Archive for May, 2015

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Dog Tag Bakery

When I stopped during a recent bike ride to take a photo of a mural I saw on the side of a building, I met a very nice young woman named Andrea, who was also there photographing the mural. As we talked I found out that she had been discharged from the Marine Corps, and had moved to D.C. from Texas to go back to school. During the course of our conversation I also found out that she works at a place called Dog Tag Bakery. My initial thought was that it was probably one of those trendy boutique bakeries that makes dog treats and caters to wealthy pet owners. But when she went on to explain the background and purpose behind the bakery, I found it very interesting. So on this bike ride, I decided to go to the Dog Tag Bakery, located just off Wisconsin Avenue at 3206 Grace Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, and check it out for myself.

While it might seem like the idea behind the bakery is to sell delicious baked goods, the Dog Tag Bakery is really all about giving back to those who have served in the military.  The bakery is just a storefront for a larger program run by Dog Tag Inc., a nonprofit organization founded by Rick Curry, a Jesuit priest and adjunct professor of Catholic studies at Georgetown University, and Connie Milstein, a successful attorney, real estate investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. The program utilizes baking and running a bakery business as a way to help ease the transition of entrepreneurial-minded wounded veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and their spouses, back into civilian life by providing an innovative training program and leadership development opportunities.

The Dog Tag Program is made up of courses that are tailored to the business focused goals of the participants.  The courses include accounting, principles of management, communication, corporate finance, marketing, business policy and entrepreneurship. Participants who successfully complete the six-month program earn a Certificate of Business Administration from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies.

Dog Tag’s Grace Street facility not only contains the bakery and storefront, but a classroom and office space as well. It also contains a stage, which is where veterans participate in occasional spoken-word events in which they address audiences about their experiences as part of their training in communication. Not to be missed if you stop by the bakery is the chandelier that hangs above the stage. The Dog Tag chandelier is made from 3,456 individual military dog tags. The unique display is intended to honor all the servicemen and women.

One of the best aspects of the Dog Tag program is that it helps the participants to focus on their abilities and not the ir disability. The program helps them to not look at a disability as a hindrance. And Father Curry may be the ideal man for such a program. Despite being born with only one arm, Father Curry believes that disability is a gift. He has said. “It can be difficult to accept, but in the long run to accept your disability as a gift is positive.”

Second only to the graduates the program produces, the Dog Tag Bakery also produces delicious baked goods.  Open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:00am until 6:00pm, their menu not only includes a variety of breads, cookies, brownies and pastries, but breakfast and lunch items as well.  The breakfast menu includes items like breakfast sandwiches, fruit cups, a parfait with yogurt and homemade granola, or a veggie fritatta.  However, I stopped by for lunch.

Having to choose among the various sandwiches and salads on their lunch menu was difficult, but on this ride I chose was the Turkey, Brie & Cranberry Mayo on fresh-baked Honey Wheat Bread.  The softness of the bread combined with the moist, flavorful turkey combined with the sweetness of the cranberry mayo was perfectly complimented by the saltiness of the sea salt kettle chips they served with it.  I splurged and also got a slice of carrot cake for dessert.  It was moist and perfectly spiced.  It is a nut free bakery, so there were no walnuts in the carrot cake, which was to my liking because I prefer it without nuts anyway.  I also got some mini quick bread to go.  They offer banana, cranberry and pumpkin spice.  I chose the latter.

Although I have only been there once so far, everything I had was delicious, and everything else I saw looked equally appetizing.  So I’ll be going there again soon, and I recommend that you do the same.

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The National Fire Dog Memorial

On this bike ride I went by one of the few local monuments that are not dedicated to either a person or an event. On permanent display at the corner of 5th and F Streets just outside D.C. Fire Department Station #2, the National Fire Dog Monument is located at 500 5th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood.

