Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Home from History!

We made it home in 11 hours today. We made several stops on the way home, much more than on the way up.

We stopped in Northern Virginia on a newspaper hunt. We found Washington Post, Washington Times, Baltimore Sun, Wall Street Journal and NY Times!

We stopped in Blacksburg and drove through Virginia Tech to give a Hokie Hokie Hi! Rigby had to do that. We stopped near campus and ate at one of our favorite pizza places, Backstreets. Good stuff - Rigby ate three slices of a 16-inch pizza. Lucy just wanted to sprinkle "sugar" on hers (we know it as Parmesan cheese)

Most of Southwest Virginia was blanketed in snow, and we stopped at a rest area to play real quick - the kids do not get much of a chance to see snow. Thing is, it was 20 degrees and the wind was whipping so we did not stay long.

We drove on through after that and the kids fell asleep soon after we entered Tennessee.

It is great to be home, but such an indescribable feeling about what we did over the last six days and the experience we had on January 20, 2009.

We will have some final observations and fun one-liners our kids had posted soon.

Good night! We got work and school tomorrow!

Halfway home

We are in Blacksburg eating at Backstreets Pizza. Kids are talking about Obama. Good trip and fairly busy roads.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

End of Inauguration Day Observations

Here are some end of Inauguration Day observations in no real order:

- After watching CNN and hearing Obama saying "So Help Me God" at the end of his oath on TV, I realize that it was so very much more powerful hearing it in person standing on the National Mall.

- Joe Biden has a huge, powerful voice. His tone was forceful in his oath. To boot, I think he was swearing in with his hand on a stack of encyclopedias - did you see that book!?

- Even though we must have been a half mile from the Capitol, I think we could see Aretha Franklin's big, bow hat with the naked eye.

- Rick Warren's invocation was good.

- After Obama took the oath, we stared into the crowd. People were hugging, slapping hands, praising God, crying, cheering, waving flags.

- I talked to a man from London who told me that today, we are seeing a man who in our lifetime will be the one who could be called the ruler of the world. That was intense.

- Metro's capacity is 120,000 riders an hour. By 11 a.m., an hour before Obama's swearing-in, it was reported Metro had already moved more than a half-million people.

- I am glad I do not have a weak bladder, because my acute sense of smell could not handle standing in one of the 1,000+ port-o-johns too many times.

- Rigby and Erik playing football on the National Mall on Inauguration Day. Priceless.

- Glad we did not have tickets to the seated areas, we talked to some that could not get near the entrances to even get in. Besides, with the kids we could not have gotten in with backpacks anyways.

- The Obamas' last inaugural ball will be around 3:30 a.m. - wonder what time he will be up in the morning? The world will expect him to be up and ready.

- We thanked almost every security person that we made eye contact with. They busted their asses and some of them were working 48 hour shifts. The security effort involved the Secret Service, 8,000 police officers from the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions, 10,000 National Guard troops, about 1,000 FBI personnel, and hundreds of others from Homeland Security, the National Park Service and U.S. Capitol Police.

- The Metro did great considering what was going on. Workers at the top of the escalators were smiling and yelling "good morning" as people exited the Metro. When we were boarding in the afternoon, they were yelling, "You made it." Kudos to them for keeping our spirits up.

- This is the largest crowd by far, as some are estimating at almost 2 million. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan's inauguration drew about 500,000 people, and President Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration drew about 800,000 people. The park service says Congress ordered it to stop doing crowd counts in 1997 after the agency was accused of underestimating numbers for the 1995 Million Man March.

- We met people from DC, Maryland, Colorado, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Hawaii, Georgia, Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York and Florida.

- It would be hard to believe that past inaugurations featured so many people wearing merchandise with Obama's likeness. There were vendors on most street corners selling gear.

- The companies that make hand and feet warmers need to get busy making more. We used Hot Hands - made of iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal and vermiculite. We bought six packs for about $2. They were being sold for $5 a piece on the street.

- There was so much fur! Regular fur coats, body-length fur coats, fur hats (see Jay-Z), fur scarfs, etc. No one from PETA around today.

- People know Chattanooga. Whether they knew what our UTC shirts meant or if they asked where we were from, almost all of them knew of the city and the ones who had visited said glowing words about her. Some made note that Chattanooga was a city that knew how to market itself.

- Someone gets a medal for cleaning up the trash on the Mall. Talk about getting jobs started now. We could barely get off the Mall before trash pickup began. Make it known to my green friends and hiker friends that we packed our trash out. You will see in some of our pictures soon that such was not the case with most. Trash was lined all along the streets.

