We took a short trip to Washington, D.C. in April, courtesy of Peter's employer, Raytheon. The company's Excellence in Technology awards banquet was being held at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Lucky me got a free trip as a guest of an awardee.

We left from our favorite airport, T.F. Green in Providence (actually Warwick), Rhode Island. What a pleasure, and the complete antithesis to Logan: easy to get to, easy to park, easy to walk into the terminal, rarely a line anywhere, and if there was, there's actually some real estate to deal with it. Another thing I love about flying from there — the views of the Narragansett Bay area and Long Island are spectacular on a clear day. We had that, in spades. And we had a precious window of WARMTH for these two days. Temps in the Northeast climbed into the 80s, and when we arrived in D.C. it was actually hot. No gradual warm-up for us.

We stayed at the Mayflower Hotel, and were accosted with help immediately — bellhops taking our small suitcases from the cab in to the front desk, and all the way to our room. In this case I didn't mind because Robert, who accompanied us, was so charming.

Something I noticed as soon as we arrived: this is the running-est city I've ever been in! Everywhere people of all kinds were on the run/jog. Was it the pent-up winter energy bursting free on a beautiful day? Was it the competitive nature of the area? Was it peer pressure? Whatever, it was quite interesting, especially in the uncomfortable sudden summer heat, to see legions of folks whizzing by. As we walked around the Tidal Basin we found ourselves in the middle of a running club. As we tried to stay out of the way and keep from falling into the Basin, they kept on a-coming. Bringing up the rear was a poor older man who looked like he was on his last legs and totally miserable.

We covered a lot of ground too; we figured about nine miles over the two part-days. Flowers, bushes and trees were in full spring bloom, so color (and pollen!) was everywhere.

From the busy downtown area we went south through Lafayette Park to the White House. It was hard to see — there were barricades surrounding it, so no cars or pedestrians could get close. A sign of the times unfortunately.

Peter had to head back for a rehearsal, but I continued on ... I found the Washington Monument ticket booth, hoping to get tickets to the top for the next day. Not likely. They are doled out on a daily basis, starting at 8 AM. People start lining up very early, and they are usually gone within an hour, for the whole day. So I did my usual stake out with camera and continued east to the Mall. Lots of activity around the many Smithsonian Museums lining the Mall all the way to the Capitol. Besides all the well-known places there were other impressive government and cultural buildings and statues everywhere I turned.

We took a chartered bus to the Air & Space Museum that evening. A long ride over a short distance due to heavy traffic. Raytheon had rented the entire museum — so instead of fighting the masses we had the luxury of a private visit. I'd been there many moons ago on a family vacation ... but this was like seeing it for the first time. How do they suspend those multi-ton airplanes from the ceiling? What a spectacular place. From strap-on wings, to the Wright Brothers, to the Spirit of St. Louis, to the latest space rockets, it was all there, plus so much background and peripheral information.

It was a lot to take in, and there was also dinner, speeches and awards. It brought back fond memories of the good old days at Data General when we did "thank you" events for engineers, developers and others. It's nice that some companies still do that (and can afford to) — this was a biggie. I'd been dreading the social aspect of the night, but with the great distraction provided by the museum itself, no problem. We even got in line to have "prom" pictures taken in front of the Apollo 11 LEM. Raytheon's CEO gave a nice speech, the award winners were recognized, and I took a long-distance blurry photo of Peter's team on stage. Their award? For "technical achievements and process and reliability improvements in the development and transition to production of metamorphic HEMT MMIC devices." The only thing I know about that description is that it could use a good edit.

The whole museum was a highlight, but I was really excited to see a portion of a B-26 bomber, the plane my father had flown in as a bombardier/flight engineer in WWII. The remainder of the plane is in storage and will be put back together for display when the new Air & Space Museum opens later this year.

We visited a very different kind of museum the next day: the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Beyond a museum, it's a memorial and shrine. For obvious reasons, it's a difficult place to visit but is done with genius, inspiration and passion. It may be the most comprehensive, well-thought-out and realized museum I've ever seen.

Afterwards, we walked around the Tidal Basin, where the cherry blossoms were waning, to the Jefferson Memorial. It was a little disconcerting to see planes flying so low around the area, on the flight path to Reagan National. We paid homage to Jefferson, looked at the view — the Washington Monument across the dirty Basin filled with paddleboats. A couple of government helicopters flew low and fast overhead.

We continued along the Basin to the surprising Franklin Roosevelt Memorial. I didn't know anything about it, and was surprised by its beauty and scope. It's not built up like the other President memorials, but out, in a plaza-like way. Waterfalls, blossoming trees, engraved quotes, and statues: of FDR, Eleanor and depression-era scenes.

Going northwest, we visited the Lincoln Memorial where the view out over the Reflecting Pool wasn't as nice as I remembered. The water was low and dirty and there were cranes at work in the distance. The same was true of the Mall and Basin areas — not quite as scenic as I'd expected. But this city had been through a tough winter also, so it was probably due to the ravages of the weather. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was to the left, lots of people were doing rubbings of names on the Wall.

We headed back toward the Mayflower as our time was running out ... but one last stop. There was an exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Whistler and other artists — scenes of Venice. I did a quick tour while Peter waited — really beautiful pieces including a few Sargent watercolors (one of my favorites).

Not bad for 26 hours in Washington, D.C., eh? Unfortunately the Northeast's warm weather window closed that night, and it was back to our cold spring ...

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