Also named “Ashes to Answers,” the National Fire Dog Monument is a life-size bronze sculpture depicting an arson dog, with his handler gazing down at his four-legged partner after a job well done. The monument, which was co-sponsored by the State Farm Insurance Company and the American Humane Association, honors the incredible and heroic work that certified accelerant-detection canine teams do to investigate suspicious fires in homes and businesses around the country. Unveiled in late 2013 after an eight-city cross country tour, the monument was sculpted by a Denver area artist named Austin Weishel, who is also a volunteer firefighter with the Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue in Colorado.

The main subject depicted in the monument was modeled after a black Labrador canine agent named Sadie, who in 2011 was named by the American Humane Association as the Hero Dog of the Year. Sadie retired in 2014, leaving only 81 certified arson canine teams at the present time in the United States and Canada. And the D.C. Fire Department is fortunate enough to have two of those teams. The State Farm Insurance Company sponsors the program that trains them.

In a city replete with monuments and memorials, the National Fire Dog Monument has quickly gained popularity, especially among local residents. In a “Monument Madness Contest” held by The Washington Post, 32 different statues and monuments competed against each other for the distinction of the most popular in D.C. There were four categories of competitors entitled: “Presidents and Founding Fathers”; “Arts and Sciences”; “War and Peace”, and; the grouping in which the National Fire Dog Monument was categorized, named “What the Heck is That?” In a come-from-behind, Cinderella-story victory, the monument took home the top prize in the tournament, receiving more votes than any of its more famous competitors, including The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, and The Iwo Jima Memorial, as well as more obscure but worthy contenders such as The Maine Lobsterman and The Titanic Memorial.

Despite its popularity, the sculpture is only half of the monument, which remains as yet unfinished.  The plan for the second half of the monument is comprised of a bronze fire hydrant with water coming out of it that goes to a dish, so that dogs walking by will have a place to get a drink and chill out.  Donations to help complete the National Fire Dog Monument, and to support heroic arson dogs like Sadie and her colleagues, can be made through the American Humane Association.

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Marine Corps Base Quantico

Long holiday weekends provide me with opportunities to venture out of the city to places in the local area that I normally would be unable to ride to on my usual lunchtime bike rides. So for a Memorial Day weekend ride, I chose to go to Marine Corps Base Quantico. Also known as MCB Quantico, it is a United States Marine Corps installation located in Virginia, near the town of Triangle (MAP), covering nearly 55,148 acres of southern Prince William County, northern Stafford County, and southeastern Fauquier County.

MCB Quantico is near the Potomac River approximately 35 miles south of D.C. The area was originally inhabited by the Patowomacks tribe in the 16th century. The name “Quantico” is credited to come from an Algonquian Native American term, and has been translated to mean “by the large stream.” It was not visited by European explorers until the summer of 1608, with settlement beginning later that year. More than two centuries later, in 1816, the Marine Corps first visited the site.  And just over a century after that, in 1917, Marine Barracks, Quantico was established on some of the land currently occupied by today’s base. At that time, Marine Barracks occupied just over 5,000 acres and the personnel consisted of 91 enlisted men and four officers. In 1942, an additional 50,000 acres were purchased by the Federal government and added to the barracks, making up what is now the base.

The MCB Quantico community currently consists of 12,000 military and civilian personnel, including families. The majority of that is made up by the Corps’ Combat Development Command, which develops strategies for Marine combat. It is also home of the Marine Corps University, where virtually all Marine officers receive their basic training, as well as enlisted technicians from many different disciplines. It has a budget of around $300 million and is the home of:  the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School; the Marine Corps Research Center, which pursues equipment research and development, especially telecommunications, for the Marine Corps, and; the Marine Corps Brig, a military prison.

The base was designated as part of the Quantico Marine Corps Base Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. This district includes 122 buildings, two landscapes, a sculpture, and a water tower located within the base. And a replica of The United States Marine Corps War Memorial, depicting the 2nd U.S. flag-raising on Iwo Jima, stands at the entrance to the base.

MCB Quantico is the home of major training institutions for military and Federal law enforcement agencies as well, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Headquarters, the Army Criminal Investigative Division Headquarters, and the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations Headquarters. The FBI Academy and the FBI Laboratory, the principal training and research facilities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the principal training facility for the Drug Enforcement Administration, are also located on the base.

