The Cowans go to Washington

Washington DC….our nation’s capital, so much history to explore- and explore we did! Matt spent the entire month of May working in DC, so the girls and I tagged along for the last two weeks. Unfortunately, Matt worked most of our stay, but the girls and I got after the sight-seeing. We walked for miles every day (80 miles over the two weeks, to be exact!) and this city girl loved every minute of it!

Ahhh, back in a big city. Living in Alaska, I often think of the great scene in the Parent Trap where the twins trick Vicki in to camping with them. Vicki had just been sabotaged for the last time and runs away yelling “Get me out of this stinkin’ fresh air,” which is exactly how I feel sometimes. So we stopped on this street corner to take some deep breaths of exhaust, pollution, restaurants and all the delightful smells of a city.  Here are a few of our highlights from a very memorable two weeks….

 The Pentagon

We were so fortunate to have our own private tour of the Pentagon. This place is massive! There are over seventeen miles of corridors, about thirty restaurants, a large gym, convenience stores, etc. Not to mention about 30,000 employees!

Our good friend Chaplain Mansberger set up our tour with his friend/historian and we enjoyed every moment! We were stationed with Chaplain in Albuquerque, as well as Japan, and it was so good to catch up.

Outside, the 9/11 Memorial Garden was beautiful place for reflection and reverence.


There just might be more memorials in DC than in any other city around. I think we saw them all, and then some! One of my favorites, and an icon landmark, is the Washington Monument, and it is also the tallest stone structure in the world at 554 feet.

The World War II Memorial was a beautiful and peaceful place to sit and ponder. We followed the path of the pacific war from Pearl Harbor to Japan.

Speaking of World War II, we saw many vets around the mall that day, but when I saw that this man was a WWII vet, we just had to meet him. When the armistice to end the war was signed, he was on a ship somewhere between Hawaii and the Philippines. He then went on to be stationed at Yokota Air Base, just as we had, and he worked at the Dai Ichi building in Tokyo in an office directly above General MacArthur!  He was 96 years old and was as sharp and spry as could be (he walked the area while most other vets, much younger than him, used wheel chairs). It was an honor to meet this man and thank him for his service.

The ghost-like quality of the Korean War Memorial,

and the seemingly never-ending list of names at the Vietnam Memorial. We visited both Vietnam and South Korea during our time in Asia, so it was good for the girls to see these memorials and remember the cost of freedom.

Squinting and walking towards the Lincoln Memorial.

Inside the memorial, I began reading the words of the Gettysburg Address aloud to the girls. Near the end of the speech, where it states “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,” I started crying. I couldn’t read those divinely-inspired, beautiful words without becoming quite choked up with emotion. So there I was, a crying mess in the memorial gathering lots of curious looks from bystanders (including my girls!), but that’s okay.

I pulled myself together for a selfie with the President. A wise and godly man.

Discussing the New Deal and the Great Depression at the FDR Memorial.

And hangin’ out with the honorable Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even though we are an Air Force family, we paid our respects at the Navy Memorial… just this once!

We loved this Japanese lantern, whose twin sits in Tokyo’s Ueno Park which we have visited many times. Japan donated all of the beautiful cherry trees as a gift to the city, as well. I would love to visit Washington during sakura (cherry blossom) season. Bucket list item for sure!

Paying our respects to President Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


We spent almost all day of every day in some kind of museum. We learned LOTS of history, more than we will ever remember! (Almost everything we did was free, too!) We were not able to take the White House tour, because our trip was fairly short notice. If you’re planning a trip to DC, it’s recommended to apply for a White House tour 6 months in advance! Next time.

Learning all things space and flight at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Paying our respects at the sobering but necessary Halocaust Memorial Museum.

Soaking up a little ‘Gay Paree’ at the outdoor Sculpture Garden.

Sizing up our first President at the Museum of American History.

Exploring all things science at the Natural History Museum.

Appreciating the wisdom of our Founding Fathers at the National Archives and seeing the important documents firsthand was awe inspiring!

Pal-ing around with Vincent Van Gogh at the National Gallery of Art.

Brushing up on conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President Lincoln, at Ford’s Theatre.

And crossing the street to the lowly Peterson House where our great President took his final breath on April 15, 1865.

Discovering what stacks of 6.4 million dollars, in sheets of twenty dollar bills, looks like at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. (PS- the $2 bill is still in circulation. Please take yours out of your drawer and spend it. They are not rare, they only seem to be because everyone saves them. So, if we all just spend them, more will be made.)

Crawling through an air duct, a la James Bond, at the very fun and interactive International Spy Museum. Ella was especially intrigued and spent the rest of the day guessing who was in disguise on the city streets. She also mused that our family would be very inconspicuous under-cover agents. I agree!

People-watching in the historic Union Station, and watching the morning commuters roll in.

Taking a time out for lunch on the National Mall on a gorgeous day.

Speaking of lunch, you know you’ve lived overseas (or in Alaska), too long when you’ll go to great lengths to track down a Chick-fil-A. It was several metro stops out of our way, but so worth it!

