Fun Times in the Federal City

If you’re a nerd like me who gets hyper about history, Washington, D.C. is the ultimate destination. You can’t take five steps in the capital city without practically tripping over something of historical value. It’s everywhere. I thought I hit the pinnacle of our nation’s history when my buddy Robert and I took a D.C. bus trip in 2016. Little did I know that three short years later, I would trek back to our nation’s capital for an even more epic journey.

My wife and I signed up for a bus trip through JH Travel and Diamond Tours. It was a steal at $797 per person, especially when you consider that other tour groups charge over $1000 for similar trips.

I adore D.C. because it brings history to life. Most of us were bored to death in school by uninspired history textbooks. Unless you had a phenomenal teacher, American history was just another letter on your report card. Experiencing D.C. in person is valuable because it proves the existence of the monumental people and places you’ve always heard so much about. Figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson can seem so mythical, in part because it seems unfathomable that a relatively small group of individuals could rise up against the strongest empire in the world to form a new nation from scratch.

I’ve always believed that the best way to describe a trip is through pictures. I love to write, but I don’t have words strong enough to keep pace with epic photos from epic trips. Before I get to a roundup of gratuitous photography, I want to point out that regardless of what landmarks you visit on a trip, it’s people who ultimately make a trip legendary. This time around was no different. From Janie and Rick of JH Travel to John our CIT bus driver to David our hop-on tour guide to the lovely Australian couple we met in the Capitol cafeteria, people make the difference. Most of all, our fellow travelers made the trip enjoyable. They were characters who gave the trip character. We were all there for the same reason: to enjoy and learn.

On this year’s trip, we saw more than I could ever imagine. I’ve tried my best to include as many sights as possible in the photos below, but there are still so many landmarks missing: fixtures like Embassy Row and various statues that we did not snap photos of, places like the Obamas’ house that zoomed by too quickly for our reflexes, and artifacts like the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and the Star-Spangled Banner flag, all of which are banned from photographers’ lenses.

And now, on to what you really came to see: an ample assortment of stunning sights. Credit goes to my wife, the expert photographer, for most of these images.

The United States Capitol.
The statue of Kamehameha I of Hawaii, located in the Capitol Visitor Center. Directly beneath him, our guide David informs our group of the sights we’re about to see.
“The Apotheosis of Washington,” artwork on the dome of the Capitol rotunda. The scene features George Washington, two goddesses, and 13 maidens representing the original 13 colonies.
The Capitol rotunda, where countless individuals have lain in state, including 12 presidents from Abraham Lincoln to George H.W. Bush. The ropes not only block off the center of the rotunda, they also create a pathway for politicians rushing from one end of the building to the other.
The statue of Iowa’s own Dr. Norman Borlaug, located in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
The Liberty Statue, located in the Library of Congress (the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building).
The Court of Neptune Fountain outside the Library of Congress. It includes a turtle spitting water onto the chest of a naked woman riding a horse. So there’s that.
The Supreme Court, which includes not only a court of law, but also a court of basketball.
The Old Post Office and Clock Tower.
This shows why you do not screw with the Secret Service.
It was surreal to gaze at the White House and remember that the British set it ablaze in 1814 (the building is much better now, thanks for asking).
Secret Service on wheels, including one dude who looks like he’s starting a YMCA dance.
Are there protesters near the White House? Yes. Are most of them bats**t crazy? Also yes.
The Treasury Building and Albert Gallatin statue. Gallatin ended up becoming the last surviving senator from the 18th century.
The Lincoln Memorial, which includes a column for each of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. Seventy-eight-year-old Robert Todd Lincoln attended the memorial’s dedication in 1922.
A photo left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
A close-up of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.
The 19-foot-tall statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial.
The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which was being drained for repairs while we were there.
The Atlantic side of the World War II Memorial. During both of my visits to this memorial, I’ve had my picture taken by the Iowa pillar in honor of my grandpa, who was a World War II vet. To read more about him and my interest in the war, see my previous blog post.

Here’s the link to my blog about my grandpa and World War II, titled “A War for Knowledge.”

The Pentagon Memorial, honoring the 184 people who perished in the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. A bench for each victim has been placed in the plane’s flight path. Benches facing the Pentagon honor those who died in the building; benches facing the open sky honor those who died on American Airlines Flight 77.
The relief commander inspects the uniform of the oncoming guard during the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The USS Maine Mast Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. It features the mast recovered from the wreckage of the USS Maine, which exploded and sank in 1898.
The Swedish Chef, located in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. It took two people (Frank Oz and Jim Henson) to fully operate the chef… bork, bork, bork.
The Washington Monument. Partway up the monument, you can see a difference in stone color. Construction was halted from 1856 to 1876. When it was resumed, the new stones came from new quarries. All of the stones appeared to be the same color upon completion in 1885, but since that time, environmental elements have aged the marbles differently.
I told my wife that D.C. has tons of food trucks. She didn’t believe me. Then she saw this lineup.
Theodore Roosevelt set off on an expedition in 1909 that ended up bringing back more than 11,000 animal specimens for the Smithsonian’s new Natural History Museum. It took naturalists eight years to catalog all of the specimens, including this northern white rhino.
I don’t know what this is, but I do know that I want it to stay the hell away from me.
Jeep 3:16. This was at the Museum of the Bible. Everyone knows that on the eighth day, God created off-road vehicles.
The National Archives, where we had the opportunity to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Magna Carta. We also saw where Nicolas Cage ran out of the building in “National Treasure.”
Our most excellent tour guide David at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
Day or night, the faces of the 19 soldiers at the Korean War Veterans Memorial are always haunting.
A reflection off the wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
The immense Iwo Jima Memorial with an ascending plane in the background.
People routinely leave mementos at the Air Force Memorial. Surprisingly enough, I spotted a group photo that had also been there when I visited three years ago.
The eight-foot-tall bronze statues representing the Air Force Honor Guard at the Air Force Memorial.
Our tour group walks toward one of the inscription walls at the Air Force Memorial.
The relatively new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, with the not-as-new Washington Monument in the background.
I feel like this Martin Luther King Jr. quote accurately describes many of the important figures honored in Washington, D.C. These men and women reserved their place in history by rising up to meet the challenges they encountered.
Todd Beamer’s ID badge, recovered from the Flight 93 wreckage and now on display at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.
Flags line the marble Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial. Of all the sites we visited, this and the Pentagon Memorial hit home the most for my wife and me because, unlike the subjects of other memorials, we witnessed the horror of 9/11 live on TV as it was happening.
Many people have a “thing” when they take pictures. Some people like to do jump shots. Some just stand there and smile. I like to give a thumbs up. As evidenced by this collage, I gave the thumbs up quite a few times on this trip. Thank you, Washington, D.C., for a magical journey. Two thumbs way up.


  1. This was awesome! I ha e never been to DC so all the pictures and verbage was a real treat.

    Are their protestors? Yes. Are they also batshit crazy? Also yes. Laughed out loud at that.

    Oh, and the little Gizmo like creature? He is a Fennic Fox.

    Bork, bork, bork.

  2. I so enjoyed being on this trek with you and Sheryl. What interesting people you are, as well as all the travelers we shared our experiences with!! What a trip! I love your photos! Thank you for sharing! I will remember this trip with great memories for as long as I have a memory!!! So blessed we could go!

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