“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Monday, April 6, 2009

UK Travelogue: London et al


so tomorrow brings us to london. thursday evening we have a party event, and it's supposed to "snow" (like a half inch, so the country pretty much shuts down i'm told) so tomorrow's as good a day as any to hit london. plans: british museum - egyptian exhibit and rosetta stone, and the london eye. everyone here that's visited says it well worth it, and the locals say the same here. we'll also stop for pictures at parliament, big ben, buckingham palace, and a bit of shopping at Harrod's. and whatever happens in between then, so be it. we'll probably only spend the day. at this point in the trip, we're starting to wind down. thursday and friday are for rest, since i return home on saturday.


back from london. exhausted. saw rosetta stone. rode the Eye. shopped at Harrod's. minded the gap. loved london. when am i moving?


so there's this First Thursday dinner club in the village. pretty much a dinner party the first thursday of each month at the pub for a large group of local friends. the iowa caucus is all the talk. they took a vote tonight. overwhelming # of democrats over republicans.and if they could vote, they'd choose obama over hilary. they funny.


well folks, i depart england in 12 hours. i hope you've enjoyed this edition of Travelogue with Adele, UK edition (a younger Rick Steves). thank you for traveling with me to egypt in 2006, england in 2007-2008, and who knows where the rest of this year will bring us. it's been a long 2.5 weeks, but a wonderful time. so many great people met, so many magical placed visited, so many pints of cider drank. but i'd do it all again. and will. for now, fare thee well!


I'M BACK!!! and it gets better...i slept like crap on the flight to england last month. barely slept on the plane. flew premier class which gave more legroom and wider seats, but still...so when i boarded today, gave them my boarding pass, and it beeped. she keyed something into the computer, and changed my seat. what? i wanted that seat i had - front row, 12B, aisle, premier. moved me to 18G, back. isn't that closer to coach?

i get on the plane, look for 18G. BUSINESS CLASS. i had my own pod. no one next to me. total privacy. the flight attendant came by with a tray as i was putting my carryon up. wine, juice, water, or champagne? champagne please! i asked her why i was in business class. "oh, we're overbooked so we moved people around. and since you're an Executive Club member, welcome to Business Class." quilted blankets, big cushy pillows, personal pod, fully automated seat, little foot locker, own overhead bin, footrest, and get this - FULLY FLAT BED!!

they gave us a menu for dinner. i had the smoked salmon with goat cheese for starter, and the grilled steak with blue cheese gnocci for dinner. and she kept refilling my rioja 3x. watched the Simpsons movie over dinner, then finished, put the seat black flat to the bed, and snuggled up. slept like the dead for 5 HOURS. got up to use the loo, went back to "bed" for another hour and a half. then tea time. tea and scones with clotted cream and jam! i have never had a better flight in my life. ever. for now on i'll continue to purchase premier class, then use miles to upgrade to business. and since i flew in the better class, i get double miles for the journey. i swear, i love BA. they rule. what a great ending to a trip.

UK Travelogue: New Year's Eve


ugh. headache.

great way to start the new year. the pub put on a hell of a great party. gave us fake money to play in their fake casino they had set up - blackjack and roulette. great food, good dancing, met some nice people. at midnight, looked across to the isle of wight and could see fireworks for miles, as well as all along the coastline from southampton to portsmouth. we're at a point on the seaside that we can see for miles on either side out to the Channel. a good way to welcome in the new year.

so i asked our hosts last night to teach me a drinking song. they all started in on a great song (wish i could remember the words), then asked me to sing it back to them. then they went into a very drunken rendition of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow. next question, "Adele, sing us an American drinking song!" so i break out into "99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer..." amusing as it was, they then sang their own version of 99 Bottles of Beer... good times, good times...