Checking out the elegant beauty of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts which holds over 2,000 performances annually in several different theaters. Next time!

Taking in the majestic gothic beauty of the National Cathedral.

And a breathtaking view from the top!


One of the perks of military life is having friends all over the globe, and DC was no exception. Wayne and Darci, along with my sister Erica, lined Matt and I up on a blind date sixteen years ago. And the rest, as they say, is history. Thanks guys!

And the Blau family were good friends and neighbors in Japan. It was so fun to catch up, and the kids picked up right where they left off a year ago.

US Capitol

No visit to Washington DC would be complete without a tour of the US Capitol building. We contacted our state Senator, and were booked for an “almost” private tour.

We even got to ride the special underground senator’s train to get to the main capitol building.

A replica of the Statue of Freedom, located at the very top of the building. I had no idea this statue existed!

And the intricate detail of the dome, both inside,

and out.

The actual rotunda itself is always awe inspiring.

A selfie can’t do it justice!

The original Supreme Court Gallery.

Ike and Eva. (**side note- Eisenhower specifically requested to be memorialized in his Army uniform and painted green. He is the only green statue in the hall.) Our big excitement in the Hall of Statues was seeing Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, walk by twice, surrounded by quite an entourage.

A beautiful building, inside and out.

Mount Vernon

The home of George Washington was the highlight of this trip for everyone.

The gardens were just as lovely as the home itself.

Washington’s view from the back porch remains unobstructed to this day.

The final resting place of a great man.

Etched into the walls of the mausoleum were the initials of many Union soldiers who passed through the area during the Civil War. I enjoyed reading them and wondered about the life of A.R., who is forever remembered here, as well.

The girls were enamored with the farm animals,

and we learned more about life in early America.

Washington also owned a mill and whiskey distillery, which have been restored, and are operating today using the original recipe and method. You can even buy a bottle of Mount Vernon whiskey for $95 in the gift shop. We passed.

Arlington Cemetery and Trump himself

We were lucky enough to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, and seeing the decorated graves did not disappoint.

We parked at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, which is adjacent to the cemetery, and I fell in love with the base housing. The homes looked EXACTLY like the home we lived in while stationed at F.E. Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

This was our home in Cheyenne. Practically identical! Government housing had much more flair in the late 1800’s than it does now!

We were hoping to see President Trump lay the memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Security was tight and lines were long, but we were admitted in and headed to the tomb just in time for the changing of the guard.

We waited and waited, but finally the announcement was made. President Trump had arrived! Luckily the girls ended up in the front and had a good view. Matt had a good view, as well.

This was my view. Oh well.

And the wreath, when all was said and done.

The big mistake of the day? Had we chosen to sit in the adjacent ampitheater, we would have heard Trump, VP Pence, and General Mattis speak. Instead, as soon as the wreath was laid, we were quickly escorted out of the area and could not even stand around to hear the speeches.

So close! We will know better next time.

John F. Kennedy’s grave.

And equally as important, are the almost 5,000 unknown soldiers buried at Arlington, as well.

Random wandering- my favorite

My favorite thing to do is randomly explore a city with no set agenda. Though our pace was fast and furious at times, we left plenty of time for wandering. On Memorial Day, while strolling the National Mall, we happened upon marching bands from all over the country practicing for the upcoming parade. Loved this!

And we caught some of the parade too. Crowds were surprisingly low and we walked right up front and watched.

Roaming the streets, and falling in love with, Old Town Alexandria. My type of outing, for sure!

Coming from Alaska, we joked about seeing wildlife in the city. As it turns out, the joke was on us!

On our walk to the National Cathedral, we found ourselves in the Cleveland Park Historic District, and fell in love immediately. The homes were picture perfect and we all enjoyed choosing our favorite.

This was a world very different from our own; a life of gardeners, cooks and housekeepers. We all had fun daydreaming. And this home was my personal favorite. It’s only about 8 million dollars, give or take.

While perusing Chinatown,

we tried some egg tarts (our favorite Asian treat),

and the girls had much discourse as to the authenticity of the dumplings.

One day we unexpectedly happened upon a little place called Watergate and had an impromptu history lesson.

Watergate also began the use of the suffix ‘gate’ to refer to anything scandalous; (ie; Monicagate, Deflategate, there are LOTS, etc.) I think my explanation of this clever play on words was lost on the girls at this point. Someday.


Whew! And with that, our time in Washington DC came to an end. Eighty miles logged, and more memorials and museums than we could count. What a great American city, definitely one of my favorites! We loved every moment and can’t wait to return. But first, back to the Last Frontier and the “stinkin’ fresh air”.

When we got off the plane we took a deep breath and the air was crisp, clean and…..fresh. Quite refreshing, actually. Could it be that this city girl is changing her ways? Only time will tell…..


  1. Jeff Jonsson
    August 8, 2017 / 2:34 pm

    Next time you see Murkowski, thank her for her vote to save Obamacare. >:|

  2. Meeshab
    August 9, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    I loooove this! Your girls are so fortunate to have you as their Mom!

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