American Government: June 15 to July 5 (Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view.)
update is a little late because of
some necessary delays along the way. Denny's Mom, Doris, got
seriously ill, and he flew home to help her out and accompany her in a temporary
move to his sister's in
Southern California. We pray she will be better very soon! A continuing bank
transition impacting his business has also diverted him from his role as the Rich Odyssey Webmaster for some time.
We're especially thankful our 21st Century communications permit us to stay
close to home no matter the physical distances. And despite these real
life interruptions, we continue to make progress "learning our way"
around the U.S. of A.
We hope you'll enjoy this lengthy update on our travels in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. There are a lot of thumbnail pictures to download, but you can start enjoying them as soon as the first ones get to your computer. As always, you can click on a thumbnail picture to get a larger view.
Also NEW! this time is a Rich Odyssey Trip Log covering an actual timeline and where we have been! One installment of Stephanie's School Work is also NEW! Send us email at firstname.lastname@example.org by clicking on the e-mail navigation on the left panel. We will get back to you just as soon as we can.
Here Stephanie greets her good friend, Emma Carpenter, as she arrives at Dulles Airport on July 4th for an eight day visit on the Rich Odyssey. When together, they prefer to go by the names, Emmy Wu and Effy Wu: the Wu sisters. The only other Wu is our cat, Javey Wu. Click on the newest updates to see some of the fun we had and things we learned while traveling with Emma!!
This is a photo of our older kids, Leslie Wirtz (living in Denver) and Tim Rich (living in San Francisco). They wanted to let everyone know that they continue to be 'chained to their desks' at work, but wish they were along on the Rich Odyssey too!! They, like you, are following the adventures on this web site. Even though they are hard at work, we hope they are happy now that their picture is on the Internet!!
A month on the road and we are on our way to Washington! The following pictures show some of the more interesting things we have seen and learned along the way.
From Philadelphia we headed to the Delaware shore for a day of beaching. During our stay in Rehoboth Beach we took a ferry across Delaware Bay (mouth of the Delaware River) to Cape May, the southern-most point in New Jersey. Denny and Stephanie pose in front of the Cape May Lighthouse, which has an awesome view of the area. Stephanie always enjoys putting her toes in any beach waves. Here on Cape May all the beaches require entry fees, but the beautiful restored Victorian homes make strolling the streets a pleasure. After a long day, Jennifer and Stephanie relax by reading and doing homework on the way back on the ferry.
From Rehoboth Beach, we went south to Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. The first scene shows another great Atlantic beach on the Island. The second picture shows the open land, which is home to about 175 wild horses!! If you look closely, you can see one grazing at the left of the picture. We saw more, but they move constantly...usually too fast for this cameraperson. So we bought some great postcards!
This was our home for two and half weeks in College Park, MD, just north of Washington. We had a lot of space around our RV with two swimming pools right behind us. With the high heat and humidity in the Washington area, we enjoyed the pool frequently. Getting into Washington was easy with a bus stop on the property which took us to the Metro Train and Subway system. The Metro works very, very well. Denver could use something like this...soon!
Our first stop was the National Archives, where the government stores all its important records. Of course, the most important records on display are the Declaration of Independence (shown in the vertical display here), the Constitution (which Jennifer and Stephanie are studying), and the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the constitution)...though you might consider relatives' Civil War pension records more interesting. Following that, we took a quick walking tour around the Washington Mall. Steffi is standing next to a sculpture in the National Gallery Sculpture Garden. It is a very large typewriter eraser (kids -- ask your mom or dad to explain what a typewriter is!). Denny is standing beside (or is he in?) a house sculpture (look carefully -- it will hurt your head!) Jennifer poses next to one of the more interesting statues in the Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden, a part of the Smithsonian. Finally, Jennifer and Denny enjoy the Capitol reflecting pool.
We took several trips up to Baltimore to visit with our niece and her family -- Kate and Denis Marble-McCarthy and baby Calvin. Highlights were the Inner Harbor area, which is, by far, the best of Baltimore. There we saw the National Aquarium, OpSail 2000 and some of the many tall ships coming into the Baltimore inner harbor.
Some dolphins cavorting at the National Aquarium of Baltimore with a pretty parrot at the Amazon Rain Forest exhibit. The next picture is a memorial to remember the Holocaust (click on it for a better view -- it is very well done).
OpSail 2000 was a real highlight. Denny, Steffi and Kate (with Calvin) are 'steering' the 350 foot Chilean vessel, Esmeralda, shown in the next picture. We bought a couple of bottles of Chilean wine from the sailors on board. Another tall ship is being escorted into the harbor. Bag pipers paraded the harbor front during the celebration. Next, look carefully and you will see Steffi and Denny propelling their own little craft among the tall ships in the harbor.
