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My Backpacking no-longer-at-uni Adventure Finished Uni, not sure what to do, off overseas...

Trek America - Freedom Trail Part Two

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 17 October 2009 | Views [968]

The van arrives in Bear Country in Pennsylvania. Despite “going on a bear hunt” in our van we did not see any bears at all, but we did have to remove all foodstuffs and cosmetics from our bags and put them in the trailer that night. Apparently bears really like toothpaste and are prepared to invade a tent to get it. The next morning we were up and at’em and in the van at seven am setting off for Washington DC. This was supposed to take us nine hours but Captain Charisma got lost for an hour. This was annoying enough in itself, but then he tried to DENY it! The girls in the front with me were like, “Ah, haven’t we been through this town before?”

“Errr, no. No we haven’t.”

“Did we just go in a circle for an hour?”

“Ummm, well, yes. I was supposed to take a left not a right at the freeway…”

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. We were less than impressed.

We arrived at our camping ground, set up the tents, then headed into DC for the “illumination tour” of the monuments. This is advertised as an included activity in the brochure and we assumed this was something one would normally pay for… No, it was Captain Charisma walking ten metres in front of us occasionally murmuring some history. To his credit he did actually know a lot about the monuments and what they represented and it was very interesting. What I found more exciting about DC though was not the actual history, but since three of my favourite TV shows are The West Wing, JAG and NCIS, and are frequently set in DC I got overly excited when I saw “set pieces” from the shows… Oddly though, the White House was something of a let down… This is apparently a common reaction as we expect a superpower such as America should have a grand palatial building for their head of state. But no. Apparently when the founding fathers were setting up the country, DC and the White House they purposefully decided to have a somewhat understated building and not a palace; since they were moving away from a ruling monarchy with a palace and absolute power, they wanted the President to not have all the power and to live in a place reflecting this. Don’t get me wrong, I’d live there, but it’s not Buck House and is greatly overshadowed by the looming dome of the Capital Building which can be seen from most points of the city. But then congress technically has more power so I suppose this makes sense… (thanks West Wing).

We explored DC the next day as well, and after having seen the WW2 and Vietnam memorials as well as the Washington monument (tall stick in the sky) and the Lincoln Memorial (it has the pond in front of it which Jenny runs through in Forest Gump) we decided to see serious and sombre places. And where did Carla, Nat and I head to? The International Spy Museum – without a doubt the best place in DC and the best museum I’ve ever been to. Now I do need to preface this with the fact that I have other favourite TV shows other than the ones listed above. Alias and Spooks are two of them and I was raised on the James Bond Series. Needless to say I was going to find this museum interesting. But what was more amazing was: Operation Spy. We were sent on a mission, given code names (mine was Ginga Ninja, appropriate for a redhead), had to kill the security camera feeds, crack the code of the door into an office of a corrupt government official (I got that, it was CIA!) and then break into his safe and photo copy pertinent documents using an Alias-esque pen scanner, commando crawl to the door (while being shot at!) get in a very bumpy back of a truck (Natalie and I were very unspy-like and felt motion sick!), report to HQ and decide if our asset in-country was a double agent or not. Awesome fun. Now if you didn’t get into it, it wouldn’t be that great, but Carla, Nat and I were Uber-Spies the moment we were given code names.

After this we went to the museum and explored all the KGB and CIA documents, personalities and gadgets we could see. There was a James Bond Aston Martin with rocket launchers and ejection seat, real cyanide pills, lipstick guns, false identities galore and too much information to take in our limited time frame. Unfortunately we had to meet rest of the team at the agreed upon rendezvous point and did some fairly intense power walking to get to them (only once the other two extracted me from the gift shop!).

The New York Yankees played the Baltimore Orioles that night and we were there to see it. Having played baseball as a kid and softball at high school I was pretty excited about this but sadly the Orioles were kind of crap… even their fans agreed. But a quintessential American experience none the less.

Final day. Back into the van. Drive back to New Jersey and we wave goodbye to Captain Charisma (not tipping him!) and venture into New York City for the night. Eek. Only slightly unnerved. What a week. Terrible tour guide but it mean that we all got on that much better, what brings girls together better than a good bitching session? I saw the sights I wanted to see, I went through seven states, met some great people and once I develop my awesome disposable camera – hopefully have some awesome photos to go along with the memories.

Tags: baseball, bear country, dc, spy museum!, trek america

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