The long, open roads, the many miles of maintained running and biking trails, and the general lack of vehicle traffic on the base, except an occasional tank crossing the road, make it a safe and ideal place for a weekend bike ride.  The undeveloped nature of the area also provides opportunities for wildlife viewing, including white-tailed deer and wild turkey, which I have seen almost every time I have been on base.  I’m fortunate that I have access and am allowed to ride there.  Unfortunately, I find myself unable to recommend it as a riding destination for others, but only because much of the base is restricted from public access.  So if you want to go there, I suggest you check in advance about the areas of the base, if any, where you will be allowed access.

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Major General John A. Logan

Major General John A. Logan is a public artwork by American artist Franklin Simmons, who also sculpted The Peace Monument located on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building.  It is located in Logan Circle at the intersection of 13th Street, P Street, Rhode Island Avenue, and Vermont Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.  An equestrian statue, it is mounted on a bronze base and depicts Logan wearing a long coat, boots, gloves and a hat, with long hair and a drooping mustache. He is mounted on his horse, holding onto the reins with his left hand and holding a downward-pointed sword in his right.  The statue is part of a group of statues entitled “The Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.” which are spread out through much of the central and northwest areas of the city, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

John Alexander “Black Jack” Logan was an American soldier and political leader.  He served in the Mexican-American War and was a General in the Union Army during the Civil War, during which the men under his command gave him his nickname based on his dark eyes, his black hair and mustache, and swarthy complexion.

Logan later entered politics as a Douglas Democrat, so named after fellow Illinois politician Stephen A. Douglas.  He was initially elected and served as a State Senator in Illinois, during which time he helped pass a law to prohibit all African Americans, including freedmen, from settling in the state.  Logan subsequently went on to be elected as a U.S. Congressman, but resigned after three years to join the Union Army.  After the war, Logan resumed his political career, now as a Republican, and was again elected to Congress.  During this time he was selected as one of the managers to conduct the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson.  Later, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, but after failing to win reelection returned to Illinois to practice law.  He later ran for and regained his seat in the U.S. Senate.  He also ran but was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President on the ticket with James G. Blaine in the election of 1884.  After the unsuccessful run for national office, he was reelected to the U.S. Senate, where he continued to serve until his death.

Despite his success in a variety of professional and personal endeavors over the course of his lifetime, he had no schooling until age 14.  It was then that he studied for three years at Shiloh College.  After leaving to serve in the Mexican-American War, he came back to study law in the office of an uncle, and then went on to graduate from the Law Department of the University of Louisville, after which he also practiced law with success intermittently throughout his lifetime.

However, despite his very successful military, political and legal careers, Logan is perhaps remembered as the founder of Memorial Day and the driving force behind it being designated as an official Federal holiday every year on the last Monday of May.  Originally known as Decoration Day, it was intended to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.  It took years, however, until the Federal holiday, which extended to only Federal employees and D.C., was adopted nationally and by the states.  New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day a legal holiday, and most other Northern states soon followed suit.  However, the states of the former Confederacy were unenthusiastic about a holiday founded by a former Union General and memorialized those who, in Logan’s own words, “united to suppress the late rebellion.”  Much of the South did not adopt the Memorial Day holiday until after World War I, by which time its purpose had been extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.  Several Southern states continue to also set aside a day for specifically honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day.  It is also observed on the last Monday in May in Virginia, but the date varies in other states.

Upon his death, Logan’s body lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building before being laid to rest at the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, the forerunner of Arlington National Cemetery.  There he is entombed in a mausoleum along with his wife and other family members.

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The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

With Memorial Day coming up next week, I decided for this bike ride to go to one of the city’s newest memorials, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Located just a block off the National Mall at 150 Washington Avenue (MAP) in southwest D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the memorial opened just this past September after a more than a dozen years in the making.