These were taken from the grounds of Fort McHenry, site of the battle which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner during the war of 1812 with the British. It was neat to enjoy a picnic on the grounds of the fort, near the cannons, while watching a couple tall ships come into the harbor on a balmy summer day with the regimental flag flying high. A few days later we were pleased to see the real 15-stripe flag of 1812 fame being restored at the Museum of American History, yet another of the Smithsonian sites.
Steffi, Kate and Calvin in front of the defensive cannons guarding the harbor. Cousins having fun (feet are fun) and Steffi climbing a tree, something she loves to do.
Back now to Washington, the main reason for our stay. Stephanie is certainly more of an expert on our government than before. She invites her friends to e-mail her questions if they need help in their upcoming fifth grade American History studies!!
The Supreme Court is a fabulous building built in the 1930s. Before then, the court was housed in many different places. At the time the building was built, some of the justices would not move their offices there because they felt it was too opulent. Of course, now they are all happily working there. The view of the ceiling in the main court chamber shows the elaborate plaster work and friezes highlighting historical figures which influenced the justice systems in the world. The self-supporting spiral staircase, which you can only look up at, is a beautiful part of the building.
A personal tour of the Capitol was arranged by our good friend, Jim Carpenter. Dan Gibbs from Colorado Representative Mark Udall's office (shown below in the first picture, accompanied by another staff member, Erin) led us through the inner halls and tunnels linking the Capitol with the outer office buildings. We saw lots of things that the regular tourists would miss. It remains Stephanie's most memorable part of Washington. Thanks to Jim, Dan, Jennifer Rokala and Representative Udall!!
This is in front of the Cannon office building, one of three for the House of Representatives offices. The buildings are all connected via tunnels under the streets. Each representative wears a pager to signal when a vote is to be taken. When that happens, stand aside, because the tunnels fill quickly with representatives rushing to cast a vote. We were surprised to observe that there were very few representatives or senators present when actual debate or speeches were underway -- something we are sure the founding fathers did not envision. You can't take pictures there, watch C-Span if you want a view!
Each state gets two statues of their choosing to display throughout the Capitol building. Here we are in front of Jack Swigert, astronaut, one of the Colorado statues. (Some of you may have seen its twin at DIA.) The next picture shows the old Supreme Court, which was in the Capitol Building before moving to its new building across the street. Notice the chairs are different heights to accommodate the varying heights of each judge. This tradition is still in place in the new court as they attempt to get everyone's head to reach the same level. Finally, a picture of the old Senate chambers showing where the Vice President would have sat to conduct the sessions.
The rotunda in the Capitol is a real highlight of any tour. The first picture shows the mark in the center from which all Washington streets are coordinated. The next is the beautiful ceiling with it's many colorful rosettes. Jennifer holds her head looking up at all there is to see. Around the room are murals depicting scenes that had influences on our country, but they are not all just American History. Columbus' landing and Pocahontas in Europe are shown as well. Finally, a great view from the front of the Capitol looking over the Mall and the Washington Monument. You can just see a jet on the 'Potomac River approach' going into Reagan National Airport.
No visit to Washington would be complete without a visit to at least one of the Smithsonian entities; we did six. The Smithsonian is actually over 12 museum buildings showing all aspects of American History and Life. Even with all that room, there is much that cannot be displayed. A highlight for all is the most popular Air and Space Museum. It houses everything of interest about air and space from the original Wright Brothers Airplane and Sputnik to the Breitling Orbiter which just completed the first circumnavigation in a balloon. One of Stephanie's favorite exhibits was about space exploration and, specifically, the display on Voyager, the spacecraft that has explored more of our solar system than any other.
The first picture shows Sputnik, the little Russian satellite that started it all in 1957. The newest addition is the Breitling Orbiter, the balloon vehicle that went nonstop around the world in 1999. Next, is the burned heat shield from Apollo 11, the first successful manned trip to the moon in 1969. Finally, Steffi and Jennifer study the Lunar Lander which took the astronauts to the surface of the moon. It's hard to imagine that all this happened 31 years ago!
Jennifer and Steffi attended the Washington [National] Cathedral one Sunday while Denny was in Colorado. Finished in 1990, it is likely the last gothic cathedral to be built. It is the only one with a moon rock at the center of a cosmic stained glass window; the rock itself was delivered by the three Apollo astronauts themselves. The same glass artisan has done all of the largest windows and has one to go...at 76. The strikingly beautiful and ornate pulpit was a gift of the Church of England A guided tour highlighted the many pieces of art work in the Cathedral, here showing a haunting mural in the crypt at the base of the underground structure. The mural, luminescent in gold, was intended to be seen only by candlelight but the fire code prohibits! The four huge pedestals in this room support the entire building. If only the camera had been able to capture the soaring gothic nave or the faceted rose window...
