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by Tumbleweed Smith

My parents took me to Washington, DC when I was in the seventh grade. The thing that I remember most about that trip was that there were no overhead wires. All the utility lines were underground. I don't know why that stayed with me. I guess somebody pointed that out to me and I thought it was neat.

In thirty years or so I'd like to know what impressions my 13-year-old grandson Jackson had when my wife and I took him to the nation's capitol over the recent spring break. Washington is an attractive city.

We found the city easy to navigate. The Metro system takes just a few minutes to be able to use it. Cabs stop for you better than they do in New York City. Tourist attractions are grouped together so you can visit as many as half a dozen in a single day.

The first morning in the capitol we walked to the White House from our hotel. Congressman Charlie Stenholm arranged for us to tour it. Tours are not as easy to get as they used to be. He met us at the gate at7:45 AM and led us to the entrance. About the only thing we could have in our possession when we went in were our wallets. No cameras or even ballpoint pens were allowed inside. The White House is beautiful and we got to see several rooms.

The Washington Monument, near the White House, was our next place to visit. We booked a 10 AM tour. We rode an elevator to the top and that's where the significance of our nation's history hit me square in the face. The words written on murals and etched in stone are extremely patriotic and emotional. I think to really understand our country, a person needs to go to DC.

From the monument we went to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. We saw Dick Rutan's Voyager, the plane he built and flew around the world non-stop and non-refueling. It was special because we had heard him speak recently. I took a picture of Jackson standing by Apollo Eleven, the spacecraft that took the first Americans to the moon.

We then went to the new hot spot in Washington, the Spy Museum, where I was able to tell Jackson what I did in the Army. Then we went to the Viet Nam Memorial, perhaps the most haunting place we visited. When I teared up, Jackson gave me comforting pats on the back. Across the way was the Lincoln Memorial. When Jackson teared up there, I patted him. We did all this in one day. After dinner, we put warm water in the bathtub and all three of us soaked our feet.

The next day we went to the Capitol building and took a tour arranged by Senator John Cornyn. We got to sit in the gallery and see and hear debate on national issues.

The most moving part of the trip was at the Museum of American History. We saw people working on preserving the flag that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. We saw Ford's Theater and the bed where Lincoln died. We toured Mount Vernon. We saw dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History. I think our grandson will remember this trip. I know I will.

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