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Wedding #1

Today was perfect for a wedding.  wedding2.jpgThe sun was shining, the clouds were scarce and the wedding itself went off without a hitch, except for that of the bride and groom of course.  The most stand-out part of the wedding was the music.  Because both Nathan and Diane are UofM music school alumni, they had both a brass and a string quartet set up on either side of the nave.  The groups took turns playing, collaborating on a couple of the pieces in a way that echoed throughout the church.  It was fabulous.  After Cortney took her history exam online in the hotel room, we went back to town for the evening picnic celebration, complete with fried chicken and square dancing!  The best part about the day?  We weren’t lost once!


Lost and Found

How many times can you get lost in a single day? We found out quite a few. We got out of D.C., no thanks to Mapquest’s poor directions and the heavy downpour. On the way to Harpers Ferry, we got nervous and, thinking we had missed our turn, went back the other way. Fortunately, we realized our mistake shortly and turned around again. At least crossing the Potomac River was very beautiful multiple times. harpersferry.jpgAt Harpers Ferry, we circled the park twice before finding parking because all the signs pointed in the wrong direction. The quaint buildings were enjoyable, and we even saw a fox casually cross the road.
We also made it to the site of the Battle of Antietam, one of the Civil War’s important battlegrounds. Some of the farmhouse outbuildings were the original structures, and it was interesting to imagine thousands of troops marching across the cornfields and down a cobbled ditch. antietam.jpgJon couldn’t figure out the map at the end of the driving tour, though, causing us another trip back and forth in the wrong direction.
Amazingly enough, we got to Wheeling, West Virginia with minutes to spare before Nathan and Diane’s wedding rehearsal. It was great to reconnect with a slew of old friends, many from the music school. The rehearsal dinner was at the First Capitol Building, which was the original seat of the government of West Virginia. Several bills of national importance were signed there, including the 14th Amendment. We can’t wait to celebrate with Nathan and Diane tomorrow. We wish them all the best!


Monumental Animals

On a scale of one to ten, we rate the National Zoo a seven. Some enclosures were quite spectacular, giving the lions and tigers an immense amount of room with lots of grass, trees, and an elaborate moat. natzoo.jpgOthers, such as the entirely indoor small mammal house, were minimal. The whole thing seems geared more toward the scientists studying the animals than the visitors watching them, as many animals were off exhibit. Though all of their advertising proudly proclaimed giant pandas, which they had, the act that stole the show was the cheetah den and the five young cubs. We spent a long time admiring them.
Another unique feature of the National Zoo were the free-ranging golden tamarin monkeys. As we walked down one path, we overheard a ranger speak into his walkie-talkie, “I’ve got a sighting.” Our first thought was that a creature had escaped, but then we saw the sign saying that there were monkeys able to roam about the trees as they pleased! cheetah.jpgIn addition, the invertebrate house had a couple of orb weaver spiders in the open air without any protective glass. We watched in horror as a keeper placed a cricket on their web, and one of the spiders immediately rushed to the disturbance, injected the cricket with poison, and wrapped it up for later consumption.
After the zoo, we made a whirlwind tour of all of the monuments in the mall area. We noticed that a large number of them were quite new, as if Congress had gotten into “monument fever” a few years ago. All of them were very impressive, and offered plenty of picture-taking opportunities. lincoln.jpgInterestingly, one family saw Jon’s T-shirt reading “Los Angeles Zoo” and asked us to take their picture, saying that it was nice to see fellow Californians in D.C. We told them of our true Michigan home, and welcomed them to this side of the country nonetheless. It took every ounce of remaining energy to race back to the hotel as a gentle rain began to fall. Tomorrow’s stops: Harpers Ferry and the Battle of Antietam!


Off to Washington D.C.

Today we traveled through five states on our trip eastward: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. We’re not sure how the states figured it out, but the geographical features are distinctly different the moment you cross state lines. Crossing the border from Ohio to Pennsylvania? BLAM! Instant mountains out of flat lands. Leaving Maryland for Washington, D.C.? SHAZAM! Instant urban landscape out of the wilderness. Cuyahoga.jpgWe managed to add one more national park to our Parks Passport book—the Cuyahoga Valley. While a good nature area, it was indistinct to us from our familiar Michigan parks, so we moved on after a brief picnic lunch.
Since we got a late start in the morning, everything was pushed back a bit, which meant that we arrived in Washington, D.C. at rush hour. But, amazingly enough, all five lanes of highway traffic behaved very nicely, allowing for consistent 70 mph traffic, with only one slowdown. Downtown, though, was trickier. The usefulness of roundabouts is certainly debatable and takes a bold driver to successfully navigate. We made it to our hotel, though, which is next to the George Washington U campus, kiddie-corner to the Watergate, and only a short walk to the monuments.  And we got complimentary cookies!  We can’t wait for the National Zoo tomorrow!


Capybara and Pudu Are Friends

We have always been interested in how the Detroit Zoo promotes cross-species habitats whenever possible. Until now, we had always thought that it had been mostly a question of tolerance. For example, the ostrich tolerates the giraffe, so they can share an enclosure. Today, though, we discovered a very special relationship.
capypudu.jpgA docent told us that the zoo's pudu gets depressed when the keepers remove his regular capybara companion. When we visited their enclosure, we witnessed their bond firsthand as they chased each other playfully around in the water. What's really ironic? We are talking about a miniature deer and the world's largest rodent hanging out together. Is this a tabloid headline or a children's story? You decide.