Day 97. Sunday, 4th August. Just outside Emmitsburg via Washington to Shenandoah National Park

Today was a very full day. Up early, we were waiting for the sun to dry the tent and ground sheet, as there had been a heavy dew. While we waited, Luther and Tracy came to say goodbye. Tracy had 4 horses in the adjoining paddock which I had been admiring, so we had a common interest. We thanked them for kindly letting us spend the night in their field. Luther advised there was a McDonalds in Emmitsburg, just down the road, so we headed there for the usual use of their wifi. Emmitsburg is a nice, pretty little town. 

We discussed how we were going to tackle Washington. Picking the quietest looking roads we set off. Partly with the map and partly by using the Sat-Nav, we had a great drive into Washington. Slow at first, as we avoided any highways. We decided we would stop and have an early lunch before we faced the city and while we were still out of the too built up area. Parking under a tree for some shade, it was a very warm day, we had a quick meal.

The ride into Washington was a real pleasure. Very light traffic on dual carriageways through smart suburbs and after crossing the Potomac River, magnificent mansions among forest on a single track, winding road. The rest of the journey was again on dual carriage way with the Potomac on one side and forest on the other. We crossed the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge into the city and this led us directly into Constitution Avenue, which borders the National Mall. We were lucky and found a parking meter easily. The maximum time we could park for was 3 hours. 

Washington is a lovely city to walk around, as most of the sights of interest are close together. The National Mall has the Abraham Lincoln Memorial at one end, the George Washington Monument in the centre and the US Capitol, with the Senate and the House of Representatives, at the other end.  The Washington Monument looks a bit odd. The stones it is constructed from changes colour about a third of the way up. It is built of 36,000 blocks of stone and stands 555 feet high. It apparently took so long to construct that the quarry ran out of stone. Hence the two different coloured stones.

Washington Monument

There are numerous other memorials as well. About a 15 minutes walk away is the White House. We took the necessary selfie in front of the South Lawn. 

Just as we walked back to Constitution Avenue a Hop-on-Hop-off bus came along, so we jumped on. We asked the driver how long a full circle would take and he advised over

2 hours. More than the time left on our meter, but we thought we would do it anyway. 

Capitol Building

All sorts of impressive buildings, mainly museums. I won’t bore you with them all. The National Archives, the Old Post Office Building, which is now a Trump Hotel, the Ford Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated and at the end/start of the route, Union Station. A major transport hub, we had to wait several minutes to get into the station forecourt, due to taxis and cars dropping off passengers. There was a 15 minute wait here before the start of the next tour. We took the opportunity to look at the vast hall inside the station and to use the facilities. The city was packed with tourists, but the only facilities we could find were closed, so I was getting desperate!

Back on the bus we had a different driver and guide. Both ladies. After about 5 minutes the guide’s microphone packed up and this driver was very slow. Somewhat frustrating as our meter was up. We came to the Washington Memorial from the other side and asked the driver if she would let us off. It wasn’t an official stop and she didn’t really want to open the door, but reluctantly she did and we jumped off. It was quicker to walk back across the Mall to the Land Rover than continue the loop on the bus. 

No parking ticket, fortunately. By this time it was 5.15 pm and we needed to head out of the city and find somewhere to camp. Shenandoah National Park was about 50 miles away, so we set the Sat-Nav for the quickest route there. It meant some horrid, heavy traffic on motorways for a bit, but got us to the National Park just after 7pm.

There were several campsites in the park and a very sensible sign at the park entrance advised they all had space. We purchased an annual National Park Pass for $80 which allows us to access all the parks in the US. The closest camp site was 10 miles to the north, but it only had basic facilities. Big Meadows campsite was 20 miles to the south, but had a laundry as well as showers etc, so we headed there. It was a glorious warm, sunny evening and the ride along the ridge of the Blue Mountains was stunning. It is called the Skyline Drive and follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles. A beautifully maintained road with numerous pull off points for viewing. We stopped just once at a view point looking out over rolling hills and forests. As it was getting later in the evening it was pretty hazy though. 

We wanted to get to the camp before dark, so didn’t stop again and arrived at the campsite just before 8 pm. As well as seeing the sights of Washington we had covered over 200 miles on a very hot day. From the centre of the capital city to the depths of the Virginia countryside in a matter of hours. A very welcoming couple of beers followed, while we cooked a quick dinner of trout with asparagus and corn. Followed by fruit salad with Greek yogurt. Tomorrow we will have a rest day and stay put to catch up with washing and other maintenance issues, like painting my toe nails.

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