This is it. My final post about my vacation. Hey! I know that sound! It’s a collective sigh of relief. Now you’ll be able to get back to reading my regularly scheduled dull blog posts that are more about nothing than your average episode of Seinfeld.This is the post about my day trip to Washington, D.C. Actually, this is the post about my roughly 3 hours in Washington, D.C. Y’all, that day did not turn out the way I envisioned.
First, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to go to Washington at all. No, my real desire was to go to Kings Dominion. But there’s a problem with going to an amusement park alone. You end up riding roller coasters alone. And that’s just not as fun as riding roller coasters with someone you know sitting by your side. Maybe it’s something about sharing your terror with someone else. I guess it’s the same reason I don’t like to go see horror movies alone.
Since I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to skip a day of work to go and ride roller coasters (I guess, just because I was on vacation, it didn’t mean anyone else was). So I went with Plan B. But Plan B started later than I intended. I was on vacation. I slept late. Sue me.
I didn’t leave Richmond until after 10:00. But I was on my way. I hit I-95 and it was smooth sailing. At first. I spend a lot of time and energy complaining about our local stretch of interstate 81. I’ve gone so far as to say it’s the worst stretch of road in the country. After experiencing interstate 95 between Fredericksburg and D.C., I take it all back. That road is a mess.
I’ve driven to Washington before. But I’ve never made the trip from Richmond. So that part of 95 was very new to me. I knew it would get hectic once I hit northern Virginia. I’ve heard the stories. I knew enough to avoid the beltway, which is why I planned to stop at the closest available Metro station and just take the subway into the city. Unfortunately, the end of the Metro line just wasn’t far enough away to avoid some pretty bad drivers. At least, I think they were bad drivers.
I had my handy GPS going and, like I said, it was fine until I got slightly north of Fredericksburg. Then Sam (that’s what I call my GPS… because she’s a Samsung. Get it? Anyway…) let me know that there was a slow down due to an accident. And when I thought I was back to speeding up, Sam would let me know of another slow down. “There is a [number] minute slow down [number] miles ahead,” she would say. Three separate times she said this (with varying amounts of the minutes and miles) before I finally got to my destination. What began as a less than two-hour drive became closer to three.
By the time I got off the Metro at Federal Triangle, it was well after 1:00 and I had yet to eat lunch. At this point, I made my first mistake. I walked to the American History Museum (which was close by and one of the museums I had actually thought about visiting while I was in town) and had lunch in their lower level cafeteria. I think it had some kind of clever name, but I can’t remember what it was. Anyway, I paid about $20 for a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke. Money well spent. The museum itself wasn’t the mistake, the choice of food very well could have been.
I walked around the museum a bit and took a look at the actual Star Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem. I was moved by the history of it all. I was almost lost in the moment until security yelled at a woman standing next to me who was seconds away from taking a picture of the flag. Apparently, you are not allowed to take photos of the flag. Something about stealing the flag’s soul.
I made my way back outside and saw that I was only a couple blocks from the Washington Monument. Now, I had no desire to go up in the thing. I’ve done that before and I can’t imagine the view has changed all that much. I took a few pictures and then headed toward the reflecting pool. This is when I made my second mistake of the day.
There was a guy with a large trashcan full of ice cold bottled water. He was selling the things for a buck apiece. I checked my wallet and found the smallest bill I had was a ten. Because I didn’t feel like going through the hassle of asking the guy for change, I passed him by. Stupid.
D.C. seemed like a good idea. I love the monuments. I love the museums. Walking around in 95-degree weather? Not so much. And the humidity? It’s like the air was actively trying to kill me. Also, I forgot I was fat. So that didn’t really work out in my favor. By the time I got to the Lincoln Memorial, I felt like I was gonna be sick.
I sat on the steps of the memorial. That’s right, I couldn’t even be bothered to walk all the way to the top to pay tribute to our 16th president. I stopped halfway up, which is about where the shade began. But the shade offers no comfort on a hot Washington day. I still felt sick and couldn’t pull my mind away from the bottle of water I could have purchased.
I did not want to be the guy that vomited on a national monument. Looking past the idea that it may be considered incredibly disrespectful, I have no doubt that the hundreds of tourists around me would have taken a break from playing Pokemon to get a video of me throwing up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. That kind of thing goes viral.
So I pulled out my handy phone/map and found that the nearest Metro station was slightly under a mile away. But nine-tenths of a mile would feel more like a hundred with the way I was feeling. And it was uphill. I was dehydrated and out of shape and had many regrets about that gold-plated cheeseburger I had eaten at the Smithsonian.
My walk took me past the State Department, where I kind of felt like I was going to pass out. So I took a seat in a shady part of the grass in front of the building. I knew how that would look. I was a little afraid security would ask me to move on, thinking I was up to no good. But really, security was concerned about me. One of the guards on patrol walked with me to a bench and hooked me up with a couple bottles of water. I offered to pay for them (after all, most of the vendors on the street corners were selling the same bottles for $2.50 each), but they wouldn’t take my money. Though, I suppose, in a way, I’ve already paid for those waters, being a taxpaying citizen and all.
Eventually, I got back to the Metro and rode it to the end of the line. I reached my car, finished off that second bottle of water, and cranked the air conditioning up as high as it would go. I sat for several long minutes before deciding I was alert enough to make the drive back to Richmond for my last night of vacation.
On the drive back, I made my way down I-95 and guess what Sam told me. “There is a [number] minute slow down [number] miles ahead.”
“Really, Sam? That is a surprise,” I said, imagining my phone could carry on a conversation with me.
Then Sam provided me with a detour that she promised would shave 11 minutes off my drive by avoiding the alleged car accident on the interstate. But what happened once I got to Route 1? “There is a [number] minute slow down [number] miles ahead.”
“Thanks for that, Sam.”
By the way, I say “alleged” car accident because throughout all these slow downs in my drives to and from Washington, I never once saw an actual accident. I saw no cars pulled off to the shoulder. I saw no police cars tending to accident victims. I don’t think these accidents ever actually occurred. Someone from NoVa back me up on this. They’re all part of some conspiracy to keep people driving slowly on the highways, aren’t they? I’m on to you, D.C.-Metro area.
Sidebar: while I was detouring down Route 1, I noticed a sign advertising Crystal Lake Mobile Home Park. Yeah, let me move in there so I can increase my odds of being murdered by a homicidal maniac in a hockey mask. No, thanks.
Eventually, I got back to I-95 again, where there were no fewer than two more “slow downs” before I got to Fredericksburg. Still no evidence of a single wrecked car. Once I got south of F’burg, it was smooth sailing all the way back to Richmond.
So my trip to Washington was slightly disappointing. Do I regret going? Yes. Yes, I do. Will I ever go back? Sure. But only if I’m with a friend or two and we’re either on Segways or it’s 30 degrees cooler.