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Skyring's Washington Journal
by People I Meet Along the Way | Travel
Registered by Skyring of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 20, 2005
Average 10 star rating by BookCrossing Members 

status (set by felicia-fairy): travelling


2 journalers for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 20, 2005

10 out of 10

This time yesterday, I had no idea of the adventure on which I was to embark. No idea.

I packed up the books I had sold that day, put them into their padded envelopes and headed out the door for the posting box at the nearby shops. My wife drove in, home from work, and I waved to her, indicating my armload of packages. A regular scene - she knows that I usually leave it until the last moment so long as I catch the 6:00PM post and get home in time to start cooking dinner before she gets too hungry.

But today was different - on my return, there was a strange car in the driveway, and Kerri's sister Robyn was cracking open a bottle of champagne. All right!

"Many happy returns!" I said in salute, getting down some flutes to pour the bubbly into.

"It's for Washington," she replied. Oh well, it was a good guess. I can't be expected to know the birthdays of everyone in the family, can I?

The Washington reference was for Kerri, who has reached the dizzy heights of supervisorship in the public service and gets sent overseas on a regular basis to consult with other people in a UN agency. I'm not sure what she actually does at these gatherings, but I know that they take place in distant places and she gets flown to Paris, Uppsala, London, Washington. Business class. At UN expense.

Spouses not included.

I was very sorry to have missed the Paris trip, which sounded wonderful, but I hadn't given more than a passing fancy to the notion of going along with her to Washington, where she was to spend a week instead of the normal three days. Of course I'd love it - being able to tour the Smithsonian at leisure, check out all the famous buildings and monuments that dominate television news and my favourite television series of "West Wing", and look up a hundred historic places - but where would the money come from?

As it happened, our shares had been doing well, even if the online bookselling business wasn't, and when Robyn asked "Well, why don't YOU go with her this time?" as she raised her glass where we sat in cool green leisure on the balcony in the long summer evening, Kerri and I looked at each other and I said I'd look into it.

So I did. I discovered that on Wednesday night I'd left it far too late to book a Friday flight over the Internet. Still, it seemed feasible...

So bright and early on Thursday morning, I was banging on the door of Flight Centre in Civic, where I knew that a capable young lady travel agent could tell me if I could do it, and how much it would cost.

"I want to fly to Washington tomorrow," I blurted out, and she quickly and efficiently worked out the options, laid out the prices, and booked me into window seats when I gulped and said "Yes, please!"

Bless you, Tessa P! I walked out a little while later with a wallet of travel documents and a list of things to buy before I left. Adaptor plug for the laptop. New toothbrush. Guidebook. Headache tablets. And a big pack of Tim-Tams. You can't get them overseas, you know.

Turned out that the plug was the wrong sort. My laptop needs an earth socket and prong, and I'd guessed wrong. Isn't it the way that when you have a 50:50 chance, nine times out of ten you pick the wrong one?

So after sundry thunderstorms and hail and rain that flooded the carport, I took my best chance and arrived in town only slightly damp. As I waited for a break in the traffic, I saw a huge streak of lightning flash across the sky and hit Black Mountain Tower fair on the sharp end. Cripes. That's not something you see every day.

Swapped over the plug. The lady in the travel shop seemed to have heard my story before. Well why didn't she sell me the one I *didn't* want when I came in earlier? She could have saved me a trip in the rain. Honestly!

But there was one more purchase to be made. All my holidays for the past eighteen months or so have involved a travel journal.

The New Zealand trip that resulted in my first book. http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/689710

The trip to Rockhampton via Byron Bay where I literally had a whale of a time with a journal that had already travelled to Scotland and Iran. http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/1266669

And finally the Journal of Friends I registered for the first Australian Bookcrossing Convention in November, now up to 150+ journal entries, currently in London. http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/2223459

So I hit a stationer, picked a sturdy little book in a striking black and gold cover, and wrote a quick entry to kick things off, leaving a couple of pages blank for future artwork and titles.

It's my intention to have the people I meet along the way make an entry in the journal on the odd pages, with the facing leaves reserved for ticket stubs, postcards and so on from the various places I visit. By the time I get home, it should tell its own story and be a great souvenir.

Here it was, a few minutes before five and I wondered if Tessa would still be around. A vital part of my adventure, it would be excellent if she could start off the "guest" entries. But it was almost closing time, and she had told me that she was off on her own holiday, starting Friday. Maybe we'd see each other in the International Terminal in Sydney, as we waited for our flights, me bound for the snow and sleet of winter Washington, and she for sunny Malaysia.

Glory and Trumpets! She was still hard at work, and smilingly consented to write down a few lines while holding on the telephone.

Thank you, Tessa!

Now, I've got work to do, mainly involving packing up all the stuff I need to take. Beginning with this book. The photograph shows the book without any "artwork", and you can see the shadow of the bookplate on the other side of the translucent cover. 


Journal Entry 2 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 20, 2005

This book has not been rated.

Kerri dam' near had a heart attack a couple of hours back. She looked at her e-ticket confirmation and realised that instead of the Korean Air flight over the pole she thought she was taking, she was somehow booked on Qantas for about $6000 extra. Money that hadn't been approved and if spent would cripple her section budget for the rest of the year. She was beginning to panic, thinking that maybe she wouldn't go at all, and I was starting to think that I might be going by myself and staying in a hostel bunk bed for a week.

Eventually she found someone to ring up and managed to get it all sorted out. She's still flying Qantas, but economy rather than business - a considerable saving in price and comfort. On the way out she's taking the same flights as I am, but a day later, and on the way back we'll actually be on the same plane across the Pacific. With any luck we'll be able to sit together.

So until that was sorted out, I couldn't book my first night's accomodation. This has changed three times over now. We have four nights at the Marriott before heading over to Arlington Hyatt. I think Kerri gets the Sunday off, but she might need it to recover after the flight. Usually she pulls up OK after a long haul flight in business class, but my darling daughter indicated a wooden kitchen chair by way of illustrating the comfort levels in economy.

I had regarded Kerri's itinerary as something solid, the benchmark against which I needed to plan and measure my own travel, but in the end it turned out that her carefully planned, costed and approved documents were not much help at all.

Perhaps this is something I need to think about as I leave Australia for America. Just how valid are my own preconceptions about America and Americans? Hollywood is a poor sort of guide, I suspect!

