Hockey Road Trip: Mid-Atlantic Mission

12 May 2020

In my head, it would probably go something like this:

Good afternoon, Mike.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to travel across several states in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the country over one week, visiting as many historical landmarks and state capitols as possible.  You'll also see a Washington Capitals game in-person, which would be Team 30 as part of "The Quest" to see a game in all 31 NHL arenas.

The obstacle you'll face along the way: the US government has instituted a "shutdown", causing many tourist attractions to remain closed throughout your trip.  The most notable of these will be ALL of the museums included in The Smithsonian Institution, though you should still be able to make the most of your time and enjoy yourself.

Your team will consist of the following "travel companions":

- Chad Smart, your longtime friend from college, who has accompanied you on nearly all of the road trips throughout "The Quest", but since he has already visited the region he will not need to stay with you the entire time.

- Charlene DeKalb, your new bride of less than one year, who has always wanted to visit Washington D.C., but also cannot stand being outside in cold weather, and this trip will take place during Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.

Key sightseeing targets will include: the memorials and monuments at the National Mall in Washington; the state capitols in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania; and the military history on display at both the Arlington National Cemetery and Gettysburg.

Your accommodations will be an Airbnb in the Maryland suburbs and luckily for you, Washington D.C. has a very extensive subway system that should get you all around the city very easily.  As an added bonus, your Airbnb host will drive you back and forth to the subway station each morning - and if she cannot, the station is only a short Lyft ride away from your lodging, so you will not need to rent a car for the first part of your journey.

The weather will not be ideal, as you will experience extremely cold temperatures for your stay in Washington, and severe rain as you drive toward the Atlantic coastline.  Be sure to pack up all of those thick clothes that you never get to wear in California and be off on your way.  Good luck, Mike!

For sure, it would be a treacherous mission - but I was up for the challenge!  We arrived at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport early on a cold Sunday evening, where our wonderful Airbnb host, Donna, picked us up and drove us 45 minutes south to her home.  It was a massive house with plenty of room to plan our entire trip, and Donna was very helpful with an assortment of maps and various tips to bear in mind while visiting Washington.


19 degrees.  That was the high temperature our first day, which would thankfully see us only being outside for brief periods at a time.  As mentioned, the government shutdown meant that some of the museums were closed, while other monuments would be open but without any of the park rangers there to guide the guests along the way and answer any questions.  We chose to start the day at the United States Capitol - I had been advised that I could arrange a tour of the Capitol by notifying the office of my local Congress member, so I contacted them and was told that I would not need to make an appointment since January wasn't a busy time for them.

We would go on to spend the entire afternoon at both the Capitol and the Library of Congress, which is located next door and is thankfully accessible via an underground tunnel that connects the two facilities.  Our tour of the Capitol was incredibly detailed and informative, and I really enjoyed seeing the various items on display honoring each of the 50 states (I was especially drawn to the statue of King Kamehameha, a gift from my childhood home state of Hawaii).  The Library of Congress had an impressive collection on display, including the Gutenberg Bible and Thomas Jefferson's library (which Charlene enjoyed examining).

We wrapped up the night in style: the Kennedy Center was having a special concert to honor Martin Luther King Jr., and we were able to score free tickets by standing in line that afternoon.  The two-hour concert, entitled Let Freedom Ring!, was highlighted by performances from two legendary Broadway performers, Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell.  I consider myself fortunate that the famed Kennedy Center had an event while we were in town, and that it was so memorable.  You can watch the entire concert here.


The longest day of the trip began at Arlington National Cemetery, where we wandered the grounds and visited the final resting place of both President John F. Kennedy and President William Howard Taft.  We were also able to witness the "Changing of the Guard" at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for which the cemetery is very well known.

We then took the subway back across the Potomac River, and spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the National Mall, visiting as many of the monuments as we could.  As a fan of Presidential history since childhood, I enjoyed the Lincoln Memorial the most, though the Vietnam Veterans Memorial provided a good moment for reflection.  (Note: The Washington Monument was closed for renovation during our visit)

Our weary day then took us past the White House and into Chinatown for dinner, before we ended at the nearby Capitol One Arena for some NHL action - the Capitals were the defending Stanley Cup champions, and looked to continue their winning ways against the visiting San Jose Sharks!


This was one of most entertaining games I'd ever seen during "The Quest", as Joe Pavelski opened the scoring for San Jose just 12 seconds after the puck was dropped.  The game was hard-fought right from the start, even if these two teams from opposing coasts aren't really known for being rivals.  The second half of the first period saw four goals in a five-minute span, three from Washington to give them a 3-2 lead going into the intermission.  The second period was more of the same, as the teams traded goals back and forth - Washington captain Alex Ovechkin had scored in each period so far, and the Capitals once again went to their locker room with a one-goal lead, this time by the score of 5-4.

