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Washington DC III

With the Memorial Day holiday fast approaching, it was time to make plans and reservations. Every full-timer dreads the holidays when finding a discount at a campground is impossible unless you stay somewhere for a month. Forget using Coast to Coast, Passport America, etc. The Good Sam and Escapees discounts will usually still work and if you get reservations way in advance, there are always state parks, regional parks, and Corps of Engineers campgrounds.

My cousin and I had been trying to get together for a trip all year. She came up with the bright idea to meet up near Washington, DC to camp and spend the holiday in Washington at the museums and Arlington Cemetery. Now personally that seemed a bit crazy with the obvious traffic and crowds that would be there but after thinking about it, it also seemed rather perfect and certainly smacked of adventure. To keep the cost down and get around my work schedule, I went in early.

To get to Washington DC from Pigeon Forge, I had to stay overnight in Blacksburg, VA at New River Junction Campground. Now there’s a campground I would NOT recommend even to a gopher. While it sits on the banks of a lovely river, provides tubing and canoeing, and is a Passport America park, they have no bathroom facilities at all, are surrounded on 3 sides very closely by quite active train tracks, and the person who checked me in gave me a major load of attitude. He questioned why I would come a little out of my way to stay there for one night and flat out called me lazy for not picking up a phone and calling ahead for a reservation. Since when do campgrounds, hotels, motels, etc. absolutely have to have a reservation?! Isn’t the point to be there for weary travelers as well as those who actually know they need to stay there? And with the campground nearly empty what the heck was the big deal? I hadn’t called because I was not sure how far I was going to drive that day and since it was still out of season, the risk of him being full was minimal not to mention there were other campgrounds down the road if needed. How far out of my way I go is also none of his business. I don’t know what business that guy thinks he is in but it certainly isn’t hospitality. I will NEVER EVER go there again.

I left early the next day headed to Wilderness RV Park in Spotsylvania, VA where I have stayed previously as a C2C member. A couple of very cheap nights there would help the budget. Along the way a trailer tire blew out. A very nice trucker pointed it out and pulled over with me for a few minutes to make sure I could handle it. I called the Good Sam Emergency Service and waited for them in my trailer. It was nice to be able to “use the facilities”, make a sandwich, and grab a cold drink while waiting. The service man came and quickly changed the tire at no cost to me. Within an hour I was back on the road and refreshed.

While in Spotsylvania, I went to the Walmart to stock up on groceries. There I found that Walmarts have finally figured out that full-timers use them a lot and need more. This one at least has finally started carrying trailer tires. They told me trailer tires are selling like hotcakes for them too. I replaced the bad trailer tire since it was destroyed now.

After Spotsylvania, I moved on to Travel Trailer Village in Prince William Forest in Dumfries, VA for a couple of days using my Good Sam discount. The park is very nice with paved pull throughs, full utilities, not too many trees though plenty, excellent bathroom facilities with clean stainless steel showers, a laundry, and a pool. They are located 15 miles from the DC Metro so many people stay there to tour Washington. My favorite tour guide, US Tours,  also picks up there.

I left Saturday to meet my cousin at Cherry Hill RV Park, the number one park used by tourists to access Washington, DC. Not only is it the closest park to Washington, the local bus line picks up right there in the park and it is about a mile from the DC Metro. Getting there around the beltway was certainly no picnic with all the traffic but not as hard as I expected.

The park is very very nice. The pools and hot tub are top notch. Many people sat around the patios in the comfortable chairs to read or chat. The food in the cafe is absolutely the best I have ever had in an rv park. It is true restaurant quality and the hamburgers are definitely on par with Fudruckers. The omelets and taco salad were also very good. I particularly liked the long hours the cafe is open and wifi can usually be accessed there as well as throughout the park. The park was also pretty understanding when I gave them advance warning that we would need a site big enough for both my trailer and my tent. I still think the price is ridiculously high but split between my cousin and I it was doable.

On the park’s advice, we opted to go in to DC via the Metro. I found it a bit confusing myself since I had never been on a subway but my cousin was experienced and an excellent navigator. I did enjoy the rides for the most part. The stations are designed to look like modern space stations (at least to me). We both thought they were beautiful. The train cars were pretty decent and comfortable too. The only thing we didn’t like was the constant breakdowns of elevators and escalators. It is very difficult for handicapped to use the Metro with all the breakdowns. We also had an issue with one of our fare cards getting erased by being next to a cell phone. We had to pay for a new fare card.


When we got into town the first day, we were immediately met with the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally, an annual event where about 400,000 veterans roar across Washington, DC on their motorcycles as a tribute to American war heroes. It was quite something to see them all cruising down the street, many of them flying US flags.

