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20-23 January 2015 Birmingham - Washington DC

Tuesday 20th Jan

Stayed at Chris and Dave's overnight. We finished packing up the house late last night and arrived in Charlton about 10pm. Simon had arrived about 7pm with the Lexus after having a new battery fitted and the alternator rewound. He helped us clear up the house and took a car load full of stuff with him. The curry that Chris and Dave had waiting for us was very welcome. It was delicious.

Got up early this morning and reorganised our six large bags. We off-loaded some items to make sure we got the weight correct. At 10am we made our way to London Heathrow. Dave took the route across the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire to the M40. It was a nice morning with low mist at first then bright sunshine, what a lovely last look at the gorgeous English countryside. Arrived at AirPets about midday. Sandy had a run in the paddock and the reception staff made us coffee. At 1pm Sandy was put in her travel box and loaded into the van to go over to BA Cargo. She knew something was going on and looked at us very suspiciously with a long hard stare. As the box was moved to the back of the van she started to cry, we moved away quickly!

Chris and Dave took us to the terminal building where we said a tearful goodbye. We dropped our bags off and headed to the Gordon Ramsey restaurant in the departure lounge for lunch. I had soup and Tony had the best burger he has ever tasted both with thick cut fries, an excellent meal. We had several calls from friends and relatives wishing us bon voyage. We have had so many good wishes and great send offs from everyone.

Boarded the aircraft at about 4.30pm. As we got on board and gave our boarding cards to one of the flight crew we asked if they would check if the dog had been loaded okay. His first reaction was to say "you've got friends", then he mentioned a friends name and asked us to follow him. She had arranged for us to be upgraded to business. What a surprise and what a way to start our adventure. We were soon sitting down drinking champagne. The message came via the cabin staff that the dog was on board, the heating had been put on in the hold for her and she had water. You can't get better service than that. We settled back to a very comfortable flight to Washington. Dinner was smoked salmon followed by steak and then cheesecake. The flight landed five minutes early and we were quickly in the immigration queue. On the way we saw Sandy off loaded from the aircraft and put in a van to go to cargo. We had a good chat with the immigration officer and he advised that he could only stamp us in for 6 months. We explained our plan to go up to Canada and then apply to come back in to the US. He didn't think it would be a problem but we might need to prove that we have means to live off. Our bags were waiting for us when we arrived in the baggage hall. We had received an email from Bob (the dog man) from Pet Care International with a contact number for the person clearing Sandy through customs. His name was Thomas and he advised us to go straight over to BA cargo. Outside we found a taxi and went to cargo where Sandy and Thomas were waiting for us. Sandy was fine, quite calm and taking it all in her stride. From there we went to the George Washington University Inn. Outside the front door was a sign saying ' Welcome Sandy' with a bowl of water underneath it. At reception they gave us a doggy gift bag full of biscuits. We had a suite on the 5th floor with sitting area and small kitchen. We were not too tired or hungry due to the rest and good food we had on the flight. Tony got Sandy some dog food from the Whole Food Market nearby which Sandy loved and demolished in record time.

Wednesday 21st Jan

We woke early due to the time difference. Took a walk up Pennsylvania Ave, stopped for coffee and scone on the way, passed the World Bank where Peter Adams (a friend from the Priory Club, that we have bought the car off) worked for 19 years. Just before we reached the White House the section of road is blocked to traffic but pedestrians can wander along unimpeded. There were several national guard dotted about along the fence. It was very quiet and at times we were the only people present. The weather was cold, near to freezing point. We walked around the back of the White House to have a look at South Lawn, again the place was deserted, no cars we had the place to ourselves. Sandy was intent on getting through the railing fence to have a run on the lawn. From here we walked to the Lincoln Memorial which is situated at the end of what is called The Mall. Walking down The Mall from the Memorial you pass the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian museums on either side and eventually arrive at Capitol Hill. The Lincoln Memorial is where Martin Luther King made his famous speech and features in the film Forest Gump. After a morning out in the cold we had take-out food from the Whole Food Market. This place is incredible with an array of good quality take-out food to choose from at $8.99 per pound. We found the Foggy Bottom Pub in the evening which had some half decent beer and good wine.

Thursday 22nd Jan

Tony arranged for our car insurance this morning via Escapees (RV organisation). They referred him to their onsite insurance agent, Bobby of Bancorp who sorted out six months cover for just over 550 dollars. This is after trying a couple of insurance offices in Washington without luck. Tony then got the Metro over to Peter's apartment in Arlington across the Potomac River to collect the car. Also part of the trip was a visit to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) at Tyson Corner to get temporary registration to cover the car until we get to Texas. I dog sat whilst Tony was getting the car and took Sandy for a good walk around the area. We are in the middle of the George Washington University complex and the University Hospital, Medical School and Public Health Department are just up the road. This evening we spoke to Tom on FaceTime, he was at the side of the lake at the Oz Ski School, Golden Coast, Australia where he works. It was lovely to see and speak to him, we haven't seen him since last summer. He is 15 hours ahead of us, 9am on Friday morning with temperatures in the 30's.

Friday 23rd Jan

We took another walk up Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill in the morning were we stopped for a little while outside the The White House. There were groups of college age kids around and it was quite comical to see that they were more interested in petting Sandy than looking at the White House. The large dome on top of the Capitol Hill building was covered in scaffolding. There was quite a lot of renovation work in the park areas. I guess January is off season so that's when all the work gets done. I stayed on to look around some of the Smithsonian museums that line The Mall. Tony went off to take photographs. I was spoilt for choice but decided to go to the American History Museum and went on a guided tour with a lady called Margaret, she was excellent, very knowledgable and really made the tour extra interesting and amusing. She was an ex teacher and really knew how to impart knowledge and every now and again throw a question at you to test your knowledge of history. I had one about the Boston Tea party! The other two people on the tour were locals, one was another Smithsonian employee and the other a local man from Arlington. It seems one of the most popular items in the museam is Dorothy's Red slippers from the film Wizard of Oz. My next museum was Air and Space followed by the American Indian Museum. The latter was a beautifully designed modern building, on the outside it reminded me of a sandstone ridge somewhere out in the desert. Inside it was a little reminiscent of the Guggenheim in New York. I can't begin to describe the amount of fascinating and interesting stuff these buildings contained. You need to go. By the time I had finished it was getting dark and the rain had started to fall. I got back to the hotel tired, wet and with my feet walked off, but I was so glad I did it.

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