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Month: October 2014

Last day in DC

Last day in DC

On Saturday morning we got up early and headed to the red line subway station, with plenty of time to spare for the estimated 20 minute transport to the white house (we’d timed it the day before). The train was leaving as we walked up the steps, but we weren’t worried as there would be another along soon and we were early.

However, fifteen minutes later we were informed via the PA that the red line was operating on a 24 minute delay, Saturday only. Twenty-four minutes. We pondered taking a cab or uber but ultimately decided to wait, as the Marine Corps Marathon was taking place that morning and would have make travel on the streets time consuming as well.

At 9:25 we finally ran out of the metro station and kept running until we reached the White House visitor station at exactly 9:30. A Ranger informed us that we’d made it, but after waiting a while she (as well as a Secret Service agent) informed us that they were having a bomb scare as a visitor had left her purse unattended while she was in the White House. We had to wait over an hour before we could even start the process of checking in to visit the White House because of this. The tours for the rest of the day were backed up because one stupid woman didn’t read the explicit instructions of what you can and can’t bring to the White House.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the White House unfortunately, but we saw most of the lower East Wing; the dining room, tea room, china room, green room, blue room, etc.

We were allowed to take photos after exiting on the North portico – but we weren’t allowed to bring cameras in, so everyone was rushing to take cell-phone photos.

After eating some lunch at Five Guys we went back to the National Gallery and spent the rest of our day there before retiring to our AirBnb to pack for our flight back early Sunday morning.

Ironically, we experienced delays again the next morning as all the bridges to Reagan airport from DC were closed due to the marathon (I’m still confused as to why the streets were closed for two days – was the marathon two days?). It took us an hour and a half to go six miles, but we made it through security with ten minutes to spare before boarding the plane.

Friday in DC

Friday in DC

On Friday morning we made sure to get down to the Washington Monument booth even earlier (not long after they opened) and we were able to pick up some of the last tickets available. Our tickets were for the 3:30 tour, so we visited the department of agriculture farmer’s market and then walked through the natural history museum and american history museum before heading over to a windswept Washington Monument and finally up to the top.

After the monument we headed east on the subway to check out Wise Guys pizza for dinner. Then we took a bike taxi to the Hyatt and used their business services office to print our new White House tour confirmations.

After that we headed to the capital so I could take a lot of night shots. From the Capital we walked north to the Supreme Court and then finally Union Station before heading home. On the way home we decided we wanted to get drinks (alcohol for me and water for Sam) to have at our apartment. We took a wrong turn in Eckington and found ourselves in a really bad neighborhood, we even got to see a drug deal on our way home.

Thursday in DC

Thursday in DC

On Thursday morning we went down to the Washington Monument to see if we could pick up any of the will call tickets that are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis every morning. We got there just a few minutes too late and they were all gone.

We walked over to the Air and Space Museum and spent a few hours there before heading east to take our Capital Building tour. We were unaware that the tour of the actual senate room was separate, so all we saw was the tomb and the main room (whatever it’s called), which had a huge white donut (for the renovation of the columns) covering up Washington’s mural.

After leaving the capital we rushed to the Kennedy Center for our tour there. We didn’t get to see all the performance spaces, and weren’t allowed to take pictures in the ones we did see. The upper balcony outside was also closed because of “high winds.”

After the tour we ate dinner at Whole Foods in Georgetown and then walked south to visit the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool and World War II memorial.

Death to Silver Airways

Death to Silver Airways

That flight did leave the next morning . . . eventually, about an hour and a half later than scheduled. We found out that the flights cancelled the day before were not full, and the morning flight easily accommodated all tickets for all three flights (2 yesterday and the morning today). Obviously the only “mechanical issues” the plane was experiencing was too much gas used for too few passengers on the previous days scheduled flights – so they cancelled the flights.

With every single passenger swearing up and down that they’d never fly Silver again, I don’t really see how they expect to stay in business, at least at the PKB airport.

