Up early after spending the evening cowering in our hotel room watching a spectacular thunderstorm over the Rockies. Also cowering in fear of getting charged another £9 a pint for cider … still they were very good, the Canadians really seem to have gotten the hang of the frozen glass enhanced drink.
Today we are heading out for a boat trip on Waterton Lake, for more fantastic scenery, and hopefully before the next set of storms hits.
The boat trip has the added bonus of allowing us across the US border (another state – Montana: tick). The border is marked by the (real) monuments below. Apparently if you line the two up, that gives the line of the 49th parallel. Little border nerd fact there. Also of course, it means that we have the opportunity to be in 3 countries today.
Line up for the 49th parallel
Somone really wants to make the border clear
Also spotted a bald eagle on the lakeshore, so another tick on the Canadian fauna list. Still no moose though 🙁
Best not to look too closely at what is being snacked on…
Wonder if the US border people keep this here for symbollic puroses?
Of course we are still several hundred miles from Calgary with a full itinerary to get in post-boat trip.
Next stop, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. This appears to be be simalar to Creswell crags in that the hunting method was to chase the beasts over the cliff edge and then wander down and finish off any that are still alive. I had assumed that hte Head-Smashed-In part of the name referred to the Buffalo, but apparently it comemorates a young,curious brave who wandered a little too close to watch the Buffalo fall. Fail.
Does what it says on the tin
Moving on to our final stop of the day, the Big Rock glacial erratic. Also very much as advertised, a couple of huge rocks dropped here by glaciers rolling over the Alberta prarie. As if to demonstrate the prairie point, the field in front is riddled with prarie dogs. I hope they haven’t tunneled under the erratic, or they may be in for a nasty surprise!
It is indeed a big rock
So what have we learned about Canada in the last two weeks?
- It’s a remarkably friendly country
- The legendary politeness is real
- The country is so stunning that Canadians must be ruined for travel elswhere when it comes to viewing scenery
- Four seasons in a day is definitely a thing
- June is not summer in Canada
Finally, I think that this farmhouse spotted on the way back to Calgary just about sums it up…
So, the final day and some 12 or so hours to kill before the late flight. Ethan has found some places to visit which may be of interest but may also conceivably just be box-ticking exercises aimed at getting another State in (Maryland). He was keen to go to Baltimore, but I have seen the Wire and was having no part of that. This must have done for Baltimore what Deliverance did for Tallulah Falls!
Instead we headed out of the Washington swamp into the Maryland wetlands and Battle Creek Cypress Swamp. Interesting sort of place, containing lots of “trees with knees” – apparently these help the trees to breathe:
Trees with knees
Ethan spotted this one which looked as though the trees had gone beyond just breathing and were giving a rock horns salute to the world
From here we had a trip to the coast penciled in, to catch a glimpse of Chesapeake Bay. Now, generally speaking, I am happy to have a good walk and experience tells me that Ethan will usually find a car park within a few hundred yards of what he wants to see, so imagine my surprise when the beach (such as it was) turned out to be a 4 mile round trip, through another swamp in 85 degree heat, wearing the clothes that we intended to fly in. I suspect my usual bonhomie may have become a little frayed. Still, the 20mx5m strip of beach seemed to have attracted 30 or 40 other intrepid fools. But at least we saw Chesapeake Bay (tick!).
Swamp 3 of the day
Yes, that’s it – but the interesting part is close!
Having sweated our way back to the car, we headed off towards Dulles airport and another geek treat inside a real life version of Top Trumps. I have no idea why the Dulles branch of the Smithsonian isn’t better advertised, but it has some great exhibits.
The undisputed Top trump of aircraft from my spotty, nerdy youth – the Blackbird (fastest, highest flying, most expensive…). Possibly the coolest plane ever made:
The coolest plane ever made?
But wait, there is the space shuttle discovery too!
… Unless you count this
There was a Concorde, but let’s move on to the Enola Gay. Looked nice and shiny. Can’t help but wonder if it’s been polished up ready to be recommissioned and sent over to North Korea…
Sombre purpose but catchy tune.
… and does anyone remember a lunatic skydiving from a balloon at the edge of space? Yep, that’s here too…
Hard to express just how much geeking out was going on here!
Sadly, all geek things must come to an end and we eventually had to draw a line under the trip and head to the airport proper. Ethan received the parting gift of having his bag rummaged through by Homeland Security.
Not quite as welcoming as mints on a pillow. We were trying to think what might have triggered the search and all we can think of is that maybe the foam Atlanta Braves tomahawk turned up on the x-ray. Of course, rummaging through they will have found his fine collection of souvenir tat and will no doubt have been in awe at the level of dedication that he brings to tourism.
