6:45 is a beastly early hour when you've been hiking through urban jungles for four straight days. But that was when we assembled in the lobby of our hotel this morning, and then headed to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. The food was good - fresh fruit, French toast, bacon, and real eggs (not the powdered ones our hotel in New York served!). After that we came back to the hotel to pack out, and then headed to our first stop of the day: the newly opened Museum of the Bible. This was a wonderful stop; there were floors dedicated to the impact of the Bible, the history of the Bible, and the stories of the Bible, as well as a special temporary exhibit of artifacts from Jerusalem and Rome, the world of the New Testament. While some artifacts were facsimles, most of the ones in that last exhibit were authentic, and included one remarkable find directly linked to the New Testament: an ossuary that once contained the bones of Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene - the man who carried Jesus' cross! I purchased a book on Biblical archeology there, and also told the bookstore manager he needed to stock my novels!
From there we caught a train to the nation's capitol - or at least, to the foot of Capitol Hill. It was a long walk to the top, but once there we got some great pictures. I also took advantage of the opportunity to announce my candidacy for President in the year 2020 (more on that here later!). Then we descended to the Capitol Visitor Center and had lunch (I got brisket; not the best I've ever had but not bad, either!). After we ate we lined up for our tour of the Capitol building, which was very nice. We didn't get to go into the galleries and watch the House in action, but we did get to stand under the magnificent rotunda (so tall the Statue of Liberty could stand up inside it!) and see several famous artworks from American history - plus LOTS of statues! Once our tour was done, we hit up the gift shop (it was 48 degrees in Washington this morning and rainy, so I purchased a U.S. Capitol sweatshirt - only to have the weather warm up and hiking keep me in such a lather that I didn't wear it all day! Oh well, "winter is coming," as Tony Stark used to say!). I told the kids I'd all invite them back there for my inauguration on January 20, 2021.
It was at this point that a great rift opened in our group. Doc Bleier (the other male sponsor and I) wanted to go see the Smithsonian during our four hours of free time, but most of the kids wanted to go back to the hotel and get some rest because they were tired (a couple of them were sick, but most were just tired!). We dubbed this group "the slackers", and after bidding them farewell, Doc and the four brave students who stayed walked with me down the Mall (and down and down and down) till we got to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The kids were anxious to see the horribly cringey statue of George Washington as Zeus which I remembered from my last visit here in 1976. Sure enough, there he was right inside the door, in all his magnificently ripped, bare-chested glory!
But there was lots of other great stuff on display there, from Abraham Lincoln's hat (the one he wore to Ford's Theater on that fateful night!) to Dorothy's ruby slippers from THE WIZARD OF OZ, to a Revolutionary War gunboat built by Benedict Arnold and rescued from the floor of Lake Champlain in the 1950's, and a pistol carried by George Washington in the French and Indian War. We toured this museum for almost two hours and still didn't see all there was to see. Afterwards we crossed over to the Museum of Natural History, which had a great display called Sea Monsters Unearthed, featuring several marine reptiles from Northwest Africa - including several species of mosasaurs that are also found in Northeast Texas. I quickly established what every good paleontologist needs to be sure of - that my dinosaur was bigger than theirs! Actually, the GCS mosasaur that I dug in 1997 was larger than the biggest one on display there, and I have another one that I helped dig that is now in SMU's Paleo lab which is twice as large as the GCS specimen! (Yes, I'm proud of my giant sea lizards!)
My group and I had explored the museums separately for the most part, but we regathered at the end of the day and met the "slacker's crew" coming back from the hotel in front of the original Smithsonian building, known locally as 'the castle." From there we walked about five miles (that's what it felt like, anyway!) to the docks, where we boarded the "Spirit of Washington" ship for a dinner cruise on the Potomac. The food was quite excellent, and after we ate I went topside and witnessed a beautiful sunset over the nation's capitol. As the light faded we went below deck where the music had started.
I cannot dance well. I have never let this stop me from trying - but my wife usually DOES stop me from trying! Well, she wasn't there tonight, and once they started playing "Footloose" I was irresistibly pulled onto the floor by the power of 80's rock. Seriously, the last time I danced this much Ronald Reagan was still President! I was pretty much alone on the floor at first (except for GCS' own dance machine, RYAN BLAZIER!!!), but one by one the kids came out, even Jerry who felt terrible and had been a horrible curmudgeon all day long. We boogied and grooved for a solid hour. I'd take a break, say I was done, get a sip of tea, and then another 80's tune would start up and there I'd go. All in all, it was an amazing evening with this precious crew of soon-to-be graduates that I (and hopefully they) will never forget!
But all good things come to an end, and this was no exception. Eventually we arrived back at the dock, got off the boat, and walked another fifteen miles to the train station (that's what it felt like after the adrenaline of the dance floor wore off!), and boarded the DC Metro back to our hotel. I decided to sit down and blog it all before I forgot half of what happened, and now here I am, my entire body aching, my feet on fire, and a huge grin on my face!
Today's funny stuff: Mrs. Hyatt finally counting to 21 on the FIRST try! (that's the number in our party, and whenever she does a headcount we're always one or two short!) Jerry's quote of the day: "I hate walking. I hated walking in New York, I hate walking in DC, and I hate walking in Texas!!" Hannah Evans: "Is this the Rio Grande?" while looking at the Potomac. (She said she was quoting Mikayla, of course.) Mikayla also said: "My nose is running faster than I am!" Sam Pitts saying: "OH! So that's what P.S. stands for!" And Nick Bahm returning to the house where his parents lived when he was born "like Thor returning to Asgard!"
All in all, a wonderful, exhausting, educational, and entertaining day.
I think I will go to my room and die now.