The origins of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial date back to a chance meeting in 1995 at another D.C. memorial. A woman named Lois Pope, widow of National Enquirer owner Generoso Pope Jr., met a disabled American veteran at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Realizing that there was not a memorial to honor disabled veterans, she attempted to call the office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown to plead for one. Unable to get through, she called again every day for six months until Brown’s secretary finally put her call through.  The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds for memorials, but Secretary Brown agreed to support legislation to establish memorial.

On October 23, 2000, Congress adopted legislation authorizing the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial Foundation, whose purpose was to design, raise funds for, and construct a memorial.  Almost a decade later the fundraising goal was reached. The groundbreaking for the memorial occurred on November 10, 2010.  And on October 5, 2014, President Barack Obama officially dedicated the memorial.

The Memorial, located on a 1.72-acre parcel of Federally-owned land, consists of five distinct yet interconnected elements. The first element and centerpiece of the Memorial’s design is a 30 inches-tall black granite fountain in the shape of a five-pointed star, with a ceremonial eternal flame rising out of the water in the middle of the fountain. Extending south and southeast from the star-shaped fountain is the Memorial’s second element, a reflecting pool which, together with the fountain, are designed to reflect the nearby U.S. Capitol building. The third element is known as the “Wall of Gratitude”, and consists of two long, white granite walls which extend along the western edge of the site, and are inscribed with quotations from General George Washington and General Dwight Eisenhower, as well as the name of the memorial. The fourth element is the “Voices of Veterans” area, which forms the southern portion of the site and consists of three staggered glass walls made up of 49 panels. On the interior sheets of glass are inscribed photo-realistic images of veterans and quotations from veterans describing their devotion to duty, what it was like to be wounded, and how they came to terms with their disability. Four bronze panels, with silhouettes of soldiers cut from their center, stand behind some of the glass panels. The final element of the memorial consists of a grove of memorial trees. The “Voices of Veterans” element is set among the trees of the northern part of this grove.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial serves as a permanent national public tribute to veterans of the armed forces of the United States who were permanently disabled during the course of their national service.  This includes over four million veterans currently living with a disability, as well as countless others who subsequently passed away.  It is the only national memorial to not defined by service branch, military unit or specific conflict, but to simply honor those who veterans seriously injured in the line of duty as heroes.

Although the upcoming Memorial Day holiday is for remembering military personnel who died while serving, it is an opportune time to also remember those who served and survived, but continue to pay a price for that service, as well as all military veterans.  For as one of the inscriptions on the memorial reads, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”

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Joseph Darlington Fountain

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I went by Judiciary Park, which is located at the corner of 5th and D Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood. A small park located between the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the focal point of the park is fountain featuring a gilded bronze statue. It is named the Darlington Memorial Fountain, and is a memorial to a lawyer named Joseph Darlington.

Joseph James Darlington was born on February 10, 1849, in Abbeville County, South Carolina, the third of four children born to Henry Dixson Darlington and Charlotte G. Blease. He came to D.C. as a young man to attend law school, where he lived for the rest of his life. He opened an office on 5th Street near where the memorial was later built, worked there for his entire career, eventually becoming known as a leader in the legal community, as well as a teacher and author.

Shortly after his death on June 24, 1920, friends and colleagues proposed to have a memorial built in his honor. Three years later, a committee was formed under Frank J. Hogan, who was named the head of the Darlington Memorial Committee. The duties of the committee, which consisted of approximately 100 people, some who were lawyers who had studied under Darlington was to take charge of the dedication of the memorial later that year.

The Darlington Memorial Fountain was designed by a German-born American sculptor named Carl Paul Jennewein. It was approved by the United States Commission of Fine Arts in 1921, and installed in November 1923. However, because it features a nude Greek nymph, the memorial’s statue caused a bit of public outrage when it was initially put on display. And that controversy has never really gone away. As late as July 3, 1988, a story in The Chicago Tribune reads, “The voluptuous nymph in Judiciary Square, honoring Joseph Darlington, one of Washington’s most prominent 19th Century lawyers, could easily grace the centerfold of Playboy.”

