Friday, May 1, 2015

paddle boats in the tidal basin

We had very few plans for our trip to Washington DC.  We were, as I told several people, heading south in the minivan, toward the sun, toward warmth.  We were going to swim in the hotel pool, and eat from the all you can eat breakfast buffet, and sleep in sheets someone else washed.  And take advantage of all the things to do and see and, yes, eat, and experience there.

There was one thing I did want to do, that we had not done when we last visited.  I wanted to take a ride in the paddle boats out in the Tidal Basin in front of the Jefferson Memorial.  I am not exactly sure why, but it seemed fun and beautiful, and I imagined it warm and sunny and all of us paddling and giggling together.  Perhaps I was trying to undo a memory of the last time I was in a paddle boat, when I was in college, on a trip with our choir in France.  Jonathan was there too, though he had eyes for someone else that trip.  And she for him.  It was indeed a romantic country.  I believe they shared a paddle boat one afternoon.  Me? I peddled a paddle boat for two, solo, about the river nearby, where I was apparently being ogled by a rather nasty swan francais, who climbed up on my paddle boat from the rear and started snapping at me.  Black Swan vs. girl from New Hampshire.  Evasive maneuvers and shrieking and splashing and general humiliation ensued.

Ah well.  There were the chocolate crepes...

Anyway.  He's all mine now.  Jonathan, not the terrifying and incredibly angry swan.  Perhaps Jonathan saw just how good I can be in emergencies that day.  He certainly noticed me.

my rainbow swan

Anyhoo.  Back to the tidal basin.  I wanted to go out in a paddle boat with my family.  And show my charming husband just how awesome I can be in a paddle boat.  Sure, the three children would make it less romantic, but it would actually be more fun, right?  Plus?  The children would peddle that beast.  I would buy them ice cream after.

And so, one morning, we headed out.  Rode the Metro to the closest stop, which was not actually all that close.  Jonathan pulled out his cell phone, pulled the National Mall App from The Cloud, and off we went, him directing us left, right, around potholes, and across bridges without sidewalks.  I swear he was taking us the as the crow flies route as opposed to how one safely walks with three non-city traffic savvy children.  And it was at times not the most scenic.

But leave it to my librarian husband to find the one library that was open that day.

Overheard in the Floral Library:  Hey, Julia!  I think they misshelved one of the books.  Snortlaugh.  Librarian humor.

And then, just a hop, skip, and a jump of Frogger through rushing traffic, and we were there, at the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial directly across the basin from us.

Jonathan pulled out his iPhone, checked his map, and told us the paddle boats were just across the next (unsidewalked) bridge to the right.  And off we went.

It was a gorgeous walk.  Seriously stunning.  And our Maine winter skin was soaking up the Vitamin D.  It was, looking back on it, the most beautiful walk we took during our trip.

There was one area that was truly magical with the trees and the light and the fish.  Yes, I said fish.

Problem was, we weren't really prepared for a miles long hike just then.  We were unsnacked. Locationally confused.  Short legs were very tired.  And some of us needed the bathroom.  We didn't want to unenchant the enchanted forest.  

Jonathan insisted that the paddle boats were just up ahead.  I looked across the tidal basin and assessed that we were getting closer to the Jefferson Memorial and had now walked for a good long way.  There were five very different opinions about what should be done next, which way we should head on the path around the basin, whether we should head back to the museum area or soldier on.  Some were more vocal than others.  Some more amused, some more exasperated.  Some of us had low blood sugar and thought it best to hold our tongue.  Some of us were low blood sugar and therefore did not hold our tongue.

And suddenly, operating without a map and without a plan, we happened upon the Martin Luther King Memorial.  Which is stunning.  And quiet.  And contemplative that day.  And then a group of veterans arrived while we were there and the crowd broke out into a spontaneous standing ovation for them.  It was...amazing.

Not to mention their wonderful bathrooms.

Following the silent acceptance between Jonathan and I that the paddle boats were not ahead of us, and noting that the angle on the monument was becoming much more sideways viewing, and there was not a paddle boat to be seen, we headed along the tidal basin path again.

We happened upon the Roosevelt Memorial.  Again, not planned, and absolutely fabulous.

Down this gorgeous walkway?  Another bathroom!  We used that one too.

Nicholas encouraged us to throw ourselves into the adventure.  We looked out across the geese (not swans) and saw how far we had traveled since the MLK Monument.  

And saw that we were now beside the Jefferson.  Well.  Let's go inside, Julia suggested.

Ahem.  Curious blue plastic things in the water over there.

I note that Jonathan has a folded paper map in his back pocket here.
This map was not mentioned or utilized at Tidal Basin Adventure, 2015.

We came out the side of the Jefferson and spied the paddle boat landing, just over there.  Almost exactly immediately to our left when we had first turned right to circle the basin.

Obama did a fly over.  Just for us, to buoy our spirits.  It was not, as Elliott hoped, a snack air drop.

I got my tree blossom shot.

And we walked some more.  Toward the blue plastic.

I swallowed hard when I saw the attack swan in a mallard costume.  Waiting for me.

We could think of it as the hours we spent, hungry, needing a bathroom, and with some very tired legs amongst us.  We could remember the whining.  Or we can think of it as a part of the trip, actually one of my favorite parts of the trip, as I think back on it.  Warm and fragrant and gorgeous.  And funny.  Because life as a family is often quite funny and full of mishaps.

I will choose to remember it this way.

And? I still bought the children ice cream.

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