We arrived at the Fitzkees' house on Thursday night, and Nick said we could stay as long as we wanted.  We ended up extending our trip by a day and coming home on Tuesday, which was a good decision.  I think we spent the right amount of time for the whole family to enjoy the sight-seeing.

The Fitzkees live near the last stop on the Metro (not the T, one tourist info center had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for a map that had T stops on it) and so we bought unlimited passes for each day that we went to Washington.  The website was a little confusing, and I think if you plan your travel times to be outside of commuting times, and know that you are only going to take one train in and out on a particular day, it is cheaper to not get the day pass. On weekends and any time you will be traveling during rush hour, or taking multiple trains around, the day pass is cheaper.  Also, if you weren't at the end of the line, the day pass might be more expensive than just paying as you go.  The passes are $9 each, so we spent $81 on metro fares for the three days (Jonathan required full fare, Noah and Faith were free (two free kids per adult)).

Friday was our outside day, and we saw a lot of the memorials and monuments. That turned out to be the coolest day of all of the days we were there (rain and thunder storms were forecasted for the entire time we were there, but that didn't materialize for the most part), and it only rained a little bit. There aren't any trains that are useful for traveling around the monuments, so we were pretty tired of walking by the end of the day.  We borrowed a stroller from the Fitzkees, and debated about borrowing a double stroller, but we did okay without it. There are a lot less outside vendors than were there the last time I was there.  I asked one guy about it, and he looked at me like I couldn't possibly be that old, but said that a law was passed 15 years ago that forbid vendors from being on the streets around the mall, so they've all moved to the side streets, and thus are less of them.  I noted that the cheap t-shirts still cost the same price as they did then - 3 shirts for $10, and they probably last about two weeks before they disintegrate.

We did eventually find someone to sell us food, and paid $30 for a lunch that wasn't worth anywhere near that much, and so we bought stuff at the Fitzkees' grocery store from then on.

We learned that if you want to go up to the top of the Washington Monument, you should buy them ahead of time, as they sell out every day pretty early, so the recommendation was to arrive at the office at 7:30 or 8 and wait in line until it opens at 8:30, and then you buy a ticket for a designated time, and then you wait in line at that time to go up.  I suspect it isn't worth anywhere near that much time waiting, but lots of people do it...

There was something going on at the White House, so they were shooing people away from the fence, and we learned that if you want to go into the White House, you now need to get permission from your Senator months ahead of time, or something like that.  And since they don't even let you see much of the White House any more anyway, that also is probably not worth doing.

The kids liked seeing the horses for the mounted police.  The main job of the mounted police seemed to be posing for pictures, which we saw a number of officers stopping to get their picture taken by various tourists.

The new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial construction blocked the path to the FDR and Jefferson memorials, and we didn't feel like walking around the long way to get to them.  We debated walking on a different day but ended up going to the Arlington Cemetary instead.

Due to all the walking, we did wonder about purchasing tickets for the different bus tours, where you get narrated tours, and then you can hop on and off wherever you want and catch the next bus, etc.  But, we ended up turning that down due to cost.  $80 to $100 a day for our family, depending on the bus company.

When we were headed back to the Metro, we passed a guy offering Segway rides and contrary to most of the Segway tour places, his prices were much cheaper.  (most places involve a $90 training hour, and then $50/hour with or without a guided tour).  He was offering something more reasonable for an hour guided tour around the White House and if we had passed by him prior to visiting those locations, we might have taken him up on it, though he only had two Segways available not including his own.  When we turned him down on the more expensive option he offered $5 to go up and down the sidewalk, so the boys and I tried it out, and it was pretty fun.  It is neat how it works and how easy it is to control.  It is all done by leaning - forwards to go faster, backwards to slow down.  And then sort of lean sideways on the handlebars to go left and right.  You can go quite fast and still be under control.

We learned a lot and taught a lot of history to the kids as we walked along and read about different battles, memorials, etc.

One question that we had that didn't get answered was why don't all the presidents have memorials, and do we know certain presidents because they did great things, or just because they have memorials?  Would we know more about the other presidents if they had memorials?  It seems like other guys probably did useful/good/great things too.

Jonathan thought they should make a second Washington Monument, but make it an Obama Monument, because then there would be more tickets, and so less waiting time.  A tourist who overheard him looked shocked, and I was trying to decide whether he thought it was blasphemous against Washington to make another monument, or if he would have been okay with it if Jonathan had suggested a Bush Monument instead.