A prolific artist, Jennewein is also the sculptor responsible for a number of other statues in the D.C. area, including statues at the entrance to the Rayburn House Office Building, and monumental eagles at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and another on the Arlington Memorial Bridge. He also created more than 50 separate sculptural elements of the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department Building, as well as a statue in the building’s Great Hall, named the Spirit of Justice. Like the statue in the Darlington Memorial Fountain, the Spirit of Justice has also been the source of public controversy.

The Spirit of Justice is a semi-nude depicting Lady Justice, which stands on display along with its male counterpart, Majesty of Justice. The statue and the controversy surrounding it first became well known with the help of Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002. It was then that the department spent $8,000 on curtains to hide the semi-nude statue from view during speeches and other events. Critics derided then-Attorney General Ashcroft, and President George W. Bush’s administration received widespread criticism for covering up the naked Lady Justice. Ashcroft’s successor as Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, removed the curtains in June 2005, making the statue visible again during public events.

But the controversy resurfaced again last year when the Obama administration reversed that practice, and curtains are once again being used to hide the Spirit of Justice’s nudity from public view. So at this point in time, if you want to see one of Jennewein’s nude statues in D.C., your only current option is the Darlington Memorial Fountain.

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National Bike to Work Day 2015

Today was the 59th annual National Bike to Work Day. Originally begun in 1956 by The League of American Bicyclists, the day is part of National Bike Month, which is recognized annually during the month of May. Over the past half century, Bike to Work Day has grown into a widespread event with countless bike riders taking to the streets nationwide in an effort to get commuters to try bicycling to work as a healthy and safe alternative to driving a car.

In the metropolitan D.C. area, Bike to Work Day has been held annually for over a decade. It was originally started in 2001 by The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), of which I am a member. That first year consisted of a small group of only a few hundred, but has since grown significantly.  There were 16,797 officially registered participants last year.  And hopefully this year will exceed that number.

This year WABA, along with Commuter Connections, a regional network of transportation organizations coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, as well as a number of local bike shops and organizations, again sponsored pit stops along many of the commuter routes in the area.  So I took a few of hours of vacation time and spent the morning riding to some of the 80 area pit stops that they set up in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.  And I had breakfast at the pit stop at Freedom Plaza, where they were handing out fresh fruit, granola bars, locally-baked bagels, and all kinds of other items.  They also had valet bike parking, and bike mechanics on site to help with problems and make adjustments for those who needed it.  I also picked up a lot of swag, because they were giving away free items like T-shirts, water bottles, sunglasses, tire repair kits, bike lights and bells, area maps, etc.  I also was given coupons for a free bus ride for both my bike and I, which will come in useful if my bike breaks down on one of my rides, and a free meal delivered by Galley Foods, which I’ll use for a lunch one day soon.  I’m also entered for a chance to win a new bike and other prizes in various drawings.

Bike to Work Day is a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work. But even if you’re unable to commute via bicycle, use can use the day as a spark to getting out there and riding a bike more.  Or maybe riding again if it has been a while since you were on a bike.  Whether it’s for recreation, exercise, running errands, or for any other reason, riding a bike not only has its benefits for both the rider and the environment, but it’s also fun.  As a former resident of D.C. named John F. Kennedy was once quoted as saying, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.”

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The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

Designated by President John F. Kennedy to be observed annually on May 15th, tomorrow is Peace Officers Memorial Day.  The Presidential proclamation also designates the week during which that date falls each year as National Police Week.  So in observance of this, today I rode by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which is located in 400 block of E Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood.

Dedicated on October 15, 1991, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial honors Federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation and its people. It features two curving, 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls on which are carved the names of the officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history, dating back to the first known death of Constable Darius Quimby of the Albany County, New York, Constable’s Office, who was shot while making an arrest on January 3, 1791

Designed by architect Davis Buckley, the Memorial features a reflecting pool which is surrounded by walkways on either side of a three-acre park. Along the walkways are the walls on which are inscribed the names of the fallen law enforcement officers which the Memorial honors.

