Monday, January 19, 2009


"One nation, indivisible, with liberty and Porta Potties for all."

We are parked at the Arlington/Fairfax Elks Lodge (map), just a few blocks from where we parked at the old Red Cross Falls Church facility a couple years ago, and, amusingly, literally right across the street from the Arlington chapter office. If anything should happen here in DC in the next day, we are well-positioned to respond.

We are the only rig here at the lodge, despite five electric hookups and easy access to transit from this location, and I am a bit surprised. Perhaps I should not be -- most Elks are extremely conservative, and we may be the only two who actually voted for Obama. We're still having to run the Webasto for a few hours each day to keep the bays from freezing, but the 50-amp hookups are keeping the batteries topped up and letting us get by with our electric heaters during the day. A steal at $15 per night.

For those who had asked previously about where we might stay here in the DC area, I can now reveal that this was Plan C. Plan A was the metered RV spaces at the Franconia/Springfield Metro station, but Metro decided they would be sweeping through every station in the system between 02:00 and 03:00 Tuesday morning to make sure no long-term vehicles were entrenched. Plan B had been the new Wal-Mart over on Kingstowne in Alexandria, which is even closer to the Blue Line terminus at Franconia/Springfield than this spot is to the Orange Line terminus at Vienna/Fairfax. That spot also had a plethora of dining options "on campus," so to speak, and even a multiplex theater, but our hopes were dashed when we saw the "No Overnight Parking" signs on our way in. We did ask, just in case, but to no avail.

We also had plans D through H, involving one other Elks lodge, two other Wal-Marts, one Unitarian church, and another Red Cross facility. So we had our bases covered, but I am glad that this option worked out. The bus stop is nearly right outside our door, and it's a ten-minute ride to the Metro station. There are also several decent dining choices just a short walk away, familiar to us from our nearby stay two years ago. The lot here has good security, and the electric power is a bonus.

We spent most of today getting our inauguration tickets. Picking up the tickets from our congressman's office actually took less than five minutes -- we "live" (domicile would be a more accurate word) in a very republican county that is almost as far away from DC as you can get -- perhaps why we were able to score these tickets in the first place. But getting into that office involved first going through security screening, and we waited close to an hour in one of the perhaps dozen or so lines at various doors into the house office complex.

We left the Elks lodge on a 9:15am bus, and it was noon by the time we had tickets in hand. At which point we headed to the basement and had an overpriced lunch in the House cafeteria, where we were somewhat disappointed to have French Fries instead of Freedom Fries -- that flap, apparently, blew over years ago and we missed the memo. After lunch we spent another two hours navigating over to where our security checkpoint will be tomorrow -- we have tickets for the North standing area inside the Purple security checkpoint. We'll actually be right behind the seated section, which is good -- some congressional ticket holders are standing as far away as the Mall. We'll actually be able to see things, other than just on the Jumbotrons that have been strategically placed throughout the area.

The entire capitol area is thick with satellite trucks, video cameras, cop cars of every stripe, mobile command posts, generators, and the trucks with the aforementioned Jumbotrons sticking out of them. Security is extremely tight, and the crowds today were barely navigable. We made the mistake of walking to Union Station to get back on the Metro (we had gotten off at Judiciary Square), and it was a complete zoo, made worse by the fact that the station lobby had been closed off for a catered event of some sort, possibly one of the balls. Adding to the confusion, people are everywhere selling Obama-related souvenirs -- hats, shirts, programs, posters, buttons, you name it.

There is a sense of excitement in the air that is palpable. Some of the Washington locals seemed jaded by it all, but most people we encountered, even the long-suffering in security lines in the bitter cold, evidenced a party mood -- think Mardi Gras, or Superbowl Sunday. Perhaps the only tourist attraction not packed to the gills today were the open-air buses, but even the folks bundled up on the top decks were dancing and shouting as they passed us. We admit to a great deal of it ourselves.

We are hoping that our dry run today will give us something of an edge tomorrow morning in the crunch to get in to the event. It helps that we are veterans of transit systems around the country, including the Metro here (which has a byzantine system of variable fares, card readers, and automatic gates that tends to confuse out-of-towners). We've already got our fare cards for tomorrow, and we noted a significant line at the dispensers this evening on our way out of the station. Nevertheless, I expect lines to board the trains here at the end of the line (and standing room only at any stations further in), and chaos to reign in general.

We've already been advised that cellular networks will not be able to keep up with the traffic tomorrow. That said, we will make every effort to keep everyone informed through our Twitter streams -- see the boxes in our sidebar on the right, and click to follow us. We are on two different cell networks, and are hoping that, between the two of them, we should be able to get some updates out. Not that we're planning on it, but, should anything go wrong, that's also where we will be yelling for help -- voice calls will be well-nigh impossible in such a circumstance.

Speaking of data traffic issues, we were off-line yesterday because we exceeded the HughesNet "Fair Access Policy" usage threshold on our satellite first thing in the morning. Among other things, that kept me from blogging yesterday, and also from finishing my transit research for Plans B-H. It caught us completely off-guard, because we're very careful about our usage; a quick check of records reveals that Louise's computer has, unbeknownst to us, been downloading a bunch of stuff every morning when she starts it up, and we're now trying to figure out exactly what that is and why.

In any case, to catch the blog up, we spent Saturday night in Roanoke Rapids, at the very same Wal-Mart and only a few feet from where we stayed on our way south (map). The new tire is holding up just fine, and we took on fuel in Dillon, SC and Carmel Church, VA, the latter at $2.12 per gallon, the least we've paid in several years. Turns out that we should have taken on more water while still in Florida, though, as all the spigots were turned off at the last two stops. There is water here at the lodge if it gets critical.

No more blog posts now until the next presidential administration. See you on Twitter.


  1. I was in D.C. last week and saw some of the preparations for the inauguration, including more port-a-potties than I have ever seen in my life (lining one side or the other of the mall all the way to the Lincoln Memorial). Quite a sight, but one I am sure will be quite welcome to the folks watching the inauguration.

    Good luck with the Metro! I have a feeling you're going to need it tomorrow.

  2. Sounds really neat. We've been watching all of this on TV.

    Even though we have family close enough that we could get to a Metro line, we've experienced DC enough in the winter that we had no desire to try to go. Now, if it had been in a warmer season....

    I hope that it is a really wonderful experience and that you don't run into any difficulties.

    Haw Creek Out 'n About


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