We made it. Forty-four of us made it home safe and sound from our inauguration adventure.
We left before dawn on Saturday and made our way by bus to SFO, where our flight via Virgin America went off without a hitch (nice airline, by the way). When we arrived in Washington, all of our luggage arrived too (yay!) and another bus wisked us off to immediately see some sights.
Brrrr! That evening tour took place is 8 degree weather, I might add! We saw the Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Washington Monument, White House (behind lots of scaffolds) and bleachers set up for the parade to come. Did I mention we were walking around them? And that it was cold? Brrrrr, especially since some of us didn't pack all our weather gear in our carry-ons.
The next morning dawned bright and early and once again we were off seeing the sights. We started at the World War II memorial, and off to the Vietnam Memorial and Lincoln Memorial, and in the process got caught up in the crowds that were there to see the pre-inauguration concert. Some of the monuments were blocked off, but we got to see more port-a-potties than ever before assembled in the United States (not kidding about that stat).
We then had a whirlwind visit to the Smithsonian where my personal highlights included Dorothy's Ruby Slippers, Seinfeld's Puffy Shirt and Kermit the Frog. We saw First Ladies' dresses and other such goodies, and then off to the National Archives to see the Constitution, Declaration of Independence,
and Magna Carta, and then had a sobering experience at the Holocaust Museum.
Monday included visits to the Iwo Jima memorial, , the National Cathedral, and Arlington Cemetery, where our group got to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The real adventure came Tuesday Morning. We were up at 4, bus at 5:30 and into the city at 6. The city was closed off to regular traffic, but our bus and tour company had secured parking at the Washington Nationals Baseball Stadium. We were supposed to have a short 1.2 mile walk to our spot on the Mall which had been staked out by the World Strides people the day before. Of course there were incredible crowds (we walked arm in arm, 4 deep, to avoid losing any of the kids) and unexpected streets closed off, so it ended up being a 2 hour walk instead of a 20 minute one, but by 8 am we had our spot on the Mall, about half way between the Washington Monument and the Capitol, with a Jumbotron in full view. Then we got to wait for two hours until the action started. It was COLD!! The high that day was 27 degrees, so that early it was around 18 - 20. We had hand warmers galore, and I was SO thankful for knitwear, and sheep in general.
Around 10 the action began, and we watched, along with our 2 million friends. It was incredible, and every bit of it made you very proud to be an American. People were so happy around us, cheering, laughing, wearing all sorts of Obama-wear. It was a memorable experience that I'm sure the kids will never forget.
Afterward the crowds were intense, but our never-tiring tour guide pushed us toward the Lincoln Memorial, where our bus was supposed to meet us. Unfortunately, he got diverted out of town and was unable to get back in, so we had to walk some more (!) to the Metro station, where we rode to Virginia to meet back up. After a lovely dinner, we went back to the hotel to collapse. What a day!!
Wednesday was our trip to Mt. Vernon and the Capitol. We stood on the spot where the outgoing President traditionally hands his "resignation" papers to the incoming President (as Bush did the day before), and saw where the luncheon was held where Sen. Kennedy had a seizure. We walked down the same stairs seen on tv where Obama walked on the way out to the Capitol steps where he took his oath. We also met with our Congressman, where the kids got to talk and ask him questions.
Then it was off to the airport, where despite crowds, our flights went perfectly, and back to SFO and bus home. So tired! But all worth it.