UK Travelogue: Canterbury


so the story goes... when we arrived in Canterbury, we were all ready to murder each other. the baby was super fussy, sis had been up since 3am w/ the baby, she was carsick and hungry, i was on edge because she was on edge, etc. we tried to find a place to eat, but in a couple places we walked in the door and they said, "we don't allow babies." sis grew increasingly frustrated, until we found that little italian place and sat down. liam (baby) continued to fuss in the quiet restaurant, we were all still edgy and trying to calm him, marcus was about to skip lunch and take the baby outside, but i grabbed liam, told sis to order me the prosciutto rigatoni, then took liam outside to give my sis and BIL 10 minutes of peace & quiet.

so finally, we sit down to lunch and i'm reading my guidebook noting that we should finish up soon because the cathedral closes for services at 2:30. we finish up and walk to the cathedral gate. it's closed. sorry, they say, come back in 20 minutes. they'll let us in to the cathedral courtyard, we can walk around outside, but can't go in the church unless we attend services. i was livid. we easily could have eaten lunch after seeing the cathedral. and they closed the gate early before 2:30 for choir practice. ugh. i was already disappointed we had missed france, now we come all this way and can't see the cathedral. i was not a happy camper.

at any rate, we walked around a bit more, went back through the gate 20 minutes later strolled around the cathedral grounds. dammit, i thought, i at least need to see the inside. i can't just stand out here. my sis knew that i would go off on my own to take pix of the place outside, so i mosied up to the front door. maybe i could sneak a peek inside even if i can't take pix. maybe services are going on - i saw well-dressed people go in. would they notice if i stole a glance through the door? so i walked up to the door. put one foot inside.

then another.

then another.

then walked through another door.

no one stopping me yet.

i was in the cathedral.

hmm, no one around... maybe i can walk in further...

maybe the services are in the center of the cathedral, and this back area was just for use for large ceremonies. so i walked around some more.

and some more.

and more.

no one stopping me yet, so i pulled out my camera. i was inside for a half hour. didn't tell my sister i was trying to get inside, and i wasn't about to turn back. she's smart enough to know i wouldn't wander back outside the gates and she'd probably figure i was off somewhere with photos, and we'd meet up eventually. inside the once off-limits cathedral, and no entry fee. sweet.i got my Canterbury Cathedral after all.

UK Travelogue: Dover et al


well folks, we're back from our little excursion east. and mentally exhausted. i'll filter through and upload pix tonight after dinner, but for now, i just don't have it in me to pull it together. give me a bit to recover. but, the trip turned out to be quite different than we planned. started out on the right track, then took a DRASTIC detour. here's what happened...

we set out early yesterday morning for Kent... BIL has some friends just outside Dover. driving along, had to pass through Dover. lo and behold, we drove right along the bottom of the White Cliffs. gorgeous! it was a surprise treat to see them, since we didn't expect that the road would take us so close to them. after finding their house, we and their family set out for a walk along the coast. walked from Waltham Castle (former seaside home of the Queen Mother) up to Deal, a quaint seaside resort town and saw Deal Castle, which was roughly the initial landing point of Julius Caesar in England in 55BC. grabbed a pint in the pub nearby (Strongbow!), then headed back.

we were sitting in the living room (of their GORGEOUS 1760 townhouse) discussing our plans for the next day. we were waiting to hear back from the car rental company to get permission to bring the car into France so we can make a wine run. here's the convo:

me: heard back from the car company yet?
M: no, not yet.
me: eh, they'll never know if we take it over and back real quick.
M: hmm... but there's a bigger problem.
A: what? oh yeah, we don't have any euros on us. maybe we can find a bank first.
me: or just use credit.
M: no, an even bigger problem.
A: *looks confused*
me: *also confused*
M: we forgot our passports back at the house (3 hours away)
A & me: *shock*
me: A, can't you just use your DL to get in?
A: nope, that's in my wallet. back at the house.
all of us: DOH!

i had my passport, the rest of them forgot theirs. couldn't they just drop me off at the Chunnel and i'd see them later? well, seeing as France was now out of the question (damn, i wanted 2 more stamps in my passport!), we simultaneously decided, "well, Canterbury's up the road."so today we headed out for Canterbury. home of Canterbury Cathedral, Archibishop of Canterbury, and the Canterbury Tales. what an adorable and grand medieval town, with magnificent architecture inside and outside the cathedral. right now i'll spare you the details about the inside and how it came to be that we almost didn't get inside, but the cathedral was something else to behold.