The Memorial also features four bronze sculptures depicting two male and two female lions, with each watching over a pair of lion cubs. The adult lions were sculpted by Raymond Kaskey, the cubs by George Carr. Below each lion is carved a different quotation, which read: “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived.” – Vivian Eney Cross, Survivor; “In valor there is hope.” – Tacitus; “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” – Proverbs 28:1, and; a quote by President George H. W. Bush, which reads, “Carved on these walls is the story of America, of a continuing quest to preserve both democracy and decency, and to protect a national treasure that we call the American dream.”

Unlike many of the other memorials in the city, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is ever-changing. That is because new names of fallen officers are added to the monument each spring, in conjunction with National Police Week. At the time it was dedicated, the names of over 12,000 fallen officers were engraved on the Memorial’s walls. Currently, there are 20,267 names on the Memorial, which in addition to local law enforcement officers also includes 1,092 Federal officers, as well as 633 correctional officers and 34 military law enforcement officers. These numbers include 280 female officers. There will be 117 more names being added to honor the officers who died in the line of duty in 2014. Sadly, this is a nine percent increase from 2013, when 107 officers were killed.

Although the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial sits on Federal land, it was constructed and is maintained with private funds, not taxpayer dollars. To learn even more about the memorial and the organization that maintains it, please visit the web site for The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.  And since the fund relies on the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations to maintain the memorial and carry out the work of honoring and remembering our countey’s law enforcement heroes, please consider making a donation.

Please also take a moment before the end of National Police Week to remember all of the Federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation, as well as the more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers currently serving throughout this country.

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Today marks the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, also commonly referred to as VE Day, which was a public holiday celebrated on May 8th in 1945 to mark the formal acceptance by the United States and the Allied powers of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers, resulting in the end of the World War II in Europe. Beginning on that day, airplanes flying overhead meant celebration and the return of good times instead of fear and destruction.

During today’s bike ride I had the opportunity to stop and watch an unusual event to mark this anniversary. In celebration of the anniversary of VE Day, and to honor the heroes who fought in the War, as well as other members of our country’s “greatest generation” who contributed to the war effort on the home front by building the aircraft, tanks and ships that enabled the United States and its Allies to win the war, there was a flyover event above the national capitol city today. And the airplanes flying overheard today to celebrate the victorious end of the war were some of the same aircraft that flew 70 years ago.

The event was named “Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover,” and featured more than 50 World War II-era bombers, and fighters and trainers. Included in today’s flyover was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress nicknamed Fifi, the only known model still flying, which was the type of plane that dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Also among today’s airplanes were B-25 Mitchell bombers, which were adapted for the aircraft carrier Hornet for the Doolittle Raid over Japan. Dick Cole, who will turn 100 years old this fall, and who was co-pilot of the first bomber flying off the Hornet, was in attendance today. A TBM Avenger also participated today. It led a “missing man” formation, and was scheduled to be flown by Congressman Samuel Bruce “Sam” Graves, Jr., with Congressman Theodore Edward “Todd” Rokita riding along as a passenger.  The Avenger is the type of plane flown during the war by George H.W. Bush, who was the event’s honorary chairman.

Flying just 1,000 or so feet off the ground over the city’s highly restricted airspace where aircraft are otherwise prohibited, the planes flew south along the Potomac River flew down the Potomac River, turned left at The Lincoln Memorial and followed Independence Avenue along the south side of the National Mall and over The National World War II Memorial, where there was a large assemblage of World War II veterans gathered at the Memorial for a special ceremony honoring them.  The aircraft then banked right away from the U.S. Capitol Building and turned south again and flew along the Potomac River.  As they passed over the city the aircraft flew in over a dozen historically sequenced warbird formations that were designed to commemorate the War’s major battles, from Pearl Harbor through the final air assault on Japan, and concluding with a missing man formation to “Taps.”

It was a near perfect day for an air show, with very few clouds in the skies and clear visibility.  The flyovers were scheduled to start at 12:10pm, and started right on schedule.  By that time I had found a shady spot under some trees near the Lincoln Memorial, where I sat back with some blueberry ice tea and then watched the show.  It lasted approximately an hour, and then I had to head back to my office.  And it’s a good thing I was on a bike, because traffic downtown was nearly gridlocked from the thousands of people who came to see the show.

After the flyover was over, some of the airplanes flew to Dulles Airport where they will be on display tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.  I did not ride my bike out there to see them though because it’s about 60 miles, and my lunch breaks are not long enough for that far of a bike ride.

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Gearin’ Up Bicycles

Whenever possible I prefer to patronize socially responsible businesses that have a purpose, especially when that purpose is local.  And on this ride I not only found such a business, but one that fits right into my lunchtime pursuit of going for a daily bike ride.  On my lunch break today Julius, my orange recumbent bike, and I went to Gearin’ Up Bicycles, which is very conveniently located just off The Metropolitan Branch Trail at 314 Randolph Place (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Eckington neighborhood.

Gearin’ Up Bicycles is a fairly new bike shop in D.C., having only been around for about three years. They began in the spring of 2012 by working with youths on bicycles at the city’s Boys and Girls Club.  Around that same time they also began talking about opening a nonprofit community used bike shop in downtown D.C.  By the fall of that year they had developed a business plan and web site, as well as marketing and fundraising strategies.  And by summer of the following year they opened the shop as a non-profit (501(c)(3)) organization.

The main purpose of Gearin’ Up Bicycles is to create career development opportunities and teach essential workplace skills to kids as well as adults from underserved communities.  Along the way they also teach the participants about cycling as a healthy and affordable means of transportation.  One of the ways they do this is through the Earn-A-Bike course which is a six to eight week course that teaches the participant about essential bicycle repair and maintenance.  It begins with the participant selecting a used bicycle to refurbish. Then each week they learn about different parts of the bike and how to make necessary repairs to the bike they are refurbishing. By the end of the course, the participant gets to take home their newly refurbished bike, along with all of the knowledge and skills they accumulated while building up their new bike.

Services available at Gearin’ Up Bicycles include providing repairs from their experienced mechanics and trainees, or open shop nights during which customers can do their own repairs. And if you’re not sure how to fix something their knowledgeable staff and volunteers can answer your questions, or even lend a hand. The shop also offers general safety and repair classes which cover a range of topics, from changing a tire to bike commuting basics. They also sell affordable used bikes, all of which are donated used bikes which are reconditioned as part of their development program.

During today’s visit to the shop I met a couple of members of the staff.  Mike Rosenberg greeted me and showed me around the shop while he told me a little about what they do there.  I later learned that Mike is an avid rider, and not only has several years of experience working in different bike shops, but a degree in social work as well.  Then on my way out I also met Sterling Stone.  As I was leaving Sterling was just arriving back at the shop and had stopped for a moment outside the front door where I had parked Julius. He was taking a look at Julius, which is always a good conversation starter. So we talked for a few minutes before I left.  There seemed something familiar about him, and I found out later that like myself, Sterling had not ridden a bike since his youth, but returned to riding again as an adult.  And also like me, after he starting again he hasn’t stopped riding since.  Sterling also has more than a dozen years’ experience working with underserved youth.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, or a bike shop by it’s store front.  Gearin’ Up Bicycles isn’t in a fancy location with an unnecessarily expensive appearance.  But what it might lack in aesthetics it more than makes up for in friendly, customer-oriented service, as I experienced with Mike and Sterling on my initial visit today.  And the lack of wasteful use of resources on the shop’s appearance also translates into lower overhead and the ability to focus on affordability for more people.  But most of all the purpose behind the shop makes me glad that any money spent there, or donations made to the program, contribute to such a worthwhile purpose.  Almost instantly today, Gearin’ Up Bicycles became not only one of my favorite bike shops in D.C., but one of my favorites businesses of any kind in the city.  I’ll be going back again soon.

GearinUp02     GearinUp01a     GearinUp03
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