It was the spring of 2012. I had always planned to go to Washington D.C. at some point in my life. With our first African American President in office and the MLK Statue having been recently unveiled, I knew that the time was right. Plus, I had donated dollars to the MLK project and the thought of cruising down on a train beckoned me. I had always wanted to experience the luxury of a sleeper car, so I vowed, “Now is the time.”
I made my reservations through Amtrak Vacations which included a sleeper with a private bathroom and shower, hotel accommodations and other amenities. I went alone during spring break while working as a school librarian and I immediately saw it as a win-win situation.
After arriving at Union Station in Chicago, the passengers were put on a luxury bus called Eclipse. I forgot the extenuating circumstances, but we were treated well and fed on the bus as we headed to Toledo, Ohio. I saw that as a good omen because my parents took their wedding vows there. It was night when we entered Toledo and a beautifully lit bridge warmly welcomed us.
From there, we boarded the Capitol Limited train and headed on down to Washington DC. I was in seventh heaven with my private quarters and private bathroom. I took copious notes as I always do and relished in the peace, solitude and scenery. When we passed through Harper’s Ferry, I took pictures and in my mind’s eye, I could see the battles of the Civil War on the hilly terrain.
A newspaper was delivered outside my door, and it added to the royal treatment that I enjoyed on the way there. When I went to the dining car, the wait staff lavished me with little tokens of appreciation. As, I sat alone, one staffer added a rose in a vase while another quietly walked by and added other fine pieces such as special napkins, utensils and the small things that said, “We see you.” In a matter of minutes, my table went from bare to being highly adorned.
Once we arrived at the DC train station, it was busy and one couple who I had spoken with earlier was hurried to a shuttle bus. I believe that they lived there and were returning home if my memory serves me correctly. After inquiring, I soon learned that my hotel was in walking distance, so I rolled my luggage and walked a few blocks with the Capitol Building in view. To my astonishment, I saw the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Building sitting next to the entry of my hotel, The Liaison Capitol Hill. All I could think was, “Daddy.” He had been a teamster member of Local 667 in Memphis, and I felt his protecting presence.
I settled into my room and made plans for my short stay in DC. The next day, I boarded an Old Trolley tour bus in front of the hotel and quietly affirmed, “Let the games begin!” Here are some landmarks that I saw from a distance: The Jefferson Memorial, The Washington Memorial, The Capitol Building, The Smithsonian Museum, The Government Printing Office, what was left of The Occupy Movement, The WWII Memorial and The Ford’s Theatre, to name a few. I soon realized how compact the area was and we were allowed to get on and off of the bus at our discretion.
I got off to see the MLK Statue and marveled at its height and majesty. I took many pictures. Later, I got off for the Lincoln Memorial and I climbed the stairs. I thought of Marian Anderson who sang on the steps after being denied the right to sing inside of the White House. I thought of Dr. King giving his famous, I Have A Dream speech. There were many people gathered around President Lincoln sitting in his chair. I took as many pictures as possible of both him and his historic words inscribed on the walls. I also ate right outside the Lincoln Memorial where tables and chairs were set up close by. There was tarp over the reflecting pool that Jenny walked in during the movie, Forest Gump due to some type of renovation.
I walked over to the Vietnam War Memorial and there was a quiet hush as people silently grieved for all those who were either lost or for those who returned maimed physically, emotionally and in many cases, both. Every household from my era was impacted in some way from that War. I also took pictures of the Korean War Memorial as the ghostly faces shone on the walls. The statues of the soldiers with their artillery under their rain gear were quite memorable.
I continued to take multiple trips around DC and again jumped off the bus to get closer to The White House. We were allowed to get reasonably close to the South Lawn and I took pictures along with others. But most importantly, I actually went inside the Library of Congress. On the way in, I saw a group of children singing on the steps of the Supreme Court Building and of course, I snapped a few pictures. Once inside the Library of Congress, I took pictures of the beautiful ceiling and some of the statues. I saw the Thomas Jefferson Library Exhibit. I had previously studied his U-shaped design for retrieving his books. I visited the LOC bookstore to buy a few mementoes.
This is merely an overview of what could be seen in DC, but I am just happy that I had finally made it there. The weather was great, the cherry blossoms were in bloom, and I was indeed a happy camper. So glad about it!
March 19, 2022