Day 20: Precision and Order

14 Jul

This morning was our departure from the warm cocoon of Chez Tison. It was time to put some southbound miles on the odometer, but first we had a very special stop to make. On our northbound trip, we had been diverted from making our (mostly) annual stop in Weehawken, NJ, to take the kids’ picture against the fence in Hamilton Park, with the skyline of Manhattan in the background. It’s really the fence that is the draw these days. I have been using that fence for 9 years now, to mark the growth of my children. When we arrived at Hamilton Park this morning, it seemed like the wrong place. Is it possible that my children have grown that much? The fence looked positively puny compared to them. It literally gave me pause. Despite knowing that we were unquestionably in the right place, it felt smaller somehow. And I find it hysterical that after taking our quick pictures, the kids were like, “okay, we can go.” They are now completely nonplussed by the skyline of NYC. Been there, seen that, done that. But this year we did something slightly different. For all these years we’ve been going to Hamilton Park simply because it was suggested to me as a great vantage point to view the skyline. I knew the basics of the Hamilton-Burr duel, and had been told that was the place. Over the years, Hamilton has become a little more important in the eyes of the Willim girls, at least, so the park has taken on greater meaning. And we have since come to find out that it’s not the exact location of the duel, but that the Weehawken Dueling Grounds were located quite near, just a little further down the slope. But this year was the first time we have wandered a little further along the ridge to see the bust of Hamilton, and the rock upon which his head was laid after he was shot by A. Burr. Overall our nostalgia stop lasted about a total of 15 minutes – and that’s counting taking pictures for another family, and then having them take a group photo of us. It’s funny how repetition can rob you of seeing something as impressive. What once wowed and amazed the kids is just old hat. Okay, Mom, we took our picture, let’s get back on the road! As an added bonus, I did get to drive into part of the city, which I absolutely love! You read that correctly. I love driving in NYC. Something about the competitiveness of it amuses and delights me. Usually we are approaching Weehawken from the south, but today we were approaching from the north, and it required the use of the Holland Tunnel. Traffic was very light and it was smooth sailing all the way from Fairfield, CT, to Weehawken, NJ. However, after that we encountered some brutal traffic on the NJ Turnpike. It was not a happy knee day. Being unable to use cruise control, that full extension and constant pressure is shredding my right knee. I believe my exact words, in a text to a friend, were, “This is the most intense pain my knee has felt in years.” Already a sense of foreboding for Tuesday’s long haul home is beginning to settle around me…

Our destination stop for the day was Arlington National Cemetery. By the time we got there, tempers were beginning to unravel and a tromp through a cemetery in the blazing heat just because Mom insisted you do it was not settling well with everyone. But Mom is glad she insisted. And Mom even got thanked by all recalcitrant children for bringing them to Arlington. I was disappointed that Arlington House itself is closed due to being under renovations. Being a W&L grad, I adore the connection Robert E. Lee has to the house. I was looking forward to showing my children the house and learning more about it, but that was not to be. We did see the JFK Eternal Flame, but then we pushed on to the real reason I had brought them. I wanted to show them the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As we walked towards the tomb, we happened upon the ceremony of two soldiers lowering the flag for the day. We watched in solemn silence as, with practiced hand, they folded the flag with respect, and then walked, at their carefully measured pace, back to the barracks. This put us arriving at the tomb at exactly the right time. We watched for a few minutes as the guard on duty walked his precise route, with something like otherworldly precision. Then the ceremony began. I felt moved by the ceremony, but the kids were positively transfixed. By the time it was over, and we had wandered the interesting museum display on the back side of the amphitheater, all heat-induced suffering had been drained away. You think you’re hot, they’re wearing wool! It led to a really interesting conversation about discipline and duty. It’s hard to comprehend that these guards are doing this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter the weather or circumstance. It truly is awe-inspiring.

Once we left Arlington, we ended up in a bit of DC traffic, even though it was a Sunday night. We needed to find something to eat on our way to our hotel, but we were headed to the outskirts of Alexandria, and I wasn’t sure what I would find at our exit. Ironically, we found a Firehouse Subs. I say ironically because Firehouse was founded in Jacksonville, FL, our dear hometown. After a quick dinner, we retired for the night. One final day of history adventure awaits us tomorrow.



Day 20: By the numbers

Odometer: 129,127 – 129,443 (316 miles)
Total travel time: 10 hours (ish)
States/Districts traveled through/in: 7 (CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA, DC)
Current standings in the CMRT 2019 Lottery Project: It’s bad. Really bad.
Number of states found in our license plate-palooza: 1 –> Total of 47/51 (Still missing Alaska, Wyoming, Nevada, and…. North Dakota!)
© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim