Capital Harvest on the Plaza

During today’s lunch break I rode to the weekly farmer’s market, Capital Harvest on the Plaza (CHoP), located on the Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in Downtown, D.C.  Actually, instead of “during” today’s lunch break it would be more accurate to say “for” today’s lunch break.  Because I went there to eat lunch at one of the many eateries that sets up as part of the farmer’s market.

In addition to ready-to-eat, farm-fresh edibles and artisanal novelties, the weekly farmers market allows local farmers, artisans, and producers to sell home grown, fresh organic fruits, vegetables, meat, and other locally produced food, as well as flowers and canned and baked goods, at an affordable price.  You can also stop by their information booth and stock up on recipes and tips for maintaining a healthy and socially responsible lifestyle.

The CHoP Farmers Market is open Fridays, spring through fall, from May 3 to November 22, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., and is accessible via metro by either the Federal Triangle (blue/orange/silver lines) or Metro Center (red/blue/orange/silver lines). Parking is available onsite in the Reagan Building’s underground parking garage.  But, of course, I prefer to ride a bike there.

There are also a number of other good farmer’s markets in the city that are also open during the workweek, including: the U.S. Department of Agriculture Outdoor Farmers Market, located next to the U.S.D.A. Headquarters at 12th and Independence Avenue in southwest D.C. (also open Fridays); the Freshfarm by the White House Market located at 812 Vermont Avenue in northwest, D.C. (open Thursdays); the Penn Quarter Market, located at 801 F Street in northwest D.C. (also open on Thursdays); the Foggy Bottom Market, located at 901 23rd Street in northwest, D.C. (open Wednesdays); the Rose Park Recreation Center Farmers Market, located at 1499 27th Street in Georgetown (also open on Wednesdays), and; the CityCenterDC Market, located at 1098 New York Avenue in northwest, D.C. (open Tuesdays).  There are additional farmers markets throughout the city that are open on the weekends as well.  Now, if I could just find a good farmers market open on Mondays.

         

         
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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USS Serpens Monument

During this lunch break I rode to and spent some time in Arlington National Cemetery (MAP). Because bike riding is not permitted in the cemetery, I parked my bike at one of the bike racks provided at the visitors center, and then went for a long walk in the cemetery.  During my walk, I happened upon a stone marker that stood out because of its size and shape. Upon examination, I found out that it is a memorial to the men of a U.S. Coast Guard ship named the USS Serpens (AK-97).

As I would later learn, the USS Serpens was a 14,250-ton cargo ship that was laid down in March of 1943, before being transferred to the U.S. Navy the following month for service during World War II.  She was responsible for delivering troops, goods and equipment to locations in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, and served for almost three years, until the night of January 29, 1945, when disaster struck.

Late on that fateful January evening, Serpens was anchored off Lunga Beach, a promontory on the northern coast of Guadalcanal in the British Solomon Islands. The ship’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Perry L. Stinson, and seven others, one officer and six enlisted men, were ashore. The remaining crewmen were loading depth charges into her holds when Serpens exploded. After the explosion, only the bow of the ship was visible. The rest had disintegrated, and the bow sank soon afterward.  One hundred ninety-six Coast Guard crewmen, 57 Army stevedores, and a Public Health Service physician named Dr. Harry M. Levin, were killed in the explosion, and a soldier ashore was killed by shrapnel. Only two of those on board, Seamen First Class Kelsie K. Kemp and George S. Kennedy, who had been in the boatswain’s locker, survived.  The catastrophe was the single greatest disaster suffered by the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II.

In July 1947, the Coast Guard still thought an enemy attack had caused the blast. However, by June 10, 1949, it was determined not to have been the result of enemy action.

At first report the incident in July 1947, attributed to explosion to enemy action.  But a court of inquiry later determined that the cause of the explosion could not be established from the remaining evidence.  By 1949 the Navy noted that the loss was not due to enemy action but due to an “accident intrinsic to the loading process.”

