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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gordon's Birthday

Yesterday, was Gordon's birthday and we took the Metro over to Virginia and to Ray's Hell Burgers. It is probably the very best hamburger I have ever had, besides my own!!

When you go in you have a choice of one of their special concoctions or you can build your own. I chose to build my own!! All start out as a 10 oz. burger, ground fresh in store and patted out. I added mushrooms, onions, mayo, tomato, xtra swiss cheese and jalapenos peppers...yum !!!

Gordon got the Big Punisher which consisted of being diablo-grilled and brushed with our spicy chipotle marinade, pepper jack cheese, charred jalapenos, grilled red onions, and Piranha Sauce(Fiery, Spicy, Green Sauce)!!!
Check them out online as they have an incredible selection of stuff to put on your burger and it was great and a must stop if you are in the DC area.

So this morning we got up early and took the Metro (we are getting good at this)
down to the National Harbor and its marina. We were going to make a stop here but decided after this visit that maybe next time. This is a newer facility, fashioned after an upper end Mall, condo/motel,and restaurant destination. The Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center is located adjacent to the marina and this is where we actually ended up spending the most of the day.

We went in and found they were serving a Sunday brunch at $30 per person...you say what??? I must say it was well worth it! They had 7 stations of food, a cereal/fruit station, pastries/bread station, salad station, pasta station, fish/meat station, and 2 desert stations!!! There was bagels and lox, roast turkey, prime rib, 4 different types of ravioli, Cesar, pasta, and bean salads, shrimp, the big ones,oysters, snails, baked/fried fish, and the deserts ...cake, ice cream, chocolate dipped strawberries, pudding, tirramisu, and assorted cookies and brownies...YUM DOUBLE YUM!!! We ate for 2 hours!!!

We walked about the inside garden and shops and checked out the convention facilities. What a beautiful place to have a convention. Now, if only the rest of National Harbor would catch up and fill the empty store fronts with some unique shopping this would be a great stopping point.

The grounds are amazing and they have a very "different" sand sculpture/play ground. Also, many miles of walking trails and watersports abound and are there for the taking.Or yooou can just stroll the waterfront and stop for a drink here or there.

Since we were both stuffed to our gills, the ride back into DC was a bit uncomfortable and long but we waddled back to our boat and called it a day and a good day at that!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The last time we were in DC was in 1984. Reagan was the president, you could buy a super house for under $85,000.00, gas was a $1.10 per gallon and people stood in long lines to tour the White House. There were no metal detectors at the gates, no ID’s were required to walk in, so all persons, both foreign and US citizens were welcome and picture taking inside the President’s House was encouraged. It was a really great tour.

Fast-forward to today; 2009. There are no tours for the general public, foreigners (other than those on diplomatic passports) cannot gain admittance, little to nothing may be brought inside and picture taking, if you do get in, is absolutely prohibited. Certainly, it is a different time.

So, how were we able to get inside the White House? Well, we had gone to see our Congressman, Henry E. Brown, Jr., who represents the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina. Kim and I wanted to meet him and discuss the government run health care bill and get a pass to observe the House of Representatives in action. With our business concluded and the obligatory photo op taken, Congressman Brown asked if we wanted to take a tour the White House. Of course we said, “Yes!”

We learned that each Congressman and Senator has a certain allotment of spaces for their constituents on official White House tours. You get no real choice of time or date of tour, you just hope you can make the next one that’s available, for which your representative has openings. Our tour would start at 0730 hours, on September 24, 2009.

Well, even though we were now on a tour schedule, there was tons of stuff yet to do and lots of planning still required. First, we had to submit all sorts of personal information to the Congressman’s Office. You see, there’s a complete U.S. Secret Service background check required of all hopeful entrants into the White House. The background check takes 5 to 7 days and the Secret Service can deny you admission to the White House without explanation.
We had to make sure that we could get to the White House at 0700 using public transportation, so a few days before our scheduled tour date, we did a dry run. Making that dry run turned out to be a good thing, because the access to the pedestrian gate follows different paths at different times of day. Also, the pedestrian gate, as depicted on the map, isn’t exactly where it says it is. The bottom line was, we had to leave the boat at no later that 0545 to walk to the METRO station and make the right connection to reach the White House by 0700.

