Washington DC - This Land of Liberty

Space. The final frontier! These are the voyages of the space shuttle Discovery...

My cousin got married this weekend, and that meant a quick getaway to Washington DC. It was a short trip, but we packed it in, and it was made all the more fun by the fact that my parents tagged along on our flights and we met up with my brother and all my aunts/uncles/cousins while we were there. Some of this family I haven't seen since my own wedding eleven years ago! (I know, we're terrible at family get-togethers. And it doesn't help that we're spread out over this great country of ours. But we made the most of our time together!)

After waking up far too early to catch our 8 a.m. flight - although the wheelchair service my dad qualifies for now that he is post-knee replacement made things so much easier, I highly recommend finding a qualified person to join your travel party - we landed and headed straight for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Ever heard of it? Me neither. But Matt insisted it would be worth it and he was correct. This museum is basically a giant air craft hanger housing planes spanning the dawn of the flight age up through the Space Shuttle Discovery. It was awe-inspiring standing next to this massive vehicle. I couldn't stop thinking about all the men and women who first had to dream it was possible, then had to be brilliant enough to figure out how to execute their dream and brave enough to put their plan into action.

We learned that the numbers and dials on the outside of this space suit are written reversed, and a small mirror on the glove allows astronauts to read and control these gauges. They do this because the helmet does not allow them enough flexibility to look down at the front of their suit. Think they figured that out the first time? Or did a space man suit up and realize, uh-oh, I can't see what I'm doing?
After roaming the museum for a few hours, we checked into our hotel for the rehearsal dinner, then spent the rest of the evening hanging out in the lobby with the family, catching up. We hatched a plan to meet the next morning to squeeze in a trip to the capital before having to get ready for the afternoon wedding. I was a little nervous about how much we would be able to accomplish the next day, with such a big group and such limited time. It was great, though. We walked through the Jefferson, FDR and MLK Jr. Memorial, talking with whoever happened to be next to us. It was one long fluid conversation covering family, kids, politics, whatever came to mind. It was a great way to reconnect in an inspiring setting.

The steps of the Jefferson Memorial.

Washington Monument, across the water.

The Jefferson Memorial is one of my favorites. It is always so surprisingly quiet, calm and cool inside, with the breeze flowing through the columns.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Georgia and California cousins!

Finding some shade with Virginia.
As fun as it was walking around the monuments, we barely squeaked back in time to gulp down lunch (thanks CFAOne mobile ordering for letting us skip the line of 30 people and have our food within minutes!) and throw on our party clothes to get to the wedding on time. The ceremony was lovely, there was food and dancing, and you could tell the bride was having the time of her life, which is pretty much all you need from a wedding.
He's such a party animal.

Afterwards we retired back to the hotel lobby with bags of wine, cheese and crackers and kept up with the visiting. We joked that we needed to get 10 years worth of fellowship in, since that's how often we manage to all see each other. But I'm hoping to convince everyone to make it a bit more frequent than that - we can all take turns hosting on our respective end of the country every two years. Us cousins all have kids with a year of each other and it would be a shame for them to never get to know each other.

These two clean up pretty well themselves.

With everyone flying out the next day, we had to make the most of our time. There was a big breakfast gathering for everyone, then much debate over how to best spend the remaining hours. Getting into the city would cut it too close for us, so along with my parents, we headed to Mount Vernon. It seemed fitting to celebrate Father's Day at the residence of the Father of the Country. Although it seemed like half the country had that same idea. But the grounds are so big and there is so much to see, the crowds weren't that bad considering.

Mount Vernon

Father's Day with this father.

Washington's view from his back porch. Not too shabby. This was my favorite part from my sixth grade trip to DC - escaping the heat and hurry of the city to find this little oasis of calm and cool breeze. It was just as lovely now, decades later.
We made it to the airport and through security with time to spare (thanks wheelchair dad!) and finally made it back to our two munchkins, who had a marvelous time at Grandma's house while we were gone (movie theater, homemade ice cream, pool time...) Such a great trip with just the right mix of sightseeing and family time. Next up, Pasadena 2018! Gotta get those family reunion t-shirt designs going!

Reunited and it feels so good!

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