but on our way to Canterbury, we took a small detour through the village of Sandwich. if we hadn't just eaten breakfast, i would have suggested having lunch - a sandwich in Sandwich. this village was even more dated and older than Canterbury, it seemed. what a weekend: white cliffs of Dover, the Cinque Ports (i'll describe later), Sandwich, and Canterbury. and a DELICIOUS lunch at a wonderful italian restaurant just outside the cathedral gates. i almost felt american again. italian. well, been eating english food for so long (which is good) that it felt nice to have a familiar and diverse flavor again. and during our walk along the beach in Deal, we could at least see France across the Channel, a mere 22 miles away. guess i'll have to come back, then.

UK Travelogue: Stonehenge and Bath


today was an amazing, amazing day trip through the english countryside. experienced 3 distinct eras in civilization and i couldn't have been more thrilled with the outcome. Stonehenge and Bath did not disappoint. from where we are now, in Fareham between Portsmouth and Southampton, Stonehenge is about halfway between here and Bath. so we figured we'd stop at the "pile of rocks" first, then head up to Bath.
so we set out at 9am, we're just outside Southampton on the M4, i come 4,000 miles, and my sister announces from the backseat that she's jonesing for a Sausage McMuffin. all this way, with McDonald's world headquarters in our backyard in Oakbrook, and she wants a Sausage McMuffin in England? as the old saying goes, "there has to be a McDonald's around here somewhere." sure enough, we spotted one. en route to Stonehenge, our trip brought us through Salisbury. as we came over a hill, Salisbury Cathedral towered above us and the surrounding city like a monarch. a magnificent piece of medieval architecture. i must come back to visit this place.
so many people had told me, "you're driving along, in the middle of nowhere, then you happen upon a pile of rocks." that's it. just a pile of rocks. was expecting it to be very anticlimactic. it wasn't. we parked the car, and luckily since it's still a holiday week and was a very brisk windy day, it wasn't crowded. we didn't pay to walk up to the stones to enter the park, just stayed outside the fence, but was still quite close enough to easily see and take pictures. it's just beautiful. okay, so it may not be everyone's cup of tea. but the historical significance, the mystery, the setting, the technology, the science, the beauty of the construction - everything about it almost choked me up. it was so much more beautiful than i anticipated, and definitely not just a pile of rocks. i didn't want to leave it. i just wanted to lie there on the the grass of the Salisbury Plain and stare at it. watch the clouds move overhead, the sun peek out behind the silver lining, the sheep grazing in the fields, and the towering mysterious circular stones on a high plateau overlooking the Plain. some of the stones were quarried and carved in a bowed fashion to account for the change in perspective... just like the architects of the Parthenon used 2,000 years later in Greece. just amazing. so glad to see this.
from stonehenge, we moved northwest through the Salisbury Plain (me keeping my eyes open for salisbury steak *teehee* ). on our way through, we passed signs indicating Tank Crossing. wish i had caught a picture of these signs. the Salisbury Plain is used as weapons practice and research by the Ministry of Defence. and since much of it is off limits, it hasn't been tampered by agricultural development, so the countryside, wildlife, and views were beautiful. next stop, Bath.

so marcus is driving, my sis and the baby in the backseat, and i'm riding shotgun (on the LEFT!) with the maps. marcus wanted to avoid some of the clusterf'k up around Bath, so we decided to take some secondary roads. SECONDARY my a$$! more like cow paths! we end up in this town called Bradford-On-Avon, and i felt more like i was in continental europe than england. that is, what i imagined little villages in the austrian alps to look like. the road couldn't have been more narrow than my pinky finger, winding through steep narrow streets, with buildings built right up to the car door practically. they were more alleys and gutters than "streets". we were happy to be free of the tight space, when we accidentally missed a right turn and ended up going south when we should have been north. converstion went like this:

marcus: where the hell is route B3108?
me: i have no idea, but i think it's back the way we came.
marcus: hell no, i'm not going back through that clusterf'k of a town.
me: well, we're going south. we need to go north and west.
marcus: how do you know that?
me: the sun is in front of us. and if it still rises in the east, then we're going south. let's turn right here. should get us back to A36 that B3108 joins up with, if we pass through the villages of W_____ and Freshford.

