave us the scoop on the six men raising the flag, as well as the others who have been misidentified in the famous photo over the years.
Our final stop was at another monument apex, featuring the memorials for the Vietnam Conflict and Korean Conflict, the large bronze Einstein statue (what Mike proclaimed, “is often thought of as the most… interactive statue in the city). And, of course, the Lincoln Memorial. You can see a video of some of the youth from Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church and me doing a Facebook Live video at the HAUMC Facebook Page.
Tomorrow is our first full day in Washington, D.C. A majority of our time will be spent at the United Methodist Building with the General Board of Church and Society learning about migration justice and policy reform. My guess is it will turn out to be a complex issue with no easy answers. Of course, that’s my guess about much of what happens in Washington, so…
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