We snuck out during the second period to get our obligatory picture with the mascot, but got back to our seats for the thrilling finale.  Ovechkin completed his hat trick for the home team early in the third period, as Washington held a precarious two-goal lead, only to see the Sharks cut the lead in half on Tomas Hertl's second goal of the game with less than ten minutes remaining.

The rest of the game was incredibly tense, even more so when San Jose pulled their goalie in the final minute and Evander Kane knotted the score with less than a second to go!  The overtime period was all-too-brief, with Hertl notching a hat-trick of his own less than two minutes in, as the Sharks escaped with an amazing 7-6 victory.  Whew!


We used our final day in Washington as a chance to see the attractions that we'd missed up to that point, beginning with the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which offers an excellent tour to show how our currency is made.  From there, we ventured back to the National Mall to see the monuments devoted to Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.

Our final stop in Washington was the Folger Shakespeare Library, which offers not only a great collection of artifacts from The Bard, but also hosts performances of his plays throughout the year.  It serves as a research library as well, which means the area designated for tourists was somewhat limited but still impressive.

And just like that - our time in the nation's capital had come to an end.  Chad left first, with Donna dropping him off at the airport on Wednesday night for his return to Los Angeles.  Charlene and I would depart in the morning, as we had our wonderful Airbnb host take us to a rental car facility near the airport for the remaining leg of our journey.


A steady rainstorm awaited us as we made the drive to see the state capitol building in Annapolis, Maryland.  Of particular interest to my wife and I was the statue of Revolutionary War hero Baron de Kalb located outside the Maryland State House - though we are not related to the Baron whatsoever, it's still fun to see my last name inscribed in stone!

I'm always impressed by state capitol buildings from any of the original 13 colonies, as there is so much history on display.  In addition to Maryland, I noticed that the capital of Delaware was within a relatively short drive, so I thought it would be fun to visit two capital cities in one day!  Of course, we couldn't leave Maryland without having crab cakes, so we stopped at a local gastropub called Buddy's Crabs & Ribs to grab a quick lunch before heading out on our rain-soaked drive across the state line.

We arrived in Dover early enough in the afternoon to visit three specific spots within close proximity: the current and former state capitol buildings, Legislative Hall and the Old State House, as well as the Johnson Victrola Museum, dedicated to the history of the iconic record player.  It was fun to kill a few hours walking around the First State Heritage Park, as the rain slowly let up around us.

The rest of the evening would see us cross into our third state of the day, as we had a hotel reservation in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The final day of our trip would commence in a matter of hours...


We woke up early and began with a visit to the historic Gettysburg National Military Park.  The battlefield itself was closed off due to the government shutdown, but we were still able to enjoy the sights at the Museum and Visitor Center.  It was a sobering testament to the horrors of war, highlighted by the riveting cyclorama that depicted the events of the battle in vivid detail - I highly recommend both the museum and cyclorama for anyone interested.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg was our next stop, and I was immediately in awe of the unique green dome at the top of the building.  I feel like many of these capitols have a tendency to resemble each other in several ways, but this one had a style all its own and is probably my favorite to have visited so far.

As is often the case, there was a nearby museum dedicated to the history of the state, and it was great way to spend the afternoon.  The State Museum of Pennsylvania was packed with terrific exhibits, educating us on the construction of the lengthy Pennsylvania Turnpike, as well as the life of William Penn.

The final city on the tour was Allentown, the legendary iron producer from the Industrial Revolution, famously honored in the classic Billy Joel song.  Our stay was brief, as we grabbed a quick bite at a diner just off the freeway and went straight to see the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the beautiful PPL Center, easily one of the most impressive minor league rinks I've ever seen.  The crowd was passionate and raucous, I got a picture with the mascot, and we witnessed a great game between the Phantoms and the Laval Rocket (AHL affiliates of the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens, respectively).  What a perfect way to wrap up the trip!

Incredibly exhausted, we returned to Gettysburg then flew back to Los Angeles the following morning.  Mid-Atlantic Mission: Accomplished!!


Sadly, there were no shot glasses for sale at either the Washington Capitals OR Lehigh Valley Phantoms games, so I had to wait until I got home to buy this awesome Stanley Cup Champions glass online.


We complete "The Quest" with a massive trip to the Northeast, traversing five states in a span of nine days...

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