Northeast Baseball Road Trip. Part 5: Nationals

Washington, D.C.

Summer 2013.


After an hour's drive from Baltimore down to Washington, our first stop was the Washington Coliseum.

Built in 1941 as the Uline Arena, this place is renowned for being the first American venue that The Beatles played after their Ed Sullivan Show debut. That factoid was enough to see it in my searches of old Washington arenas, but I was obviously more interested in the American Hockey League (Washington Lions) and American Basketball Association (Washington Capitals) history.

The arena was first constructed with the Washington Lions hockey club in mind, the financing coming from ice baron Miguel Uline. A fantastic picture of the interior shows the hockey configuration, with its 140ft x 270ft interior space of unobstructed views, which was the largest ice hockey rink in America at the time. This sizable interior space led to the arena gaining a host of other uses, from aforementioned basketball, to circuses, midget car racing(!) and speeches.

The funny thing about the speeches was that for 7 years of the arena's existence, Miguel Uline banned blacks from attending any event outside of boxing matches involving black men. Then only two decades later, the arena would become a host location for speeches from Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad.

By 1967 concerts were banned after a raucous riot following a performance by the hooligans known as The Temptations. Professional hockey was finished by 1960 and basketball by 1970. The arena was a popular venue of Washington's 1980's Go-Go music scene, before passing into the hands of a church into the 1990s.

Upon our visit, we found the space in use as a parking lot, something that it has been since 2002. Before that, it was a trash transfer station since 1994, eventually shut down by the City of Washington for health reasons. This led to Waste Management wanting to destroy the building, but thankfully the D.C. Preservation League brought attention to the arena and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Not that an N.R.H.P. placement is ever a concrete foundation of safety, thankfully the Uline Arena is in the blossoming NoMa neighborhood - as far as I can tell, NoMa isn't a newfangled hipster portmanteau - which has led to an ongoing grand development of the space into offices and retail by the Douglas Corporation.

Clarkman and I didn't get much of a chance to scurry around or find trouble; as soon enough we were back on the sidewalk and headed towards the car. There was a small, neighbourhood Indian spot here, so hungry for midday food, we decided to give it a shot and it was tasty, cheap and the owners were top notch. After being so salty about the botched dinner in Baltimore, Indigo ended up being a great surprise without previous research.

After checking into our hotel over in Arlington Virginia so Clarkman could drop off his car, we took the subway back into Washington to see D.C.'s Washington Monument, Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial.

Hmmm, seems like a bit of rain is coming, eh?

We were at about the midway point of the Reflecting Pool when lightening cracked the sky and huge raindrops started to pelt us. Breaking into a jog & quickly abandoning that for a sprint, we carefully dashed up the slippery steps of the Lincoln Memorial into the safety of Honest Abe's lair.

Away from getting a bit wet, my America-loving self was pretty pleased with passing a sizable Mid-Atlantic thunderstorm at one of the country's most iconic sites. Even as we were crammed in with a horde of tourists, I couldn't help but think about how cool I found this all to be.

And even if some Russian dingus kept posing it up and walking back and forth 1 foot into the rain, making sure to get into everyone's pictures.

Knowing we also had all day in Washington tomorrow, we retreated to Arlington and looted the nearby 7-11 for Modelo and Steel Reserve. Must to my chagrin, it was only when I was back at the hotel, twisting the cap off my frosty malt beverage, that I noticed Virginia must sell those same 6.0% Steel Reserve 40s that Louisiana also sells!

Thankfully I also bought some Original Coors, so we were still in a position to relax about the room until, and while, the Patriots game came on - except that Thursday Night Football games are apparently only on something called NFL TV?! Something our Radisson didn't have?!

So even though we just bought this beer to save money, it was back out on the street to find whatever mediocre sports bar they'd have around here in Crystal City, so we could watch the game?

It ended up being fine, with deals on some generic beer and good service; although the whole thing was still a bit bland. I suppose sitting in the Radisson would have been even more forgettable, so who am I to complain.

The next day we took the subway right back across the Potomac.

Walking along, we passed through an aromatic, international food market by going through that large, arched passageway; but unfortunately we had just eaten the complimentary breakfast at our Crystal City Radisson.

Since I didn't see it last time, I had to check off The White House today. Barry was nowhere to be found.

We stopped at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. I might have did this because of my friend Christian's disbelief that we didn't go to any museums in NYC, but the first floor displays of scientific instruments made me truly happy with his influence.

The nerdiness came out in Clarkman as he marveled at the ancient devices that his engineering brain actually understood. Again I stood impressed with his intelligence.

The second floor had displays pertaining to how modes of travel have changed American's lives. I geeked out at the Route 66 stuff.

There was also a piece of the Berlin Wall, meaning that I don't have to go to Berlin anymore, all thanks to my friend Christian!

As far as I can tell, this is the largest piece outside Germany, although there is an extensive list of 104 places that are home to various chunks and walls pieces.

After the National Museum of American History, we skirted the tidal basin while I craned my neck to look for any odd birds, then found ourselves over at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Inside of the less famous memorial. This statue is not small.

The Washington Metro.

By the time we got back to what was becoming our subway station, we had grown a bit tired from moving about in the unrelenting heat, while walking all over these museums and memorials. Hungry and with limited dining options near this area of monuments, we boarded the subway and got off in the Foggy Bottom district, near George Washington University. We found a quick Mediterranean spot that was decent, explored a glassy block or two, then returned to Arlington to clean ourselves up.

It was here that the funniest portion of the trip occurred, as Clarkman thought I was right behind him so he inquired, "So, we're going to go back to the hotel, shower, change clothes, then go out?" What he didn't realize was that there was a tall 20-something lady behind him, not one Navi Tyrone.

"Um, you seem like a really nice guy, but I'm not that type of gi..."

Clarkman had already embarrassedly scurried away with his tail between his legs, wondering where in Sam Hell I went off to. Ahahaha.

Anyway, tonight we'd head over to Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals since 2008.

As I've covered this one before, I don't think there's much need to go into the history once again.

The other game I attended at Nationals Park was a day game under overcast skies where they called for thunderstorms. Today's game was one of those fantastic near-fall evenings, where the present warm spell was about to break and the last evening is a bit cooler. A few pinkish clouds hung over the stadium, as the sun sunk somewhere out over Maryland or West Virginia.

We again sat in the outfield, this time in right, but thankfully there were a few seats missing, so everyone sat a bit more comfortably.

As we kept seeing games with mediocre teams and unexciting pitchers, we both were completely fine with going for another mid-game wander.

I have to admit that Nationals Park sure looked nicer at night. The lack of offensively bright stadium lights worked well for pictures.

After having a few pops at the game, we'd go back to the Radisson, myself not really wanting to go out in such a fancy city as Washington. Although once we had a few more Modelos back at the hotel, Clarkman was hungry and we found a nearby eatery casually bumping on this Friday night. I'd then try to buy some beer at the 7-11 after midnight, but was promptly accosted by the cashier before I told him to settle down as I was unfamiliar with their Virginia laws.

I think another reason we didn't go out was because we wanted to get on the road early tomorrow, but after more beers at the eatery down the street, it had to be 1 o'clock when we walked back towards the Crystal City Radisson.

Continue to Part 6!


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1 - DC.Curbed - A Brief History of the Washington Coliseum, Uline Arena

2 - District of Columbia, Historic Preservation Office - District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites

3 - The Washington Post - Saved: D.C.'s Beatles Connection, Marc Fisher

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