I am looking forward to judging for myself as I meet the actual inhabitants in their natural habitat. Of course, if my own home of Canberra is any sort of example, the average American would not regard Washington residents as typical!

I am sitting here at my computer in the predawn as I register books for later release and attend to my email. I am wearing shorts and t-shirt, shivering in anticipation of the snowfalls I am hearing about, and seeing for myself on television in the reports of George W Bush's second inauguration. 


Journal Entry 3 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 20, 2005

10 out of 10

The first leg of the journey was from Canberra to Sydney. A short hop in a prop job and by the time we’d levelled off, passed around a snack and a drink, it was time to collect the cups and land. Here we are boarding in Canberra. 


Journal Entry 4 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 20, 2005

10 out of 10

We took off, and I snapped this view of my old workplace, the Defence Department “dinosaur” of Campbell Park, an interesting architectural study in grey cement and linear design. Beyond may be seen Civic and Black Mountain Tower rising against the Brindabellas. Note the clear blue summer sky. 


Journal Entry 5 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 20, 2005

This book has not been rated.

Sydney in the morning sun, the skyscrapers, the green of the parkland around Farm Cove, the Opera House, the ferries shuttling in and out of the square-edged Circular Quay and the grand steel arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge linking all. 


Journal Entry 6 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 20, 2005

10 out of 10

The landscape beyond Canberra soon changed to a dappled pattern of dark brown eucalypt forest and the golden brown of parched grasslands. The linear features really stand out from the air, and we passed above the Hume Freeway linking Sydney with Melbourne, a twin ribbon of concrete, tiny specks crawling along as we soared above. 


Journal Entry 7 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Saturday, January 22, 2005

10 out of 10

Here I am waiting for our jumbo in Sydney, waiting, waiting for all the security checks. 


Journal Entry 8 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Saturday, January 22, 2005

10 out of 10

Here’s an actual coral atoll, not even an hour out of Sydney!

Night fell shortly after, and we had dinner before they doused the cabin lights. I watched a movie or two, looked out the window at the great blackness where every once in a great while there would be a lonely light far below. A ship or maybe some isolated island.

And I looked at the map display with some interest. We were to pass directly over the Big Island of Hawaii. I peered out as our trail inched closer and then the lights along the coast appeared under our wing. Hawaii! I could hardly believe it. And smack in the middle was a volcano with streams of glowing lava. Around me the passengers drowsed, unaware of the magic below.

I pulled out my journal and went to hunt up a steward. There they were in the galley, reading, doing crosswords. They looked at me strangely when I asked if one of them would like to write a few words, and I left my little book there. Later on the steward delivered it to my seat. He had written about the trips he was taking in the next week and how he was looking forward to spending time at home on his holidays! That just made my day and it took a long while for my smile to fade. 


Journal Entry 9 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Saturday, January 22, 2005

10 out of 10

My first glimpse of America. The coastline north of Los Angeles. 


Journal Entry 10 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Saturday, January 22, 2005

10 out of 10

That famous sign. OK, it’s a little hard to see, but it’s that Hollywood sign shaped white object up on the ridge to the left side of the picture. 


Journal Entry 11 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Saturday, January 22, 2005

This book has not been rated.

LAX, and it's a whole new world. The people walk on the wrong side. The taps in the toilets operate on a hands-free basis. An interesting experience when I had a quick shave.

We must have parked our plane about a kilometre from the immigration counter. Long corridors, up and down steps, escalators, around corners. Keep on following the signs. Wait in a line, fingerprints and photograph.

Customs and they looked at the form. 'Bringing food into the country, hey? What sort of food?'

'Ummm, chocolate bisc...', I groped around for a word to describe them. Cookies didn't seem appropriate. Wafers?

'Tim-Tams? Tim-Tams are OK.'

Obviously they were used to Australians flying into LA.

And then it was another kilometre or so to check-in for my flight to DC. All in the one building. I followed instructions from people in uniform, wondering just where they were sending me. Washington, I hoped, but I didn't think I had to walk there. More queues. Security checks. One lady in an expensive suit pushed in, smiled at the guard, and was escorted away for "selective processing". I figured maybe she had an early flight and was being rushed through the line, but no, it turned out that she would be uh, delayed a little longer.

Anyway, I made it to the right gate and my flight turned up, all gleaming silver with red, white and blue stripes. 


Journal Entry 12 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

Taxying to the end of the runway - a long taxi - we passed an amazing variety of aircraft from around the world. And the US. I'd heard some awful things about US domestic flights and was prepared for a very ordinary flight.

Eventually we advanced up the queue, lingered at the head of the runway and then thundered up into the air. Out over the ocean and a long turn to the south. I was hoping for a glimpse of San Diego and maybe a carrier or two, but no.

The city stretched on a long way out before the last suburb was done and we were into what looked like desert. Desert with snow. Not used to this sort of thing. Snow is for cold places and deserts are hot, right?

A lot of fascinating terrain, but I was mindful of the fact that a lot of the detail would be lost in photographs, so I kept the camera in the seat pocket,mostly.

Airports and aircraft were everywhere. Look out the window and a fast-moving shape would catch the eye. We must have been on some sort of jet interstate, because a couple of times I looked out and another airline whipped past at an astonishing speed - the sum of our velocities, presumably, but it looked like the other plane was a rocketship with a short contrail behind.

We moved over the Southwest and as night fell the clouds turned ominous ahead of us. A curious sight - it appeared as if the sky was turning upside-down, changing from dark below and light above behind us to the reverse ahead. 


Journal Entry 13 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

As night fell and the cloud cover below remained unbroken, I fell asleep, my tummy full of an excellent lunch and a can or two of Mr & Mrs T's spiced tomato juice, served on ice and designed to satisfy. Mmmm. I was being looked after and I was very comfortable.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Hadn't been able to sleep on Qantas over the Pacific, but I punched out a few zeds on American Airlines. I missed the midwest and the Missisippi, and came awake about an hour before landing in Washington.

The cloud had disappeared and the night was crystal clear. Below me was a small city, every street picked out in bright lights. The ground appeared suspiciously bright under the full moon. I think I was over Ohio at that time, but it's hard to say.

For the next hour, the ground beneath was a network of small towns, the lights of larger cities glowing on the horizon. There is nothing in Australia like this sustained density of population. Outside the main cities, towns are about half an hour's drive apart, not five minutes.

Lost my bearings completely as we came closer to Dulles. The plane curved and banked above a growing and glowing population. I looked for national landmarks, but saw nothing I recognised.

