Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Washington, DC

I love our nation's capital! It is among the most beautiful cities in the world. From my first visit in June 1983 to my most recent drive-by, yesterday, I can't help but be proud of its views from the various points around the city. Yesterday, as I left Jodi's house in Alexandria, I took in the panorama from the new Wilson Bridge spanning the Potomac. To my right and south, the river runs down to Mt. Vernon; to the north and left the Capitol building gleams white in the distance, with the Washington Monument to its left. The new bridge itself is awesome! Plenty of room for the traffic and the views upstream from the eastbound lanes are phenomenal. As an added bonus, you can no longer see through the rebar to the river below as was the case with the old bridge.

I met Jodi for lunch at the new National Harbor. This area, just a concept when we left in 2007, has sprung up from the shoreline of the Potomac just southeast of the Wilson Bridge. Restaurants, shops, apartments, a marina, and a convention center in a gleaming, well-planned enclave on the river with the bridge and the capitol in view. Just stunning! I was very impressed with the metered parking which accepted credit cards and worked without a hitch. I would be interested in knowing how they hold up over a few winters and summer storms.

Driving north on I-295 from the National Harbor was also a treat, especially once I was past the Blue Plains Water Treatment Plant. In 1983, when we visited Washington from Texas, I was pretty disappointed in the state of the highways around DC, especially I-295. The roads were poorly designed for the amount of traffic, in terrible disrepair, and the litter situation was -- as the kids say -- "off the hook!" It was dirty and disgusting, and not the way you imagine your nation's capital. Yesterday I saw lots of evidence of cleaning, widening and improvement of 295 and portions of the Capital Beltway/495. I am looking forward to coming back yearly to track the progress. It is easy to picture the future highway providing a scenic view of the Anacostia River and the city center. Hopefully they will keep this one lit a little better than the old one which could get very dark and scary in spots.

And of course, being here in the fall is the best. The temperatures are moderate, the tourists are gone, and the leaves are like nowhere else on earth. While they are all beautiful, the maples and poplars and crepe myrtles and dogwoods; this year is the year of the hickory with its incredible slightly toasted butter color that glimmers in the light. Although the past weeks and days have brought a lot of attention to the city and its most famous citizens, I am grateful for my more limited perspective that focuses on what a really special place on earth this is -- especially for me right now.

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