Last full day in DC today, although we have some time tomorrow before the evening flight and a car to get around (it was cheaper to hire a car for the day than to get a cab to the airport!). It turns out that there is a Smithsonian outpost at Dulles with some cool (I use “cool” in the aerospace nerd sense here) stuff – Concorde, a Space shuttle, Blackbird and, possibly, Enola Gay. How did we not know about this before? Time has duly been set aside.
First outing of the day to the Newseum, Washington’s tribute to the first amendment and the rights of the free press. It’s an excellent museum documenting the history of the press and exhibits from major events…
World Trade Centre Tower Spire
…and some sections of the Berlin wall. Can you figure out which side is east and which west?
There are endless old newspapers, including one documenting the gunpowder plot, ancient copies of the Observer and the Spectator etc. and some interesting stuff from the FBI.
From here we went in search of lunch and ended up in Lincoln’s Waffles. A Vietnamese greasy spoon that made the Victoria Centre cafe look like World Service. There was actually a slick on my coffee. Tasty, but I felt like I needed a shower afterwards and was exuding grease for several hours. We were befriended by the resident nutter (Hi Steve!) who had considerably more knowledge of the dealings of Prince Charles than I do. At least I thought he was a nutter (albeit a very friendly and pleasant one) before he revealed himself to be a man of incisiveness and discernment by asking if Ethan and myself were brothers. I think I found it more amusing than Ethan.
A quick hike out to the Thomas Jefferson memorial before heading back to the scene of our earlier greasy crime and Ford’s Theatre, the location of Lincoln’s assassination.
Wait a minute, that’s not Lincoln!
Lincoln was shot on this balcony and someone felt it was a good idea to put a picture of Washington there. That’s just adding insult to (extreme) injury!
As it turns out, the Newseum is on the site of the old National Hotel where John Wilkes Booth stayed the night before he shot Lincoln. Almost as though we planned that link. What with the greasy spoon as well, synchronicity was playing silly buggers with us. Spooky.
Looks like Washington is getting some of the rain from the tail end of hurricane Harvey on it today. We seem to have been just ahead of the worst of this for the whole trip with Tennessee getting a considerable soaking after we left.
Of course, being the intrepid breakfasters that we are, Ethan and myself got thoroughly soaked in search of a hearty morning repast. The research had led us to believe that Duke’s Grocery in the DuPont Circle area of Washington would provide a decent veggie brunch option). This indeed proved to be the case (they apparent fry their potato concoction in truffle oil and it certainly works!) but required quite the expedition. According to Google we have walked nearly 50 miles since we have been in DC…
Washington is heaving this weekend (it is apparently Labour Day weekend), so I’m glad we managed to get through some of the museums during the week. We will manfully fight through some more today.
I wanted to go to the Hirshorn to check out some modern art, but opinion was split within our party as to the sense of this endeavour. I forged on solo and was rewarded with some classics. One of the guides on the tour bus had waxed less than lyrical about this…
Apparently, it had cost the American tax payer $850,000 and opinion is somewhat divided.
Anyway, much inspired I set off to create my own street art. The White House lawn presented a juxtaposition of geese and rising steam which I like to call “Geeser”…
…and this which I entitle “Ratus Deflatus”.
Sorry, but it’s a slow news day!
Anyway, we both thoroughly enjoyed the Museum of the American Indian and our second visit to HipCityVeg for the most outrageously good vegan fast food I have tasted in a long time. Damp, but well fed.
We’re casting our net a bit wider today. Heading out of the centre to the zoo and to explore the historic areas of Georgetown and Foggy Bottom. We’re probably not going to spend much time in Foggy Bottom, but I just like typing it. Shady Grove is another good one – probably perfectly innocent, but seems quite apt for Washington. How do these names get picked?
Anyway, first stop the zoo, primarily to see the pandas. Luckily for us, they were out and performing today.
What’s this then?
Aww, my head’s stuck.
I hope noone saw that.
Hard to believe that they are dying out.
Great to see them, but we were quite disappointed not to see the sloth bear. Couldn’t be bothered to put in an appearance. Lazy bastard.
I am genuinely shocked by the size of the anaconda. There is no excuse for a snake this size.
I mean really?
Onwards to Georgetown under the pretense of viewing some historic buildings. Of course what we were really interested in was seeing the Exorcist steps…
Anyone hear the sound of tubular bells?
Somone had thoughtfully left this to help us battle any demons that might show up,
or possibly out of concern for the sort of people who would be interested in such things. I was actually tempted to try an exorcism of the joggers who kept getting in our way running up and down the steps. Any lingering evil was overwhelmed by the whiff of sweaty smugness.
Back into the core of Washington and an audience with the main man. I’m not entirely convinced of his credentials…
Time to head to Cuba, I wouldn’t trust this guy to run the country.