We decided that it would be cool to spend the 4th of July, the nations birthday, in the nation’s capitol, Washington D.C. We stayed at a campground about 30 minutes outside of D.C. at a state park. From there we drove to a nearby train station and got on the subway, which was a new experience for my family and I. None of us had ever ridden one before so learning how the whole process works was an experience in itself. Luckily, someone passing by could tell we were having some difficulties and offered his assistance. So now that we had transportation under control, we headed to the National Mall for our first day of sightseeing.
The National Mall is a national park in downtown D.C. and spans over 2 miles. Since it was our first day there we decided to visit some of the attractions that were easy to get to and in walking distance to the subway station. The Smithsonian actually has 19 different attractions in the city and our first stop was the Natural History Museum. My family and I enjoyed all the exhibits; my wife’s favorite was definitely the Hope Diamond. The Hope Diamond is a 45.5-carat diamond and has an estimated value of 200-250 million dollars. I’m pretty certain she took like three hundred pictures of it alone.
From there we went to the Air and Space Museum, my son’s favorite stop that day. Not only do they have a large collection of space memorabilia they also have a large room full of hands on activities for kids which teach them about aerodynamics, draft, lift, and other aspects of flying that he really enjoyed, so did the rest of the family but him especially. In fact the only drawback was that apparently a ton of people decided it would be a good time to visit the capitol as well; so everything we went to do there were huge lines. That was a constant throughout the week by the way.
The next day we went to some of the memorials in the National Mall. The Lincoln Memorial was a good time, tons of people and very hot, but was fun teaching my kids why he was such an important President in the United States’ history. From there we went to the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, and was actually able to find some information about some of my family members that lost their lives in those wars. From there we went to the Washington Monument, a 515-foot tall obelisk built to commemorate George Washington, the first President of the US. We were not able to go up inside the monument because there is a faulty elevator, which a park ranger informed me, should be fixed by the summer of 2019. Our last stop for the day was a quick photo outside the White House.
Our third day we went to the International Spy Museum that was pretty entertaining. Its full of spy memorabilia and has a bunch of video interviews with former spies from all over the world. It’s a very James Bond type of attraction, and there is actually a large portion of the museum dedicated to the 007 films.
The evening of our third day I finally got some time to train. There are quite a few gyms in the D.C. area but I knew of one that I absolutely had to visit and that was Matt Larsen’s Combatives Fitness. Professor Larsen is a former US Army Ranger and one of the founders of the Modern Army Combatives Program, which if you have read any of my other blogs, know that’s where I got my start in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Matt started training jiu jitsu under the Gracie family in Torence, CA, and eventually earned his black belt from Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti under the Alliance flag. I feel it’s important to mention that Matt was also inducted into the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame. Not only is Matt a friend, but also I was promoted by one of his black belts, Professor Tim Farris. Anytime I get a chance to train with Matt is a good time and this one was no different. I attended the nogi class and ended up staying for both the basic and adult classes. I was so exhausted from all the sightseeing that by the end of training I could hardly move.
After training, and about a gallon and a half of water, my family and I went on a nighttime cruise of the Potomac River. It was really cool to see the sights lit up in the night sky and hear the information provided by the tour guides.
The next day was the fourth of July; we decided it would be appropriate to spend the day at Mount Vernon, a large plantation where George Washington lived with his wife and two grandchildren. The day consisted of a lot of walking, a lot of sweating, and learning all kids of historical facts about Mount Vernon as well as a military demonstration from the timeframe, oh, and the things my kids loved the most, free birthday cake!
Our last day we went to the Arlington National Cemetery which is the United States’ largest national military cemetery and is the final resting place of more than 400,000 people from the US and 11 other countries. I went there to visit some of my friends that I served with that lost their lives and because I wanted my son to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you have never had a chance to witness this ceremony, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is quite moving and respectful.
All in all, during our time in D.C. we walked 34 miles; saw all the major tourist attractions, met people from nine different countries and 14 different states. To say we enjoyed our time there would be an understatement. We were exhausted, sunburnt, and cranky by the end of our stay but the memories made with my family during this trip were all, without a doubt, worth it.