We flew out of Columbia Metropolitan Airport at 8:05 Monday evening. All went well except a little turbulence, and it was a short flight to Charlotte-Douglas Airport. That's where the adventure began. We were fixing to take off and the co-pilots navigation computer went out. After an hour of trying to fix it, they realized it would have to be replaced. Fortunately, there was one airplane in maintenance that they had completed repairs on, and they flew us to Washington-Dulles Airport on it. We arrived three hours late, so instead of checking in around midnight, we checked into the Hyatt-Regency in Reston at 3 a.m. That was unexpected, but I'm grateful that they at least had a plane there to get us to D.C. that night. Otherwise, we would have been stuck in Charlotte until Tuesday morning, which would have really screwed our schedule up, because Tuesday was our planned day in D.C.
Fortunately, the Lord looked out for us, and we didn't oversleep too much. We walked around Reston to get acquainted with the town center, then took the Metro into D.C. This was my first time actually in Washington D.C. I've gone by it twice - once in 1989 when I went to New York City, and once in 2003 when we went to a friends wedding outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Why did I rush by this city twice without stopping? D.C. is amazing! We spent Tuesday walking around the National Mall. We visited the Smithsonian Castle, the Air and Space Museum, the Capitol Visitor's Center, and the Library of Congress. Our favorite was the Library of Congress. It's amazing! Great exhibits, great architecture, overall it's just awesome! That's a definite "must re-visit" on my list. We then walked to the Washington Monument, but by that time nightfall was approaching, we were footsore from walking all day, and getting by on 6 hours of sleep was catching up with us. We took the Metro back to Reston, walked around there for a bit more, and that was our day.
My conference started on Wednesday. I got out a little after 4, but we decided to stay in Reston that day. The town center is very nice. It was designed by urban planners, and it's very easy to get around. There's shopping, food, and even a nice movie theater there. We did make it to supper and around the center, but it started to drizzle rain, so we headed back to the hotel and stayed in for the night. It was just as well - we needed some rest after our late flight on Monday night/Tuesday morning and a full day in D.C. on Tuesday.
The conference continued on Thursday with a full day of meetings. Rick found a "Monuments by Moonlight" tour in D.C. that takes you around on a trolley with three stops. We were very lucky and got the last 2 tickets for the 8:00 tour. We jumped right on the Metro to Union Station where the tour departed, grabbed a quick supper, and were off.I highly recommend this tour! We got to see so much that I can't even remember it all here. They drove us around the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument and National Mall, and the Jefferson Memorial. They made stops at the Roosevelt Monument and the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Iwo-Jima monument near Arlington (they did drive us by Arlington Cemetery. At night. Why do people think taking a tour of a graveyard at night is awesome? Oh well, that's just me being like that). Anyway, it was a great tour and we had a good (albeit somewhat silly) guide that was a D.C. native, so he knew the landmarks and the history they represented really well. If you go to D.C., do the Monuments by Moonlight tour. It's great.
The conference concluded Friday, and I actually got out over an hour ahead of schedule. We decided to take advantage of it and go into D.C. again. We saw the Museum of American History, and then went to visit a few of the monuments that our tour didn't cover: the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial. I must admit that the Korean and Vietnam Memorials were overwhelming. Beautiful tributes that were very well done. On the walk back, I got my first good look at The White House. We drove by on the tour, but I wasn't able to see it really well, but Friday we seemed to find a better vantage point. We never went really close to it, but that's ok. I saw it, and that was good enough for me.
Yesterday was our return. We left Washington-Dulles at 1:35 p.m. and arrived back in Columbia just before 5 p.m. Both the flight from Dulles to Charlotte and Charlotte to Columbia went without a hitch and were right on time. As you can imagine, we've spent the time since our return settling back in: unpacking, getting Zack and Chloe back home and settled in, doing 5 loads of laundry, getting groceries, downloading pictures, etc.
All in all, it was a great trip. I think Rick and I both needed it. I definitely feel that it's brought me back to life. Not only did I get to see Washington D.C., but the conference was really good too. Our focus was on maintaining relevancy in the future with changing demographics. Lots of good discussions, and it was great to see my counterparts from other states again. Sometimes it's good to get out of the office and work with different people. You get great insights and a lot of good ideas, and can share what you know with others. I'd say that I enjoyed this trip just as much as I enjoyed the last conference I attended in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2013. Both were awesome experiences.
So that's what I've been up to this past week, and now it's time to get back to it tomorrow. It was a great trip, but it's also good to be home. One thing about traveling is that you get a chance to see and experience great new things, but they also remind you of why you love the comforts of home too.
That's all today. Take care, and have a great week.