I woke the next day in my tent, breakfast was ok. I had the typical American sugar filled cereal followed by some fruit and an orange juice to wash it all down. surprisingly though, the effects of last nights alcohol didn’t seem to have had an effect on me. Well not until later when I had a blinding headache, probably due to the searing heat and the fact I was already dehydrated before we even left to explore Washington by day light.
1st point of call was the Smithsonian. I have seen this museum on TV many times before, the closest we have to it in the UK is the Natural History Museum in London. I was surprised to find that the Smithsonian wasn’t just one museum but a collection of buildings not too far from the Capital building. The Smithsonian tops the NHM ten fold. I was awe-struck by everything inside, I became a very snap happy tourist! I could have spent the whole day in there but I could see that Kerry and Monika were getting bored so we decided to move on.
We moved on to the old post office building, Graeme told us that we could get a good view of DC from up there. We were told to avoid the monument as the ques to get up it are always far to long and you have to pay. We got our view and a brief history of DC. Apparently Washington DC is a very poor state, this is due to most of it being commercial and office based. People commute into DC for work but don’t actually live there which means there it gets far less tax compared to a lot of other states. This can be seen in the city’s star attraction. It was built in honor of George Washington after he led the country to independence. You can clearly see a difference in the shade of marble used to construct the structure about half way up, the lack of funds available to finish the construction ment that it was left unfinished for over 30 years before being completed with a cheaper stone.
We had a long road trip the next day to get to Shenandoah National Park.
By this time we’d all got to know each other pretty well and were comfortably chatting away with each other and listening to each others ipod’s through the vans speakers. Graeme came up with the great idea of picking someones ipod, creating a playlist and passing it around the van asking everyone to add two songs that they like. We had great fun trying to guess at who chose what song.
Shenandoah National Park was amazing, the scenery was breath taking as we swept through the forest road up and down steep hills. We stopped for lunch over looking a huge drop. It was possibly one of the nicest picnics I’d ever had. I was fascinated by the specially designed bear bins and secretly worried at the same time that the smell would attract them. We moved on to West Virginia. During the trip over there, Nikki, the most outgoing and out spoken girl of the group decided to take the Micky out of Jemma’s Australian accent. Everybody joined in for a while and we had a laugh (including Jemma herself). This was fine… FOR THE FIRST 2 HOURS, then it became a bit annoying and you could tell that it was getting to Jemma. We got to our cam site in just as it started to pur down. Setting up our tents in the rain was not fun, everybody lost spirit for a short while and got a little fed up, the rain was freezing cold. Luckily we had a canopy and quickly stuck it up covering as much of the picnic benches nad the food storage boxes / cooking equipment that we could. It was particularly bad for myself, Monika, Nikki and Adam as we had to cook dinner that night. We managed to chop vegetables and cook mince to produce one of the finest enchilada’s that i’d ever tasted (i’m a little biased though). Jemma went to bed early while the rest of ussat up talking and getting wet, we were already soaked so why not.
I felt pretty sad for Jemma, I hate people feeling left out like that, I know it’s not a competition so it’s not quite the same, but I saw her as the underdog and i wanted to back her all the way. I sat next to her on the van the next day, I managed to lift her spirits up which also made me feel good.
West Virginia was a beautiful place and I did some amazing things there. We had a choice between white water rafting or zip lining. I was all set to do the zip line course when Jemma asked what I was doing and told me that she wanted to do rafting but was scared. I was scared too, I’ve never been a strong swimmer and hate not being in control, especially when it’s my life I feel I have very little to no control over. Jemma pretty much begged me to go rafting with her and said that we cold look after each other whilst on the raft as we were both scared. Loving all the attention I was getting and the felling that I was needed liked, I decided to do it. We both agreed that neither one would back out unless the other did. I’m so so glad that I did it now, it was singly the scariest, adrenaline filled experience of my life and I loved every minute of it, I felt invincible! After every rapid, Jemma and I wold turn to each other and produce a little grin of acknowledgement.
That night was particularly fun. The majority of us stayed up and had a few more drinks. We heard loud music in the distance and decided to go and investigate, we had to take our torches because we couldn’t see more than 5ft in front of us without them. We found some kind of a party / gig going on across the road from the campsite. I’m reluctant to cal it a pub but they were serving bears and the majority of it was outside. We stayed and had a few more. It was here that I learnt how to play cornhole – probably the most random thing I experienced on the trip. you basically had to throw bean bags across an open lawn to a hole cut out of a box. There was some kind of scoring system but I’d had a little too much to drink to even know what I was doing, I was simply throwing bean bags towards Benidict and Monika while they were trying their hardest to throw them back at myself and Natalie. The amount of fun we had that night was unbelievable when you consider what we were doing.
Ohh later, I woke in the night to go to the toilet and came face to face with a racoon. We stared at each other for about 20 seconds, both of us too scared to make a move in case the other attacked. He decided to back up slowly and climb the nearest tree. I was both excited to see my first racoon and scared that he’d scratch my face off.
We moved on from West Virginia to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, but I’ll save that tale for another day.