a few miles later...

marcus: where the f'k are we?

yeah. Freshford wasn't more than a cowpath and a couple stone shacks, IF we managed to squeeze by a few passing cars. and do mean SQUEEZE. WOW, we were in the MIDDLE of nowhere. mind you, england has a few motorways, but the other "main" roads aren't continuous, and they tend to get wider then narrower as you pass through village centers. honestly, some roads were so narrow that passing cars had to stop to let oncoming traffic by first. we're lucky we didn't fall off the island. on the other hand, it was far from boring, and definitely scenic. we passed some AMAZING massive medieval churches and english manors that i could only imagine were occupied by someone with the titles Lord or Earl in their names. back on the main road successfully, we were back on our path to Bath. (hey, that rhymes!)

before i forget to mention, we experienced 3 distinct eras in human civilization today:
  • Stonehenge: 5,000 years old (pre-civilization)
  • Roman baths: 2,500 years old (ancient roman)
  • Bath Abbey: 1,000 years old (medieval european)

for an archaeology nut like myself, this was a dream day.moving on to Bath...

we were armed with a detailed map of England, along with my guidebook including a map of Bath's city center. but no map that indicated how to get from the outlying roads to the city center. even when we were IN Bath, we had no idea where the baths or abbey were, or where the center of the city even was. so we winged it, followed some signs to a parking garage, and wouldn't you know it, the garage was just on the corner of my guidebook map. were but a few blocks from roman baths. SCORE! what an adorable city!! most of the architecure is similar yellow limestone in Georgian fashion. sis said it reminded her of Paris, but not as ornate. still, it's nestled along the River Avon in a green valley.

briefly, Bath was a hot spot (literally) for an ancient roman settlement due to the natural hot springs that bubbled in the area. in the roman bath itself, we could still see boiling springs in action, fueling the ancient bath spa.

lunchtime found us at a little tearoom called Sally Lunn... it's located in the oldest house in Bath built in 1482. Sally Lunn was a woman who lived in this house that baked buns that were so soft they became famous throughout the area, and the recipe was later discovered hidden in a secret compartment in the house. it's now passed down with the house deed, and the bread is still baked and served the same way in the house to this day. this was Tea House Stop #1 where i was able to order lapsong souchong tea right off the menu. my all-time favorite tea in the world! a tougher find in the States, except in specialty tea shops and in chinatown.

moving on, while my sis and her hubby decided to watch the glockenschpiel performer in the abbey square, i decided to take a peek into Bath Abbey. who knew that england's first king was crowned here in 973AD? that's a long time ago! as a matter of fact, Queen Elizabeth II visited the abbey in 1973 to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of her predecessor's coronation. and we think the chicago fire of 1871 was a long time ago...

i've never been in an abbey. biggest church i've seen is Holy Family in chicago. never even been inside a medieval religious monument. didn't know what to expect. wow. and to think, westminster abbey and salisbury cathedral probably put this place to shame. but still...the floors and walls were covered in these monument markers, almost like tombstones. some people's remains were buried right under our feet. in another section, James Montagu's tomb was laid about in the middle of the pews. there were so many detailed aspects of the abbey that i had to include more than a few pictures here to get the idea of how massive and beautiful this place was.the outside, from the courtyard behind the roman baths...

and last but not least, our last moments in Bath were spent at a little tea room just beyond the abbey. we made it just in time for the last tea service. was i born in the wrong country? am i supposed to be british? i've acquired quite an affinity for afternoon tea and scones with clotted cream and jam... and yet again, Stop #2 where i was easiliy able to order lapsong souchong tea. i love this place!

