Freedom and Liberty

Freedom and Liberty
I travel in Freedom but sleep in the security of Liberty (not only on the road, but in this amazing country of ours)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Arlington Cemetary

I left the campground in the Shenandoah Valley around 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday the 13th. I had to put all of that information in the blog to refresh my memory of when and where, because the days have been blending together lately. Between retirement and traveling so much, time seems to have slowed down considerably. When I was working, time was measured by landmarks such as weekends, paydays, special events and holidays. The days in between those landmarks were usually very similar to each other so after a couple of landmarks, you would look and see that a month or a year had passed. Now, by seeing new things more often, my landmarks are closer together so the perspective of time has changed for me. Anyway, I arrived in D.C. around 1:00 p.m. after going through a construction work zone on the interstate that was wrong in all aspects, from the construction signs to the quality of the roadwork. I was going slow enough that I could roll my window down as I passed some state inspectors and hollered at them about the piss-poor condition of the work and the wrong location of their construction signs. They politely waved and smiled. I'm sure they were going to immediately take corrective action. Right??
Site 32 Cherry Hill Campground

I checked in to the Cherry Hill Campground and was assigned site number 32. During check-in, they informed me
Metro Train Entrance/Exit
of a class that I should attend about how to ride the city buses and trains. I thought it a little odd, but after getting the RV set up I was sitting in the classroom 15 minutes early. I haven't broke the habit of "15 minutes early is on time and if you're on time then you're late". The lady went over the bus schedules and told us which buses to take and which ones would take us to the wrong part of town. We're lucky that the campground has it's own bus stop and is on the end of the line. A bus leaves and arrives at the campground about every 30 minutes between 5:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. We are to take the bus to the College Park Metro Station where we would catch the subway/train. There are 5 train routes in the city and each are designated by a different color. To determine the direction you want to go you have to look at the last stop on that route. Each route has about a dozen or so stops. It is actually  pretty easy after doing it once, but a little confusing at first. I asked the lady giving the class if she was going to safety pin our bus number to our shirts. She gave me a funny look and if I could read her mind she was saying, 'yeah, and you're the one that is going to end up at the Rhode Island Road bus stop (the one we definitely didn't want to go to)'.

The next morning I showed up a the bus stop bright and early around 9:30. If you go into town any earlier, you have to deal with all of the people going into town to work.

Today's adventure was to be Arlington National Cemetery. The Cemetery had it first burial 150 years ago this month and is definitely sacred ground. To get there, I would have to ride one bus and two trains. The Arlington Metro Station is located about 1/4 mile from the entrance. The bus ride went well, although it was standing room only by the time we got to the College Park Metro Station. Once in the station, I had two choices of directions. One would take me into town and the other would take me away from town. I got on the Green line heading to Branch Avenue and planned to get off at L'Enfant Circle and change trains to the Blue line heading to Franconia-Springfield and get off at Arlington Cemetery. I chose the correct direction and headed off. It was a little different once I got to L'Enfant Circle where I needed to change trains. There were 4 routes that went through L'Enfant with 2 directions per train, so that meant I had 8 choices. At least at College Park I had a 50% chance of making the correct choice but now it was 1 in 8 or 12.5% chance. Visions of an antelope in lion country on the plains of Africa came to mind as I wandered around the station looking for the correct train. I walked confidently, even when I made U-turns, so it would appear as if I knew where I was going and what I was doing. I finally found the right platform and got on the train. A few stops later, I arrived at Arlington Station and walked up out of the darkness of the tunnels into the light.

As you enter the cemetery, you have to go through the visitor center. This is also the first place that had a bathroom
Visitors Center
since getting on the bus earlier; something the woman that gave the class should have mentioned, but didn't. I bought a ticket for a bus tour of the cemetery and the first stop was the Tomb of the Unknowns. The soldiers, in dress uniform, have guarded the tombs 24 hours a day, every day, since
Tour Bus
1937. They change out every 1/2 hour during the summer days and every hour during the winter days. At night they stand a 2 hour shift. The soldier takes 21 steps as he marches back and forth and as he turns to head back he waits 21 seconds before each executed turn. The gun, with bayonet, is always carried on the shoulder
closest to the crowd to indicate he is in a defensive posture to protect the tomb from possible harm. 

