I love hanging out with my biking friend Laura. She is always up for last minute creative (sometimes a bit wacky) adventures, and sometimes she initiates them!
Such was our Monday adventure. She had heard that on Monday, the 163rd birthday of John Philip Sousa, there would be a brief memorial and concert by The President’s Own at Congressional Cemetery where he is buried. Even better, there would be CAKE!
The timing necessitated us taking Metro but the Metro rules on when you can take bikes on board made it a little tricky. If we had ridden our bikes to our local station, it’s too far out for us to get on board in time to allow travel time to the destination by when the event was to start. So we threw the bikes on the back of my car and drove to a station that was closer in. It wasn’t quite 10 when we got into the station but the station manager told us to go on in, “Rush hour is over ladies.” (I love someone who exercises some good common sense).
We got to Potomac Avenue station in plenty of time to hop on and bike the .5 miles to the cemetery. Congressional Cemetery is an active burial location and has the graves of many of history’s figures, such as Matthew Brady, and Leonard Matlovich.
The ceremony started with an actor impersonating John Philip Sousa. He was droll and humorous. I don’t know if Sousa himself was ever that lighthearted (my experience with band directors has been that they gravitate to the ‘take themselves way too seriously’ side), but it made for a good show.
After he spoke the Marine Band marched into the cemetery and took their place in front of Sousa’s grave.
They opened with Semper Fidelis, by John Philip Sousa.
Next was presentation of the colors.
There’s nothing like singing the National Anthem accompanied by The President’s Own! Nobody was taking any knees in this crowd.
The director spoke a few words, largely indicating that he and the Sousa re-enactor had read the same Wikipedia article. 🙂
The director placed a wreath and Laura tells me the tune was Eternal Father. Thanks Laura for correcting me on that!
They finished, of course, with his most well-known march, Stars and Stripes Forever, which has come to be known as “America’s March.” The piccolo player was fantastic. Watching the fingers of the clarinetists took me back to my marching band days and the sheer terror of the squeak that might drown out the important moments!
After we got our piece of cake in the little chapel, we walked our bikes over to see Leonard Matlovich’s grave. The entire area around him is filled with graves of gay couples, either buried together or with markers indicating that they plan to be so when the time comes. I would imagine the real estate here is in high demand, so people go ahead and purchase their plot, and perhaps prepare their stone in anticipation of the eventuality. One, at the foot of Matlovich’s grave, is a bench placed by self-described cat lovers. Both men are military veterans, still living, but wanted to give people a place to sit while they reflect on whatever they want to reflect upon. Here is the spot.
There is definitely a change of tone around this area – you can almost “see” history change from the defiant final words of those who chose to come out when it was still so dangerous to the joyful celebration of lives intertwined and then finally allowed legal marriage.
We stopped by to see Matthew Brady’s stone too, but we were running out of good weather indicators so we hopped on our bikes and headed for Rosslyn. We rode up Pennsylvania Avenue, which is always a breathtaking view of the Capitol.
We stopped in Rosslyn for COFFEE because after all, I needed to do #5! We stopped at Joe’s Coffee Shop on the first level of the Metro station. The coffee was good, the bike parking was good (quantity, quality, and visibility while sipping). Fortified, we attacked the hills of Arlington riding the Custis Trail west to the W&OD where we rejoined my car.
On the way home I realized I was going to have to go back to Arlington as I’d promised I’d help with the bike light giveaway that evening. And what I love about Laura, she enthusiastically agreed to come join the fun! We stopped by our houses to drop off bikes and change shoes and then went back to the Wiehle Station and left my car there.
We had a GREAT time handing out lights to people who had been caught by how early it got dark (especially with the overcast). We also provided lights to people who had them, and encouraged them to share them somewhere along the way with those who didn’t.
It was a fantastic day and I’m so happy Laura and can spend a whole day together with biking, Metro, march music, coffee, and STILL be friends!