We received our notice of security clearance and, on the date of the tour, got up at the appointed hour, made the subway and it’s connections (God, it’s quiet at that hour) and arrived at the white house by 0700. Were we ever surprised to find a crowd of 40 or 50 people already there! Once in line, there was an additional wait of about 20 minutes (during which an additional 30 or so people came into the line behind us) before a Secret Service Agent came out and announced how the line was to proceed, how the metal detectors and inspection worked and what documents and ID’s we’d need to provide to gain entrance. Wouldn’t you know it, there were women who showed up with hand bags (they weren’t allowed to proceed) people who forgot their letters or ID’s (they were turned away too) and people with cameras and video recorders (They were sent packing as well.) Why bother to get instructions if you’re not going to read them and do what they say.

Next, it was past the Agent with the list of names, then through metal detector, then waved over by the magic metal wand (in case the metal detector missed anything) and finally, we were on the lawn of the White House. Then, we were ushered up a path, inside a side entrance to the East Wing and placed in a group of about 30 people with our own, personal Secret Service Agent as tour guide. Finally, the official tour of the Whit House began.

We saw Libraries where Teddy Roosevelt smoked and read, salons where First Ladies entertained and rooms that used to be laundries that are now elegant sitting rooms. There were green rooms, red rooms, blue rooms and State Dining rooms. Oh yes, and don’t forget ballrooms. All in all, the tour was pretty cool. And, thanks to modern technology, cell phones and an understanding agent, we even managed to secure a photo or two of the East Room.

The 45-minute tour flew by as if it were only 4 or 5 minutes long. As quickly as it had begun, the tour was over and we were ushered out, sub-group by sub-group, onto the streets of DC. We spent a few additional minutes in front of the White House gates for a picture or two and then it was back to the boat to gather cameras, maps and guide books and enjoy our last day in DC.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

National Zoo

Today, the three of us, ventured off to find the National Zoo. First, we caught the Circulator the local bus and that took us to where we picked up the subway. That dropped us about 4 blocks from the zoo entrance. We made a quick stop at McDonald's for lunch before embarking on the great adventure. It's amazing how good the cheeseburger tastes when you haven't had one in a while!!

The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Museums so it is free like all Smithsonian properties. It is spread over about 50 acres and is under going renovations in the Elephant house and big Cat area. But it is also home to Giant Pandas, the first ever brought to the US. We were able to see the Pandas and have some great pictures. It was like they were posing for us! You can go online and google panda cam and view them live at many of the Smithsonian Zoos. It was quite cool and I think we spent an hour at just the pandas.

Next stop was the gorilla room!! They ask that you back-up to the glass enclosure before turning around to look at the big guys. I had Schooner with me as I backed up and she just laid down ignoring everything. This big gorilla came up behind me and slammed both hands against the glass scaring both Schooner and me. He just stood his ground looking at Schooner and Schooner at him. I wish I could have taped it...it was sooo cute! The other Gorillas all came by the glass to see her and many other people got "my" pictures!! From the gorillas we saw the Orangutans, who played ghosts with sheets...too funny!!

We walked by the hippo yard and caught one swimming and got to see many birds including flamingos. Many of the animals came over to the fences to see Schooner and people began to follow us to get pictures. The wolves were the most curious but furthest away and they all (5 of them) paced the fence to see Schooner. Even the bear, tigers and lions got up from sleeping and posed for us.

My only disappointment was there was no giraffes!! What is a zoo without giraffes?? All in all it was a great day, alot of walking and the foot is still sore but it had to be one of the best zoo visits ever. I wish I had had Havyn to share it with...next year!! In the meantime enjoy our pictures!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Today, September 17th, is both Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, which has been observed annually since 2005. This day commemorates two things, the signing of the Constitution of the United States on September 17, 1787 and all who, by coming of age or by naturalization (this includes my father), have become US citizens. Knowing the significance of this day, Kim and I figured it would be the perfect day to visit the Capitol Building and view an actual session of the 111th Congress of the United States of America in action. There is, however, a caveat here. As Popeye the Sailor Man used to say, “Youse don’t just goes to the show, youse needs a ticket.”

Fortunately, we learned about "the ticket" when we went to visit our Congressman here in Washington. As a courtesy, we’d each been given one, which, our Congressman explained, was now required to enter the House Gallery and observe the House in session. We were told to arrive around noon, as nothing much would be done in the morning and all of the voting would happen from noon on. So, armed with this advise and two tickets, we hopped on the Circulator and headed for the Capitol Building.

We arrived at the East side of the Capitol at 12:05 pm and made for the Security Checkpoint. Since we’d been there three days earlier, we figured we knew the drill as to what was allowed to pass through Security. Additionally, we’d been advised that nothing could be taken into the Galleries other than articles of clothing and handbags and that there were lockers provided for all other "touristy" items. So, we entered the Capitol and prepared to passed through Security.

