Family, Friends, God, and American Icons

For this post, I will be attempting to sum up the adventures of the last couple of weeks, plus my two day visit in Washington D.C.

As of this morning, I have ventured through 18 states as far as I can count in my head and should be hitting two more today (Pennsylvania and Ohio).

While in North Carolina for my brief break from nomad-hood, I knocked several firsts out of the way.  As you know, I went fishing for the first time with my grandparents at the beach, but I also was able to go golfing for my first and second times ever – which I loved.  The past two Sundays, I even had the privileged of attending the first two services of Solid Rock’s church transplant out in Raleigh, called Emmaus; this is the reason my good friends Kevin and Andrew moved out here.  I was thrilled to be able to meet several people from Portland that were there to live and help the church grow, but also several others that were merely there to visit for the opening service – kind of like me.

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Andrew’s first time golfing since he moved to the East Coast.

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Pretending like I know what I’m doing… I actually wasn’t terrible.

During my final week, my grandparents and I tried to fit in as much as possible.  We had several amazing meals, got manicures and pedicures, made crafts, ran errands, worked out, and went to the zoo.  The North Carolina Zoological Society, I think is the full name, was pretty neat.  Much like the Oregon Zoo by the way it was set up with Africa, North America, Waters, and a summer Dinosaur exhibit.  My favorite part, though I’ve done it before, was feeding the giraffes because anyone can do it.  At the Oregon Zoo, you had to know the generous zookeepers to be able to get the privilege, and even then you had to wait until the zoo was closed.  We intended to make our visit a short day, but we arrived at 10am and didn’t leave until after 5:30pm.  My uncle David, his girlfriend Val, and her son Jordan joined my grandmother and me.

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Hand feeding the big guy. This was the first time I’d ever seen fat giraffes…

The NC Zoo also had Gorillas.  Three adult females and two infant males.

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One of the two mother-son pairs of gorillas at the NC Zoo. It was awesome to see them sprinting around the habitat.

Around 1pm on Monday the 16th, I left for Washington, D.C., after a filling breakfast at CrackerBarrel with my grandparents.  My plan had never been to go to D.C., I was just supposed to ride on out through West Virginia and on to Chicago, but my little sister, Emily, asked if I wanted to stop by.  I always imagined D.C. to be ridiculously far from NC, but was sorely mistaken.  A quick check on Google Maps showed that is was less than 300 miles from my grandparent’s house, which was a normal day’s ride.  I’ve always wanted to visit the capital, so I decided to take Emily up on her offer.

Before getting into Washington, I had mentally committed to stopping at Arlington National Cemetery, just to be able to see all the men and women that so selflessly gave they’re lives so that we could hold our freedom here.  I doubt we’ll ever have another generation of such ordinary heroes in our country.

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Something about the term “hallowed grounds” just tugs at my soul.

A couple things that caught my attention about the head stones was that each one had a symbol for the religion of the fallen – or none if they didn’t practice a faith; also, many of the graves were wives next to their husbands.  It is said, that behind every great man is an amazing woman… take note of that, boys.

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I still have yet to grasp the sheer magnitude of the Arlington Cemetery. Maybe one day I’ll take the time to walk through it.

Around 6pm I arrived in D.C. and was headed to meet up with Emily and her boyfriend, Brett for dinner.  She picked this great Mexican/seafood place called Surfside, which is only a couple blocks from where she lives.  I got there a little while before they did, so I decided to sit at the bar and enjoy a well-deserved IPA.  The only option was a bottled Sierra Nevada, but I can’t complain… I mean, we are definitely spoiled in Oregon.  For a few minutes it was just myself and the bartender, Andy, talking.  He told me it was kind of an intense day to show up in D.C., since there had been a shooting at the Navy Yard that morning and details were still emerging.  I honestly hadn’t heard anything about it since I was on the road all day and never had the chance of catching the news.  After a bit more conversation, I learned that Andy actually grew up in Grants Pass, Oregon but had lived on the East coast most of his adult life, oh and in Africa for the past two years up until a couple weeks ago… but that’s another story, and a damn good one, I think.

Emily and Brett arrived as I was about halfway through my beer, we ordered food and called it a night after that.  I spent the later hours cranking out homework and attempting to watch Monday Night Football with them, without much success.  I mainly was distracted by YouTube, after my hosts talked me into finally watching the wonderful VMA performance by Miley Cyrus; I was a little put off by it, but now that I think about it I could care less.  I will care about who shakes their what and puts a foam finger where one day, maybe, but it’ll likely be only because I have kids and I’d prefer they didn’t gouge their eyes out or copy our nation’s role models.

Tuesday started off at noon.  Emily and I had planned on riding around the city in an open-top tour bus that allowed us to hop on and off as we pleased, but we ended up just taking the metro tunnel train and walking the National Mall.

