7/7 Washington, DC 3348 Miles

I am a big fan of Dean and Deluca. They do many things right: chocolate-covered ginger, cheese, novelty marshmallows. On the other hand, the things they do wrong they do appallingly wrong, namely their coffee. The iced lattes are bitter, covered in sweet, and insipid without any body. This is how I started my morning.
It had been decided that we would cancel the New York City portion of the trip and stay in DC for the week. We had a number of reasons for this change and a lot of it had to do with the fact that I just loved DC so very much. To make up for the canceling of 3 days in NYC, we decided to spend a day there.
There are many things between our great nation’s capitol and New York City, the slenderest of which is Delaware. The 12 miles of Delaware also cost about $14, 567 to traverse. They justify this highway ass-rape by touting their lack of sales tax. So, essentially, I paid the sales tax for 63 people to shop in Delaware for 9 months. I did not actually shop in Delaware, as I only spent 12 miles in the state. I expect gifts from each of the 63 people whose lives I have made happier. I did purchase a “hamburger” from the Roy Rogers, located in a specially-ordained tollway rest area. This vile “meat” concoction threatened sudden liver failure and terminal blindness if I finished it. I took its threats as a challenge and now I write these updates with the assistance of my specially-trained helper hippo.
On the other hand, the New Jersey Turnpike was quick and easy and the ticket told me exactly how much I would be paying at the end of my trip. No surprises here. There were signs telling me that when the lights were flashing there would be an important announcement on the turnpike radio station. The lights flashed and I tuned in only to hear announcements about transmission locations and gratitude for using the New Jersey Turnpike. For this I turned off my music. Many threats were made regarding my fist and the New Jersey Turnpike Informational Radio Station, but no one who heard me cared.
I zipped us happily and painlessly across Staten Island and into Brooklyn, where I handed the keys to Jen so I could take over photography duty. On the other side of the Battery Tunnel, we found ourselves in the middle of WTC land. It was certainly unexpected and very eerie. Where once there were giant buildings there is now a hole. One great big hole. Surrounding this hole are the attempts of people to memorialize not just the event but the individuals they lost there. We did not stop, but I did look at the faces of people there. There was never an expression of wonderment or awe, but always one of respect mixed with grief, fear and confusion.
After this, we inspected the various neighborhoods, taking pictures of everything that looked even mildly interesting. We also played another round of “What is that smell?” This time it was the special “Bodily Fluids and Secretions Edition” (as opposed to the “What Did You Leave In The Humidity Edition”). Even with our Minnesota plates (or perhaps because of them), we only got honked at twice. And really, I am surprised. I watched how you New Yorkers drive and I have two bits of advice that you should follow before you decide to honk at me again:
* Learn to use your turn signals! It’s that lever on the left side of the steering wheel, it sends a signal to the other motorists indicating the direction you wish to maneuver your car.
* Even if you don’t like the way the traffic is flowing, you still have no excuse for making a u-turn in the middle of a block into oncoming traffic, ESPECIALLY if your automobile is so unwieldy that you can not gracefully make the turn in one movement, but must stop and reverse and straighten out your car. I would not mention this if I had only seen it once, as there is always one bad asshole in every barrel, but I saw this 4 times. 3 of which were with minivans.
We had to turn around a lot and backtrack a few times, but all in all we had a good map and we saw everything we came to see without getting out of the car once.
Back on the turnpike and this time the radio station redeemed itself by telling me that there was an enormous backup at the Delaware border and I would benefit from taking an alternate route. The kindly man even went on to detail my route options. I imagine the backup was caused by motorists, irate at having to give Delaware so much for so little, rioting and looting in that obnoxious punk state. Good for them.
Too tired for any other option, we ordered room service and and rented a movie and retired for the evening.