The Tomb of the Unknowns began in the 1920's with the
remains of an unknown soldier from World War 1. In 1958, President Eisenhower added the remains from World War 2 and Korea. President Reagan oversaw the internment of the Vietnam unknown in 1984 but 10 years later the body was exhumed after it was identified using
Relief Guard being Inspected
DNA. The Vietnam crypt remains empty and will remain so. It is a very solemn place with a lot of people visiting the site. I was proud to see the respect that everyone had, including the hundreds of children that were there on school trips. The inscription on the Tomb reads,
The changing of the guard

"Here rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known but to God".

The next stop on the tour is Arlington House which was the home, for 30 years, of General Robert E. Lee and his
View from Arlington House
wife. Apparently, the General married a rich widow named Mary Custis Lee. She was the great grand-daughter of Martha Washington (from her first marriage). Most of what is now Arlington Cemetery was part of her estate that had been handed down from Martha. No, Mrs. Less didn't donate the land, it was taken
View from Arlington House
from her by the Federal government for back taxes. Her husband, General Lee (colonel at the time), resigned his commission with the Union Army in order to lead the Virginia Army. After burying several valuable items around the property, she joined Lee in Richmond, because they knew the Union forces would not permit a southerner from occupying the high ground overlooking the Union Capital. Sure enough, the union forces took over the place and stayed throughout the war. A law was later enacted which stated 
Gardens of Stone

that property taxes must be paid "in person". Well the Lee's knew if they showed up to pay the taxes, they would be captured by the Union soldiers, so they sent a representative with the $92.07 for the taxes. The government would not recognize the representative and therefore foreclosed on the property. Burials of Union troops began shortly afterwards,
in 1864, with the plan to bury as many as possible before the end of the war. If the Lee's were able to return to Arlington House, then they would have to live with Union troops buried around the house. The Lee's never returned and never regained 
U.S.S. Maine Memorial

possession of the place. However, several years after the war, their son filed suit and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government did not acquire the property correctly and ordered it to be returned. The son then sold it to the government for $150,000.00.

Arlington is truly a sacred place and should always be treated with honor. As I was looking over the many head stones, I was reminded of some of the lyrics to Trace Adkins song Arlington. If you haven't heard the song, it is sung from the perspective of a person being buried at Arlington. The part I thought of goes, "And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property. I'm on sacred ground and in the best of company. I'm thankful for those thankful for the things I've done, I can rest in peace, I'm one of the chosen ones, I made it to Arlington."

I discovered there is one Goza buried here. He was a Captain in the U.S. Navy and served in both WW1 and WW2. He was buried in 1964.

After the tour, I walked back to the Metro Station and returned to the campground late in the afternoon hungry and tired. I drove down the road looking for a Taco Bell but had to settle for a steakhouse. Next door was a Baskin-Robbins and I ended the day with a scoop of Butter Pecan which I ate sitting on a bench in a strip mall in Washington D.C. thinking about how good the day had been and looking forward to more adventures the next day. Wow, what a life.

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya.



  1. Darrell,
    Todd and I visisted Washinton, DC for our 1st anniversary. We toured a few of the Smithsonian Buildings. We were there just a few days before 9-11. Glad we were not there at the time. We saw the White House, Capital, as well as the other monuments. It is truly a beautiful place (most of it anyway). Reading your blog, makes me want to revisit. We went to the Arlington Cementary, but was not able to watch the Changing of the Guards. We plan on visiting in the near future. I'll have to get a list of the campgrounds you recommend. lol. I plan on doing the exact thing you are doing. Just a few years later. It sounds like you are having the time of your lfe. Keep the blog going...really enjoy reading. Be safe, Kelly Gibson

    1. Hello Kelly. Glad you like the blog. I've been lucky so far in the campgrounds I've found. There are only a couple that I wouldn't go back to stay. It's a different life out here on the road, I hope you get to experience it soon.