I made my way to Virginia on Saturday afternoon to stay with my cousin for a few nights. After a couple of days of frustration it was wonderful to arrive in a place where I felt truly welcome and could relax for a bit. The house smelled amazingly of a chicken stew, manna from heaven after Lara Bars and granola.
My tent got some quality time in the backyard to dry out. I kept an eye on it from the bedroom I was staying in and didn't miss it for 3 whole nights.
On Sunday morning I went to watch my cousin and her daughter in a local swim class. This place is nuts - it's basically a fairly large swimming pool inside a small strip mall. The pool is located where a Post Office used to be. The front desk staff know everyone's name, there's a cool little playroom, and there are one way mirrors along the edge of the pool so that parents can watch the classes without distracting their kids. The whole place ticks over every 30 minutes, classes starting and ending like clockwork.
Later that day we met my childhood friend and her family at the National Zoo. The Zoo is free and open to the public just like other Smithsonian institutions, so there were dozens of people walking through the exhibits, joggers taking advantage of the hills, and families picnicking in the pavilions or on the grass.
I feel conflicted about zoos; caging wild animals makes me feel really uncomfortable. I have good friends who are strongly anti-zoo and I take their point every time I hear the argument against such treatment of animals, but I also greatly appreciate being able to see pandas, tigers, and elephants up close and to learn about them. I'm not sure it's an internal conflict I'll ever resolve.
The two small people hit it off immediately and spent the afternoon chasing each other up and down the brick pathways, practicing their lion roars, and generally getting into any mischief within reach.
A & P at the Carousel
On the way home we passed the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum had just opened the day before and the long, looping line for the door stretched as far as the eye could see. My cousin told me that tickets were unavailable at all until November, and that weekend tickets were all claimed through the end of the year. The building is several stories of what looks like intricate metal filigree rising out of the ground, each floor opening like petals reaching for the sky. It's very, very different from the buildings nearby and is beautiful.
We took the scenic route back to Virginia, making our way along the Potomac River.
On Monday I spent half a day in the guest room banging away on this blog, moving photos around, and working on logistics for the coming week in Maryland and southern Virginia.