Monday, June 11, 2012

Changing Of The Guard

Last month I found out that a couple of my friends would be traveling nearby from their home in Florida.

They'd be in Washington, DC chaperoning a group of Girls Scouts. The Girl Scouts were coming from around the nation and other parts of the world in celebration of the 100th birthday of the organization.

A couple of weeks ago we firmed up on the plan. I would meet them Sunday,10 June in the morning.

I had little desire to meet them Saturday morning on the Mall. There were an estimated 250,000 Girl Scouts and temperatures in the low 90's. If you've ever been in a large crowd of people on a blistering day you know the danger of heat stroke.

So I loaded up the AirTrafficMobile  at 8:30 am and set out for Washington, DC. It's only about a 2 to 2.5 hour trip. It was going to be especially easy since I was going to park out in the suburbs and take the Metro Rail System from the New Carollton Station (upper right at the end of the "Orange Line"). The Metro system is clean, efficient, and well air conditioned.

I'd have to make one train transfer, but I had four places to do so. I opted to pick up the "Blue Line" at the Stadium-Armory Station. I saw no need to wait until the last minute.

My destination? Arlington National Cemetery.

I figured it would be a bit cooler weather, the Cemetery has plenty of shade, and lots of history.

As it turns out yesterday when I arrived to meet Skip, Melanie, and their charges, the temperatures had reached the upper 80's. Skip told me that despite having some fire trucks to shoot water on to the crowds, there were still a number of children and adults that passed out during the ceremony on the Mall.

We were in each others' company for all of about five minutes when the first crisis broke out. A young Girl Scout had become separated from her troop. She was lost in a big crowd and crying. Melanie and her Girl Scouts took control of the situation. They took the youngster to the main desk, calmed her down, worked the cellphone, and stayed with her until her Troop Leader returned to the Visitor's Center.

With crisis #1 out of the way, it was time to get out in the heat so we could have crisis #2. Some of the group, Melanie included, have loved ones buried there. Obviously, they all wanted to see their family members' graves. With maps in hand we set out on foot.

I spent the walk looking at the various stones, the service records on them, and the awards these men and women had earned in the service of our country.

For those of you who have never visited Arlington National Cemetery, here's on important fact.  It's enormous. If you're on foot, be ready for a full blown hike.

Apparently I was not ready for a full blown hike. We'd be out and about for an hour. I suddenly felt a little dizzy. Initially I ignored it. I didn't want to ruin a day at the cemetery.

A few minutes later, I realized I had stopped sweating.

Crisis #2 was now underway.

I told Skip I had to go sit in the shade and cool down. Skip told Melanie and the rest of the group to press on. After a bit of a rest themselves they did. I took my hat off. Skip made a funny face and said, "Mike, your face is really flushed.". I'd kind of figured that already. His stepson had stayed with us. Skip handed me a bottle of water from the young fellow's backpack.

I did my best to hydrate and cool off. I poured some of the water over my head. Then I felt my arms. The skin on my arms was much warmer than normal.

This was not good.

They handed me another bottle of water.

I really wasn't feeling any better, but I wasn't getting any worse.

Not wanting to keep the group separated, I thanked Skip and told him I was good to go.

By, "Good to go." I meant not everything was spinning and the "tunnel vision" wasn't too annoying.

Our goal was to meet the group up by the "Tomb Of Unknowns". We wanted to see the changing of the guard.

It was a slow trip with two intermediate stops, but we arrived in time to see it.

It is an impressive ceremony.

We were asked to remain silent. Nobody said a word.

By the end of the service, and with everybody having found their loved ones, the group headed over to the Women In Military Service To America Memorial. This stop was a blessing for me. It had ice cold air  conditioning, bottled ice water for sale, and a nice, cold shiny marble bench to sit on.

Two bottles of ice water and 25 minutes later, Crisis #2 was history.

A parting picture as we headed for the Metro.

Those who know me well know I like to do random nice things.

This day was no exception.

Heat stroke, or no, I had promised Melanie and Skip I'd take them and the group out to lunch.

A couple of the Scouts are vegetarians. Skip and Melanie had decided on the Hard Rock Cafe'. It had food to fit all the dietary needs of the vegetarians and carnivores.

We arrived there about 4:10 pm.

The place was mobbed.

The hostess informed us it would be a 90 minute wait for a table.

I was disappointed. It is located right next to Ford's Theatre, the site of President Lincoln's assassination.

Abe probably should have gone to the Hard Rock Cafe' that night instead. He likely would have enjoyed a shot from the bar rather than a shot from Booth.

We all headed around the corner a found a neat little sandwich place. The menu fit in with the vegetarians, so we opted to eat there.

By the time we finished up, it was time for me to hit the road back to South Jersey. I-95 can be crazy anytime, but even more so during the Summer months. In all, I took a one hour delay as the 1,500 cars in front of me paid homage to the van that had rear ended a charter bus.

I was glad to get out of that traffic and get moving. I was still feeling a bit washed out and had considered an overnight stay in Baltimore.

I'm glad I came home. Baltimore is nice, but I'd have still faced the drive this morning.

Skip, Melanie, and crew it was a pleasure seeing you folks yesterday. Let me know next time you get up to Washington, DC.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

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