On Saturday, I went with Nick to a book study at his church and then we all went to the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, partly to see it, but mostly to see Heather's family's friend Katie Jackson.  It was kind of neat, and the kids helped harvest some tobacco, which when it is green smells slightly like tobacco, though there was a sign somewhere that said it is poisonous when it is green.  One thing that was hard about the farm is that the employees are paid to be in character (and pretend that they are currently living in 1771 and you are just stopping by the visit them), and so they don't always answer the question you asked.  Heather tried to ask what they did with the tobacco after they harvested it, and the answer was that they shipped it to England.  And when she asked how much tobacco would be harvested from this small field, and they answered with the number that was relevant (as far as we know) to when the entire plantation was growing tobacco.  And we only got the real answer from the cashier about what they do with the tobacco now, which is throw it away, though she said if the current farmer happens to smoke, then he'll often keep it for himself, but the current farmer doesn't smoke.  Heather did get to talk to Katie a little when there weren't other customers around.  One lady asked Katie if she stayed there year round, to which Katie looked at her like you would if someone asked you if your home was for summers only, and Katie talked about how well her husband had built the house, etc.  I answered for her after Katie left, which the answer was still, "yes", but differently than Katie had answered it.  Nick wanted to ask why they weren't bothered by these strange shiny objects (airplanes from the nearby washington airport) that continually went past the farm, since it seems like they would be sort of frightening, but I don't think he ever asked anyone.

After that we went to a picnic that was supposed to be two care groups from Nick's church getting together, but the Fitzkees and one other family were the only ones from the one group, and only a couple families from the second group were there, so it was smaller than they expected, I think.  The kids had a fun time on the playground with the other kids, and some of the dads played some wiffleball/batting practice with the kids and Jonathan enjoyed that immensely (and was much better at hitting than the last time I watched him).

On Sunday we went to Covenant Life Church, which is the founding church of Sovereign Grace, which is the denomination we used to be a part of.  I had sort of forgotten about how full-of-content their music is, and learned one new song that I'll hopefully teach to our church, and then we played Sovereign Grace cds in our car the rest of the trip, and it has been encouraged and uplifting to listen and sing that music again.  CLC is a really big church, though they now have two services, and the auditorium somehow feels smaller than I would have guessed.  The auditorium holds 3000 and was maybe two-thirds full or so.  I don't know if I'd like going to a church that big - that most people don't know each other, and so there seems to be less community than at smaller churches.  Certainly, that is one big plus of the care groups, and they have smaller care groups than Providence Church of Pittsburgh had, so presumably the families know each other well in those groups.

We went back home for lunch and then we all headed to the Air and Space Museum for the afternoon.  Everyone enjoyed it and this time we went mostly to the second floor, as last year, we had only seen one or two rooms on the first floor.  They didn't seem to mind that we brought food with us, as our bags were "searched", or rather glanced at in each museum (they did xray at the air and space museum, but I'm not sure how much they can see food in an xray), but no one said anything, which was nice, since a hamburger at the McDonalds inside the museum cost $6 or some crazy number.  We bought $2 "lunchables" at the grocery store, and they were kind of fun, and the boys loved the fizzy koolaid tablets (think Alka-Seltzer) and we bought them again for Monday since they were so easy and cheap.

On Monday, we decided to go to the Arlington National Cemetary and we did decide to go on the bus trip inside the cemetary, since the interesting parts are a long way from each other.  If it wasn't so hot, we would have gotten out at a stop or two, but since we were hot, we just stayed in the bus the whole time, and did a bit of a whirlwind trip of the cemetary in an hour or so.  (They say the busses come every 15 minutes, but we waited a long time in line before the first one came, which is also why I wasn't too keen on getting off the bus).

Once we came back to the Mall, we went to the American History Museum, and went to a couple of the floors.  We spent the most time in the "inventors" section, where the slogan was "famous inventors played around with building things as kids, so you should too".  All the kids really enjoyed playing around with the blocks and fans and all sorts of hands-on things.  Julia Childs donated her kitchen to the museum and there was a TV show of her, who I hadn't seen in a long time, and I had forgotten how funny she was, though I'm not sure how much she was intending to be funny and how much was just the way she was.  The transportation section was also pretty interesting, and we spent a bunch of time there (enough time to lose Jonathan in it, though he said he hadn't moved from where he was).  The presidents section was sort of interesting, though there were various things that didn't seem very interesting, like, here is President Nixon's cigar holder, and here is a book that President so-and-so kept by his bed.  I did see a picture of Nancy Reagan and her son Ron riding on a tandem bike, which I thought was fun, since we had come by tandem to DC.

Heather noticed that they moved the Star Spangled Banner out of the light since it had been degrading a lot, and they now don't allow pictures of it.  I don't remember seeing it before, but thought it was interesting that it is square now, due to the owners giving away fragments to their friends over the years.

Jonathan was in charge of navigating the subway system, and he got it right most of the time on his own, though occasionally he would forget that we got in a different station than he expected and so was looking for the wrong connection, or was thinking about it in the wrong way: we normally took the blue line to get from the red line to the mall by going one way, but when going to Arlington Cemetary, we should have gone the other direction (and I didn't notice either) so we got off at the next stop and turned around.  Heather says that if Grandma wishes to reduce her stress in figuring out train stations, she should pretend that she is teaching her grandson, and then take all the time in the world.  One tourist who we met at the train station and discovered we were also going to the Smithsonian stop tried to help us at the train change spot, but I knew where we were going, but was waiting for Jonathan to read the map to figure out which train and which direction we wanted.