And then we were sliding in. Just before final approach, we turned and I saw the lights of three airliners following us in. This is a busy airport!

I had to take a shuttle to the main terminal baggage claim. Sort of a subway carriage on heavy tires that zipped between buildings, dodging jumbos and service vehicles. Big place.

And finally I was there at the baggage claim area and I spotted a friendly back. ResQgeek wearing his old emergency services jacket. I all but hugged him, I was so glad to see a friendly face after so many anonymous corridors and nameless vehicles, twists and turns and complexities across the world.

ResQgeek had been watching my Bookcrossing totebag circle the carousel and was watching to see who picked it up. So I did. My other bag appeared, and ResQgeek led me to his car, parked just outside the terminal entry. Literally just a few steps outside. Clearly this was a resourceful ResQgeek!

A long drive to Alexandria, made even longer by a swing through Central Washington. Lincoln Memorial, the Mall, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial. Lots of brightly lit buildings, reminding me of my first sight of Canberra as a child.

Whetted my appetite for more. I'm sure I'll get a closer look in the days to come.

ResQgeek lives in a quiet neighbourhood with his wife and two young daughters, all utterly charming. I visited for an hour or so before they finally slid me into bed where I fell instantly asleep. 


Journal Entry 14 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

Pete wakes up and goes to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. 


Journal Entry 15 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

We release a book. ResQgeek looks on, and yes, that's a SR-71 in the background. The reason the camera is shaking is probably because I was so excited! 


Journal Entry 16 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

Here's a closer shot of that SR-71. 


Journal Entry 17 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

This is one huge building. See all the great aircraft in this shot? Well, that's maybe 20% of the collection. And there's room left over at each end for a jumbo jet. Or two. 


Journal Entry 18 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

I couldn't take my eyes off that Concorde. Such a sleek bird! 


Journal Entry 19 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

I took a great many photographs inside, but I'll restrain myself. ResQgeek was excited by the Enola Gay. As I was. And there in front of us was an actual space shuttle. OK, it's only the Enterprise, which never made it to orbit, but it's still a fair dinkum shuttle, used in the first flight tests. Hard to believe some of the aircraft in this building can actually fly, but this brick-shaped house-sized black and white brute did. 


Journal Entry 20 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Sunday, January 23, 2005

10 out of 10

ResQgeek lived up to his name as we drove along the freeway between Dulles and Washington. A young lady flagged us down, her car on the snow-covered verge. She'd only been in the country a couple of days, and was lost lost lost. Follow me, said ResQgeek, and took us miles out of the way to make sure she got to where she was going.

I'll never forget the trip into Washington. Never. The snow was fairly hurtling down. Visibility was minimal, the roads were icy and the traffic pretty heavy. But ResQgeek has been driving on ice since boyhood, and handled it like a pro. I never felt at all in danger except maybe from some of the other drivers.

We saw any number of vehicles stranded on the side of the road. Emergency vehicles were out in force, snowploughs lined up ready to go.

We slowly made it into DC, where I forced ResQgeek to make a journal entry under pain of death when he dropped me off at my hotel.

I checked in, got my key, telling the staff that my wife, who was taking a later flight, would be in that evening. Weather depending.

Found my room, opened the door and stopped dead. I could see a pair of shoes on the floor. Clearly the room was occupied! I checked again. Right room, right key.

There was a figure in the bed, Goldilocks sitting up to have a look at me.

Kerri! Was I glad to see her, here on the far side of the world. She'd somehow caught an earlier flight and had arrived a couple of hours earlier, and was catching up with her missed sleep.

We looked out on the street below the window. Snow, snow, more snow. There were people skiing down the street, for goodness sake. This is not something we get at home! 


Journal Entry 21 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

10 out of 10

I went out in the snow on Sunday morning, my first pedestrian taste of this foreign land. I was actually looking for a place that sold teabags, but it took me a while to find a drugstore, which ironically was just around the corner from our hotel in the opposite direction to my fruitless five block search. But I released a book on a snow-covered newspaper vending machine.

The drugstore's supplies seemed to be mainly in huge quanties or laden with sugar, but I bought a hundred teabags, some milk and diet chocolate chip cookies.

And some Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. 


Journal Entry 22 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

10 out of 10

Had our tea and cookies. Kerri scrutinised the packaging, searching for fibre or vitamins or anything foodlike.

Searched in vain.

But after a while, when the television became tedious with talking heads and the blizzard showed no signs of returning, we rugged up, called for a taxi, and headed off to the Smithsonian.

The Museum of Natural History sounded like the most fun, and I left a book outside, in case I had to check my bag full of books at the door. When they have the skull of a triceratops outside the entrance, you know it's a cool building! 


Journal Entry 23 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

This book has not been rated.

The security guards looked though my bag, asking me to open up the interior pocket, and making sure they didn't actually touch anything. They passed it without questioning why I was lugging around a bag full of books.

Inside is the famous rotunda, with the famous bull elephant looking down on a hall full of schoolchildren of all ages. 


Journal Entry 24 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

10 out of 10

We looked through the hall of mammals first. Exotic beasts such as badgers and bison, moose and squirrels.

And a monstrous grizzly bear. 


Journal Entry 25 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

10 out of 10

A section devoted to Australian mammals, mostly marsupials. And an improbably fat and fluffy looking dingo. Trust me, dingoes look leaner and meaner. 


Journal Entry 26 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

10 out of 10

The dinosaur exhibit is every child's fantasy come true. Almost. 


Journal Entry 27 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

10 out of 10

The Hope Diamond and all the other glittering gems were hard to see through the press of people drooling over them, but to my mind the mineral hall was far more spectacular than a shining rock, no matter how large.

Here's one specimen out of hundreds, if not thousands. A lovely piece of abstract art. 


Journal Entry 28 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

10 out of 10

I had a book about birds of prey to release, and I searched for a display about kestrels or hawks or even pigeons. The release point I discovered was appropriate on so many different levels. 


Journal Entry 29 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 24, 2005

10 out of 10

Eventually, we realised that we could easily spend a week in this one building and ventured outside. Seeing the Mall covered in fresh snow was an experience, and as we gazed across at the Smithsonian Castle, we felt chills go up our spines. 


Journal Entry 30 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, January 25, 2005

10 out of 10

We walked our way down the Mall, kicking through snow, past the National Archives, up to the impressive entrance of the National Gallery. Australia’s national gallery should look this grand!