7/6 Washington, DC 2793 Miles

The morning starts with happiness. I dress like a tourist with my sunglasses and khaki baseball cap to keep my pale skin the palest, and 2 cameras to document the minutia of my trip. I drew the line at a sun visor and a pink t-shirt with cartoonish recreations of DC’s famous landmarks.
Directions were given and we followed another group of tourists to the closest Metro stop. The DC metro is everything you want your public transportation to be: quick, clean, efficient, with easy-to-decipher maps and tickets with pictures of panda bears on them. We took the Metro to the Mall and I got to stand for a few moments and just sort of drink in the scenery. The best part of the Mall is that it’s okay to look like a tourist because, frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone down there who wasn’t a tourist. Everyone drives like a tourist, everyone talks like a tourist and everyone wanders around like a tourist.
Our first stop was the Hirshhorn Museum. This is where we got our first taste of the heightened security (besides the concrete barriers in place around EVERYTHING), all bags are searched (though somewhat laxly, if you ask me) and metal detectors abound. We passed with flying colors and headed into the exhibit. We weren’t there for the specific exhibitions but just a quick run-through so we could write about how we went to the Hirshhorn. The gift shop yielded a surprisingly good gift for my sister and we had a jolly good time chatting up Minnesota gay bars and climatic misconceptions with the 2 guys behind the counter.
Lunch at the National Air and Space Museum, then a quick jaunt through a few exhibits about the universe and aerial photography. This gift shop yielded the best prizes so far and we walked away poorer but happier.
Washington DC is an infinitely walkable city with easy-to-follow maps and conveniently-placed park benches. We took advantage of these benches and spent much time playing “What’s that guy’s story?” If even a small percentage of what we make up is true, this country is populated with some of the loneliest and most depressed humans in history. On the other hand, we are that much happier for having amused ourselves in such a vicious way.
The National Botanical Gardens were chock-full of herbivorous goodness, iguanas and man-made humidity. I almost knocked over a plant with my big touristy bag and that really was the highlight of the garden.
In our great nation’s capitol there are many exciting things to see and a few of them require a ticket and a reservation. Unfortunately, you can never obtain this ticket at the attraction you want to visit or at the time you want to enter. One must always follow a confusing ritual of being at one place at one time to pick up a free ticket that will instruct you to be at another place at another time to begin your tour. This is really more of a commitment than I am ready to make for some things and the Capitol Building lost out on my visit. I did take a lot of pictures and my laziness was rewarded when I discovered a quiet little watering grotto just off the side. It was a cute 6-sided building with 3 doors and 3 benches, and in the middle was a 6-sided fountain with 3 drinking fountains and 3 little basins with continuously running water for rinsing your hands. It was a surprisingly quiet and peaceful place to rest a moment.
Feeling refreshed, we wandered by the Senate offices, the Supreme Court where I gave a shout out to my biznitch Ruth B-G DAWG, and the Library of Congress. The Library’s function is to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations (or so it says on the website). So it seems their job is to keep all the books published, and during a discussion between myself, Jen and my urbane friend, it was determined that they had everything published (even Danielle Steele) except for porn books. We debated many points about whether or not porn books should be kept and catalogued by the Library, with my falling resolutely on the ‘yes’ side.
Back on my beloved Metro and a much-needed rest at the hotel before our first trip to IKEA and meatball dinner.

7/5 Washington, DC 2713 Miles

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a seemingly innocuous system of transport, an innocent way to funnel people across the Chesapeake Bay. Or a way to cause pain and fear and terror. Things began to look up when we found ourselves lost in Norfolk, but Jen’s intrepid navigation skills sent us in the right direction. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel is a 3078 mile expanse of precariously built bridges and obviously suspect tunnels. To add insult to terrifying injury, they charge you $10 to enter this dimension of confusion. It took us about 57 hours to cross this thing and when we exited, I discovered I had chewed the lining off the doors in the car. Sorry, Jen.
More time spent in Virginia, buying ham and bacon and boiled peanuts and having a terrible time finding lunch. We searched forever and just could not find anything for lunch that seemed both tasty and unique. Eventually, I turned the wrong way down a one way street, drove over a curb and found myself sobbing and swearing in a KFC parking lot. Jen took over driving again and picked up some chicken for lunch. It wasn’t good, but at 2 in the afternoon after eating nothing all day, second-rate fast food chicken tasted like…well, second rate chicken, but it kept me from eating my own foot.
The chicken in my stomach calmed my nerves so that I was set for the next surprise of the day: yet another trip over the Chesapeake Bay. What few people know about me is that I have a fear of heights and I have a fear of open water, so high bridges over water can reduce me to a shivering mass. I knew there would be some bridges on my trip, but I certainly did not realize to what extent the citizens of the east coast would decide to enbridge the area. And what I don’t understand is why they choose the widest point to build the bridges over and after that build the bridges so high that the car hovers in the mesosphere causing a marked lack of oxygen and eventual motor control loss. Now I was faced with another bridge over more water, and now it was rush hour and the bridge was crowded and the traffic crawled. I think it will take weeks for my ass to unclench. On the other side of the bridge lay Annapolis and the US Naval Academy.
Annapolis was pretty and crowded and like everything else, was oozing with history and sushi restaurants. I got out the map and located the general vicinity of our hotel in DC and tried to find the quickest route there. What I learned was that while the city streets are laid out and easy to drive, the freeways of DC are a confusing mass. There was no way to get from 295 to 395 without pulling my navel inside out. After a few colorful expressions and a couple of u-turns, we found ourselves at the hotel.
Our room was on the 10th floor and as we opened the curtains we were greeted with a fabulous view of the city. Across the freeway was the Pentagon, and, from left to right, the Lincoln Memorial, The White House, The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. We marveled for about 7 minutes and then got down to the business of showers and laundry and unpacking. Refreshed and relaxed, we headed out to meet my pleasant and witty friend for dinner. Yes, this friend is truly a fine specimen of friendliness even if he does try to convince me that he is an asshole.
The meal was at Papa Razzi’s in Georgetown. The food was tasty, but the service lacked a certain skill in math. I was offered one beer at the beginning of the evening. We sat there for 5 hours that night and talked and laughed and had a good time. He never came back to offer me another beer. In 5 hours I can consume about 5 beers and that comes to about $25 on the bill and at 20% that would get you another $5 on the tip. But what can I say? He saved me from a beer bloat and I saved him from unneccesary tax headaches later this year.