Finally around 1pm we landed in the rain at Dulles. We tried Uber for the first time to get to our airbnb and found the process so easy we ended up using it almost every day we were in Washington.

There was a ray of light shining though as our contact at our state representative’s office let us know that they were able to reschedule our White House tour for Saturday.

After situating ourselves in the airBnB we decided to walk to the nearest metro subway stop (the Gaulludet station, red line), which was 15 minutes away.

By the time we got down to the National Mall we only had an hour before the museums closed, so we walked around the ground floor of the National Gallery before heading West to walk by the Washington Monument and up to the White House. From there we walked north for dinner at Whole Foods.

MOV III, metaphor

MOV III, metaphor

On Tuesday the rain which had plagued our Ohio visit became even worse. So bad that we really couldn’t do much outside at all. To make up for this mom took Sam to a cooking shop and a chocolate shop in “downtown” Marietta.

We had home made BBQ pork ribs for dinner before heading to the airport.

Except we didn’t head to the airport. Google Now notified Sam that the flight was delayed. We never heard from Silver Airways about it so we called them and eventually got hold of someone who said that, yes, the flight was possibly delayed for “mechanical issues.”

Then it was delayed more.

Then Google Now told us the flight was cancelled altogether.

Finally, after the flight was supposed to actually be in the air, I received the first outreach from Silver Airways. They called and said the flight was cancelled and we had the “option” of a refund or going on the first flight tomorrow – IF that flight even happened.

We had already paid for a room in Washington DC that night, a rental car, and had reserved a White House tour six months in advance with our state rep (as that’s the only way you CAN take a White House Tour). We also made reservations months ago to go up the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument on Wednesday morning, which, of course, was something that was now sold out for all other days we’d be in Washington.

We pondered renting a car and driving, but that wouldn’t have worked, as small town car rental businesses aren’t open at 8pm on a Tuesday, and leaving at 7am the next morning would not get us to Washington in time to do any of the things we were going to miss.

We, as well as my father, expressed our displeasure to the Silver Airways representative, but he stated there was nothing he could do. Apparently this is true, the airlines are allowed to screw you any way they want without any compensation other than a refund.

So, we resigned ourselves to hoping the flight would leave in the morning, even though we’d already squandered the two things we were looking forward to most about visiting Washington.

MOV II

MOV II

On Monday my mother and father took Sam on the MOV highlights tour. This was a tour of my hometown which included lookout point, our courthouse featuring backwards swastikas (native american symbols), mound cemetery, the Marietta “arboretum”, the “start western” monument and driving past several “landmarks.”

We concluded the tour with what is supposedly the valley’s best Mexican restaurant, although I never would have known from the food. I suppose it’s not fair to judge a southeastern Ohio small town Mexican cook by Southern California standards.

Afterwards we went home and ate Chocolate cake in a further celebration of my mom’s XXth birthday.

MOV

MOV

We slept in on Sunday morning after going from Columbus to Marietta after the game and arriving late.

In the afternoon and evening several of my relatives arrived for dinner and desert. Before that Sam and I walked around “the grounds.” My parents’ house and property always changes between visits as my dad’s primary occupation upon retirement became Senior Earth Mover.

Sam was enamored with the cows across the street, so we walked up and she said hello to them. Then, back at the house in the front yard we found a green praying mantis for me to say hello to.

The Game

The Game

On Friday morning Sam and I flew to Ohio, landing just after 6 EST.  We went to dinner with my parents, my brother, two aunts and one cousin.  Afterwards we went to my aunt’s house for a while to discuss family mythology.  Apparently my grandmother was a prolific teddy bear knitter, making 100 (although the veracity of this number is in dispute) bears while she was in a nursing home.  I vaguely remember one of them, which my brother informed us was mine while he never received one.  I’m not sure about the veracity of that claim either, but one of my aunts was making the same one.  I don’t know I can say any one thing or another with certainty about what happened to me in 1986, but maybe my brother’s neurons from that period haven’t been overwritten yet.  Days later my mother would look for these bears in her basement to settle the dispute – and could find none.

