I have been to Washington DC so many times I have lost track. I was last in DC when Tom had a conference there in 2011. During the week-long conference, I visited every possible memorial on the National Mall. I spent hours in the Smithsonian museums. I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum twice. By the time Tom’s conference was over, I felt like I had done EVERYTHING in Washington DC. Unfortunately there was one thing I didn’t do – I didn’t get the stamps for my Passport Book. So Tom and I decided to head back to DC for three days to get as many of the stamps as possible.
The National Park Service has a very successful Passport program. You buy a book and then get a “cancellation stamp” at every National Park site you visit. I bought my original Passport book in 1986 – the first year of the program – and then bought the Collector’s Edition in 2016. Since Tom and I retired, I carry the Passport book with us everywhere. We have visited more than 150 National Park sites since August of 2014. The stamp in the Passport book is a good way to keep track of when we visited.
There are 30 National Park sites in the Washington DC area, so it would be logical to assume that I would need 30 stamps. Not so, Sherlock! Many of these sites are catchalls for a variety of National Park sites within the site. Confusing? Absolutely! For instance, the National Mall and Memorial Parks is one site with one headquarters and one Superintendent. But it has 15 monuments and memorials in addition to 150 statues, reservations, circles, fountains, and park spaces. Each of the 15 monuments and memorials has its own stamp at its Visitors Center. Some of the statues, reservations, circles, and fountains have stamps but most of them don’t. None of them have Visitors Centers. So where do you find all of these stamps?
And that is just the National Mall and Memorial Parks. That doesn’t include the 32 places that are part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Or the 13 places that are part of the National Capital Parks East. Or the 99 places that are part of Rock Creek Park. It can be pretty confusing, sorting out which ones have stamps, which ones don’t, and where you get all of them. What is an obsessive National Passport Stamp collector like me supposed to do?
After quite a bit of research, I found that each of the separate units of the DC National Parks had a headquarters. All of the stamps in each unit are supposed to be at the headquarters. That seemed like the place to start, especially for the National Mall where I had already visited (almost) every site. So Tom and I started at the George Washington Memorial Parkway headquarters where we did, indeed, find 32 stamps corresponding to each place. I spent a wonderful half-hour gleefully finding each of the places in my Passport book and placing the appropriate stamp. This task was made slightly more challenging because some of the places are in Maryland or Virginia (the Mid-Atlantic region with a blue stamp) and some of them are in Washington DC (Capital region with a red stamp). Also, no one at headquarters had changed the date on the stamp since August 29 and I got a few stamps in before I realized I had the wrong date.
Finally we left the headquarters with a handful of NPS brochures, a lot of stamps, and a short list of places I had not been but for which I now had the stamp. Then we headed for the National Mall and Memorial Parks headquarters, just a few miles away. Unfortunately this headquarters was a big disappointment. They only had the generic National Mall stamp, not the stamps for each individual place. But the helpful volunteer assured me that I could find all of them at the Washington Monument Visitors Center. Onward!
Because Tom and I did not want to drive in DC, especially in the late afternoon, we checked in at our hotel and then took the metro to the National Mall. Well, we took the hotel shuttle to the closed metro station where we got on a shuttle bus to an open station. Then we figured out how to buy a pass and found the right platform to get where we were going. Ninety minutes after we left the hotel we were at the Washington Monument Visitors Center.
The Visitors Center was not busy because the Washington Monument is closed until September 19. So I hogged the counter and added to my wonderful collection of stamps. Constitution Gardens, Ford’s Theatre, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, etc.
In a few short hours, I got about 50 stamps for places in the National Parks. And I still had two more days in DC to collect even more! Which I will tell you more about at a later date.