June 22, 2005


So we're bopping along the highway, driving an interminable distance from Washington Dulles airport toward the District of Columbia this morning, when it begins to hit me: The guy driving the shuttle van has no idea where we're going.

We're in D.C. to celebrate my son's 10th birthday. This was supposed to be a fun, long weekend.

Instead, we're lost on the Road to Morocco.

We were among three passengers in the airport shuttle. First stop was somewhere in Chinatown. Second stop was somewhere near the Pentagon. Then we were next. Our stop: the Best Western Key Bridge in Rosslyn.

Only we were back on the eastern side of the Potomac River. And driving like we had no idea where we were.

In the process, we drove by the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the White House, the Capitol, the FBI building, the Jefferson Memorial. You name it, we drove past it. A couple times.

Then I realize that the driver, a very nice man who spoke broken English, has no clue where we are and is listening to the computerized voice of a GPS directional guide mounted on the dashboard.

"Go... 2 Point 1 Miles, then turn right..."

"Go... 3 Point 2 miles, then turn left..."

We started joking with him about the lifeless voice dragging us around by the tail.

"Please... drive... through... McDonalds..." we joked, imitating the voice.

Then came the uh-oh moment.

"Please... correct your... course."

We spent so much time in the van, the driver had to refill the gas tank.

"Look there,'' I joked to Brian as we sat parked in an Exxon station. "It's the George Washington Memorial Gas Pump."

Eventually we made it to our destination, settled in and then got a little lunch. We then made our way to the Metro, got our fare cards and later went bopping around town.

We punched out near the White House at the McPherson Square station and walked the two blocks to the northern gate of the White House.

The house is simultaneously beautiful at night and smaller in person than you imagine in your mind. There also at night are fewer onlookers lingering along the fences.

Across the street at Blair House, the vice president's residence, a motorcade was getting ready to roll. The lead car was hidden under a white tent in front of the house. We soon realized the Iraq flag was hanging from the flag pole extending off the exterior of the upper floor. That signified that the Iraq president was visiting Vice President Cheney.

We lingered for a while, watching Secret Service agents, police officers and Iraqi security guards mill about.

Then in rapid succession, the motorcade came to life. An agent pulled a drape in front of the car, hiding the people getting into the vehicle. The crowd, standing along a long row of retention railings, booed for a few seconds.

When the drape withdrew, the motorcade proceeded and pulled away from the house. As it did, we saw Iraq president Jalal Talabani in the back of the second vehicle, sitting next to Dick Cheney. My mom waved and Talabani waved back. Then Cheney waved. My mom just about fainted.

After the crowd dispersed, we walked past the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building, which is being refurbished. It still looked grand in the golden glow of spotlights.

We happened upon a gaggle of tourists perched on Segway people mover vehicles. Wearing protective safety helmets, they were on a four-hour tour through the capitol that takes them throughout the scenic highlights for a meager sum of $55. Daytime tours were also available, someone in the group told us. Pretty nifty idea, but I got the sense that after the fun of being on a Segway wore off (read: 15 minutes), the tour would probably start to seem like work, standing and balancing and navigating through traffic and pedestrians for four hours.

We then walked around the southern side of the White House, at the northern edge of the Ellipse. Salad Boy then displayed the energy only a 9-year-old has at 10 o'clock at night, chasing fireflies on the lawn adjacent to the Corcoran Gallery, catching one and eliciting a recollection by La Madre del Salade about how she and a cousin would catch the bugs as kids and pull their lighted parts off.

We then made our way past the Treasury Building, ogled the Washington Monument winking its red aviation lights at us from the top of the obilisk and then made our way back to the McPherson Metro stop.

"That was the best night ever,'' my son said.

Not a bad way to spend your last night as a 9-year-old.

Posted by Jeff at June 22, 2005 11:51 PM | TrackBack
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