We walked up to the portal, put our change, wallets, keys, cameras, watches, belts, backpack and handbag into tubs and passed them through the X-ray unit. Then we walked through the Metal detector and, of course, set them off, so we were scanned by a guard with an airport style, magic wand (she found nothing.) Well, the first thing that happened was, the guards at the X-ray machine confiscated Kim’s NEW bottle of water. Now it didn’t matter that three days earlier, we’d been passed through with three (Yes I said THREE) bottles of water. Today, however, it was no water allowed (we were told this had been the rules for years, but we knew better.) So, I had to take the water outside, throw it in a trash can about 25 yards from the door and come back through Security and be rescanned. Total elapsed time, 12 minutes.

From Security, we followed the signs to the main exhibit hall and presented our tickets to a volunteer worker. We were directed up a flight of stairs, down a hallway and into a cue, which led us to a door where our tickets were inspected. We were then passed into a room where we had to surrender my backpack and everything electronic; camera, phones, keys with electric door lock fobs, pagers, etc. Anything that transmitted an electrical signal was forfeit and, after surrendering everything contraband, we were given a claim check for our surrendered possessions.

From the “Confiscation Room,” we were sent up an elevator to the House Gallery Hallway. Kim and I were thinking, “Whew, we’ve made it” but we’d celebrated a bit too early. As we rounded the corner into the hallway, we realized there was a sizable line ahead of us. The reason for the line was another metal detector and another security checkpoint. Once again, we took off belts, change, wallets, watches, keys and our one handbag. Through the metal detector again (Oh yeah! It buzzed again), through the magic wand inspection (still nothing) put everything back on again, only to wait in another cue to enter the Gallery.

The Gallery, which overlooks the House Floor, has seating for about 800 people. The Capitol Police, however, in their infinite wisdom, only open up about 200 of the available seats. Consequentially, you have to wait until someone comes out of the Gallery before you can enter. This took about ten more minutes, so finally, after a 47-minute waltz through the Capitol’s version of Homeland Security, we were seated in the Gallery of the U. S. House of Representatives at 12:49 pm.

The scene below us was nothing like we expected. The terms chaos, pandemonium and disorganized all came to mind simultaneously. There was some poor guy standing at the podium, banging with a gavel and trying to call the House to order, but the Representatives pretty much ignored his banging and continued to walk around the floor while laughing, talking loudly, shaking hands and slapping backs. The whole time this was going on, people were standing at the two lecterns on the floor, reading prepared speeches or making comment on the legislation up for discussion. There was such a din from the floor, however, that you couldn’t understand a word being spoken by the people at the lecterns.

The whole floorshow took about three hours. Then, as if a switch had been flipped, everyone began leaving the room without anything being said about adjournment. In less than five minutes, everyone was gone except for 6 congressmen, two court recorders and three people up on the dais, who acted as officers of the House. Between the remaining six, they all got up and spoke puff pieces, recognizing good citizens from their home States, and then they also left. From our vantage point, the entire spectacle didn’t meet our expectations for the law makes of the most powerful nation on earth. Rather, it was closer to an Alabama Mardi Gras street party with lots of good ole’ boys and bull crap, but minus the beads and beer bottles (well…..as far as we could tell.) It was very disappointing.

So, with our visit over, we reversed our path, reclaimed our possessions from the “Confiscation Room,” vacated the Capitol grounds and headed back to the boat. On the way home, we both agreed that, based on our experiences here with the whole political scene, the best thing that could happen to our government, is term limits for all of the members of Congress. Maybe it would stop a lot of the good ole’ boy, self serving, special interest crap and get our Representatives to focus their attention where it really needs to be; on the interests of “we the people.”

By the way, the included pictures are from the internet. You see, you're not allowed to take pictures, read any material, write any notes or make any record of what you see and hear while observing the House in session. 1st Ammendment what???

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day & the Hospital

Well I have put off writing this in the blog long enough!! We celebrated Labor Day quietly on the boat, sleeping in a bit. Schooner was biting at the bit to go for a walk so as Gordon headed to the grass I was washing out the lines I had soaking in Wisk to clean them up. I had my shower and was already dressed to take a ride; we had a rented car, and were also getting ready to head out. I’m not quite sure what happened next…. All I know is I remember it as slow motion as I was tumbling down the back of the boat! I missed the dingy I think but again by the looks of the bruises it must have knocked me back in toward the swim step. My foot caught in the ladder and almost twisted my big toe off! I have an egg on the back of my head; don’t know what it hit and the most disgusting thing is I was in the marina water!! Gordon comes back to the boat; I have already pulled myself out of the water and am sitting in a chair accessing the damage, and like the crack about beans on a paper plate, he asks if the hose sprayed me!! 31 years I have been married to this guy and he has to joke when I’m hurt!! Well, there was NO way I was going to the hospital wet so I hobbled below, took another shower to get the marina water rinsed off and dressed again. I also hoped everything would stop hurting and I could better access my booboos!! The foot!

