Since I don't have class on Fridays this semester and I didn't have school on Jan. 18 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we decided to take a quick trip east (and a little south) to visit our friend Brandon. This trip has been about four years in the making, because he is in his last semester of dental school at Virginia Commonwealth University and I promised him when he started that I would come visit him while he was still in school. So, since this was almost the last possible chance to do so, we headed out.
We drove southeast from Columbus, through West Virginia and got to Richmond, Virginia (where Brandon lives) in about 7.5 hours. Not bad at all. Clara was a trooper on the trip and behaved pretty well (especially when we shared with her our favorite road trip snack!) We stayed up until about 1 a.m. talking with Brandon, and then he was kind enough to give us his bedroom and he slept on a mattress on the living room floor.
The next morning (Friday) we drove into Richmond with Brandon, and he showed us around the VCU medical campus, as well as the state capitol building of Virginia (which is right across the street). (It is also in the picture above this paragraph.) We ate lunch at Jo-Jo's Pizza, and then we walked Brandon back to his clinic and left him to do some dentistry. We drove around downtown a bit to explore some more and then drove back to Brandon's house for the girls to have a nap and me to be lazy on the couch.
This is Brandon inside an old church on campus that has been renovated into a really cool study hall.
When Brandon finished with his patients, he took a quick nap and then we went out to dinner at Jason's Deli (which gives FREE soft-serve ice cream to everyone who comes in ... incredible!) and then got some dessert at Frostings Cupcakes (delicious, too.) After we got back from dinner, Clara went to bed and Crystal read for a while and then fell asleep. Brandon and I drove around Richmond for a while, and he told me about the history of the area and showed of the big statue of Stonewall Jackson and the beautiful southern avenues in the city. We got back in time to hang out with Brandon's roommates for a little while, and see the great finish to the Suns-Hawks NBA game.
The next morning we got up and drove north about 90 minutes to Washington DC. Brandon left us there to go study for a few hours. Our friend Nicki (who works for Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)) was kind enough to get our names on the list of visitors to the White House that day, so we parked on the west side of the White House and tried to get into the tour. We tried to walk around the south of the building to get to the East Wing (where our tour was) and were turned away by a uniformed officer. I asked him what was going on and he said he didn't know. So, we walked the long way around and then finally got to the line. We waited about 30 minutes to get in (showing our photo ID twice and going through a big metal detector). Clara was a good sport because I didn't let her get off my shoulders very much (so she didn't cause any national security alerts, ha ha).
As we went through the metal detector, I heard one of the Secret Service agents say, "Eagle and Trailblazer are here today, everybody's here." I figured out he was talking about people by their Secret Service codenames, and "Trailblazer" sounded really familiar. (It turns out Trailblazer is George W. Bush, and Eagle is Bill Clinton). The two former presidents were there with President Obama to talk about the Haiti earthquake disaster relief efforts. We didn't get to see them, but they didn't get to see us either, so we'll call it a draw.
The White House was beautiful and is a fitting place for the leader of our country to greet visitors and to live. It is large, but it still feels like a home, not like a government building. There is so much history and art in it that it was amazing to see and made me proud of our national heritage as I thought of all the great men who have walked those same halls.
Here is the Capitol. Very large and very beautiful.
After the White House, we drove to Crystal City (just across the Potomac to the south) and checked into our hotel, the Hampton Inn. We got a great deal (about $80/night) and a hot breakfast at the hotel, and would recommend it to anyone headed to DC, as it is only a five-minute drive from the National Mall. After getting settled, we changed into nicer clothes, met up with Brandon and his girlfriend, Shonni, and drove to Georgetown to eat at Filomena, a wonderful Italian restaurant. It is pretty expensive, but we got a good deal because it was Restaurant Week in DC. Since we had an early dinner, we had time to have more fun, so we drove back to the hotel, changed into comfy clothes and then rode the Metro to the Verizon Center to watch the Sacramento Kings (Brandon and Crystal's hometown favorite) play the Washington Wizards. The Wizards won a pretty close game, but it was sure fun to be there. Brandon and Shonni played with Clara almost the whole time and Clara ate up the attention. After the game, we rode the metro back to the hotel (that is the way to go, by the way, because the station is built almost exactly under the Verizon Center, and there was another station only a block from our hotel.)
Brandon and Shonni at the game.
We had hot chocolate and visited for a while longer and then Brandon and Shonni left and we went to bed. We got up Sunday morning and, after eating a delicious hot breakfast at the hotel, drove about 30 minutes to church. Shonni's ward is one of just a couple singles wards in the DC area, and I saw several people I know, including an old roommate, a mission buddy and a friend from Provo. There are three other people I am friends with who were gone for the holiday weekend, too, so I felt like it was a mini-reunion all around. After church, we went back to the hotel and took a wonderful nap. It rained all that day, and everyone knows rainy Sunday naps are the best kind.
When we woke up, we called Brandon and Shonni and they came back and we all drove into Maryland to see the Washington DC Temple. It was beautiful in the foggy rain.
We also got to visit the visitors center next door and Clara loved The Christus statute of Jesus Christ.
We drove back in the rain and hung out for a while longer before heading to be. We slept in a bit on Monday and let Brandon study some more while we went to the National Mall and visited the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Monument. It was wonderful to see these great monuments to some of the people who gave so much and did so much in the building of our great nation. It was humbling to see them and to think of what they represent. We didn't get to go up the Washington Monument nor into any of the Smithsonian Museums, so we already know we want to go back.
The WWII monument. Each pillar represents those who served from a state or US territory.
I like the flag in this shot.
Clara at the WWII Monument.
Crystal and Clara with the Washington Monument in the background.
Outside the Lincoln Memorial.
Inside the Lincoln Memorial.
The mall from the Lincoln Memorial.
All of us in front of the mall. The flash makes this look like we were pasted into a stock photo!
Clara cuddled up on my head!
After exploring there, we met Brandon and Shonni (after a 45-minute search for parking!) at Old Ebbitt Grill, a restaurant across the street from the White House where many of the presidents have eaten. I had a wonderful crab cake and Crystal had crab legs.
Crystal with her crab!
After that, we were having so much fun with Brandon and Shonni that we decided to go to get dessert at Georgetown Cupcake. Traffic and parking were again crazy, so it took a couple hours to get to Georgetown, park and walk to the cupcakes and the wait in line to get our goods. They were worth the wait. We then found a little park and talked there and ate cupcakes while Clara played. She found some water and some dirt and then a mixture of the two and got good and muddy. She was having a grand old dirty time, and Crystal said a few people walked by her and muttered stuff like, "Look at that little girl, I wonder who her mother is...," and "She is so muddy, where is her mother?" Pretty funny! We just took her back to the car, put her in her dry pajamas and she was set. We said goodbye to Brandon and Shonni and then headed home.
This is a pretty street in Georgetown.
The drive back was smooth and uneventful. We made it back in just more than 6 hours. It was a wonderful trip and so much fun to visit with Brandon before he graduates. It was also a good way for me to ease back into the hectic swing of my semester.