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The underground station of the metro tunnel. Emily said each is practically identical.

When I say National Mall, I don’t mean a sweet shopping center adorned with American flags and parking garages.  If you’ve ever been to D.C. you know that it’s the major tourist area that holds the capitol building, several federal buildings, tons of Smithsonian museums, all the major monuments, and the White House.  It’s pretty big, and we walked the whole thing.  After hoofing it through the botanical gardens and through the Native American museum of somethingrather, my hips were already sore.  I know I walked quite a distance at the NC Zoo, but being back on my big on Monday must have helped with stiffening my joints.  Crap, I’m getting old already.  At the botanical gardens we saw countless gorgeous flowers, mainly orchids, contemplated stealing the ripe tomatoes but thought better as it may have been a federal offense, enjoyed the different mint and pepper smelling leaves on some plants, and collected some postcards.  Only a mint plant was harmed in the duration of our visit, and it will be just fine.

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A silver tree in a sculpture lawn. There were cicadas around that sounded like robots to accompany this mechanical art.

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Emily, the small reflecting pool, and the Capitol building.

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Looking west toward the Washington Monument from the Capitol building.

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The Capitol up close and personal. I prefer this over the White House… you’ll see why.

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Tiny orchids.

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In the Smithsonian’s Native American History museum. Lacrosse runs in my veins. This stick is from the 1800s. We used similar types up until about ten years ago.

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One of my favorite paintings by George Catlin is this of Choctaw Indians playing lacrosse.

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Similar to the photo I took of the Red Warrior at Tuskahoma, only this guy was from another tribe.

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Benny the Beaver circa 1850. Very detailed piece.

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A case of hooties… so many things in my life lined up in this little case of treasures, starting with the lacrosse stick.

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The United State Department of Agriculture. Looks just like all the other federal building around… only I went to school in the Department of Agriculture at OSU, so I had to take a picture. Pfft, tourists.

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Oh, you didn’t know? The Washington Monument is a transformer. Autobot, though, thank goodness. Due to an earthquake in 2012, structural repairs are being made to the 555 foot monument.

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Vietnam War Memorial salutes all service branches.

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I felt naive when I discovered that Hawaii wasn’t even a legitimate state until 1959, 18 years after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

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Oregon love… and Iowa? The order of the pillars made no logical sense.

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Looking along the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in this very spot.

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The view looking East toward the Washington Monument and the Capitol building from the same spot MLK Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Imagine this place completely packed with people marching for civil rights.

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I’ve always wanted to visit this wall. It was humbling to see someone had left a soldier’s picture, purple heart, and two other medals below his name; no one has touched it (not pictured).

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The White house. My sorority may have been bigger. See if you can spot the squirrel in the picture as a reference for size.

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“The British are coming!” Thanks, Paul.

After an adventurous, foot-numbing day on the National Mall, Emily and I met up with Brett to check out the White house, then head to dinner.  Our dinner plans were to meet my mom’s uncle, aunt, and cousins about 30 minutes north of D.C. at Olive Garden.  I hadn’t seen these guys since 2009 when I first met them, but they were more than happy to meet us with very little warning, as I emailed them just two days before.  We spent over two hours sharing stories and entertaining each other.  The Topolskys are very good story tellers, if you ever get a chance to meet them.  And, they all ride motorcycles, so we got to talk shop a little.  My cousins, Fara and Erin, had just returned from I think what was called “Bike Week” on the coast, so it was good to hear about someone else’s moto journey for once!

After dinner, we went back to Emily and Brett’s and I took off to get drinks with Andy the bartender from the previous night.  After first talking with him, I realized I had many questions about his travels and was interested to hear what he learned and how he got here.  Needless to say, Andy is one of the most incredible people I have ever met.  Like me, he seems to have a drive to make something great of himself, but for no one other than him.  I can’t say that I know him extremely well, even after our lengthy conversation, but I have a great base to start from.

I’d like to personally thank Andy, which I did in person, but on here, too, since there’s only so much one can fit in a text message.  Thank you for understanding so many things that people in my generation just don’t get.  That living is rarely ever about the material things, but about the actions you pursue, even if those actions only make a tiny ripple in the span of civilization.  That pursuing adventures to enrich your life may be extreme and seem crazy to everyone around, but it’s what makes you happy and you’re up for the challenge.  That education is not just about sitting around and reading books, but also absorbing that which you learn to gain a better perspective by going out in the world and doing.  And for living in the world so that I could find substantial conversations in one person and learn about your admirable adventures.  Plus, your vocabulary is one that I would like to exude one day, so I appreciate the good influence.  I hope to see you again soon, and you’re right, chivalry is not dead.

Now I’m heading home.

H

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