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Day 23 - Crossing the center line

This day marked the middle of my trip. I couldn’t believe that already 22 days had passed since my departure from LA. Also in terms of distance traveled and time on the train I was pretty much in the middle of my journey. Up to my arrival in Washington D.C. I had completed about 5,000 miles (around 8,100 km) and over 100 hours on the train. I woke up early in the morning which wasn’t bad as there was only one bathroom for about 20 people on the same floor. I had not to wait long until I could get into the bath room. After a nice warm shower I eat breakfast in the kitchen. There I also met a very nice French guy who was on a road trip heading towards South Carolina. We had a nice chat about different travel experiences in the U.S. Then a quarter to nine I was ready to leave the hostel after I had packed everything ready. I went next door to the reception in order to check-out. There I again ran into the French guy who had left slightly earlier than me. Unfortunately the check-out wasn’t possible before 10 am. So we had to sit and wait in the lobby. There was a service number at the reception but nobody answered the phone. I was thinking about visiting nearby Chinatown but I had been there during my first visit in Washington D.C. three years ago and there wasn’t much to see. I didn’t want to go down to the National Mall because it would have not been worth to go there for an hour. So we both stayed and waited while continuing our conversation from the breakfast table. Around 9.50 am the reception opened and we both could finally check out. I left my bag in the hostel and walked the short distance to the closest metro station. With the yellow line I got to L’Enfant Plaza from where I transferred to the silver line going to the Smithsonian station which is located right in the middle of the National Mall. I walked down the mall towards the Washington Monument. After taking some picture from the monument which is slightly elevated and provides a nice view towards the Capitol, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial I continued my walk towards the WWII Memorial. I was happy to see that the Reflecting Pool was filled with water. During my first visit in 2012 the Reflecting Pool was under renovation and therefore emptied. I love to take pictures of surfaces that reflect and provide stunning mirror pictures such as water, glass or metal. I strolled along the pool down to the Lincoln Memorial and got some pretty nice shots with the pool. Even so I had seen it before and my time was limited I still climbed up the stairs to the memorial in order to pay Abraham Lincoln’s impressive statue a visit. Of course the place was totally crowded with tourists. Still I got some nice shots and took also a picture from the point on the stairs where Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. After that I headed all the way back to the Washington Monument and even a bit further to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. After security screening I entered the museum and first locked my backpack, this time making sure that I had put the key in a safe space in order to not lose it again like the day before. Before starting with the collection it was first time to have lunch. As I still remembered from my previous visit, how difficult it was to find something to eat at the National Mall, I decided to go for the museum’s restaurant. It was indeed pricy but the food was good and they had a salad bar which was great. After I had eaten I had about two hours left. I entered first the exhibition called “American Enterprise” focusing on commercialization and consumerism, an area closely related to my study background and research interest. It was really interesting to learn how this issues had evolved in the U.S. and certainly enhanced my understanding of the U.S context in particular. The most interesting thing I found in this exhibition was the chart that showed the development of income in the U.S. over the past 100 years. The average income in the lower levels certainly hasn’t risen at all while the top 1% income group had seen a huge increase in income. This had certainly lead to people migrating downwards on the social class leader. While some have compensated the lower purchasing power by taking loans others had simply extended their credit card lines. The 2008 financial crises was one of the many negative outcomes of this development.  Next I entered the “America on the move” exhibition, an interesting timeline of the development of the transportation sector in the U.S. over the past 200 years or so featuring interesting artifacts. I finally ran out of time but I still briefly entered the “American presidency” exhibition. But then I had really to leave in order to not miss my train to Philadelphia. I went back to the National Mall and entered the metro system through the Smithsonian station taking the orange line to L’Enfant Plaza station and then the blue line to the Shaw Howard station. I picked up my bag from the hostel which didn’t take much time and ten minutes later I was on the metro again taking the red line to the Union Station. I arrived well in time which was good because the station was busy and everything took longer than usually. I still had time to take some pictures of the station building and to buy some food to go. Then the departure gate and track number were announced and a never ending line for the Northeast Regional train 196 appeared out of nowhere. I got on the line about 10 minutes before boarding started. Once the gate had been opened the line moved surprisingly fast and soon I was down at the platform where I still could take a few nice shots before I had to get on board. To my surprise I still got a window seat. The train left sharp 5.05 pm, on time. Soon after we had pulled out of Union Station we already had our first stop in New Carrollton, Maryland. I ate my dinner while admiring the beautiful scenery that popped up once we had passed Baltimore International Airport. Also Baltimore, MD looked pretty nice from the window. Finally the train made one more stop in Wilmington, Delaware. Another two hours had passed and it was about time to get ready for the arrival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My Finnish friend and fellow Fulbrighter came to meet me at the station, we haven’t seen each other for more than one year since we both left Finland to study in the U.S. and we had a lot of experiences and stories to share. We took the Market-Frankfort blue line train down Market Street after I had gotten two tokens from the vending machine. All the way down from 30th Street station to 2nd Street took about 15 minutes. We got off right in front of the Philadelphia Landings only a short walk away from the hostel I was staying at. I checked quickly in and stored my bags in the room. Then we left the hostel and headed down towards the historic center of Philadelphia where we found a nice beer garden. We tried some local beers and had some bar snacks with that. There was so much to talk and tell, it got really late in the end. After I had returned to the hostel I went to bed almost instantly.

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool

Abraham Lincoln

View from the Lincoln Memorial

National Museum of American History

America on the move exhibition

Leaving Washington D.C.

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