- There are 13 McDonald's within 5 miles of our hotel, so says the Garmin.

- Did not have tickets to any balls, but hanging at the hotel with the kids and watching CNN and the local DC channels is a good time.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. and a great crowd of witnesses are shouting in heaven. I think Tupac is up there with him.

- Finally, we love the fact that our kids did not realize the first black man took the office of President today. It was just a man to them. To us, it is something so very real now. To our kids, they just know that Barack Obama is our President.

God bless us all. What a day. I wish my friends and family were here with us, but I hope they got closer to the event through our blog today.

And our day comes to a close. Good night!

Favorite parts of the address

There are so many great parts of Barack Obama's inaugural address. I really liked this part as his voice was stern and loud:

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

This as well:

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

Back at the Hotel!

We got into a Metro station around 4:50 and boarded in about 10 minutes. As the train moved to next stops, we talked to some people who had been waiting to get on for two hours. Our plan was to walk to a Metro station away from the parade area and towards the Capitol South area, and it seemed to work.

We got to the end of the Orange line around 5:50 and our hotel shuttle picked us up at 6 p.m. That was a great warm ride. We were out in DC for 12 hours!

We are taking showers, warming up, watching the last bit of the parade on CNN and then heading out for a celebration dinner. Funny to note that it appears most of the visitors have left the Presidential viewing stand at the parade. The Obamas are chillin'.

Our kids both want to be President now.

I spy

Rigby and Lucy are playing I Spy in the American Indian Museum. They are warm and having fun. Waving US flags, they are.

Going to go to the museum restaurant and try to eat before we trek out for a Metro ride.

National Museum of the American Indian

Resting and waiting. The Metro stations are packed.

Should we stay or should we go now?

We are siting on a marble floor in the Freer Gallery of Art. Should we stay or try to get out into the sea of people?

Rigby is playing DS. Lucy is sound asleep. Stacy and Erik have polished off the M&Ms.

This has been such a great adventure. We ar so excited to be a part of this.

We are warming and waiting

Warming stations

Every Smithsonian museum is a warming station. The galleries are loaded with people on the floors.


Well, here we are. The oath has been taken. The speech has been made.

Lucy cried through some of the speech - she wanted her pink blanket. She was on the ground so it did not interrupt people.

During the speech, a lady next to us was on the phone with somone. A girl on the other side of us was using her iphone. Others were talking during the speech. How odd? I guess it was good enough for some people that they were just there.

After the speech, Rigby clapped and said, "Obama is our President now."


Biden takes oath

Blue skies, sunny, breezy.

Yo Yo Ma is playing a John Williams piece. Amazing how quiet a a million-plus people can be listening to this music.


A million flags waving

Crowd chanting OBAMA

Let us begin

The former presidents are presented.

Sadly, Bush was greeted by a thunder of boos. Cheney is in a wheelchair. Crowd is laughing and booing. This is what it comes to?

Here comes Biden.

Small small small section of crowd

Star sighting

Diddy gets a ticket?
Beyonce put a ring on it.

Oprah just gave a car to everyone standing on the Mall.

Colin Powell has received the loudest cheer so far.

Corker walked in behind McCain.

Magic Johnson. The best player in history.

Army men on American History Museum

Almost time

Watching the procession from the white house to the capitol on the big screen.

Rigby is playing Nintendo DS. Lucy is coloring.

We are watchinh all the governors file in.

Football on the mall

We are here!

We left the hotel at 6 am and got right to the metro via hotel shuttle. We boarded an Orange line pretty easy. But the first station we got to the train we were on went out of service!

Everyone had to get off and wait for another train, but all of them were full. We waited in a cold wind tunnel for 30 minutes.

We stood on a train for an hour and got off at Federal Triangle.

This Mall is packed at 9 all the way back to the Washington Monument. Parade route is already closed due to capacity. We are sitting near the Smithsonian Castle.


Today, we witness history. Not only is this my first blog via cell phone email, but we are headed to the Metro to join a million or so friends.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A day of rest - I guess

We took it easy getting up today. We did not leave the hotel until 11 a.m., and made our way to a stroll through Tyson's Corner, one big ole mall.

Our first stop was to get a meal of food (pizza). Our server was Italian and bald, but had painted on or maybe tattooed, hair. It was sweet.

