The Washington Ultra!

It’s not what you’re thinking!

Although, I was tempted to enter a 50k trail ultra in Oregon next weekend…

I had 2 full days in Washington DC – arriving late Friday afternoon and leaving early Monday morning. And having never been before, naturally I wanted to see everything!

I took a Greyhound from Philly, arriving at Union Station, and from there it was a short walk to the bus that took me pretty much to the hostel door.

I can’t speak highly enough of the hostel – HighRoad DC – probably the best hostel I’ve stayed in. You name it, they’ve got it.

  • Friendly and helpful staff
  • Fantastic location in Adams Morgan neighbourhood
  • Free wifi (seems to be pretty much the norm over here, except at JFK airport!)
  • Power points EVERYWHERE, including on each bed (yes, even the top bunks – I was ‘lucky’ enough to get a top bunk once again)
  • Reading lights on each bed
  • Free hire of locks for the lockers in the dorms
  • Plenty of space in the dorms for luggage
  • Clean!
  • Fully equipped kitchen 
  • Free coffee!
  • Pancakes on Sunday mornings 
  • Activities and recommendations for things to do each day
  • One of the guys even baked choc chip cookies on Sunday evening – they smelled amazing! (I didn’t bother to ask if they were vegan – just enjoyed the smell!)

I checked in to my room and quickly found a vegan-friendly place across the road thanks to my trusty Happy Cow app – Amsterdam Falafel Shop! Perfect! Highly recommend!

And then I met my bunk mate, Reece. I could detect an Australian accent so when he asked where I was from I just said Adelaide. He said “Me too!” SO Adelaide! (I forgot to do the ‘one degree of separation’ thing – I’m sure we have at least one friend or acquaintance in common!)

I found out at check-in that there was a big science march taking place on Saturday, and a lot of the hostel guests were visiting DC for the march. I hadn’t heard about it, therefore naturally I hadn’t planned on going, but thought it would be worth checking out! Plus, the march was starting at the Washington Monument, which I wanted to see anyway!

Friday night I went for a wander to the nearby second hand bookstore which was open until 10! Nearly bought a few books too but had to think of the weight and the room it would take up in my suitcase! My plan is to hold off getting my second bag out, until I get to Vegas!

I was surprised at the number of people who were up early for breakfast on Saturday, until I remembered the march – the reason many of the hostel guests were in Washington. I met a few of them including Julia who was handing out hand knitted ‘pussy hats’ for people to wear at the march (beanies that looked like cat ears!) and I gratefully took one!

No. 1 on my list for Saturday was Roosevelt Island parkrun.

parkrun is not big in the USA yet but is growing. On Saturday, the 9th USA parkrun was launched, in Minnesota. Of the 9 parkruns in the States, 3 are in the DC area! Roosevelt Island was the closest to where I was staying. It was going to take me about an hour to get there by public transport (including a walk at the end, as there are no vehicles on the island) so I thought I may as well run the 5.2km – a good warmup!

After a few scenic diversions I eventually found the sign that showed me I was in the right spot.

I introduced myself to the Run Director, Darrell, who I later found out is also the boss of parkrun USA!

I also met a few Aussies who are on a posting from Canberra – Scott, Jaycob and Kate, who invited me to come for coffee afterwards – because post-parkrun coffee is not really a ‘thing’ here. Yet.

The run itself was lovely – a few little hills, and mostly on fire track and boardwalk! It’s a hidden secret (which explains in part why it was so hard for me to find) and it’s hard to believe you’re in a big city! I managed to sneak in under 25 minutes which was pleasing given that Boston was less than 5 days earlier!

The kind of scenery I got to see! Ah, the serenity!
Some of the crowd gathered at the start.
I think maybe we need to steal this idea!
Roosevelt Island parkrun gets the thumbs up!

After the run I went with my new Aussie friends to a coffee shop called Grace Street Coffee. You can rely on Aussies, and runners, to find good coffee wherever you go! I got some great recommendations for things to do, and they very kindly gave me a lift back to my hostel which was great – I’d planned to run back, but it was raining, and also it would give me more time for exploring!

After lunch at the ever-reliable Sweetgreen, first stop was the White House. I didn’t stop here long – just long enough for a quick photo op!

The White House. Because, Washington!

Then I made my way to the Science March – first a rally at the Washington Monument which had been going since the morning, and then eventually a march to the Capitol (which I didn’t join).

Trump, naturally, was a common theme among the many very clever and funny signs!
Trump, naturally, was a common theme among the many very clever and funny signs!
Trump, naturally, was a common theme among the many very clever and funny signs!
Trump, naturally, was a common theme among the many very clever and funny signs!
These guys were standing posing for photos for AGES!
This guy had a few friends too!

After all the marchers had passed by I finally made my way to the Washington Monument!

Photobombed on the way to the Washington Monument!
Pretty impressive!

From there I walked past the War Memorial to the imposing Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial – also impressive! Great spot for stair reps too!
The man himself!

And then more walking, all the way back PAST the Washington Monument, to the Capitol!

The view from Lincoln back to the Washington Monument.
I’m not sure what this was about but naturally I had to get a selfie with it!
The Capitol!

A lot of the signs from the march had been left behind outside the Capitol.