The available remains of those killed were originally buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Cemetery in Guadalcanal with full military honors and religious services. They were later repatriated under the program for the return of World War II dead,  in 1949.  The mass recommittal of the unidentified dead took place in section 34 at MacArthur Circle. The remains were placed in 52 caskets and buried in 28 graves near the intersection of Jesup and Grant Drives. It is the largest group burial to at Arlington National Cemetery.  An additional two grave sites were reserved for the octagonal monument inscribed with all of their names, which I saw on this ride.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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The Oscar S. Straus Memorial

The Oscar S. Straus Memorial is located just two blocks south of The White House, in the Federal Triangle on 14th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue, in front of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (MAP), and was the destination of this lunchtime bike ride.

The memorial commemorates the accomplishments of the first Jew to be a member of the cabinet of a U.S. president, having served as Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Theodore Roosevelt from 1906 to 1909.  He also served under Presidents William Howard Taft, William McKinley, and Grover Cleveland, and was offered a cabinet position by Theodore Roosevelt.

Oscar Solomon Straus was born on December 23, 1850, in Otterberg, Rhenish Bavaria, now in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (now Germany).  At the age of two he immigrated with his mother and siblings to the United States, joining their father, Lazarus, who had emigrated in 1852.  The family settled in Talbotton, Georgia.  At the close of the Civil War in 1865, Straus’s family moved to New York City, where he graduated from Columbia College in 1871 and Columbia Law School in 1873.  In 1882, Strauss married Sarah Lavanburg, and they had three children: Mildred Straus Schafer (born the following year), Aline Straus Hockstader (born in 1889), and Roger Williams Straus (born in 1891).

Straus first served as United States Minister to the Ottoman Empire from 1887 to 1889, and then again from 1898 to 1899. In January of 1902, he was named a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to fill the place left vacant by the death of ex-President Benjamin Harrison. Then in December of 1906, Straus became the United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Roosevelt. This position also placed him in charge of the United States Bureau of Immigration.  Straus left the Commerce Department in 1909 when William Howard Taft became president and became U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire until 1910.  In 1912, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York on the Progressive and Independence League tickets. And in 1915, he became chairman of the public service commission of New York State.

The memorial fountain was designed by Adolph Alexander Weinman, and funded with a public subscription beginning in 1929.  It was dedicated on October 26, 1947, by President Harry S. Truman. It was disassembled and placed in storage in 1991 during the construction of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. After the building was completed, the fountain was reinstalled with all original materials. It was rededicated on October 26, 1998.

In the center of the memorial is the massive fountain with the inscription “statesman, author, diplomat.”  To the sides are two statues.  The one to the left is one entitled Justice, which depicts a woman representing “Justice,” with her arm resting on the Ten Commandments.   It is intended to symbolize the religious freedom which allowed a Jew to serve in such a position of authority.  The inscription on this statue reads, “Our Liberty of Worship is not a Concession nor a Privilege but an Inherent Right.”   To the right of the fountain is the statue entitled Reason.  It depicts a partially draped male figure and a child holding a purse, key, and hammer, symbolizing the capital and labor efforts put forth by Straus throughout his career.

Straus died on September 3, 1910, and is buried at Beth El Cemetery in Ridgewood, New York.  For more on his life and career, you can read his memoirs, entitled  “Under Four Administrations,” which he wrote and published in 1922.  

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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ShutDownDC Protest

Today I encountered a protest. That’s not unusual, however. The same can be said almost any day of the week depending on where in you are here in the city. But today’s protest occurred at various locations around D.C. There was a similar protest at the beginning of this week as well. Entitled “ShutDownDC,” the protests were timed for the beginning and end of the week, along with strikes in a number of other cities, in order to coincide with the start of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

A coalition of several climate change and social justice groups participated in this week’s protests. The groups included climate change organizations: “Rising Tide North America” and “Extinction Rebellion DC.”  But it also included such diverse groups as “Code Pink: Women for Peace,” which describes itself as a grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S.-funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally and to redirect the resources used for those things; the “Democratic Socialists of America,” the largest socialist organization in the United States; “World BEYOND War,” a “global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace”; “Werk for Peace,” a queer and transgender rights movement, and; Black Lives Matter. According to a website for the events, the purpose of the protests were “to demand an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels, and a swift and just transition to renewable energy.”