back "home" in Fareham (village of Hill Head), we walked into the house to find more relatives (in town for a funeral tomorrow), so we hauled over to the pub across the street for dinner and to down a few pints. my BIL's former SIL sat next to me. she gave all her possessions to her son and moved to greece a few months ago. just picked up and left. loves it there. she shares my love of ancient writing and maps. we jabbered on all night. she insists i come visit her in greece. try to twist my arm. after the funeral tomorrow we'll all gather at the pub again and she and i are going to pick up our convo. all in all, i couldn't have asked for a better day.

saturday we're heading out to Dover (as in the White Cliffs of...), then to Calais in France on Sunday for a wine run. NYE at the pub, then london on tuesday or wednesday for a few days. speaking of which, some of the Xi'an Terrecotta soldiers are in town on special exhibit at the british museum! of course, not ALL 10,000 of them. so i'll definitely take a peek at them while i'm spying the Rosetta Stone and egyptian exhibit.


just realized something... on our trip to Dover and Calais tomorrow (today), we'll cross over the Prime Meridian. i'm such a geek. this excites me. i hope it's marked by a sign or something.this is coming from a girl who voluntarily read a book about the history of the meter.

UK Travelogue: Christmas


happy christmas!!

what can i say about xmas in england? at every holiday meal here or at someone's home, we've had crackers at our dinner plate. i've never seen them before, but my sis says she's starting to see them seep into the US. okay, anyway, they're fun. two people pull at either end of the cracker and they pop open with prizes inside. usually a paper crown, jokes, factoids, a couple prizes, then we pop those little champagne bottle-shaped poppers that are filled with little confetti paper streamers. today's xmas lunch table was covered in cracker debris, streamers, all grown adults wearing colored paper crowns, playing with little toys, setting the christmas pudding afire with brandy, and drinking port while trying to beat each other at Connect 4. it was fun nonsense.

after our pudding (aka dessert) a few of us headed out for a walk along the waterfront. down the corner bumped into a handful of villagers, stood chatting on the sidewalk for a bit. strolled down along the beach huts toward the harbor, passing lots of people out for post-lunch walks, half of them in their wellies (rained a lot today), everyone wishing each other a "happy christmas" and stopping to watch the sun set over the Channel. it's straight out of a Dickens novel. they sure do love their evening walks here.

on the down side, our hostess is now consumed by the Queen's Wrath. she's holed up in the parlor tonight by the downstairs loo as not to disturb anyone else. this is the first time she's stricken with it, and we really hope this is a one-time thing and doesn't make another go-round through the house. the baby is taking longer to get over it (this is why aunties don't have to change diapers).

we were going to head to dover on saturday then to france on sunday. i wonder if i should just head to paris for a few days starting tomorrow or thursday to get out of the house and away from this virus, meet them in calais on sunday, then head to london for the rest of the trip. i have no idea. but we already lost 3 days here being sick from this (on a rotating basis) and i'm not about to spend my new year's in the loo again. gah. i hope it's a one-time thing. just when i'm at 100% again.


headed out to portsmouth earlier today and the outlet center. cute little city, very industrial but has some neat WWII era forts overlooking the Channel. ferries, warships, military academies, soccer stadium, and a gorgeous boardwalk along the Channel. too bad france is too far away to see across the way. ;)

we DID have christmas pudding with brandy butter and cream! my sis won't touch the stuff w/ a 10 foot pole, but i gave it a try. it's a bit tart for my taste, but not bad. an acquired taste if you're not used to it. tonight we had trifle for dessert, but it's not my thing.

just returned from the pub. had to get out of the house. the pub across the street closed early for Boxing Day, but the one up the road was open. they really take their Boxing Day seriously here. tomorrow we're up early to head up to Stonehenge then Bath. oddly, my sis has been here a half dozen times but really hasn't left the village. it's me that's dragging her hubby about driving us, although i told her she could legally drive the rental. i'm sure between the two of us we could figure out how to drive on the left and read the road signs and negotiate a roundabout. i'm considering returning in the summer so i can visit Highclere Castle, and renting a car while i'm here.

at any rate, wrapping up for the night since we're getting an early start in the morning. oh, and i learned a new term for something "rare": as rare as hen's teeth.cracks me up every time.

