Alas, I have returned. After ten hour traveling days, I have arrived back at home. The cat is certainly happy to have me home (she’s sitting in my lap at the moment.)
Really had a good time out in DC. Spent some time at the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress. Then on to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Definitely a highlight of the trip, something that I have wanted to see for quite some time. The next day we went on down to Mt Vernon, Washington’s estate. That place is pretty damn cool. Washington, being a self taught architect, designed the house and all of the out buildings. He was also into “technology”, things like a rope and pulley system that rang bells in the kitchen to inform the workers (they were mostly slaves) that one of the guests required assistance. There were also 13 fireplaces in the house… can you imagine keeping 13 fireplaces running in the winter time in northern Virginia?
From the house, we drove on down the road the Washington’s distillery and grist miller. As I mentioned before, Washington was into technology, and his grist mill was cutting edge for the day. There is a 16 foot water wheel, that was fed by a two mile long ditch fed by a pond at the other end. From the pond to the mill the land dropped eighteen feet, to make sure that there was constant water pressure to turn the wheel. His distillery, at it’s peak, produced almost 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey, which in 1799 made Washington the largest producer of whiskey in America. If you find yourself in northern Virginia, and are interested in history… and spirits, I highly recommend you stop by Washington’s distillery and gristmill, it will be worth the trip.
After leaving Mt Vernon, we drove out to and through Shenandoah National Park. Plenty of wildlife around for those who look. We saw several deer and a black bear. Definitely one of the most beautiful places this country has to offer. The history of the valley is interesting as well. ” Employing audacity and rapid, unpredictable movements on interior lines, Jackson’s 17,000 men marched 646 miles (1,040 km) in 48 days and won several minor battles as they successfully engaged three Union armies (52,000 men), preventing them from reinforcing the Union offensive against Richmond.” excerpt taken from wikipedia. Needles to say the place has some history. Before California was considered the “breadbasket” of the US, the Shenandoah valley held that distinction and to this day, it is one of the most fertile locations.
After Shenandoah, we drove on through to the observatory in Green Bank WV. NRAO, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The “GBT” or great big telescope is the main dish at the facility as well as the largest man made moveable structure on the planet. It stands 485 feet tall and the collection is is 110 meters by 100 meters… the thing is huge. My girlfriend is working at the observatory for the summer, so we got a tour of the place… pretty cool piece of equipment. They are scanning the Orion nebula, checking the composition of compounds that are floating in interstellar space, which just so happens to be one of the greatest star making regions in our galaxy.
I have said it already, but I do mean it, if you find yourself out on the central east coast, I highly recommend you check out a couple of the places. It really helps ground you, knowing a little more of the history of our country, and seeing some of our own “state of the art” equipment in action.