Some of the signs left outside the Capitol.
Some of the signs left outside the Capitol.
Some of the signs left outside the Capitol.
Some of the signs left outside the Capitol.
One of my favourites! Perfectly positioned too!
One for the Breaking Bad fans!

After I eventually got back to the hostel, I was on my way to Trader Joe’s to grab a few things when I saw Busboys and Poets, a restaurant/bookstore recommended by Aussie Kate and decided to have dinner there. It looked busy but I asked if I could get a seat at the bar – instead they showed me to a group of lounges around a central table and I happily took a seat there!

Dinner! Vegan burger and sweet potato fries!
And a vegan brownie for dessert!

After dinner I had a look in the bookstore. I was tempted to buy a few books but again held myself back!

Sunday’s adventure began early. I had originally planned to run to Arlington but then I would have had to go back to the hostel for a shower before doing anything else. So I decided instead to walk, leaving the hostel at about 7:10am. I made a slight detour via the Australian Embassy! Not a particularly attractive building compared to many of the impressive and imposing structures around the city!

Saying ‘G’day’ to the Australian Embassy en route to Arlington!

My next plan was to visit the Einstein Memorial, recommended by Julia, but couldn’t find it, so decided to do that at the end of the day, after the museums were closed. 

Then I made my way across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. This route was popular with runners! And Sunday was a much better day weather-wise compared to rainy Saturday!

The start of the bridge!
Well hello Mr Horse!
The Arlington Memorial Bridge – looking over towards Arlington National Cemetery.
View across the water!
John F Kennedy’s gravesite, with the Memorial Amphitheater in the distance.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Not a bad spot to spend eternity…

From Arlington Cemetery I took the train to the Pentagon, ostensibly to visit the Memorial, but I was also keen to see The Pentagon itself (even though photographing the building is not allowed!)

Entrance to the Pentagon Memorial
Some of the memorial benches, with The Pentagon in the background.
Another sneaky shot of The Pentagon, with the pentagon-shaped ‘window’ in the fence!
Pentagon Memorial

From the Pentagon I took a train back across to DC. Leaving the station, I met up with a guy called Josh who was visiting from Jersey and was trying to find the National Mall. I was looking for Pennsylvania Av which wasn’t far from there, so we walked together and chatted. After a while we realised we were a bit lost. Then it got to the point where it would have been awkward for me to reveal that I had Google Maps on my phone! Eventually we got where we needed to be! My first stop was Newseum. Now a lot of the museums (all the Smithsonian ones) in DC are free. Newseum is not, but there was an exhibition there that I really wanted to see – Louder Than Words – Rock, Power and Politics. So I paid my money and went in!

This was a joint venture between Newseum and the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.

First stop was the FBI exhibition – they had pieces from various different crimes including the Boston bombing (naturally of particular interest to me) and 9/11.

Some of the reporting around the Boston bombings.
Trump seems very popular here… NOT!

Then it was up to the top floor, first to the balcony with this awesome view up Pennsylvania!

That’s the Capitol next to my left ear!

And then the exhibition I came for. I took many photos – I won’t bore you with all of them – I’ve just picked out a few of my favourites – but I’ve decided that on my next US trip I need to visit the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland!

The guitar with which Jimi Hendrix played ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock.

This was a bit about censorship from the ’80s and this is the jacket and shirt Dee Snider wore at the hearing.
Bill Clinton’s saxomaphone!

I could have spent a whole day here, easily, but I really wanted to go to the Air and Space Museum so I went to the 9/11 exhibition before heading off.

There was a big focus here on the reporters and photographers – there was a short film about some of the reporters and cameramen who were involved in reporting the news. And one photographer who was killed when the tower went down. Powerful stuff!

Part of the antenna from the World Trade Center. In the background – how newspapers around the world reported the news.
Not much doubt over this result!

From there I made the dash to the Air and Space Museum. Being free, I wasn’t so concerned about getting my money’s worth! I did buy a ticket to see ‘The Dark Universe’ (narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson – that was the sealer!) in the planetarium. Spectacular and well worth the extra money!

Not to mention a good chance to sit down for half an hour and just chill!
Checking out Amelia Earhart’s ride!
Steve Fossett’s ride from his round the world balloon trip which started and finished in Australia!
This was cool – a simulation of a plane taking off and landing at Reagan Airport (where I was going to be the next day!)
Apollo-Soyuz test project!

I would definitely recommend a trip to the Air and Space Museum but give yourself half a day if you can! (And of course there are SO many other amazing museums that are also free!)

Then I found Einstein!

Just chillin’ with my mate Albert!

By the time I eventually got back to the hostel (around 7:45pm) I’d done close to 40000 steps for the second day in a row – 28km!

60km in 2 days – that’s an ultra in my book!

As I finish writing this I’m in Chicago. I did see the Pentagon from above on the flight here (spewing I couldn’t get a pic as I was in an aisle seat!). I could easily have spent a week in DC and not got bored! If you’re wondering whether or not a stop in DC is worthwhile on your next US trip, wonder no more! (2 full days is barely enough!)

Oh and there’s a pretty awesome marathon that I now want to do – the Marine Corps Marathon – one of the biggest in the world! Just add that to the list…

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