My wife Abby and I flew to Baltimore to spend a week with Abby’s daughter Chele, her husband Tom, and our grandson Paul. In addition to visiting the family, we saw many of the excellent attractions in the Baltimore and Washington areas.
We flew from Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport to Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport. We were able to secure a non-stop flight on a Southwest Boeing 737-300. Southwest is head and shoulders above any competitors as our favorite airline. Our flight was smooth and on-time, the Southwest staff were always polite and helpful, and both airports are modern and easy to navigate.
Our first day in Tom and Chele’s charming home in the Baltimore suburb of Parkville was low-key, but we all had a great time visiting and playing with Paul.
• Conversation and Chinese Food
It was another fairly low-key day. We mostly played with our grandson and visited with Tom and Chele. Tom loves all things related to Star Wars, as well as all things relate to the Baltimore sports scene, so there was no shortage of conversation topics.
By late morning, we took Paul to a neighborhood park where he could play on the swings and jungle gyms. Despite oppressively humid heat, we all had a great time.
Dinner at my request was at P. F. Chang’s, one of my favorite Chinese restaurants, which is in Towson Center not far from Tom and Chele’s house. I decided if there was a P. F. Chang’s near our home, I would be broke and weigh 300 pounds.
• Fort McHenry
Tom had to work on this day, so Chele took Abby and me to Fort McHenry, the colonial fortress on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor where Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner. It was hot and very humid out, but everyone seemed to have a great time.
About two thirds of the way around the Fort, Abby, Chele and Paul headed for the visitor center and air conditioning, while I made the rest of the tour. It was very hot in the sun, but down inside powder magazines and living quarters, it was quite cool.
• Abby’s Shoe Shopping Day
Tom and I stayed home with Paul while Abby and Chele went shopping for shoes, which has become a bit of a tradition when Abby comes to Baltimore. Tom and I watched Star Wars extras from his new Star Wars Blu-Ray deluxe set. Abby ended up buying mostly very lightweight hiking-style shoes, which will be perfect everyday wear.
• Washington, D.C.
Abby decided to pass on the Washington D. C. walking tour, partly because of the heat, and partly so she could stay home with her daughter and grandson.
Tom and I drove to the Greenbelt station of D. C.’s Metro subway system. The train from there into the center of the city was sparsely occupied. We changed trains at the L’Enfant station. The train from there to the Smithsonian station, which was just two stops away, was crowded and required us to stand, but was still very comfortable.
We emerged from the subway at exactly 8 a m., and toured the National Mall area clockwise starting at the Smithsonian Castle. Our stops included:
The Washington Monument. It was covered in a scaffold to repair damage from an earthquake (according to Chele, “the” earthquake) in 2011.
World War II Memorial. I found it to be elegant and spacious. Since it was so early, we nearly had it to ourselves.
The Korean War Memorial. This might have been the most impressive of all the monuments we saw. While comparing it to the World War II memorial, Tom said, “I felt inspired at the WW2 memorial, but here I just feel despair.” His remark left me feeling that the site had accomplished its purpose.
The Lincoln Memorial. By the time we arrived it was mid morning, and several busses had disgorged a number of tourists, so it was fairly crowded. I was still able to make some fairly germane images. I also didn’t realize until I stood at it that there was a granite marker where Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I have a dream” speech.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I was particularly interested in seeing this because the Vietnam Veterans Traveling Wall visited Ada in May and made some amazing images. I was a bit disappointed that the permanent wall was so crowded I was only able to make a few images, and ever then felt rushed. The Traveling Wall experience was much better for me.
The White House. I only stopped here to say that I had. Due to post-9/11 security concerns, you can’t actually see much of it, and where you can see it is loaded with tourists.
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. I found several interesting image opportunities here, including an elegant steel piece in the courtyard that caught a brilliant reflection from the sun, allowing me to get one of my famous sunstar photos.
National Air and Space Museum. By midday, the heat was becoming oppressive and we were looking for an indoor venue. The Air and Space Museum appealed to the kids in both of us. It ended up being very fun and interesting.
The National Gallery. By mid afternoon, Robert Stinson, who lives in nearby Alexandria, called and met up with us. He wanted to give us a whirlwind tour of some of his favorite art at The National Gallery, which ended up being quite fascinating.
Newseum. It was about to close, so we didn’t tour it, but as a journalist, I have put it on my to do list for next time.
The Capital. Our last stop was at the reflecting pool in front of the Capital building. Fairly exhausted from the events and from the heat, we sat and rested.
At the end of the day, Robert saw us off on our train ride back to Greenbelt station. The travel back to Baltimore was smooth and easy.
• The National Aquarium
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is home to this excellent attraction. We knew it would be an amazing place for two-and-a-half year old Paul, but it turned out that the rest of us found the experience interesting as well. Abby was particularly enamored of the sea turtles. Despite it being our only venue for the day, we were unable to see everything by virtue of the place being so huge.
• Westminster and the Flight Home
We drove to Tom’s mom’s house, where she lives with her sisters. They took us to dinner at Olive Garden for what could only be described as a feast.
I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again: I love traveling with my wife.
I bought more bottles of water on the street in Washington D. C. that all the other bottled water I consumed in the last six months.
We all wore Baltimore Orioles caps every day.
Tom and I watched Star Wars items like spoofs and joke videos, as well as a rare show called The Star Wars Holiday Special, which was so terrible it became hysterically funny.
Since Paul required a nap every day at 1 p m, we all took one as well.
We ate twice at my favorite Baltimore dive, the Bel-Loc Diner. On one occasion, we saw retired Baltimore Orioles pitcher Tippy Martinez, most famous for picking off three runners in one inning.
At the Bel-Loc, Tom and Chele both got a Baltimore delicacy, scrapple, which is a conglomerate of all the leftover meats from the griddle.
95 percent of my images were made with my FujiFilm FinePix HS30EXR. Abby has the same camera and shot exclusively with it. A few of my images were made with my iPhone 5.