Unfortunately these grand doors were shut and we had to retrace our steps. We later learned that it was the fear of visitors, slipping on ice, falling down all those steps, breaking off bits as they hurtled down, and reclaiming the costs from the government.

This time I had to check the bag in. But I kept out a book and this journal. And my camera.
 


Journal Entry 31 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, January 25, 2005

10 out of 10

Inside was wealth untold. Treasures recognisable by any art student, hidden gems, golden landscapes and ivory busts. We wandered down long corridors and mazey galleries, splendours galore on every wall. The building itself is a treasure, with a gorgeous dome above a colonnaded hall. Grandeur for all tastes.

Honestly, I could spend my whole week in this building and not be sated. I suspect that I could camp out in the gift shop for a days on end before being driven by hunger to one of the cafes, if I may use a plain word for such delightful eating places.
 


Journal Entry 32 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, January 25, 2005

10 out of 10

Everywhere the exotic. Here a cascade tumbles down a freezing afternoon. It was flowing and splashing when we walked past, stillness incarnate when we returned, a golden hour later. 


Journal Entry 33 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, January 25, 2005

10 out of 10

Here is the interior of the East Building, a symphony in right angles and triangles, a counterpoint to the classical lines of the West Building. Here too were the Twentieth Century artists I love. A dozen Picassos and a couple of Feiningers. I gloried in them. And the many others.

A young lady dispensing audio tours consented to write a few lines in my book. She was charmed by the concept, and delighted me with her response.
 


Journal Entry 34 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, January 25, 2005

10 out of 10

I released my book by one of the staircases. Here it is temporarily partnered by this journal, and I am glad that I picked a notebook with stiff covers that would stand proud. 


Journal Entry 35 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, January 25, 2005

10 out of 10

I found the perfect picture to illustrate my Bookcrossing life – a jumble of books echoing my personal Mount Toberead. Unfortunately the flash went off when it should not have, and a guard gently reminded me that if I did it again, he would place my camera in a place where the flash would not be visible. I agreed with his impeccable logic.

When we finally emerged onto Constitution Avenue, the sun was a ruddy ball perched on the horizon, and we wandered along, looking for a cab. With my own logic, I sought a place where one could pull up at the curb, and outside yet another grand office block, there was such a place.

I hailed a cabbie, and as he peeled off into the traffic, he chuckled over the fact that a pair of policemen had been paying me and my Bookcrossing bag a great deal of attention. ‘That the Justice Building right there’, he grinned ‘They a little antsy over Gitmo.’

Ah. No wonder parking was not allowed in front of the building. Now that I thought about it, there were concrete barriers everywhere. Sometimes there was a line of solid cement planter boxes. This very city had been the target of a terrorist attack not too long before, and the authorities had every reason to be antsy. 


Journal Entry 36 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, January 25, 2005

10 out of 10

Monday, and I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Mall, passing the north face of the White House where workers were dismantling inauguration viewing stands.

The place was full of tourists, chattering, taking photographs, wearing souvenir beanies and generally getting in the way as they gawped here and there. Like me.

My destination for today was the National Museum of American History, and I hardly knew where to begin. Galleries opened in every direction, each more tempting to the last until in a frenzy of indecision I selected one about America's maritime history, which provided the perfect opportunity to release a book. 


Journal Entry 37 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

I had to meet a lissun, and the place he nominated was the oldest surviving US warship, the gunboat "Philadelphia", built, launched, fought and sunk in two months, recovered 200+ years later. 


Journal Entry 38 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

The Smithsonian was once described as "The Nation's Attic", and I gotta say there are a shipload of things in the attic!

But it's the public education function that blows me away. They have gone to a lot of trouble to present everything in a way that is easily understood and interesting.

To appreciate the significance of the picture, you must remember that this place is visited by people from all over the USA, so when they look down and see a map of the entire US with every voting district named and colour-coded to show how the ballots are cast and counted - whether paper, computer or whatever - they nearly always go look up their own district, and point it out, often with their toes, to companions. 


Journal Entry 39 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

I saw a lot of exhibits, but I really didn't have time to do more than skim. Here's the portable writing desk on which Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. 


Journal Entry 40 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

There was a display on America's wars which I found particularly interesting. I failed dismally as Rosie the Rivetter in an interactive exhibit, so I released a Civil War book in the Civil War section. 


Journal Entry 41 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

A couple of twisted columns and a shattered "Airphone" from the terrorist attacks of 2001 reminded me that I was in a nation at war, in a city which had already been a target, in a building which was itself a prime target. I didn't begrudge the security guards at the entrance one little bit! 


Journal Entry 42 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

I saw the original Star Spangled banner being restored (photography not allowed) but I was able to photograph the huge flag which was draped over the Pentagon after the terrorist attack.

It is displayed with pride in a huge central hall of the museum. 


Journal Entry 43 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

George Washington is a larger than life figure in these parts. Memorials, statues, towns, a state, universities and many other things are named after him.

And why not?

It's been an education learning more about him and the country he helped to found based on idealism and lofty principles. One of the things that endears him to me is that after his country no longer needed his services, he hung up his sword and went home to resume life as a gentleman farmer. His sword is displayed in the Smithsonian, along with a touching picture showing his retirement from public life. 


Journal Entry 44 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

I had to leave before I'd done seeing everything, but my next appointment was a few blocks away, and between me and the nominated Starbucks was Constitution Avenue, along which flowed a river of protesters twenty wide and miles long, all headed towards the Capitol. It took me a while to mingle my way across the street, but it was a spectacular sight! 


Journal Entry 45 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, January 27, 2005

10 out of 10

I had a cup of coffee with a friend and she pointed me in the direction of the National Building Museum. I have a keen interest in architecture, and this looked fascinating.

From the outside it's impressive enough. This picture is noteworthy for the fact that I took off my gloves to take it, and only when I came out into the cold evening air some time later did I realise that I no longer had them. Of course they were long gone by then! 


Journal Entry 46 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

Inside, well it just takes your breath away. The internal hall is vast and the huge columns just keep reaching for the sky. 75 feet tall, one of the guides told me.

The hall is used for balls, especially inauguration balls. The presidential seal between two of the columns dates from 1906 and only a few days previously President Bush had waltzed around a tiny circular platform set up over the fountain in the middle. 