Rigby's shop of choice was the Lego store. Lucy found a couple pink stores and the Disney Store, while Erik and Stacy enjoyed LL Bean. We paused briefly to pay our respects to the almighty Apple Store. We marveled at the capitalism and then escaped with wallets in hand.

We set the Garmin to tell us how to get to the National Air & Space Museum,The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport. It is the companion facility to the Museum on the National Mall. The building opened in December 2003 - it is a massive hangar full of dozens of planes and hundreds of artifacts.

Most notably featured there:
SR-71 Blackbird
B-29 Superfortress, Enola Gay (dropped the bomb on Hiroshima)
Space Shuttle Enterprise
Air France Concorde jet
The first FedEx plane
Vietnam and Korean War jets and helicopters
World War II fighter planes
Gemini VII space capsule
the Mobile Quarantine Unit used upon the return of the Apollo 11 crew

While the larger planes rested on the ground, the smaller planes were suspended from the ceiling. We all really enjoyed it! We will have lots of pictures up soon.

We ended our visit riding up an elevator to the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower which allowed us to watch air traffic at Dulles Airport. Rigby and Lucy were so excited to see so many planes landing onto the nearby runways.

We ended the day in the hotel pool, where Rigby showed off his new swimming skills, which he has been learning at the Sports Barn.

Off to bed and ready for a 5 a.m. wake-up call. We depart the hotel at 6 a.m. to jump aboard the Metro and into DC. We have everything prepacked (snacks, drinks, crayons, coloring books, etc) and clothes laid out.

As Rigby and Lucy were going to sleep, they both declared they wanted to be President one day. These were unsolicited comments. Rigby said he wanted to be President because he can make good decisions, and he knows how to make the world happy.

Tomorrow, we will all experience one big historic day.

We're featured in the Chattanooga Times Free Press

Our family was featured in a Chattanooga Times Free Press article about our trip to DC.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We Are One

Well, today was one we will not soon forget.

We attended "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration" at the Lincoln Memorial.

We listened to speakers:
Jack Black
Steve Carell
Rosario Dawson
Jamie Foxx
Tom Hanks
Samuel L. Jackson
Ashley Judd
Martin Luther King III
Queen Latifah
Laura Linney
George Lopez
Kal Penn
Marisa Tomei
Denzel Washington
Forest Whitaker
Tiger Woods

And heard performers:

Bruce Springsteen
Mary J. Blige
Jon Bon Jovi with Bettye Lavette
James Taylor with John Legend and Jennifer Nettle
John Mellencamp
Josh Groban and Heather Headley with Herbie Hancock and Sheryl Crow
Renee Fleming
Garth Brooks
Stevie Wonder with Usher and Shakira
Pete Seeger (at a young 89 years!)

We left our hotel at 10 a.m. and got to the National Mall around 11 a.m. We walked from the Smithsonian Castle past the Washington Monument and to the World War II Memorial. Everyone was required to go through a check point to have bags checked.

We entered the Reflecting Pool area among an estimated 400,000 people and 30 degree weather. The celebration event did not begin until 2:30 so we had some time to sit on the ground and enjoy all of our neighbors.

The event was filmed live for HBO so it began with the familiar HBO theme music and static television screen. And the show was on!

Bruce Springsteen sang "The Rising" after Denzel Washington opened the event saying the day would "speak to the future of America."

Listening to Tom Hanks speak of Abraham Lincoln was a moving moment. Tiger Woods also did a great job speaking about our military and his father who served in the special forces.

U2 performed their Martin Luther King Jr. tribute "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and then "City of Brilliant Lights." Bono was visibly proud to be there and acknowledged Obama at one point when the other performers seemed to follow script. Bono shouted "let freedom ring!" and told Obama that it's an honor for "four boys from Dublin" to sing for him.

Garth Brooks, joined by a choir, performed parts of Don McLean's "American Pie," the Isley Brothers' "Shout," when he got the whole crowd jumping and waving their hands. He finished with "We Shall Be Free."

John Mellencamp sang "Pink Houses" and its refrain of "ain't that America" along with another choir.

The afternoon's next-to-last moment featured Springsteen, and 89-year-old folk legend Pete Seeger singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." Seeger raised his hands and urged the crowd to sing along, which everyone certainly did. When the song was over Seeger jogged off with his banjo - what spirit!

Beyonce closed singing "America the Beautiful," and most of the performers and speakers joined her on stage.

The highlight of the day was of course hearing our next President, Barack Obama, speak to the masses for about five minutes.

From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Obama said:

And behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible.