UK Travelogue: The Queen's Wrath


suffering The Queen's Wrath.

rotavirus: it's a gastrointestinal adventure.

almost the entire village has had it. and i'm the last one in this house to get it. 24-36 hours long, explosive on both ends. at least we didn't have anything major planned. glad my sis is here, she's taking good care of me. i helped her out when she was sick yesterday. it's like we're all taking turns. unfortunately i have nothing more exciting to report since this hit. we were going to head to the burberry outlet to day but i slept most of the day. we'll probably go on boxing day. then thursday up to Bath and Stonehenge. gah. more ginger ale, pleez.


doing MUCH better today. up and dressed. well-hydrated, but i think i have some sort of head congestion. however, nothing like how sick i was yesterday. thank god. i might even attempt a brief walk into town.

UK Travelogue: Arrived


trying to acclimate to local time, it's 11pm here, so staying up as long as possible so i can adjust to local time quicker. i feel like i'm living in a british movie. christmas carolers at the pub. steak and ale pie. hard cider on tap. narrow country roads, quaint houses, english gardens, a cup of tea at every turn... tonight i had a roasted chicken and ham pie with cider cream sauce, like a chicken pot pie. my sis had a steak and ale pie, which i have to get next time we're at the pub (okay, like, every day ;) )

found myself already slipping into bits of british accent. at least in this part of the country the accent isn't abhorrent and i can understand everyone (better than when i moved to southern indiana). i used the words "proper", water closet (literally, it's a water CLOSET!), and asked for bangers and mash. after a few ciders, i just wanted to stay at the pub and drink away and sing along with the carolers. everyone in the pub was into it. apparently it's a local tradition to not only have carolers at the local watering hole, but to come door-to-door. and i find it quite adorable to listen to children with british accents. cracks me up.

the haze has lifted and tomorrow i'll be able to see queen victoria's osbourne castle across the channel on the isle of wight. we might take a trip out there next week. also, rod (sis' FIL) is going to take me up to earl carnarvon's home (benefactor to howard carter's excavation of tut's tomb), also to Bath, stonehenge, and other stone circles in the area, including some castles and ancient abbey ruins. we had a nightcap in the parlor, chatting about american and british politics. they asked us who we thought would win iowa: obama or hilary. the british press is doing a good job of covering it. so we explained how our elections worked, and i got a good education in the british parliamentary system.

this place is everything i thought it was. straight from a storybook. i'm in love with it already. i feel so at home. someone pack up my condo and ship my furniture over! we discussed our plans to head over to calaise in france for a wine run. oh crap, i'm going to have to stock up. wine is almost half as cheap as in england, about 9 euros, or 6 GBP = $12 for the good stuff. damn, i'm trying to keep all this currency straight. tomorrow my sis and i will walk into town so i can find an ATM, and to take pics of a 1000 yr old anglican church nearby. everyone in the village knows each other, and sis' hubby's family all lives here. since we're right on the english channel between isle of wight and the mainland, we're between portsmouth and southampton, and can see the QM2 go by, as well as the other cruise liners and freight/oil tankers. damn, should have brought a 300mm lens! but still, i'd like to go over to southampton to see where the lucitania and titanic were built.

heathrow was a BREEZE to get through. NO one in the passport or customs lines. go figure. found my sis easily at the starbucks outside customs. ah, to have my tall chai first thing in the morning. i slept like A$$ on the plane, only 2 hours, and that was under the influence of 3 xanax and a small bottle of wine with dinner. i may try to use my miles to upgrade to business class on the way back just so i can be cozy and lie down flat. took a nap when i got here (first sleep in 2 days), and slept like the dead. not sure what friday brings us, but i know we have dinner w/ some family friends down the road, then saturday night is pub crawling with some of my BIL's pals. the weather is cool, a light frost, but sitting at about 34 degrees. it's cold for here, should be in the high 40s this weekend. tomorrow i take out the camera so time to start shooting!