The trip home was fairly uneventful, but the engine started racing a couple times while going up a long hill while the cruise control was on.  (though after testing, I found that it happened without cruise control as well).  The engine would get up to 6000 or 7000 RPMs but not go any faster.  Something was burning, and I'm pretty sure it was the transmission.  I checked the fluid level and called our mechanic who verified that it sounded like the transmission was slipping, and thought that there wasn't anything to do except come home, and it would likely need to be replaced, but driving on it further wouldn't hurt it any more than it already was.  He also thought it would probably get us home okay.  We drove straight to the transmission place, and of course it worked fine for them when they test drove it - and that is when we found out that it worked perfectly fine at slower speeds/lower gears.  They said to bring it back the next day to test out at highway speeds.  We did that, but it worked there too.  Apparently, the combination of the large hill had something to do with it.  They were mystified by the fact that the computer did not report any trouble with the transmission.  They said to replace the fuel filter and see what happens.  I replaced the filter today, but since it is hard to test, I'm not sure how long it will be before we know if it is fixed or not.  There aren't many hills around here that you can go 65mph up them for a sustained amount of time, and it doesn't seem worth it to drive on the turnpike just to test it out.  Though, we have a trip to Wisconsin coming up shortly, and it'd be nice to not have a dead car on the side of the highway for that trip....


Costs for the trip:

Metro: $27
Lunch in Washington: $30
Grocery store: $78
Segways: $15

Grocery store: $43
Claude Moore Colonial Farm: $10

Metro: $27
Grocery store: $31
McDonalds (two large French fries to supplement our "lunchables"): $6

Metro: $27
Tourmobile: $23
Sushi: $26

Tuesday (traveling home):
Gas: $42
Ice/Water (in case the transmission stranded us on the highway): $5
Sheetz (lunch): $14
Sheetz (smoothies/dessert): $8


Posted by Jon Daley on August 20, 2010, 8:48 pm | Read 3976 times
Category General: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Jonathan: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Noah: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Faith: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

If the RSS feeds already got the post before we updated it with the Segway adventure, transmission story and costs, you might want to check the article again.

Posted by jondaley on August 20, 2010, 9:21 pm

About the Farm: When we asked the tobacco use question (out of character), we were told it goes to other living history museums that need some but don't grow their own.

And the airplanes? If you ask about them, they look at you as if you are crazy, because they neither see nor hear them.

That's cool that the boys could help with the harvest.

And ride Segways!

Posted by SursumCorda on August 20, 2010, 10:08 pm

i enjoyed reading about all of your cycling adventures. i really need to see a picture of noah's pillow/strap thing! did you snap one of him sleeping on it?

i didn't know there was a trail all the way from pgh to dc, so when you said you were cycling all the way there, i imagined lots of traffic and other logistical issues. this (though not without it's own logistical issues) is much better.

Posted by serina on August 21, 2010, 11:19 am

I didn't think to get a picture when he was sleeping, but you can see a picture of it at the top of this page.

Posted by Jon Daley on August 21, 2010, 3:15 pm

Your adventures make me jealous, but your accounting makes me more so. Those numbers might be reasonable for one person in Switzerland . . .

Posted by Janet on August 23, 2010, 10:16 am

A long steep stretch is located where you just leave Pittsburgh going North on 279 after the Veterans bridge to link with 79. Although the speed limit is 55, everyone does 65 and the grade is steep. It was the only place where my Honda overheated consistently when we were diagnosing the cooling problems. Maybe testing there during your Tuesday trip to Pittsburgh would not take too much extra time. 

Posted by Rob Moore on August 30, 2010, 10:09 am

Thanks Rob. We ended up going to Moraine State Park, and there were a couple hills that were okay, so I thought the car was going alright. We've since driven to Wisconsin without incident, though I'm not sure if we saw any hills in that direction.

I can't remember if I already wrote it here or not, but I replaced the fluid because it was smelling pretty badly. The fluid came out black, but no metal pieces to speak of, so I think the transmission is fine.

Posted by Jon Daley on August 30, 2010, 11:46 am

This comment is completely unrelated to your post but your krypto solver doesn't allow fractions or decimals.

Posted by Thomas on September 6, 2010, 8:40 pm

do you mean it doesn't allow you to enter fractions or decimals, or that it effectively rounds the answers at each step?

I don't think it should allow fractions on entry (unless there is a new krypto game that uses fractions), but I thought the software didn't round each partial-step-answer.

Do you have an example that shows it doesn't work? I can fix it if you show me an example.

For others who are wondering what we are even talking about, Krypto is a math/card game, and the instructions advertise that if you think a particular hand can't be solved, you're probably wrong, so I wrote some software to find the hard solutions. I wrote the software 6 years ago, but last I checked, that page was the top hit in google for "krypto solver" and somewhere around 30 people a month use it to solve a hand they are having trouble with.

link to krypto software

Posted by jondaley on September 7, 2010, 11:01 am
Add Comment
Add comment
E-mail me when comments occur on this article