Junior Ranger

Day 143-147 • July 22-26, 2012 • Fredericksburg to Vienna, VA •  51 miles

For our stay in DC we took advantage of our well-placed friends Seth and Anne.  Unfortunately Catherine, a couple years older than Zoe, was away at summer camp this week.  And let’s not forget their dog Charlie, but please don’t tell him he’s a dog. They live in Vienna which is maybe 15 miles from the Capitol Mall, a short ride on the Metro or the bike.  Zoe and I got pretty good at negotiating the Metro.

Sunday proved to be a good day for the ride to Vienna as traffic was considerably lighter than yesterday.  We stuck to the direct route, taking highways 1 and 123 and then some progressively smaller county and residential roads.  We were pleasantly surprised by a decent bike path along most of Highway 123.  A few miles out we had our third and final flat of the trip.  I’d let the rear tire, the third of the trip and new in Denver, get a little too worn and it self-destructed on us.  Not to worry, we slapped on the spare tire and kept going.  We’d now used every piece of equipment we’d been lugging across the country.  I took a mild gamble and rode the rest of the trip without a spare tire.

Zoe and I donned our tackiest outfits (pretty much what we’d been riding in) and attached cameras to wrists for four days of power tourism.  At the National Mall, Zoe hit the mother lode for her national park passport, getting as many stamps in one day as the entire trip up to that point.  They made it a little too easy—just visit the gift shop at the Washington Monument and you’ll find stamps for all of the memorials and sites in DC, regardless whether you actually visited them.  In the spirit of the Junior Ranger Code, we only stamped what we visited.  Still, a lot of stamps.  The Junior Ranger program came in particularly handy for the National Mall.  Completing the workbook took us through the major monuments in an orderly, efficient manner and taught both of us a lot.  Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Constitution Gardens, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, FDR Memorial, Jefferson Memorial.  That was one full day, whew!  At the end of it of course Zoe was awarded another Junior Ranger jurisdiction.  I don’t think many kids avail themselves of the program in DC, as the ranger was a little taken aback when Zoe walked up with her workbook ready for grading.  He quickly recovered, fabricating a swearing-in ceremony on the fly complete with right hand raised and eloquent, patriotic words.  The workbook was pretty tough and required a lot of collaboration;  I felt I was just as entitled to a Junior Ranger appointment as Zoe.  That idea yielded a stern and suspicious look from the ranger so I stepped back and let Zoe’s swearing-in commence.

We spent another day at the National Zoo.  Highlights include seeing the giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tai Shan (we were too polite to figure out which was which), the Think Tank, an offshoot of the Orangutan exhibit which asks the question “do animals think?”, and the O-Line.  The O-Line is an overhead cable connecting two separate orangutan exhibits together.  At certain times of day, the orangutans are allowed to travel between the exhibits, swinging over the heads of the zoo patrons.  Unfortunately no orangutans were swinging the day we visited, or maybe we just missed them.  Or maybe the concept was a colossal failure and they don’t do it anymore, I don’t know.  But it’s a cool idea.

Up until now the price of admission for all of our sightseeing was free, which I still find amazing.  The quality and quantity of museums, memorials, parks, etc. is impressive.  At the risk of belaboring the point, the national park Junior Ranger and passport programs are extremely well done and for me represent a great return on my tax investment.  On Anne’s advice we actually paid to see the International Spy Museum and really got a kick out of it.  They do a great job mixing historical and cultural, whimsical and serious aspects of the “spy trade” into a diverse, hands-on set of exhibits.  I think Zoe’s favorite was the Aston Martin spy car from the Bond movies, complete with protracting machine guns.  Or maybe crawling through the ductwork and spying on the museum patrons.

Flags were at half mast because of the recent shooting in Aurora, CO.

Orange LineNatural History Museum

Washington MonumentNew MLK memorialNo Fear

Giant Panda

The O Line

Seth - Aspiring Junior Ranger

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