AH, and got to the bottom of Boxing Day. "back in the day" it used to be the day when presents were exchanged, not on xmas day. but that changed over time, but the day-after holiday stuck. now it's just a time for parties and soccer games. :)


the tide is out, so i'm putting on my rain boots and heading down to the Solent (aka, the straight between here and the isle) to take some pictures. we just returned from running errands, went into town. no one jaywalks there. they use the crosswalk. "it's just how it's always done." what, i can't just cross the street here? why not?

went to the ATM, got money. went to the pharmacy and the cheese shop. starting to get the hang of the coins and paper currency. went to cafe for lunch, on the side they gave me sausages wrapped in bacon. i love any country that wraps things in bacon.


just returned from an hour-long picture-taking excursion on the waterfront. but it's tea time now, so i'll post pix later this eve. yes, everything stops for tea.

IHO Sister's Trip to England

In honor of my sister's (and the baby and her hubby) trip back to England this week, I thought I'd pull from a long-gone blog and re-post my thoughts from my trip back there with them 2007/2008. I love re-reading this, because it was one of my favorite vacations.

So please stay tuned for updates...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Caravans and Wagon Trains

Today we are home, safe and sound. And wrecked with exhaustion.

Something we noticed on the way there was that every few miles we saw a car on the highway with an Obama bumper sticker. Through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Cars from California, Montana, Illinois, and the list goes on. We started to notice that people really were coming from all corners of the country to witness the same event. At rest stops, we saw Obama hats, shirts, and jackets. We were all headed East to a common goal. In just a couple days, Washington, DC would become the 5th largest city in the country for that one day only.

Today we set out Westward Ho, and noticed the same... a mass exodus from DC in modern wagon train of Obama stickers, flags, and minivans loaded down with families and luggage. A rest stop outside Pittsburg was crowded with Inauguration-goers all headed back home. How could we tell? The Obama hats, coats, shirts, stickers, and pins. There was no missing it, we were all there together, and we were all headed back, scattering to the winds once again, back to our everyday lives. But for those few moments on the Mall, we were together, a single country with a common hope. We may never cross paths again, but there's beauty in strangers coming together for a shared goal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From Chicago's Front Yard to the Nation's Front Yard


I can't begin to describe the level of sheer exhaustion I'm feeling right now. Up at 3:00am for a 5.5 hour trip into DC that only took us 35 minutes yesterday. Millions of people. Broken trains. Excessive lines. Long walks. Bitter cold. Sore legs. But wow... I know we witnessed history, and I'm sure I'll appreciate it in all its glory tomorrow when I watch the news. But today, it hasn't sank in yet. The energy in the crowd was obvious... We also marveled at all the very elder citizens that braved the crowds, cold, and broken escalators to witness history. If you're not a fan of crowds, are claustrophobic, or suffer from social anxiety disorder, this was NOT the place for you. We kept calm, and the crowd remained polite. I'd think under any other circumstances it would have been an ugly sight.

I don't have the energy to write much more, but Carrie and I made it safely onto the Mall FINALLY after a long ride in and stood right in front of the flags at the base of the Washington Monument facing the Capitol. With binoculars we could see it better, and had a decent view on our tip-toes of the jumbotrons. All those millions of people also presented a logistical nightmare for our cell phones. After about 10am, I wasn't able to use my phone, send or receive calls, nor send or receive texts. A few hours later at about 2pm a couple texts rolled through, but I could tell I missed some, because I called my sister and she said she sent a couple notices. Good thing I called her, because through her we learned of some train station closings.

