Happy Fourth of July

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My great west vacation – Yellowstone National Park

Six states, 1,400 miles, worst hail storm ever, snow squall, 45 degrees, 100 degrees – and it was a fun time.

My wife and I went out west to see a cousin for the first time and Yellowstone National Park. I added Oregon, Idaho and Montana to reach 43 states while also in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. I should reach my 50-state goal by 2021.

Every day was different – I find sitting at the beach boring. After flying to Salt Lake City, I covered 350 miles in 4 1/2 hours given 80 mph limits to reach Boise to meet my cousin Coleen for the first time. It was 100 degrees (felt like an 85-degree day in Washington given low humidity.) We then headed for Yellowstone, which is about 360 miles away. We stopped to see Craters of the Moon National Monument that was once a volcanic eruption. Just black debris everywhere. Pretty cool and conveniently on the way.

But Yellowstone was the focus. I’ve been to Yosemite and Yellowstone is much better. While Yosemite is more centrally focused from the valley, Yellowstone has two rings that bring you to different environments.

Of course, we went to Old Faithful first. Always wanted to see it and it did send water 100 feet upwards right on time. We then walked well designed trails to see other geothermal vents. Does that sound too brainy? Hey, it was simply cool to see throughout the valley.

Then there’s the lake that runs a good 40 miles long that is the highest elevated water in North America. Felt like sitting by Lake Michigan in late fall. That a bison was standing feet away from the road when I rounded a curve by the lake was jarring. I also saw elk in the park. Man, those antlers are impressive.

Then there was the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone that explains why it’s called Yellowstone. The great thing the park does throughout is provide perfect overlooks and trails by parking lots. You seldom walk far, which is helpful in 4,500 to 8,500 feet above sea level when I’m used to near zero in Maryland. Anyway, kind of gave me the willies looking down at the river that cut through the mountains over centuries.

It was a fun week that left me walking easily when landing in Washington, but instantly hating the heat and humidity. It’s gonna be a long, hot summer. I’ll have to stay in a Yellowstone state of mind.

By the way, I did see Yogi Bear and Boo Boo (but not Mister Ranger) in my final moments in town. Had to buy the sign. That cartoon, along with Smokey the Bear, sparked my interest in becoming a U.S. Park Ranger, which I’m still considering. Yogi didn’t have a pic-a-nic basket, though.




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Figure for Landscape makes you figure it out

This is not a Henry Moore piece despite being next to two of the British sculptor’s works on 7th and Jefferson N.W. But, it’s the next closest thing as fellow Brit Barbara Hepworth’s “Figure for Landscape” follows Moore’s 20th century passion for outdoor bronze sculptures that bend your mind.

The 1960 figure is one of seven cast and was given to the Hirshhorn Gardens in 1981. There really isn’t much known about this figure other than it follows her elemental theme. But, I did find this five-minute film on Hepworth that speaks to her style.

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Wordless Wednesday: Smithsonian Castle

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The Geronimo marker, well sorta

Geronimo surrenders

Sometimes a really strange marker hits you when passing by. Wait, was that Geronimo surrendering in Arlington National cemetery?

Well, yes it is, but the marker celebrates the person buried there who captured the Apache leader — George Crook.

Located at the final turn of the dirt path to Arlington House (straight ahead just when turning left) is the back side of Crook’s memorial. The large granite marker has a bas relief on the back showing the 1883 surrender of Geronimo (center) along with Crook (right) and other soldiers and braves.

Crook (1830-90) became a brigadier general during the Civil War. He was taken prisoner in 1865 before exchanged for Confederate prisoners and finished the war with the Army of the Potomac.

Crook then served out west fighting Apache, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. He later caught Geronimo in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Ironically, Crook became known as an advocate for indians that he felt were mistreated by government officials. He served 38 years in the army before dying at age 59.

The steps leading from Arlington House to the Tomb of the Unknowns is also named the Crook Walk after him.