George Washington Memorial Hospital was really pretty fast. First upon entering you go through giving your name and complaint. Then they send you to triage, temp, blood pressure, excellent by the way, and an overall check of injury. Next. I was sent to X-ray then put in the treatment area. Now this was a holiday so this area had local drunks sobering up, or cut from fighting. Homeless, looking for food and a bed where it’s cool (today it was 92ยบ) and weekend warriors nursing cuts, broken bones, and strained muscles. I was given a new shoe, lots of gauze pads, an ACE bandage, drugs and a tetanus shot in my right arm, the only place it didn’t hurt! yep that's my butt!!

Nothing is broken for those concerned, just bruised and strained. I guess I will have a few days of bed rest!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I met a man, here at the Marina, about our third day in Washington. Schooner had taken me out for a walk, which required exiting the dock area, so we were walking along the waist high, chain-link fence that separates the “boardwalk” (it’s really cement) from the water. I noticed Walker standing at the fence, repeatedly casting his line into the marina water. Being the shy person that I am, walked over to him and asked what kind of fish he was fishing for along the water’s edge. Then he told me that he was fishing for large-mouth bass, but it was so warm, they weren’t doing much in the way of biting.

As we both stood there chatting about fishing, boats and Schooner, we introduced ourselves and continued with our conversation. As it turns out, Walker is a pharmaceutical rep for a major drug manufacturer, grew up near Washington in Virginia and lives nearby the marina. Our conversation went from catching fish, to fixing fish, to eating fish and progressed on to restaurants. Learning that I liked local places and wasn’t particular about how classy a place was, Walker recommended some places that are mostly frequented by DC locals and are off of the tourist charts. And that’s how we learned about Ben’s Chili Bowl.

To get to Ben’s, we took the Green Line METRO, going north. Per Walker’s instructions, we got off at the ‘U’ St./African American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo stop and when we went up the escalator to the street, there it was; Ben’s Chili Bowl Restaurant, a Washington tradition since 1958.

Ben’s has survived some rough times. It was started when most new ventures suffered a 60% failure rate. It survived the Washington riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the deterioration of the city in the 1970’s and early 80’s. But all that not withstanding, Ben’s survived and kept cranking out its unique menu of hotdogs, sausage and fries (available with cheese or chili and cheese.) Today, the neighborhood is clean and vibrant and Ben’s Chili Bowl is still there, taking care of the never ending line of customers that crowds the door from the time they open until closing.

Kim and I arrived around 1:30 pm and took our place at the end of a line of about 25 people. In a matter of 10 or 12 minutes, however, we were inside and placing our order. Kim ordered a chili-cheese dog (all pork, no fillers) with onions and mustard and I got a “Bill Cosby,” (he courted his wife, Camille, here in the early 60’s) which is a 1/4lb. half pork-half beef smoked sausage on a warm steamed bun, topped with cheese, mustard, onions and Ben’s spicy homemade chili sauce. Then, to make sure our arteries were completely clogged, we split an order of Ben’s famous cheese fries; crisp fries slathered with a ton of thick, spicy cheddar cheese sauce.

We took a seat at an empty table and within 5 minutes, a waitress brought our order, freshly made and piping hot. And the taste…it was fantastic. We ate slow and enjoyed every single bite as we watched the constant flow of customers entering, ordering, eating and leaving satisfied. Believe you me, this is real comfort food.

We had just finished eating and preparing to leave, when I looked up and saw none other than Walker, ordering lunch. I hollered at Walker and he came over to our table, where I introduced him to Kim, and he laughingly told us that after telling me about Ben’s Chili Bowl the other day, he couldn’t stop thinking about it and had dropped in between appointments. Since his order was just about up, Walker went on to his table and Kim and I left to walk a bit before taking the METRO home. Boy were our bellies full!

So, in closing, if you ever come to DC, be sure to make Ben’s Chili Bowl a “Must” on your list of places to visit. We guarantee that you’ll leave there full and satisfied with the food and the service.