Tonight will be our longest nights' sleep of the week: a whopping 6 hours (last night was a mere 3). So right now I'm running on 3 hours sleep and 16 hours in 20 degree weather, standing most of the time. Tomorrow we head back to Chicago, but are going to detour through Gettysburg on the way. Lincoln Bible, Lincoln Weekend.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Horseshoe Firmly Lodged Up One's Behind

As my friend Carrie put it, we have a horseshoe firmly lodged up our a$$es. What does that mean? We can't believe our unbelievable level of luck today. We're in DC for Inauguration, and today (Monday) we PLANNED to do some sightseeing and see Oprah - kudos to Carrie for coming through with tickets! Our plan was to drive in to DC super early, park at the Kennedy Center, do some sightseeing, go to the show, and head back to the house (staying with friends).

The day didn't actually start out like that. We both messed up our alarm clocks and woke up an hour late. Knowing it'd take about 1.25-1.5 hours to get into central DC with traffic, perhaps we'd be cutting it close and maybe have a small window to see monuments first. However, when we left the house there was NO traffic into DC. Nada. 35 minutes from door to parking garage. We got a rock star spot right at the front of the exit of the garage so we could dart right out. The plan was dress in jeans and sneakers, walk around, then come back to the car to change into nice clothes for the show. The Kennedy Center is right next to the Watergate complex, so Carrie took a fun pic of me doing the double-V sign out front. :) It's also across the street from the Saudi Embassy, so I snuck in a pic for friends.

We walked through Georgetown toward the White House to try to get some pictures. We wanted Starbucks, found one exactly when the craving hit, and this is when timing really worked for us. After we got our drinks, we walked down 17th Street and saw a small crowd of people at a cross street. We stopped and saw that we were looking at the Blair House where the First Family-Elect were staying. The Secret Service had the street blocked off, so we stopped to get a couple pictures from the end of the block. As I took my camera out, some cars came our direction and we quickly noticed that it was THE motorcade! We watched the beastly black car pass right in front of us, looked into the window, and saw Obama staring back!! My camera snapped away furiously, and Carrie and I turned to each other with jaws open. Did we just see our soon-to-be president?!

We walked down the next block toward the South Lawn, and the street just south of it was open to pedestrians. As we meandered past security, we came around a turn and saw the White House in front of our eyes. We stopped for another photo-op, and swapped photo-taking with a kind stranger. From there we walked down to the Mall, saw the Washington Monument, the WWII memorial, walked along the Reflecting Pool, over to the Vietnam Memorial, around the side of the Lincoln Memorial, snapped a picture of the CNN Chicago transmission truck, then walked back to the Kennedy Center. We changed and headed into line.

In the Kennedy Center, we lined up to take our seats. They filled up fast and we ended up in the balcony. I won't complain about the seats that were partially obstructed by a camera crane, but if we stood or sat on the edges of our seats, we could see fine. Oprah's show a star-studded event, with Aston Kutcher and Demi Moore as the first guests. In the audience was Maria Shriver, Emmett Smith, Joe Biden's mom, Bebe Wayans, Glenn Close, Debbie Allen, and Tom Joyner. The special guest were Joe and Jill Biden! It was great to see them, as I missed them on Election Night, and they were very gracious. Jill said something that promptly hit the newswire and had the entire audience in a flutter. Next, David Foster led a medly with Will.I.Am, Faith Hill, Seal, and Mary J Blige. A fantastic show!

Traffic out of the parking garage was non-existent and we zipped right out. Drove over to Capitol Hill to visit the Inauguration store, but couldn't find parking, streets were starting to close, so we headed back to Manassas, in no time.

We couldn't have possibly asked for a better day, gone better than planned!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Countdown to Inauguration

Stay tuned to this blog for updates from Inauguration 2009, live from DC! I was there on that cold weekend in February 2007 when Obama launched his campaign... although I wasn't in Springfield, I was there the next day when he came back to hometown Chicago to announce it to his peeps... I worked his campaign at HQ in downtown Chicago, and was there that historic night in Grant Park on Election Day 2008... that warm and energetic night when the sound of hope and humanity echoed off Chicago's buildings. Why not keep up the track record and follow him to DC as he's sworn in as America's 44th president. So one day I'll be able to look back and say "I was there." I may be cold, wet, and sore from hours of standing in the sub-zero temps of January, but doggoneit, I'll be there!