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JFK bust just one example of Berks’ excellence

My favorite sculptor around town is Robert Berks, which saddens to think we never met before he died in 2011. But, as they say, his work lives on.

My favorite Berks’ work among 17 in the Washington area is his eight-foot bronze bust in the Grand Foyer of the Opera House at the John F. Kennedy Center. The 3,000-pound tribute to our slain 35th president is part of a living memorial the center provides. There are audiovisual exhibits on both sides detailing Kennedy’s career.

Berks also created the Robert F. Kennedy bust in front of RFK Stadium. It’s a little smaller, but still in the same sticky bronze style of his brother’s bust. Same goes for the massive Albert Einstein statue along 22nd at Constitution Ave. N.W., Mary McLeod Bethune Emancipation Centennial Monument in Lincoln Park and the Abraham Lincoln bust on loan to Ford’s Theater. They’re all magnificent pieces.

According to Robert Berks Studios, Berks’ pieces around town include Albert Einstein (Smithsonian Institution), Dr. Philip Handler (National Academy of Sciences), Franklin D. Roosevelt (National Archives), Pope Paul VI (National Portrait Gallery), General William Westmoreland (National Portrait Gallery), Johnny Carson (National Portrait Gallery), Robert F. Kennedy (Department of Justice), Ramsey Clark – painting – (Department of Justice), David Dubinsky (Department of Labor), George Meany – monument maquette -(Department of Labor), John Fogarty (Fogarty Health Center, National Institute of Health), Lister Hill (National Institute of Health) and James. V. Kimsey (AOL Foundation).

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Wordless Wednesday: Mount Vernon

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Spencer Fullerton Baird remains with Smithsonian

Walking through the Smithsonian Castle gardens, I spotted a statue of Spencer Fullerton Baird that towered overhead. Who was this man?

Baird (1832-1887) was the Smithsonian’s second secretary and a pioneer in American natural history. He worked at the Smithsonian from 1850-1887 while spending the final nine years as its secretary. During his tenure, the Smithsonian’s natural history specimens increased from 6,000 to two million.

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Cross of Sacrifice at Arlington National Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice

It’s often called the “Canadian Cross” but technically the large cross behind the Tomb of the Unknowns and near the memorials to astronauts is called the “Cross of Sacrifice.”

The bronze sword atop the 24-foot gray granite cross was dedicated on Armistice Day 1927 in remembrance of Americans who fought in World War I as part of Canadian forces. The cross represents religious faith and the sword is for being in a military cemetery.

Many Americans joined Canadian forces to fight in World War I before the U.S. entered the war. The cross is also in Canadian military cemeteries of at least 40 graves.

Designed by Canadian Sir Reginald Boomfield, it has an inscription by the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King. Similar inscriptions were added after World War II and the Korean War.

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Wordless Wednesday: Life on the Mall

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Take a long look at America and War and Peace

America and War and Peace

Some artwork only requires a moment’s attention to grasp its focus. America and War and Peace will take awhile.

Located by the John F. Kennedy Center entrance, the bronze series of panels 16 feet long was a gift from Germany in 1969. Sculpted by Jurgen Weber, America shows a series of history beginning on the left with starving Europeans vying for sacks of grain from American ships. There are five politicians arguing, New York skyscrapers, Statue of Liberty and even a rocket headed for the moon. The War and Peace section shows a series of violence, families and celebrations with even Louis Amrstrong playing the trumpet.

Whew – it’s a lot to take in, especially since most people are eager to go inside the Kennedy Center for a show.

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Daniel Webster offers the highest of relief panels

Daniel Webster

Normally, the high relief art complements the statue, but the two beneath the statue of Daniel Webster are the coolest ones I’ve seen around town.

They are nearly lifelike, showing none of their 110 years. The scene in the front is of Webster, a congressman from New Hampshire and senator from Massachusetts from 1823-41 and 1845-50, responding to South Carolina Sen. Robert Young Hayne before their brethren over the legality of the South’s succession from the Union. Nearly 100 people are shown in the scene that looks like you’re peering into the actual event.