Journal Entry 47 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

Maybe you'd have to be a certain type of person - like me - to appreciate the displays, but I found them fascinating. The first was origami architecture, complete with paper versions of Statue of Liberty and Sydney Opera House. Larger models in corrugated plastic showed how it could be done. 


Journal Entry 48 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

The other exhibitions were fascinating. I looked into a display on innovative architecture in public places. Federation Square in Melbourne was one of about a dozen projects illustrated, modelled and explained via video presentation.

Fed Square is loved or hated. There seems to be no middle ground. OK, sure, there's a lack of right angles and regular shapes, but the bottom line is that it works well as a piece of public space and art.

Another display, entitled "liquid stone", explored the uses of concrete from the traditional to the innovative. Concrete can be curved around reinforcing fabric instead of a steel grid, or laced with optical fibres to make it translucent, or refined to be super thin and super smooth.

I was enthralled to see what had already been done with innovative concrete architecture and all I can say about the future is that it's going to be one wild ride!

I released a book outside. At time of writing this is the only one of my wild releases on this trip to be journalled. 


Journal Entry 49 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

I asked one of the people manning the information desk to write in my journal, and she obliged most prettily. She also advised me on places to visit in Richmond, where I was to travel to see sparky-redhead. The State Capitol and St Johns Church were her picks of the city.

Outside, the lack of gloves was discovered and after a fruitless quest, I strode on into the chilly evening.

I had a book of plays, and what better place to leave it that Ford's Theatre, still in operation 140 years after Lincoln's assassination. 


Journal Entry 50 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

And just over the street is the house where Lincoln died. I picked a Sue Grafton mystery for this one. 


Journal Entry 51 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

Somehow, within a few days of joining Bookcrossing in January 2003, I'd managed to rub sparky-redhead, otherwise known as Amy, up the wrong way.

And back again. Over the next year or so we traded books, care packages, forum posts, jokes, delights and despairs.

Amy was having trouble finding real-life company, mainly due to her full life of work and study. Friends and acquaintances, workmates and church fellows, no problems, but for someone to share a good ol' heart to heart on a permanent basis, well, it just wasn't happening.

This bothered me, because the photograph on her bookshelf showed Amy to be a gorgeous redhead with a gleam in her eye, and her forum posts revealed a bubbly, bright nature. I adored her and yearned for her to find happiness.

A partial solution came with her adoption of Rocky the dog, a long drawn out adoption process that eventually saw the two of them united in a physical bond where they shared fun and exercise regimes.

Over the next few months Amy tried speed-dating and using Rocky as bait, before finally finding someone she could relate to in a meaningful way, a fellow naval officer who happened to be a dentist.

As the husband of a naval surgeon, I reckoned that she was on the right path!

And it was great to see Amy's happiness becoming more and more intense. Her joy shone out of her posts and her photographs. If there's one good news story I got out of Bookcrossing, it's sparky-redhead's.

She married her sweetheart dentist a little while ago, and plans to move to Minnesota in a couple of months.

As she lives in Virginia Beach, a fair ways from Washington, I wasn't holding out much hope of seeing her, but I sent her a PM, and she proposed the obvious solution - meet half-way. She seemed to imagine that I was brave enough to drive on American roads, but I talked her around to meeting me at a train station in Richmond, and so on Tuesday 25th I was up at the crack of dawn, the ice crackling beneath my feet as I walked between slumbering townhouses to Dupont Circle Metro for Union Station and Amtrak.

My wife had nothing but good to say of the Metro, but it was an unknown quantity for me, and I found myself on a near-deserted station wondering what was coming out of the tunnel.

As it happened, it was a clean, half-empty subway train, drowsing with commuters, and full of information on loudspeaker, display boards and maps.

I studied the map carefully and listened to the announcements. If I missed Union Station and my connection to Amy it would be a black day indeed.

I took care that I didn't miss my station. I found a vending machine, collected my internet tickets and had a look around. I have got to say that the main station hall took my breath away. Simply gorgeous! 


Journal Entry 52 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

Amtrak is run much like an airline. The gate was opened, my boarding pass checked and I was directed down to a platform where an attendant showed me up into my carriage.

Airline style seats, plenty of room, few travellers, a helpful, friendly conductor. Within a few minutes we were easing out of the station and past the backsides of vast government buildings, across the icy Potomac, and past the Pentagon.

The view from Alexandria was dominated by a tall building, I hadn't a clue what it was, and there were no signs, but I eventually discovered it was the 333 foot tall George Washington Masonic
National Memorial. A spectacular sight. 


Journal Entry 53 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

A two hour journey down, a lot of which I spent with my head stuck out the window. A very alien landscape - bare trees with snow on the ground, interrupted here and there by clearings with houses in the middle.

Australian houses in a similar setting would be partially obscured by shrubs and trees, sheds and garages, but houses in Virginia seem remarkably bare to my eyes.

The snow and ice gave an impression of untidiness, which I am sure disappears entirely with the winter.

We passed through Quantico, and I idly wondered whether any part of the Marine base would be visible from the train.

As it happened, the station was slap bang in the middle of what looked like a truly immense military establishment.

There was an airfield to one side, a few helicopters visible, and in between two warehouses sat a couple of Soviet T-62 main battle tanks, rusting away. 


Journal Entry 54 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

10 out of 10

We pulled up at Richmond's Staples Mill Road station, which I had erroneously imagined was the main railway station for Richmond. Never mind, parking was free, and it was a short drive into town.

I jumped down - another point of difference here, as Australian railway platforms are level with the carriage floor so it's just a step across a small gap - and took a photograph of my train. Stupid, I know, but I wanted to keep a record of my travels and this was a part. I should have photographed some of the decrepit cabs in DC!

And then there came a yell from behind me "Hey, Peter!" 


Journal Entry 55 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Friday, January 28, 2005

This book has not been rated.

And it was Amy! From the way she'd been talking about losing weight, I was prepared for someone much larger, but perhaps all the running and marathons have shed the pounds.

Anyway, weight aside, she's gorgeous, and I'm not just talking looks here. Bright and bubbly, sharp as a tack, great sense of humour, a caring, sharing, view of the world, Amy is someone high on my list.

I had to laugh when we got to her car. Normally I wouldn't post someone's name and licence details, but in this case, well, you can see why. There's twin "I brake for wild books" window stickers on either side of the back window, scoring extra Bookcrosser bonus points.

