As I write this it is 6:10 a.m. EDT, 5:10 a.m. CDT. I’m no stranger to business travel and weird hours, but this isn’t a business trip – it’s supposed to be a vacation. The goal – to give my 17-year-old daughter the chance to visit some college campuses on the East Coast of the US. The result – a VERY interesting few days. Let’s start on Monday. We drove from Portland, CT, to Bennington, VT, to visit a campus there. Our Garmin decided that the most direct route was not necessarily the quickest (and we had an appointment), so it took us through upstate New York for a ways. After Bennington we decided to make the short trip to New Hampshire because it was the only New England state my husband and I had never visited. By the end of the day we had been in five states. This is a bit tough for those of us who live in Texas to imagine. Bennington College was also interesting. With only about 600 students, it still manages to offer myriad majors. One student, after several semesters, decided to create her own major in “scientific journalism.” If only I’d known. I did it the hard way. Tuesday we visited two more campuses in Connecticut. Wednesday we spent most of the day traveling from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. The goal of the Washington part of the trip was to meet up with one of my husband’s former professors from the Colorado School of Mines. This man kicked off the inaugural Guy T. McBride program for the humanities 30 years ago and, since retiring, has spent most of his time in the DC area. He is originally from India but has made his home in the US for several years. His charge was to give us an “insiders’ tour” of our nation’s capital. What a sobering experience! Here is a man who speaks with an accent telling three American citizens thousands of things about our country and capital that we never knew. We spent an entire morning in the Library of Congress, learning about the architecture and the paintings and just about everything else the building had to offer. We saw books that originally belonged to Thomas Jefferson. We were allowed to enter the private reading room used only by members of Congress and met the delightful woman who supervises it in the mornings, who told us all about the ebony inlays in the floor, the fact that the inlaid wood patterns and the beautifully sculpted marble fireplace were both created by the same artist, and even the rumor that a wooden box near the doorway was once a place for unruly Congressmen to stash their alcohol (but not their guns) so that brawling didn't occur during the legislative process. That afternoon my daughter soaked up the National Museum of Natural History, introducing me to skulls of scary-looking things long before I’d had a chance to read their names on the display (she’s a bit of a paleontology nerd). Then it was off to my favorite stop of the tour – the Newseum. This is a relatively new museum showcasing everything to do with the First Amendment, freedom of speech. But it mostly focuses on the media, housing everything from a studio where kids can practice being news reporters to an incredibly moving 9-11 exhibit. I could have spent hours there. There was even a display about digital technology that asked visitors to ponder the use of blogs in the pursuit of disseminating news. Hmmm … Our final stop, after dark, was the Vietnam War Memorial. I’ve only ever been there during the day; at night it’s an eerie experience. We were joined by a man who could have been a docent – he knows as much about the history of the wall as anyone you could hope to meet – but is actually a homeless disabled vet who is routinely denied benefits from the Veterans Authority. The college search is barely in its infancy. But opportunities for “higher learning” seem to abound.