The rear panel is Webster speaking at the dedication of the Bunker Hill Memorial in 1843. Webster is shown reaching out to the crowd amid a flag background. The panel includes a popular quotation from Webster at the dedication where he said, “Our country, our whole country and nothing like our country.” Not Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” but it works.

Daniel Webster

Don’t overlook the 12-foot bronze statue of Webster, whose hawish stare makes him someone you wouldn’t want to spar. Atop an 18-foot pedestal, Webster is holding a reference book. Oh, maybe Webster’s Dictionary?

The conservative Whig was considered one of the great orators even in the time of Abraham Lincoln. He was a fierce protector of federal rights versus state’s rights in the time of the Civil War. The two-time Secretary of State settled the border dispute between Maine and Canada. Webster was voted one of the top five senators in 1957.

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Wordless Wednesday: Capitol pool

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Taking green energy in stride

Sidewalks – they’re not the friendliest of places around Washington.

I once fell face down on the sidewalk when kicking a raised section near OPM. I wasn’t badly hurt, but that people actually walked around me without helping angered me even more.

The brick sidewalks in Georgetown neighborhoods can be awful on good days. Missing bricks, broken sections and tree roots crumbling them are constant. The same could be said for Capitol Hill neighborhoods, too.

But there’s one cool section in DuPont Circle that’s literally street smart if sadly penny foolish. The city spent $300,000 for a series of high-tech pavers that create energy to power nearby park lights simply based on the typical 10,000 people who walk over it. They’re on the south end of the circle above Connecticut Ave. between Sun Trust Bank and the Krispy Kreme store.

They’re interesting. The pavers move a little in creating the energy, though not enough to make someone fall. I usually walk on them to do my part for a greener world. But $300,000 seems excessive for such a small return.

Until it’s more cost efficient, this idea should take a walk.

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Buffalo boys won’t you come out tonight

I have long heard about the bridge with buffalos and never realized how closely I walked by them. The bridge is just one block south of Sheridan Circle on Massachusetts Ave. N.W.

The Dumbarton Bridge has four buffalos overlooking Rock Creek Park. The span is supposed to resemble a Roman aqueduct and has a 12 percent horizontal curve, which is pretty unusual.

The 7-foot buffalos guard each corner of the bridge that was built in 1914. They were designed by A. Phimister Proctor, who also created the tigers on the 16th St. bridge. During the unveiling party, guests ate buffalo burgers. Gotta love that. Today, it’s a quiet corner and a great one to admire the buffalo.

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Swords to Plowshares at Lincoln Memorial

This mobile bell tower rose near the dropoff zone by the Lincoln Memorial during Memorial Day weekend. It’s patterned after the Memorial Bell Tower by N.C. State University where the bronze door has a panel stating, “And They Shall Beat The Swords Into Plowshares” that comes from the book of Isaiah in the Bible.

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Happy Memorial Day

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Scenes from the Vietnam Wall

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Refurbished Grant statues are magnificent


It’s not often I give two thumbs up, a standing ovation or a big cheer, but finally seeing the restored Grant statue with his artillery and cavalry by the U.S. Capitol west side rekindled my faith in excellent work.

It looks brand new. The black bronze figures can be touched in places and are simply overwhelming. OK, I’m a geek on statues, but this one is mind blowing now that it’s cleaned and restored.

For two years, T. Scott Kreilick and his Oreland, Pa. firm cleaned the nasty green oxidation that covers all bronze statues with a combination of limestone and water. They lacquered and waxed the figures to perfection. And, more than 150 missing or broken pieces were repaired or recreated.  The three statues were originally finished between 1912 to 1921.

Now, the marble base is being repaired with the north side fenced between Grant and the cavalry.

The Grant statue is considered one of the more important outdoor sculptures in Washington. On weekend (and only weekends), you can park free in the nearby semi-circle used by Senate workers during the week. Stroll by, see the statue as it overlooks the nearby pool and the National Mall. It’s well worth the visit.



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Wordless Wednesday: Walking the canal

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