Regardless, everyone who received a knit (or is it crochet?) blanket knows that for sure because we still have them and treasure them.

Eventually it started getting late, even for California folks, and we (Sam and my immediate relatives) headed to our AirBnb.

The host was very accommodating with my parents and their changing schedule, and didn’t mind when my brother wanted to stay as well.  She even bought a pack of oreos for my mom. (I told her my mom likes oreos so much she’ll bring packs to California with her in her luggage – true story – ) However, it turns out that this niceness stemmed from a special love of jesus, as was evident from the abundance of church materials throughout the home – but especially in the bedroom that Sam and I used.  Now that might have been okay, but it also turned out that this was one of those airBnB’s where the host is renting it out because they’re just out of town – so it was a little creepy spending the night in this jesusfreak’s house, essentially unaltered, and potentially uncleaned.  When I looked at the pillow under the pillowcase that I was to lay my head on for eight hours I found copious black and gray mold spots.  Woah.

DSC03245.jpg

I went back and read the listing again and the host noted that there was “no cleaning fee.”  Now I know why this was such a great deal (it was a third of the price of a hotel room and would fit five).  The bathroom tub similarly looked like it hadn’t received a bleach scrub down in quite a while.  There was also a train going by the whole night blaring its horn – unmentioned in the listing, of course.

Because of this I’m not sure any of us slept that well, although I may have had an allergic reaction to the mold on the pillow.

The next morning we went down to the campus area to eat and walk around before the game.  Unfortunately I was feeling ill and trapped my family in the Main Library so I could have easy access to a reasonably clean bathroom for a while before we went to the game.

The day only seemed to get colder and rainier and windier as it barreled on towards gametime.  By 3:30 kickoff there was a slight sprinkling to accompany the brisk winds up in the high C-deck.  We were also disappointing to discover that we had some of the few seats in the entire stadium (seats over 100,000) that were “partially obstructed” by a huge steel beam holding up the well to does in the press box.

Despite all this we tried our best to have fun and enjoy the game, which was a blowout against Rutgers.  In the first half we got to watch more than a few touchdowns at our end (the visible end) of the field. Eventually in the second half so many “fans” had left that we came all the way down to the edge of the first balcony and had a much better view.

After the game we reconvened at Cracker Barrel in Pickerington, only so Sam could get a real taste of Midwestern cheesy eating.  Literally – I ordered the cheesy grits and the cheesy hash browns.

shaws cove

shaws cove

On Saturday Sam and I made the last trip of the “season” to Shaw’s Cove for snorkeling. We arrived around 11:30 and got to work. The water was the clearest we’ve ever seen it there, and possibly ever seen it in California. The warmth of the water in California follows a late summer early fall curve, peaking around early September. The water felt fine inside of a wetsuit, but we saw many others at the beach enjoying the water wearing barely anything at all.

Because of the calmness of the water and the clarity we were able to explore much farther and see many more things that had been unnoticed previously. First we set out for the north reefs and saw a young leopard shark right away. I also saw a scorpionfish and many different types of sea anemone. Directly in front of the beach we also became experts at spotting various types of rays that hid in the sand. Once you learn how to spot one you realize they’re actually all over the place; many perilously close to where humans wade into the water.

Later in the afternoon we headed to the south reef, which is much flatter and features an abundance of purple urchins and teal anemones, but very little kelp.

To finish the day we headed out further along the north reef than ever, to the kelp forest that lines the side of the reef, extending all the way down to the sand at least fifty feet below. It was here that I saw another new fish, a long skinny yellow fish perfectly adapted to the yellow kelp strands which I later learned was appropriately named the giant kelp fish.

We ate at the (apparently) famous Brodard restaurant in Garden Grove before heading home.