On Monday the protesters split up and blocked various major intersections and other key infrastructure in the city in an attempt to disrupt traffic and gridlock the city during morning rush hour. Today’s protest took the form of a march, causing rolling street closures and traffic backups. It started and ended at McPherson Square. Along the way they paused in front of certain companies and organizations in order to “call them out as fossil fuel villains.” They included the investment management company BlackRock, located about a block northeast of the White House. which the protest group accuses of being “the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels and deforestation”; the Environmental Protection Agency building on Pennsylvania Avenue, which they describe as stopping at nothing to destroy existing climate protections; the Trump International Hotel, which they say is a symbol of corporate influence in U.S. politics; and a branch of Wells Fargo Bank, which they contend has put $151 billion into fossil fuel industries in the past three years during “a time when really we should be thinking about the managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.”  The intent of today’s march was to again disrupt traffic and cause gridlock for commuters during the morning rush hour.

In general, a protest is a way of making opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy. In this case, however, I don’t think the protests were very effective in achieving that goal. When a protest is designed to disrupt traffic and inconvenience the average working person who is just trying to go to work to support themselves and their families, you lose the support of the very people you are trying to influence. You fail to influence or gain the support of the grassroots people needed to sway public opinion and influence government and corporate action.  And you can end up looking like self-absorbed attention seekers.

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Harvard Field Hospital Unit Memorial

On this ride I discovered this small, of-the-beaten path memorial on the grounds behind the American National Red Cross Headquarters building (MAP), in D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood.  The simplicity of the memorial naturally directs visitors to the plaque on top, which tells the story of the memorial.

Inscription:

This plaque acknowledges the public spirit of Harvard University and the dedication of the staff of the American Red Cross – Harvard Field Hospital Unit, who provided and staffed a pre-fabricated hospital sent to Salisbury, England, in the summer of 1941 to deal with the potential outbreak of communicable diseases.

In particular, homage is paid to the following – Reported missing and presumed lost’ on the voyage to Britain:
Ruth Breckenridge – Housemother
Nancie M. Prett, R.N.
Phylis L. Evans, R.N.
Phylis L. Evans, R.N.
Dorothea L. Koehn, R.N.
Dorothy C. Morse, R.N.

In July 1942 the hospital was transferred to the United States Army. Following the war, the facility reverted to the British Ministry of Health and was the site of the Common Cold Research Unit. It finally closed in 1990.


[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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Montford Point Marines Memorial

On this lunchtime bike ride I found myself in Arlington National Cemetery.  And  because bike riding is prohibited in the cemetery, I decided to go for a walk.  It was during my walk that I happened upon a marker in the shade of a tree, in Section 23 of the cemetery, off Farragut Drive (MAP).  On the marker is an inscription that reads:

“The footprints of the Montford Point Marines were left on the beaches of Roi-Namur, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The tides and winds have, long ago, washed them out into the seas of history; but,
“The Chosen Few”
in field shoes and canvas leggings, also left their marks in the firm concrete of Marine Corps history. And as new generations of Marines learn to march in those footprints, their cadence assumes the proud stride of the men of Montford Point.”
Gen. Leonard F. Chapman, Jr.

So later, after I got back from my ride, I decided to do some research on the marker, and the Montford Point marines, to learn more about them.

The marker was placed in the cemetery and dedicated on November 13, 1996, by the Montford Point Marine Association, as a memorial to the legacy of the first African-Americans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, which took place after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an Executive Order in June 1941, establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission and ordering the armed services, including the Marine Corps, to recruit and enlist African Americans.

These marines got their name because they trained at the then-segregated Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina, beginning on August 26, 1942.  Between 1942 and 1949, more than 20,000 men were trained at Montford Point.  In July 1948, despite strong opposition from Democrats of the segregated South, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which required the desegregation of the military.   The resulting changes caused the camp do be decommissioned in September of the following year, and new African-American recruits were then-after trained along with other marines at Parris Island and Camp Pendleton.

