A Weekend in Washington, D.C.

By Trish Utter

My daughter and our friend, Chery Regan, were in Washington D.C. for a weekend. A trip that included a visit to Congressman Ted Yoho and a drive through the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia, but it started with a most unusual tour of the city.

“Cherry Blossoms will appear in the Spring”, said our tour guide from DC Ducks. The amphibious vehicles that DC Duck use were built in 1942 to take troops to the beaches of Normandy. Today, these amphibious vehicles have been completely restored. Our trip, started, by taking us past the Embassy of Canada, a very modern looking building. Then, we went past all the museums, like the Smithsonian, Air and Space Museum, the Capital and the White House. The highlight of the tour was to drive down a ramp at a marina and into the Potomac. The views from the water of Washington D.C. are spectacular, and especially being at the very end of the Reagan National Airport runway, on the Potomac, when planes are taking off, you felt you could reach out and touch them.

One of the buildings we had driven by was the National Archives. The sight of a gigantic American flag that hangs over the building is jaw droopingly stunning. As we entered the building we walked past Secret Service men that were at the door. Apparently they were waiting to escort some foreign dignitaries. I felt as if I was on a movie set. A bit serial. We were ushered into a dimly light, large, round room, called the Rotunda. The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, collectively known as the Charters of Freedom lay before us. This large, dimly light room was so silent as everyone knew the importance of these highly respected articles. The documents are behind thick glass and the paper is visibly faded. Seeing this made me think of Williamsburg, V.A. and visions of the Founding Fathers pouring over these very important documents light up in my head. Maybe it is because I am an immigrant that this means so much to me. I find it amazing that I live in America, “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”

Most of the museums in D.C. are free and it is easy to walk from one to another. Comfortable walking shoes are a must.

Before our VIP tour of the Capitol, we headed over to the Cannon House Office Building which was built in 1908 and is the oldest congressional office building. There are 85 offices in this building, which are all flanked with American Flag. Each door leads to an office of a Congressman. We finally reached the office of Congressman Ted Yoho. A visitor’s book was outside the door and we excitedly signed it and noticed that many people from Gainesville had also had the privilege of this visit. Larry Calhoun, Chief of Staff opened the door and made us feel welcome. A Gator blanket was spread on the couch and a small fridge with Florida orange juice was a welcome sight. I could hear Congressman Yoho laughing as his office door was open. He came out to see us and welcomed us in. It was obvious that Yoho loves what he does. A view of the top of the Capital is seen from his window. I said, “Don’t you pinch yourself when you look at that view and realize what you do?” He smiled and said that he did, and then he offered us some Florida orange juice. We sat and talked for a while. Yoho introduced us to Courtney Atwater, his staff assistant who offered to take us on a tour. We walked miles through an underground tunnel that lead from the office building to the Capital. Ms. Atwater said that when she started work at the Capital she used to wear heals and wondered why others didn’t but then quickly realized that flats were absolutely the shoe of choice at the Capital!

The building is so impressive. As people walk past you in the hallways you wonder who they are and what part they play in our country. Ms. Atwater took us to the Senate and House galleries. I noticed a group of journalists in the corner of a large room. They told me that they were there to interview Congressman as they came out of session. The large room was surrounded by statues. We could have spent days in this building looking at exhibits and artifacts. This was a visit we will never forget. The weather had been so nice that we had walked to all the museums and then to the Capital. The app on my phones said we had walked over seven miles!

With all the hustle and bustle of a city it is nice to take a break and drive into the Virginia countryside to visit, Luray Caverns, a Registered Natural Landmark.

The caverns are privately owned. They were discovered in 1878 when five men wandered past a hole in the ground where cool air was escaping. One slipped through the hole on a rope with a candle and made the amazing & historical discovery.

About 500,000 visitors from all over the globe walk through the caverns annually. You can get there by taking Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah
Mountains. One of the most spectacular drives in this country.

The cavern tour along the winding path is about 1.5 miles long and took us about an hour to complete. The temperature is Fifty-Four Degrees Fahrenheit year round. At no point did we feel claustrophobic as the ceilings reach over ten stories high. The pathways are paved and the caverns are beautifully lit.

The stalactites, stalagmites are a natural wonder. Some are so shire that the hang from the ceiling like draped cloth. The best view of this is Saracen’s Tent. At a staggering height of forty seven feet you will find the Double Column in Giant’s Hall.

The largest body of water in a cavern on the East coast named, Dream Lake runs through Luray. It is only twenty inches deep and acts like a mirror
and totally mesmerizing.

Oddly enough there is a fully functional organ in the caverns, named the Great Stalacpipe Organ which is located in the Cathedral Room. It is fully
functional and many people are married here. The mallets to the organ are wired to stalactites. While visiting the caverns you can also enjoy the
restaurant and car museum, Luray Valley museum and miles and miles of beautiful Virginia countryside to explore.