As David Fransen has requested, I am going to share my experiences attending the inauguration of our 44th President. I hope I can convey some of the excitement that pervades our nation’s Capitol.
I left for Washington, D.C. on Saturday morning. After an uneventful flight I landed in Baltimore, Maryland, which is about 38 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. For those of you following the pre-inaugural events, President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden spent Sunday traveling from Philadelphia to D.C by train, recreating Lincoln’s historic whistle stop tour. I tell you this not because I was able to catch a glimpse of the train or those on it, but because it was one of the reasons I was not able to catch a train from Baltimore to D.C., which I am told is the easiest mode of travel between the two cities
My next alternative was to hire a car and driver to get me to my hotel in Georgetown, which is a just a short walk along the Potomac River to the Capitol Mall. It was 11:00 p.m. when I was finally able to leave the airport and I was looking forward to getting dinner in my hotel room after a long day of travel (I didn’t know you now have to pay for food on an airplane. Pay!) I should have known there might be a slight problem when we got to our car, and after five minutes of trying to get into the car my driver called his boss to figure out why the car wouldn’t unlock. As it turned out, his car was actually the one next to the one we were attempting to enter.
Now you may think what follows is a bit of an exaggeration, but my wife can attest that this is all true. We were not one minute out of the parking lot when my driver pulled off to the wrong side of the road to “check something out.” That turned out to be asking a bus driver, who was stopped at the bus stop, for directions. With that settled we continued down the highway at a pace never exceeding 48 mph. I imagine that typically the highway is not that busy at 11:30 p.m., however this was not a typical night as people were pouring into the Capitol, all people traveling at about 65 mph. Throughout the drive my driver discussed the politics of D.C. (“Did you know California’s Nancy Pelosi was originally from Baltimore and her father was the mayor of Baltimore?”) and the excitement in city when Obama won (“Did you know that Obama garnered over 90% of the D.C. vote?”). If there was a moment of silence he would call out, “Yes we can!” For those of you who may not be Obama fans, this was a theme of Obama’s campaign and was actually turned into a song by the Black Eyed Peas’ front man will.i.am.
Back to topic. As we appeared to be approaching D.C. my driver suddenly veered off the road to a gas station, with another explanation of “checking something out.” Yep, he was asking for directions again. We almost got hit as he pulled out of the station, and from that point out he stopped talking, except to occasionally mutter, “This is very confusing.” I decided it was time to navigate. My phone has a GPS aspect to it, so I got that out and started providing directions. As we got into the city itself we realized that his eyesight was a bit poor, so my wife’s job was to read the road signs for him. At one point he had her looking for the crossroad Pennsylvania Avenue (yes, the one the White House is on) until she pointed out to him that we were actually driving on Pennsylvania Avenue.
I must say that it is breathtaking to drive into our nation’s Capitol at night and be greeted by the sight of the lighted Capitol Dome. And because we were basically lost we also got to see the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Supreme Court building, and several other federal buildings. A just reward for a long ride.
Today we head to the pre-inaugural concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial. More updates to follow.