Saturday, 31 May 2014

That's all, folks

Goodnight America. We may have left behind the land of the free and the home of the brave, but the memories we made under the star-spangled banner will last far longer than our flight back to Heathrow.

Tim and Elizabeth Hagen (above) dropped us at Washington Dulles Airport, having helped us end our Stateside stay in style.

Perhaps a slightly left-field entry into our book of dreams was a tour around the Air and Space Museum, which houses just about every flying craft worth seeing, right back to the days of the Wright brothers.

Our tour group was around 15 in number when we initially assembled at the base of the clock tower. But in scenes reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, enthusiasts began to drop by the wayside as our guides walked and talked on and on. I broke away from the group at around the two-hour mark. After all, there's only so much Vietnam War chat you can cope with before lunchtime.

After lunch had finally been taken - at the remarkably large Wegmans supermarket (featuring a superb help-yourself buffet) - we drove on to Virginia's Great Falls. The steely skies lent the raging waters an even more violent nature.

Reunited with the Hagens that evening, we were treated to a supper of frozen yoghurt at Sweet Frog. Pull the left handle for coffee flavour, pull the right handle for dulce de leche, and pull the middle handle for a blend of the two. Like the Pizza Hut ice cream factory, but a hundred times better. Ryan's girlfriend, Emily, joined us.

Steve, Rachel, Tim, Ryan, Emily and Elizabeth at Sweet Frog

And then to something completely different for our final day in the States - a speedboat trip along the Potomac River in Washington.

The boat ramp was just a few hundred yards from the end of the runway at Ronald Reagan Airport, so we had the best seat in the house as jumbo jets screamed over our heads.

Tight speed restrictions apply in the city centre but it was full steam ahead once the sights of DC were behind us. Rachel and I both took a turn behind the wheel - it was exhilarating to skim along the surface of the Potomac like a flat stone across a pond.

Seeing the city from the water - in this instance, the Capitol and Nationals Park stadium (baseball) - brought DC to life in a way that traipsing up and down The Mall two days earlier hadn't. Military helicopters and jet fighters flying overhead further added to the grand experience of gliding around the Pentagon, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, landmarks that sit at the very heart of the United States.

And the people we have to thank for our American experience are the Hagen family, who treated us like royalty throughout our stay. Forget the skyscrapers, billboards and monuments - this immense country is built on citizens like these. Truly great ambassadors for the USA, and we're proud to call them our friends.

It's been fun bringing the blog out of retirement. Thanks for reading.

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