DC012rolling thunderrolling thunder

Walking around Washington DC was interesting. There were food vendors here and there selling from carts which was a welcome sight since there are not a lot of restaurants nearby and on a hot day a cold drink is essential. We went to the newly remodeled Museum of American History. After trying to get in there many times, we found it very disappointing. It clearly is not ready to be open to the public. Most of what I hoped to see was not on display. In fact the displays were very anemic. I got to see the ruby slippers from the Wizard of OZ, C3PO from Star Wars, a little bit of history, etc. but really not much at all. Very disappointing indeed. We went back to camp for a lovely swim in their warm pool and a dip in the hot tub. Dinner, we decided, was on them in their wonderful cafe with a nice fat 20% off coupon they gave us when we checked in. A perfect evening.

Museum of American HistoryRuby slippersC3POWashington Monument

The next day in DC was much better. It was Memorial Day. First we went straight to Arlington Cemetery. The Metro stops very close to it. We had to wait in line to get in due to the crowds but it wasn’t bad. There were lots of soldiers around, some with weapons. We all had to discard our water bottles before going in as they were not allowed in. Some poor guy had to give up a 12 pack of water he had brought for his family. At least the soldiers had setup water stations inside for us and the shuttle out to the amphitheater was free. It was hotter than hot that day. I sure wished I had brought a hand fan. Thank goodness I did remember to bring neckerchiefs for both of us to wet down and wear.

Despite getting there early, we found almost no seats left in the amphitheater. Due to my handicap which made it impossible to stand for the whole ceremony, we did manage to get a couple people to move over and open up a couple of tight seats. We were given programs and small US flags. The Air Force band played while we waited and were very good. Small children fussed and cried in the heat. There was a 21 gun salute. I saw what I thought was Senator Bob Dole sitting in the upper gallery with the other politicians, admirals, generals, etc. but I could be wrong. We saw snipers on the roof. A color guard passed through and posted the flags. President Barak Obama finally arrived and gave a nice speech promising the usual things many of which he alone does not control. It was good nonetheless. It was really very cool being so close to a president for the first time. What a country! We didn’t see his wife there. After all was done, we watched the wreath layings at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, scarfed all he water we could, and visited Audie Murphy’s grave as well as the Challenger astronauts memorial to pay our respects. Just outside the Arlington gates, we visited the Women in Military Service Memorial where I got a printout of my own record there and we made a donation.

Arlington amphitheaterAir Force bandGalleryPresident Barak Obama

Tomb of the Unknown SoldierAudie MurphyArlington Cemetery

Next stop, the Holocaust Museum. Despite it being free, you still have to have a ticket to see the permanent exhibit due to the crowds and you can’t get them days in advance at the museum. For a very modest processing fee, I printed out tickets from the internet the night before. I highly recommend this method. It is worth it. Tickets at the museum itself run out early. You also have to get through a crowd at the door and a security checkpoint to get in. Get there early before your appointed time. Be prepared for disgruntled tourists at the doors. We had one woman start an argument with us over what line we should be in according to the door we came through though the lines were all jumbled together. Even after she got through security she was still whining and trying to prove she was right to whoever would listen.

The museum was very good and should not be missed. There is an awful lot of reading stuff on the walls so learn to speed read or only read what is needed. You will never get through if you read every word. The first room was poorly planned with too much reading material and no one pushing people along. It is not obvious that there is plenty more beyond that room so a huge traffic jam forms and the room gets hot. I was hurting pretty bad just in the first room from standing in one spot too long. I had to take my leave of my cousin there and head on out the passage at the other side of the room which happily led to the rest of the museum which was not as crowded. The museum spans many levels. I also found cushioned benches to sit on here and there as I progressed through it. They had castings of the oven doors and models of the showers and camps. They also had bunks from the camps, prisoner uniforms, pictures, letters, documents, and many other articles. One very poignant area had bunches and bunches of shoes taken from the prisoners before they were gassed. They explained the shaving of the heads to get their hair for sale and use in making items like beds. It was both interesting and sickening what people will do to each other. Sorry no pictures. They don’t allow it.

After a full day of running around and having to walk up and down broken escalators, we made it back to camp totally wiped out. Forget cooking. We hit up the cafe again.  It rained like crazy that night which is not good for someone in a tent. Since we had seen most of what we had come for and could see, and I was pretty drained, it was decided we would take down the tent and my cousin would leave early with me following the next day. I must say her hare-brained idea of visiting Washington, DC on Memorial Day was well worth it despite the crowds and heat. I would do it again. I guess I’ll keep my cousin. 😀

For more pics, click here.

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