 


Journal Entry 56 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Saturday, January 29, 2005

10 out of 10

We hit the road. I wasn't much help with the map, but at least I spotted the only vacant street park in downtown Richmond. A block from the State Capitol, which unfortunately was covered in scaffolding. Enough of the outside was visible to show it was a very imposing building indeed, but somewhat smaller than I would have picked for a State legislature.

We went in via the unimposing back entry, the security guy was too polite to ask why I was carrying around a bright yellow bag of books, and poked our noses around.

There's not much to the building. The original structure was erected in 1788 - that's as old as European settlement in Australia - and added to some time later to include new meeting rooms for the Senate and the Chamber of Delegates. We got to have a look inside the latter chamber. I thought it looked a bit like a schoolroom, rows of individual desks with lift-up tops.

We looked through some of the historic rooms. Under the dome stood General Washington, and a few metres away, General Lee. 


Journal Entry 57 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

I seized the moment and released a book in the foyer while nobody was looking. 


Journal Entry 58 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

Stonewall Jackson was right outside, one of Virginia’s star performers in the military line. It was hard to know if he had been crazy or a genius. ‘A bit like you, Amy!’ I said with a smile.

She smiled back. Luckily.
 


Journal Entry 59 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

Next stop was “The Confederate White House”, the wartime home of President Jefferson Davis, which had an attached museum, the grandly-named “Museum of the Confederacy. Just a couple of small buildings really, but they packed a historical wallop. Confederate regimental colours, the various bullet-holed uniforms of deceased Confederate notables, personal possessions of same. General Robert E Lee’s field tent was set up with his bunk, chest, crockery and so on. It all looked very Spartan.

In another display cabinet was the dress uniform and sword he had worn when surrendering at Appomatox. I gazed at all it in awe. I’ve been a Civil War buff for decades, and this was fascinating, unique material.
 


Journal Entry 60 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

Jefferson Davis sought inspiration from a portrait of George Washington hung in his dining room, according to the oleaginous guide. Washington had led his new born nation through a revolution and Davis had done the same four score and seven years later.

The house was furnished, so the guide assured us, in the same style as it had been during the war, and he pointed out the many original pieces that had been put back in their wartime positions. One almost expected some of the statues dotted around Richmond to come to life, walk in, sit down and light up a bronze cigar.

We walked to a nearby restaurant and had a quick lunch. ‘Good Lord!’ I exclaimed as a small creature darted across our path and behind a nearby tree. ‘A squirrel!’

We don’t have squirrels at home, you see. I had been expecting something bigger, more impressive, maybe about the same size as a possum, but this was a cute rat with a furry tail. Amy assured me that they carried dreadful diseases, and that attempting to make friends with one was a waste of time, if not a quick way to the graveyard.
 


Journal Entry 61 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

Saint John’s Church was just a short drive away. Apart from its great age – it was built in 1741 – it is notable as the building where Patrick Henry gave his fiery ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’ speech.

Amy and I strolled around the churchyard, examining the many old gravestones, including that of Edgar Allan Poe’s mother. After a while a guide came out and gave us the history of the building, perhaps in a little more detail than we might require, but I was enjoying the ambience of the place. Just think, this church was in use before the British sent convicts to the new penal colony of New South Wales. In fact this building had played a part in the settlement of Australia, because if the Thirteen Colonies had not broken away from the United Kingdom, maybe there would not have been the same urgency to settle Australia.

I told the guide that we had seen a squirrel, but she must have been hard of hearing.
 


Journal Entry 62 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

We went inside the church, sat in an enclosed pew, and listened to more history, including the details of the revolutionary meetings here, during which Patrick Henry gave his famous speech. The church had also seen Washington and Jefferson though its doors. I managed to release a book, tucked away behind some prayerbooks in the pew, for this church still had a minister and congregation, and had Amy take a photograph of me in front of the plaque marking Patrick Henry’s speech. 


Journal Entry 63 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

And then it was time for me to make my way back to the Amtrak station, where I loaded Amy down with books and Tim-Tams. She later confessed that she had snarfed up the lot on the drive back home!

Fair enough.

Back on the train, I managed to grab a bit of a nap before we pulled up at Union Station, where I caught the Metro back home. Along the way I filled up a notebook with scribblings about liberty, death and America. I was working towards something, but I wasn’t sure what.
 


Journal Entry 64 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

Wednesday. Australia Day. I had a big program lined up for today, based around a series of Australian books with special Australia Day bookplates I’d lugged across the Pacific.

First up, I had to find the Australian Embassy. Hmmm. 1601 Massachusetts Avenue. That wasn’t too far away. Up to Dupont Circle again where I’d caught the Metro the previous day, pause for a minute in the middle where I shot a panorama of eight streets converging on one snowy statue, then strode off up the street counting off the numbers. A district of small shops and restaurants. Bookshops. Tempting. But I was a man with a mission, and when I got to 1601 Connecticut Avenue I was puzzled to find the address occupied by a restaurant. A nice one. Perhaps the embassy occupied premises upstairs.

After a bit I sorted out my mistake, found Massachusetts Avenue and hunted up the embassy. Found it too. Shot a photograph or two, expecting any moment that a security platoon would come out and arrest me for leaving suspicious packages around an embassy. But nobody cared.
 


Journal Entry 65 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

Oh well. Next stop was the youth hostel on 11th Street, where I would have spent my first night if ResqGeek had not rescued me. This was sure to have a book swap shelf in the lounge, if I could get past the security.


There was a bloke on the front desk. I walked in as if I was a guest – and of course, I could have been – and poked around until I found the lounge. A row of internet computers, running at $12 per hour, which I used to make a quick release note for the book I’d just set free and then I left a John Laws philosophy book on the bookshelf.

This later caused a sensation in Australia, where my fellow Bookcrossers wondered if the US might break off diplomatic relations with us if someone actually read it, but I pointed out that it helped even up the scales tilted by Wild Animus. Oddly enough, there was a copy of Rich Shapero’s infamous book on the shelf, and I took it with me as an act of mercy, intending to release it in some wild place as remote from humanity as possible. Los Angeles International Airport, perhaps, where my schedule gave me twelve hours to kill on the way home.

Next stop was a post office, to perform a chore I’d been putting off for a while. Six months earlier I’d taken my winter holiday up to Queensland, where I’d enjoyed a week on the fabulous Gold Coast and a quick trip north to Rockhampton just across the Tropic of Capricorn where the bulk of my family lived. An annual treat in escaping Canberra’s freezing temperatures to a land where I could stroll along golden beaches in shorts and T-shirt.