Some of the more notable Montford Point marines include: Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson, one of the first African Americans to enlist and serve as a drill instructor in the Marine Corps; Frederick C. Branch, the first African-American officer of the United States Marine Corps; David Dinkins, former Mayor of New York City; Arthur Earley, Pennsylvania State Representative, and; Marion Meredith Beal, an original member and a recipient of Congressional Gold Medal as an appreciation for the first African-American to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. However, we only know the names of about 1,200 of the approximately 20,000 Montford Point marines. Only approximately 300 of these marines are still alive, and we are losing them rapidly, which makes memorials like this one all the more important.

Note:  There is also an official memorial to the Montford Point Marines located within the LeJeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C., and a Montford Point Marine Museum, located on the grounds of Montford Point Camp in the East Wing of building M101, Marine Corps Base, Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, Jacksonville, N.C.

Earth Day Park

During this lunchtime bike ride, I discovered a very small park wedged into a narrow strip of land along 9th Street, stretching from Independence Avenue to C Street (MAP), and situated between the Federal Aviation Administration Building and the U.S. Department of Energy Building.  The land also serves as the roof of  the Interstate-395 Tunnel.  A small sign at the northern end identified it as Earth Day Park.  Having passed by it many times without ever noticing or hearing about it, I decided I needed to find out more.    

It turns out that the park was a combined effort of several government agencies, including the U.S. Energy Department, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the General Services Administration, and the D.C. Department of Transportation.  Apparently enough employees from the adjacent government buildings, including Department of Energy Secretary Hazel R. O’Leary, had gotten tired of seeing the neglect of this weedy, trash-strewn piece of land located adjacent to their buildings.  So contact was made with the General Services Administration, which manages and supports the land and buildings and basic functioning of federal agency facilities, who then coordinated the building of the park with the D.C. Department of Transportation, who owned the land.

Earth Day Park has a number of unusual aspects to it.  As part of the celebration of Earth Day 1994 President Bill Clinton outlined a series of recommendations for Federal agencies to increase “Environmentally and economically beneficial policies on Federal landscaped grounds.”  Earth Day Park embodies these “greening” principles.

The park utilizes solar energy, including an array of photovoltaic cells on top of the sign at the front of the park,  to provide electricity for the lamp posts and lighting.  The park also incorporates the use of different plants.  For example, it uses dwarf ornamental grass instead of lawn perennials and annuals, reducing the need for gasoline powered mowers, edgers and trimmers along with fertilizers and pesticides.  The park’s use of mulch and drought tolerant plant species, as well as the raised beds, allows for moisture to be retained by the soil, thus conserving water.   And the use of regional plant material, adapted to local climate and biological conditions,  provides a unique ecosystem that increases the rate of success of the plants.

And because of the incorporation of these principles, Earth Day Park requires far less maintenance than that of a traditionally developed park, making it a truly “green” park.

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Bust of Alberto Santos-Dumont

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I happened upon a bronze bust mounted on a wall near the Embassy of Brazil, at the intersection of R and 22nd Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood.  Upon closer examination I saw a plaque on the bust, which reads:

Alberto Santos-Dumont
First to Fly an Aircraft
Heavier Than Air by Its Own Means
of Propulsion
1906 – 2006
Brazilian Aeronautical Commission
Washington, D.C., Aug 2nd, 2006.

But this didn’t make an sense to me.  I thought everyone knows that the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were the first to fly an aircraft.  So later I researched Alberto Santos-Dumont to find out more about him, as well as the claim made about him on this bust.

Alberto Santos-Dumont was born and died in Brazil where he is honored as the “Father of Aviation” and considered to be the inventor of the airplane. He designed, built, and flew the first practical dirigible balloons and thereby became the 1st to demonstrate that routine, controlled flight was possible. This made him one of the most famous people in the world during the early 20th century.

Santos-Dumont also made the first public European flight of an airplane in Paris on October 23, 1906. That aircraft, designated “Oiseau de proie”, which translates as “bird of prey”, and is considered to be the first to take off, fly, and land without the use of catapults, high winds, launch rails, or other external assistance.  The Wright Brothers’ early aircraft, first successfully flown on December 17, 1903, used a stiff headwind and launch rails.