He spoke to all of us:

And yet, as I stand here today, what gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us today, but what fills the spaces in between. It is you — Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there.

He spoke to my family and my children:

you made this belief real. You proved once more that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day I walk into that Oval Office — the voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes; who ask only for what was promised us as Americans — that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.

He closed:

There is no obstacle that can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.

That is the belief with which we began this campaign, and that is how we will overcome what ails us now.

There is no doubt that our road will be long. That our climb will be steep. But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard. I ask you to help reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation, and one people, the legacy of our forefathers that we celebrate today.

One final note, two Chattanooga boys were represeting, Usher and Samuel L. Jackson!

We took our time going back to the Metro station, walking with a sea of humanity down Constitution Avenue. We took a detour into the Smithsonian Museum of American History get warm and take a break. The museum closed at 5:30 so we did not get to spend much time inside.

We had to wait in line to board the Metro at the Federal Triangle station, but it was not that bad.

What another great day.

Picture below is from USA Today of the Obamas greeting the crowd.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

National Mall Saturday Night 1-17-09


After our short trip from our hotel to DC via the Metro, Lucy described the view in one word as we walked out onto Constitution Avenue, "Amazing."

After hearing so much hype about staying at home, one would not have thought that in just three days, the 56th Inauguration was going to take place. Now we know Tuesday is going to be a madhouse, but this Saturday before was very manageable. There was light traffic on the roads and sidewalks, and we got around everywhere with ease.

We were all triple layered in clothes and never really had an issue with the 15 degree weather as we walked around the National Mall today.

Our first stop was the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. And, yes, we saw dinosaur bones! We wondered all through the museum. We saw the Hope Diamond, all 46 carats of it. We saw all kinds of live bugs in the Bug Zoo, crawling in their natural habitat. We ventured through the Hall of Mammals various other animal areas.

After a quick lunch in the museum, one that featured pizza and a big, green dinosaur cookie, we layered back up in outerwear and headed back into the cold.

We walked to the National Archives and stood in line outside for about 10 minutes and then another 15 minutes inside to enter the Rotunda. What a memorable moment to have our kids with us viewing of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Not much you can do to keep the chill bumps away.

We strolled across the National Mall to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. But first, we stopped at a refreshment stand to enjoy hot chocolates and a beer for daddy. We spent a little over an hour in the Air and Space Museum, looking at airplanes, rockets, a lunar module and the real, authentic Wright Flyer.

As the sun began to fall, we made our way back to the Metro station, walking down the middle of the National Mall, enjoying the sights, sounds and buzz of what was to come. There were television crews setting up in strategic locations, massive jumbotrons along the perimeter and the voices of nations from all over the world.

What a great day. We look forward to Sunday, when the "We Are One" event takes place at the Lincoln Memorial, featuring Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Usher, James Taylor, U2, Stevie Wonder, Tom Hanks, Tiger Woods and many more!

The Trip

We made the trip to Washington, D.C. - 585 miles, 9 hours and 50 minutes, with two kids!

Rigby played Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Star Wars on Nintendo DS for 75% of the trip. Thank goodness he has the DS car charger. Lucy slept the first three hours. She was the sweetest young lady on the trip.

The drive was great. We took I-81 N to I-64 E over to Charlottesville, Va. and then up Hwy 29 to I-66 into DC.

Upon our arrival into D.C. around 11 p.m., we let the Garmin nuvi take care of us. First she led us to the Iwo Jima Memorial. What a special sight to see late at night. Here we were four days before the Inauguration and there was not one car in the park. The temperature was a breezy nine degrees, but the clear night view of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and our Capitol was worth every chilly minute.

Next, we ventured down into heart of our Capital. There were barricades along the sidewalks of the National Mall and hundreds upon hundreds of portable potties. We saw all sorts of staging areas and tents on the perimeter of the Mall. Staging is setup around the Lincoln Memorial with huge video screens for Sunday's free celebration event.

We just drove where we could. Some roads had cops and red flares blocking them.

The White House was not lit up, but the flag on top was (it was odd). The Capitol roads were closed, but everything else was pretty accessible to drive by. Lucy was asleep for the most part of our night tour, but Rigby was determined to find Obama.

We finally got to our hotel in Falls Church just before 1 a.m. We had reserved a Homewood Suites room and are already pleased with it. Two rooms and a full kitchen for a price not much more than we would expect on a regular weekend, but we committed to five nights to get the price.

On to bed and then time to get back to exploration tomorrow! We are really looking forward to this historic experience.