I’d taken along another journal, that of Rubyjules in Vermont, who had specified that her book could go wherever the winds of fate and Bookcrossers took it, so long as it went via Scotland and Byron Bay, where she had once lived. This was perfect for me, and I collected it in Sydney, noting that it had already been to Scotland. And France. And Iran. And South Australia. I had a great time with that journal, photographing it on the Gold Coast, Rockhampton, Canberra, Sydney and of course Byron Bay.

I had a whale of a time on that trip. Literally. I saw a humpback whale breaching from the lighthouse at Cape Byron, and a mother humpback and her calf swimming just outside the breakers on the Gold Coast.

Before sending the journal off on its travels – it is currently in New Zealand making its slow way back to Vermont – I scanned the existing entries and printed out copies for Rubyjules. I’d managed to put off actually sending them to her for months, but here I was in America with the pages, a packet of Tim-Tams and an Australian book or two.

So I packed them up in the post office, wrote out a note for Rubyjules and was searching for my Washington Journal to include its BCID when I realised that it was not in my big yellow tote bag. Ulk! I checked my camera and sure enough, there it was in the photograph, sitting on the bookshelf back at the youth hostel. I must have left it there!

I posted off the package and hurried back to the hostel, where my little yellow book was sitting happily just where I had left it. Relief flooded through me – if I lost my journal, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I’d lose a precious souvenir of the trip, one containing entries by sparky-redhead and ResQgeek, among others. 


Journal Entry 66 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

One thing that amused me was the current campaign by the residents of Washington DC for more representation in Congress. This mirrored the efforts in Canberra over the years to get Senators and Members of the House of Representatives with full voting powers. The motto on Washington DC numberplates reflected the current state of play. 


Journal Entry 67 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

I headed down 7th Street to the Mall, where I had an appointment with the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. But on the way I had two errands to run. First was in the National Archives, where I wanted to see some of the founding documents of the USA. In a magnificent hall I found the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the USA, the Bill of Rights and other important documents. Low light, and flash photography was not permitted, but still I managed to get an eyeful. An inspiring eyeful. 


Journal Entry 68 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005

10 out of 10

I got the feeling that this hall was often the home to a tremendous, shuffling queue of tourists, but on this cold January day, it was all but empty. 


Journal Entry 69 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

Next stop the National Gallery. There was a painting there which had caught my fancy on Sunday, but I’d inadvertently set the flash off, and not only had the flash reflected from the surface of the painting, ruining the shot, but I’d been chased out by a security guard, who reminded me of the signs forbidding photography.

I’m normally a somewhat law-abiding chap, but this picture was special. A pile of books in a sprawled happenstance, what else could it be but Mount Toberead?
 


Journal Entry 70 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

So this time I waited until the security guard was in the next room, whipped out my camera, made sure the flash was turned off and snuck in a shot. Luckily nobody noticed and I was able to make good my escape. Beautiful, ain’t it? John Peto is the artist and the painting is named Take Your Choice. And unless I’m way off course, it is long out of copyright.

Before I left the gallery, I took another loving look at the array of abstract and semi-abstracts upstairs. A delicious Piet Mondrian, some mouth-watering Picassos, including a tasty nude that was nothing but a series of lines and planes, but what made my heart leap were a couple of Lyonel Feiningers. I have a print of one of his paintings hanging opposite my desk at home, and when I’m not resting my eyes in looking at the antics around the bird feeder, I’m admiring the rigid shapes of Feininger’s church, the steeple soaring up into a sky defined by lozenges of blue.

There was a group of schoolchildren in the room, a guide talking about abstract and semi-abstract and representational styles. He’d hold his clipboard over the title and ask the children what the painting represented. It was interesting to hear the educated guesses, and my guess was that these children, none older than ten, were a pretty smart bunch.

But much as I enjoy exploring art galleries, there was one museum I simply could not miss.

Across the Mall was the National Air and Space Museum, home to a breathtaking array of historic aircraft. And spacecraft.

I could see that once again this was an establishment set up for long long lines of visitors, but today there were no more than a half dozen teenagers just hanging around outside.

And inside, as I said, it just took your breath away. There they all were:
 


Journal Entry 71 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

The Spirit of St Louis, 


Journal Entry 72 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

The X-1, 


Journal Entry 73 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

The X-15, 


Journal Entry 74 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

John Glenn’s Mercury, Gemini IIII, Apollo 11, all visible in the entrance hall, along with many more.

The Apollo 11 command module. Awesome! I had to release a book there. 


Journal Entry 75 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

It took me a while before I could go see other parts of the museum, but it was all good. 


Journal Entry 76 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

I stayed for lunch – a Big Mac, which to my not so great surprise tasted exactly the same as it did in Australia. And then I set off for the far end of the Mall, skirting the Washington Monument.

In hindsight, I chose the wrong side to skirt, as I went the Potomac side and found a few teenagers beside a parked bus having a snowball fight across a road, but if I'd gone the other way I would have had a good view of the White House. Oh well. 


Journal Entry 77 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

Next stop was the new World War Two Memorial, a rather grand affair that resembled a monument to political deal-making than anything else. There was something for everyone in a rather fussy memorial covering a few hectares. It was OK, I guess, but lacked inspiration. 


Journal Entry 78 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

Nobody who sees it will accuse the Vietnam Memorial, otherwise known simply as The Wall, of lacking inspiration. Or spirit or style.

It is a huge shallow V for Vietnam constructed of black stone sunk into the ground and engraved with the names of every US serviceman killed in the war.

Veterans, descendants, friends, family members, all come along to pay tribute to the fallen. Sometimes they leave tributes. Wreaths, medals, combat boots, photographs – all manner of things.

They come to make rubbings of the names on the black surface. Gold against black. So many names.
 


Journal Entry 79 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

This chap just reached out to touch a name, and my heart. 


Journal Entry 80 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

I had a couple of books prepared. The first was Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, which featured a flak jacket left at the very apex of The Wall. Only one possible place to leave it.

And being Australia Day, I thought I might release an Australian book about Vietnam. The Odd Angry Shot, a book better known for the film it spawned.
 


Journal Entry 81 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

From our new hotel in Arlington, we look east to see the Iwo Jima Memorial, the National Carillon and beyond lies the Pentagon.

My mission today is to visit the presidents, or at least their memorials. How can one understand America without knowing something of these men?