The Lincoln Memorial is an imposing landmark with Abe looking down from on high. The memorial is undergoing renovation and shows the scaffolding in front of Abe. The Washington Monument is just finishing its renovation and the scaffolding has just come down though visitors aren't yet permitted in to take the ride to the top to look out of the eight little windows there. Stephanie walks along the inspiring and sobering Vietnam Memorial Wall showing the Washington Monument reflected in the background.
Nearby, the newly dedicated Korean
War Monument is shown. Like the Vietnam Memorial it makes powerful use of black
granite, but instead of names it has images of thousands of faces etched in,
like shadows. In front of the Wall is a sculpture work
showing 30-40 individual US soldiers crossing a Korean field in bad weather. The
expressions are as varied as one can imagine.
The Sunday we visited the memorials was coincidentally the day the President was dedicating the Korean site so we opted to defer it for another day. We came back for a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was a Choral Cantata for 2000 voices commissioned by Lincoln Center for the Millennium. It's impossible to describe how much volume 2000 voices can project!
The Library of Congress is one of the Nation's great institutions, housing nearly all the published works for our country. Jennifer and Stephanie are in front of some of the statues in front of the library. Stephanie overlooks the Atrium of the newly refurbished Jefferson Hall and the main reading room of the library showing the desks and kiosks. Each window had a memorable quote about reading and books. We saw several exhibits of interest including one on the Wizard of Oz (complete with the Lion's wig and Dorothy's Ruby Slippers) and another on the Icelandic sagas (including both Hamlet and Monty Python) which tied in with the Vikings we saw later at the American Museum of Natural History. The architecture is fabulous from the elaborate windows shown to the ornate columns in the beautiful entry. And Jennifer is now the proud owner of a Library of Congress Library Card!
A few highlights of the Smithsonian. Stephanie learns to dance with Mandingo dancers participating in the Smithsonian's Folk Life Festival on the Mall. A Tibetan Prayer Wheel was being spun and kissed by this woman, and just about everyone else who passed it. It was another part of the Folklife Festival, as was the Dalai Lama who spoke the next day. Steph thought Tibetan food was pretty tasty too! At right is a handmade rod glass model of the Capitol on exhibit in the American History Museum. The detail was amazing. It's just across from another pair of Ruby Slippers; we've now seen two of the five original pairs.
After a week of museums it was time for a break, which we enjoyed with our friends Lucy and Ed Hand. We visited the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal restoration and Great Falls of the Potomac. Above are the canal boats we took between locks and our ranger-interpreter.
We followed a boardwalk through the bedrock forest from the Canal, over some side streams and cataracts, to the Great Falls. You might think you are in the middle of Colorado--complete with white water, great vistas and even kayakers--were it not for the lush foliage!
Stephanie celebrated her 10th birthday on July 5th. Her BIG present for that occasion was getting her ears pierced. Here she shows off her newly attached earrings. She says it did not hurt very much, and she loves her little purple flower earrings. A big event on July 4th when Emma Carpenter came to stay with us for eight days. After her arrival at Dulles in the afternoon, we immediately boarded the Metro for a ride to the Washington Mall for the Fourth of July Celebration.
Here is the Capitol all set up for the Fourth of July National Symphony concert. It got pretty crowded early, but we did manage to walk around and hear some of the singing, especially Ray Charles. Next, the glare from some very large modern army cannons provided accompaniment for Beethoven's 1812 overture at the close of the concert. Fireworks there look just like fireworks at Mile High Stadium after a Rapids game. But looking at them behind the Washington monument makes the display stunning. Also, Mile High wouldn't hold the 400,000 people who come to the Mall to observe. Our digital camera did not do very well on the fireworks -- a bit too slow on the shutter speed in the dark!
A highlight of our visit to Washington was a tour of the White House, again arranged by our friend, Jim Carpenter, father of Emma. White House staffer Maureen Undlin took us a behind the scenes to the West Wing and other places the 'regular' tourists don't get to see. Among other things, we saw the Oval Office and the press briefing room. (No, President Clinton was not around to be seen!) The lines were long into the Oval office, but it was fun to imagine sitting on the striped couch between the dignitaries yourself.
Here are Jennifer, Steffi, Emma and our host, Maureen, in front of the greeting area in the West Wing (see the television show, West Wing, for more information). Immediately behind the photographer (Dennis) is an area which is permanently set up with lights and cameras for press coverage of events at the White House. Next, Maureen and Jennifer chat while they wait with someone's bedroom window in the background. Steffi and Emma figured two heads are better than one during a Presidential news briefing. This room is very small and cramped, just like it looks on TV. The seats for the press are all marked so the President knows who is asking the questions. The seats are old ones from an old Air Force One and look like college school desks. Finally, a shot of us posing in front of the White House Rose Gardens. This is outside so we could take a picture. Like the Senate and the House, you cannot take pictures in the White House. We can tell you that the Oval Office looks just like the Oval Office should look. There are lots of sculpture and memorabilia that are there from previous presidents as well as those from Bill Clinton Himself.