“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

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!