But I cannot walk past that magnificent statue, that photograph made solid, without leaving a book there. It takes me several attempts before the cold wind lifts the flag enough to give me a nice billowing wave. One thing about the Stars and Stripes, it’s a cheerful sight on a grey day in a grey city. But at least the air is clear and crisp, the sky is a hard blue, and there are still expanses of white snow off the beaten paths.
 


Journal Entry 82 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

The paths in Arlington National Cemetery are swept clean, but the rolling hillsides are sprinkled with patches of snow and lines of headstones. So many long lines. I read a few names but give up after a while and concentrate on general impressions.

Peace, dignity, stillness. Respect. This is a sacred place for Americans and they know how to do things properly here. There are funerals going on here and there, small groups of soldiers from the oldest regiment in the US Army forming honour guards to act as pallbearers, saluting parties and flag-handlers. This group is marching up from a civilian service, the wife of a veteran laid to rest beside her husband, but veterans receive a volley over the warrior’s grave, and the flag from the casket is neatly folded and presented to the next of kin. Higher ranking veterans are escorted by platoons, the size determined by rank.

I watched from a respectful distance. The last thing family and friends want or need is a camera-toting tourist with a bright yellow bag intruding on their grief. Such a lot of grieving. Look at all those headstones.
 


Journal Entry 83 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

Arlington is the old home of General Robert E Lee. When he “went South” with his native Virginia, the US Government seized his house for non-payment of taxes and buried war dead up to the steps of the house. Lee lived elsewhere after the war, and the old mansion is a museum today, and the dead have multiplied in the many wars since then. The flag is eternally at half mast in this grand estate of memories. 


Journal Entry 84 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

Though I see some famous names amongst the headstones and monuments – President Lincoln’s son is buried here – it is the grave of another President I have come to see. The story of John F Kennedy is a tragic one – a young President who caught the public’s imagination after the dour leaders of the post war years, cut down in his prime while leading his nation through a series of ideological and technical challenges. The early Sixties were exciting years, and Kennedy set many hearts beating in many ways.
The eventual American success in the race to the moon is one of those grand projects, but to my mind he deserves his place in history for the final freedom of the descendants of slaves. Lincoln freed the slaves, but they and their children were hardly equal citizens and a hundred years after the Civil War, segregation and apartheid were realities of life. Kennedy and his brother the Attorney-General set about correcting this.

Assassinated in 1963 and buried here in Arlington, his grave is a place of pilgrimage. An eternal flame burns here and a lone guard stands vigil.
 


Journal Entry 85 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

The view from the site is splendid, made even more so by the inspiring quotes from Kennedy’s famous speeches.

"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it." 


Journal Entry 86 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

I turn towards the grave. “Silence and Respect” says the sign and I remove my cap as I stand with the other visitors, before taking a photograph of schoolchildren. 


Journal Entry 87 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 out of 10

The eternal flame burns bright and clear, hard to see against the snow, but the dark green hedges provide a contrast. 


Journal Entry 88 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Wednesday, February 02, 2005

10 out of 10

But I cannot leave without setting a book free – one of Kennedy’s own, his inspiring Profiles in Courage. The guard doesn’t appear to notice – all that can be seen of him or her are a pair of gleaming sunglasses. 


Journal Entry 89 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Wednesday, February 02, 2005

10 out of 10

I walk down the hill to the main entrance to where a broad avenue connects me to my next stop, the Lincoln Memorial. The avenue is lined with monuments and one catches my eye. A muscle-bound GI extending a hand to some clearly foreign child. Is this how America sees itself, I wonder? 


Journal Entry 90 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Wednesday, February 02, 2005

10 out of 10

I almost quailed at the bridge over the Potomac. There was a Metro station a little way back, I had a valid ticket in my pocket, but I guess the experience of crossing an ice-covered river was something I didn’t want to give up, even though the wind was blowing an icy blast at me. The previous day had been mild. In fact I had worked up a sweat as I hurried up to my hotel through crowds of students making their way home from George Washington University, every single one with a cellphone clamped to their ear.

So today I had left my leather jacket behind in favour of a more stylish, but lighter weight woollen pullover. And the wind just ate it up. I was half frozen by the time I reached the Lincoln Memorial.
 


Journal Entry 91 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Wednesday, February 02, 2005

10 out of 10

Boy, now that’s a wheelchair-unfriendly monument! There are probably elevators inside, but I climbed up the steps, a little gingerly when the final flight turned out to be solid marble, adorned here and there with ice. 


Journal Entry 92 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Wednesday, February 02, 2005

10 out of 10

But worth the climb. I’ve seen it a thousand times in photographs, but there’s no substitute for the majesty of that massive seated figure. And I was out of the wind. I felt warmed in Abe’s presence, and I admired those deathless words of the Gettysburg Address, carved at one end of the pillared hall. 


Journal Entry 93 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Wednesday, February 02, 2005

10 out of 10

The view out of the front door over the reflecting pool to the Washington Monument makes me pause. Frozen solid, and that’s how I feel. But there’s a refreshment stand just over the road and I grab a hot dog, eating it in a patch of sunlight sheltered from the wind, shared with panhandling squirrels and aggressive sparrows who battle over the few crumbs I give them. Strengthened, I head off around the tidal basin. ResQgeek has given me a heads-up on the FDR Memorial, and I value his advice too much to disregard it. 


Journal Entry 94 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Wednesday, February 02, 2005

10 out of 10

As it turns out, I find it the most inspiring of all the presidential memorials. Franklin Delano Roosevelt served four terms, guiding America through the Depression and World War Two, sadly dying a few months before the thing was done. 


Journal Entry 95 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Thursday, February 03, 2005

10 out of 10

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," he said, and here's the dole queue. Or perhaps that should be a doleful queue. 


Journal Entry 96 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Monday, February 14, 2005

10 out of 10

FDR's Memorial is all on one level. Wheelchair-friendly. It's laid out in a series of open-air "rooms", each one themed to a term or an aspect of his presidency. The waterfalls are frozen and snow turned to ice lingers in areas sheltered by the brown stone walls. I look around for a place to leave a book, before settling on the final "room" where FDR sits with his dog Fala. 


Journal Entry 97 by felicia-fairy from Mackay, Queensland Australia on Monday, April 04, 2005

This book has not been rated.

The funniest part of this book has to be the list of Candy requested by Skyring's daughter.
Especially the line "Poprocks are not a request, they are a demand"!
Thanks for lunch yesterday Pete. 




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