Much of the controversy about Santos-Dumont and the Wrights arose from the difference in their approaches to publicity.  Santos-Dumont made his flights in public, often accompanied by the scientific elite of the time, then gathered in Paris. In contrast, the Wrights were very concerned about protecting their trade secrets for patentability and made their early flights in remote locations, without many international aviation officials present.  The defense of their flight was further complicated by the jealousies of other aviation enthusiasts and disputes over patents.

In January of 1906, a Frenchman named Ernest Archdeacon sent a taunting letter to the Wrights, demanding that they come to France and prove themselves, but the Wrights did not respond.  Thus, the aviation world, of which Paris was the center at the time, witnessed Santos-Dumont’s work first hand later that year.  As a result, many members, French and other Europeans, dismissed the Wrights as frauds and assigned Santos-Dumont the accolade of the “first to fly.”

After learning about Santos-Dumont, I think he was an inventive and innovative man.  But I still recognize the Wright Brothers as the first to fly.  The launch rail they used simply provided a long, smooth surface for the airplane’s take-off roll, similar to a runway.  So I think attempting to negate the Wright Brothers 1903 flight based on the use of a launch rail lacks substance and was simply an attempt to claim the title of “first.”

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OBX Bicycle, Kill Devil Hills, NC

I first started going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a group of college friends in the 80’s.  Then my Mom started a tradition of holding family reunions there for me and my five siblings, and our families.  I went there every year for decades.  But I had not been back since my Mom passed away, until last week that is.  Last week my family joined my brothers and sisters and their spouses, and their children and their children’s spouses, and their children’s children, and spent the week on the Outer Banks.

It was a fantastic week of family, food and fun.  Unfortunately, due to a combination of a full schedule of activities and extreme heat advisories issued by the National Weather Service, I was not able to get in as much bike riding as I had originally hoped.  On the days when it was possible I enjoyed riding a beach cruiser (although it took some time to get used to using coaster brakes again).  I even stopped by one of my favorite local bike shops on the Outer Banks, OBX Bicycle.

Although I was not able to ride as much as I would have liked on this trip, I have another trip planned which will consist almost entirely of riding.  When I retire I plan to go long-distance bike touring in several areas around the country, including the Outer Banks.  And depending on how those tours go, I may go on a bike tour across the country.

In fact, I have already researched, developed plans for, and mapped out my bike tour of the Outer Banks.  It begins at the northernmost lighthouse in Corolla, and goes south through the barrier islands before circling back through the coastal plains and returning to where it began.  The tour will include all of the lighthouses along the scenic coast, as well as historic sites, national memorials, state parks, marshlands, wildlife refuges, estuarine reserves and national forests.  It will also include some of the best restaurants and breweries in the country.

To find out more about my plans for bike touring on the Outer Banks before I go, click here.  To find out about it as it happens, just keep reading this blog.

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For this long holiday weekend I decided to get away for a little while.  And there is such a diversity of things to see and do in the local area that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to experience something new and different.  So this morning I went for a bike ride at the newly-built Neabsco Creek Boardwalk, located about 30 miles south of D.C. on the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail at 15125 Blackburn Road in Woodbridge (MAP), Virginia. 

The three-quarters of a mile long, 10-feet wide boardwalk, which includes a two-story observation deck, opened just last month.  It traverses Neabsco Creek, and allows bikers and hikers access to wetlands where the tall grasses and marsh filter pollution from the river and provide a rich habitat for great blue herons, wood ducks, mallards, sparrow and red-winged blackbirds, just to name a few of the winged wildlife known to populate the area.

The 3.8 million dollar boardwalk is designed to showcase Woodbridge’s most valuable natural asset — the Potomac Waterfront.  The boardwalk is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and encompasses educational sites that highlight information on native wildlife and plants.  Guided tours are also occasionally offered.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors recently voted to combine the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk with the Julie J. Metz Wetlands Park, the Rippon Lodge Historic Property, Kings Highway, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and Rippon Landing Neighborhood Park, and designated the combined recreation and historic sites as the Neabsco Regional Park.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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Aerial view of the boardwalk, courtesy of Prince William County.