This past April, for our anniversary, we decided to have a few friends over for food and drinks. During dinner, conversation shifted to everyone’s travel plans for the upcoming summer. Someone mentioned Washington, DC. I’ve been to DC a few times, but each trip was during a big event, (presidential inauguration & million man march) so due to the large crowds, I wasn’t able to navigate the capitol the way I wanted to. I’d been itching to get back, because:
A. I’m absolutely in love with history, especially U.S. history. I often find myself spending hours traveling down the rabbit hole that is Wikipedia, researching everything from Henry Ford to Harriett Tubman. One of the items on my bucket list is to try out for Jeopardy. I always joke with Lakese telling her that I’m a fountain of useless information.
B. I would have the opportunity to tour the White House. Not just the self guided tour of the East Wing, but the West Wing. Oval Office, Situation Room, Rose Garden, all the places you see on TV. Shout out to my cousin, and at the time White House staffer, Dr. Marvin Carr. He has since moved into the position of Stem and Community Engagement Advisor with The Institute of Museums and Library Services. I plan on photographing and interviewing him for our blog when we meet up later this year. So I won’t give away his story right now.
Everyone checked their schedules, and we decided on a mid-May road trip.
Because we would be touring the West Wing, we’d need to apply for a government background check. Once that was complete, It became official.
We’d only be there for a weekend, and the White House tour would take up the bulk of our Saturday, so in order to make the most of our trip, we needed to hit the ground running when we arrived.
Friday afternoon, we checked into the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, VA, which sits directly across the Potomac River from Washington DC, and is walking distance to the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. After the 8 hour drive from Detroit, everyone was pretty hungry so we decided to venture in the city. We got recommendations from locals and ended up at a small intimate soul food restaurant on U Street named Oohh’s & Aahh’s .
While everyone else finished eating, I went outside to get some fresh air. Next door, I noticed a shoe shine parlor and decided to check it out. Like barbershops, shoeshine/repair parlors are the “Country Clubs of the ghettos.” These are the hood spots where you can go to get all the latest happenings on the streets. Unlike barbershops though, shoeshine parlors have become endangered species in our neighborhoods. Back in the day, men and women would buy a good pair of shoes, and once worn, the heel and sole would be replaced. Same thing with purse or bag zippers. Now, most people just throw those things away and think nothing of replacing them with new purchases. According to the gentleman behind the counter, The Ponytail Shoeshine Parlor is full of DC history. I’m glad I got to kick it with them, even if only for a brief moment.
After dinner, most of the group went back to the hotel, but some of us decided to catch an Uber to the national mall. The mall at midnight was a different experience than in the middle of the day. It was still pretty crowded, but a lot more chill. Most people just sat around on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial taking in the cool spring breeze.
The next morning, was pretty much a full White House tour day. The majority of the group was scheduled to tour the East Wing in the morning, and the rest of us would tour the West Wing in the afternoon. I decided to head over with the morning group so I could sight see and street shoot before my tour.
I didn’t realize just how massive the White House Complex was. Not just the actual White House, but all the buildings that make up the complex. One building that caught my attention was the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It sits adjacent to the West Wing and houses a large majority of White House employees.
For security reasons, cameras are not permitted in the West Wing, and once we stepped through the doors cell phone use was restricted. For that reason, I don’t have many pictures from inside. We did however get to meet and take a photo with Bo & Sunny, The Obama’s Portuguese water dogs. We just happened to be entering as they were exiting for their afternoon walk.
The West Wing was dope. A lot smaller than I had anticipated, but very interesting. Upon entry the very first thing I noticed was the up-to-date photos hanging throughout the hallways. To the right was Vice President Joe Biden’s office. To the left, was the situation room. We weren’t allowed into the situation room, but we did catch a peek inside as a staffer was exiting. From there, we went into the Navy Mess Hall, the West Wing’s dining room, which is run by the US Navy.
Next we went upstairs to see the Roosevelt room, the cabinet room and The Oval Office. In TV and print media, The Oval Office seems massive. In person, not so much. It looks like a working, functional office. The details are immaculate… the burgundy drapes the, the gold trimmed carpet, the iconic wooden desk, the busts of Abraham Lincoln & Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There was so much to take in, and we couldn’t possibly see it all in the few minutes were were allowed to peek into the doorway. One thing I did notice was the ceiling. It contains a perfectly engraved rendering of the presidential seal.
After the Oval, we toured a few other offices and board rooms on the floor. We missed our opportunity to visit the Rose Garden, as President Obama was hosting foreign dignitaries in the garden that afternoon.
We had to go outside of the West Wing to get to the press room. Once outside, we could use our phones and take photos.
The press briefing room was a very interesting place as well. You could visibly see where each network plugs into the White House feed. They were clearly marked, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc.
Touring the White House was definitely the highlight of the trip. It’s a memory that I’ll always remember.
Once everyone finished their tour, we decided to change clothes and do more sight seeing. We visited all the memorials and monuments.
After a full Saturday, We prepared to hit the road and head home on Sunday, but first, I wanted to visit Arlington National Cemetery. What I didn’t prepare for was the size of Arlington. I figured, we’d park, hit the main tourist spots then get back on the road. Yea… that didn’t happen. Everything of interest in Arlington is separated by about a mile walk.
We made the long walk to the Tomb of the Unknowns. The tomb contains the remains of US soldiers that have died without their remains being identified. It is guarded by soldiers of the US Army 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Finally, we visited the grave of President John F. Kennedy. His grave is marked with an eternal flame.
We couldn’t fit in a visit to the Smithsonian or any national museums, but it’s in my plans to visit DC again this year when the National Museum of African American History & Culture opens this fall.
Thanks for taking time to check out my post!