Visiting a big city with your family by boat is a completely different experience than visiting by any other means of transportation.
As cruisers, we find that the normal travel concerns of airports, hotels, restaurants, and rental cars are being replaced by questions like, “Where is the nearest grocery store? Is there a dinghy dock nearby?” and the all-important, “Where can we take the dogs to poop?”
Thankfully, Washington is a fairly cruiser-friendly town. Safeway was a mere two blocks away, we had access to showers and laundry, and the dogs had a newly renovated waterfront to, ah…attend to their business.
There is a Metro station nearby, which we rode once, for the experience, but our main mode of transportation, besides our feet, was the city bike share program. Like many big cities, Washington has a fleet of bikes that are available to rent, taking a bicycle from one station and dropping it off at another. The only drawback is that you can only have a bike out for 30 minutes at a time before finding another station and switching it out for another bike or parking it.
This worked brilliantly for our family, with all six of us pedaling hilariously from museum to monument while furiously ringing our little bells to avoid collisions with the ubiquitous tourists and often frantically trying to find the next bike station before our always-too-short 30 minutes ran out. I rode with my cell phone in one hand, partly to capture photos and video, and partly to keep a timer running and to locate nearby stations in time.
Me: “Turn left at the statue! Only five minutes left! Don’t hit the hot dog guy!! Comedy gold.
Provisioning (cruiser-speak for shopping for food and supplies) was easily accomplished at our local Safeway. Our only problem was that we shopped like we were living in the suburbs with our Suburban in the parking lot (read we bought way too much). But with four growing Vikings aboard, how could we not?
We decided to wheel the full shopping cart back to the dinghy when, by some unseen magic, the right front wheel of the shopping cart locked up leaving us immobile smack in the middle of the store entrance/exit. Luckily, we were able to find a benevolent Safeway employee who removed the curse from the cart and sent us on our way, providing we would agree to bring back the cart after we had unloaded.
The anchorage was great, if you don’t mind helicopters (police, Coast Guard, presidential) buzzing by just above your mast tip every hour or so. You get used to it…sort of.
Most of the monuments, museums, and memorials in D.C. are free, or for a “suggested donation,” which is amazing, since the plunder our Vikings bring home is in the form of memories and experiences, not gold. That’s great and all, but try paying for dinner with memories and you’ll get all sorts of funny looks.
As a whole, our family thought the Lincoln memorial was inspiring, and we were all a bit overwhelmed by the Holocaust memorial…amazing, but heavy. And I’m a bit embarrassed to say, by I MAY have teared up a bit while viewing the Declaration of Independence. Maybe.
But I’ve got to say that our hands-down favorite was the Air and Space Museum. I mean, it’s the Wright’s Flyer! I could have spent an entire day in their exhibit on navigation alone! So cool.
Our week in Washington D.C. was so much fun. It was interesting, inspiring, and exhausting…and we were all ready to leave by the end of our time there–ready to take on the Big Apple next!