One of the great things about my job is that it’s relatively flexible. It’s because of this flexibility that I can take advantage of great deals on flights. Back in June Southwest had an amazing sale on airfares throughout the country, so I ended up booking a trip to Washington D.C. I actually visited DC a little over a year ago and found it to be a pretty awesome place. That trip actually predates this blog by a couple of months. In fact it was that trip and my first cross country road trip that spurred me to start this blog. MT stands for a bunch of random things, among them is ‘Mike’s Travels’ and ‘Miscellaneous Thoughts.’
People sometimes ask me how I have enough money to travel. The truth is I tend to travel when I can somehow organize it so that either my lodging costs or travel costs are free. The last time I went to DC my friend Bo had an interview at John Hopkins University, so he had a hotel room in Baltimore. He graciously let me crash his hotel room, so I found a cheap flight and car rental and went to visit the monuments and museums in DC while he had his interview in Baltimore.
Since I didn’t have this blog back then, here’s a random story from that trip. Since Bo was in interviews with faculty all day, I spent the entire day in DC alone. It was my first experience traveling alone and I was having a blast. I actually really enjoyed visiting the museums on my own, spending as long or as short as I wanted at each exhibit. I got to do all the touristy stuff too, visiting the monuments and taking a bazillion pictures. Towards the end of the day I wanted to get a picture of the sunset over the Lincoln Monument, so I found myself walking quickly while looking through the viewfinder on my camera. I wasn’t watching where I was going so I stepped in the reflecting pool between the Lincoln and Washington monuments, almost falling in headfirst, but somehow managed to balance myself and continued walking, playing it off as if nothing happened. But apparently a bunch of people saw me and one guy joked, “Good job saving that camera…”
It’s amazing how much things can change in a year and a half. When I visited last time, Bo was still a grad student, looking for jobs all over the world. Now he is a patent officer in DC (who graciously allowed Jack and me to crash his pad again.) Last time I almost fell in the reflecting pool. This time around, it was physically impossible for me to fall into the reflecting pool, because it was completely torn up, just a humongous hole in the ground, under remodeling. Last time I visited the Martin Luther King Memorial was under construction. This time I landed in town just in time for the dedication ceremony. It was actually sheer stupid luck that we found ourselves in DC during the dedication ceremony, because it was originally scheduled for August, but was postponed by hurricane Irene.
Since it was a pretty historic once in a lifetime event, we thought about getting there early to get a good view. But all three of us overslept (Korean food being available at all hours of the night probably didn’t help) so we didn’t arrive until a little before 11:30. We got there a little before President Obama’s speech. As he stepped to the podium the crowd chanted, “Four more years! Four more years!” We were way too far back to see him in person, but seeing him live on the jumobtron screens mounted above him and hearing his actual voice blaring out over the loudspeakers was still a pretty incredible experience for me. I recorded his entire speech on my smartphone, but unfortunately the quality is pretty crappy.
Later on during the trip we returned to the MLK memorial. It’s actually a really cool monument, symbolizing a mountain of a man, with the inscription, “Out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,” carved into the side of the monument. In his speech Obama emphasized Martin Luther King’s small stature, but now he is immortalized as a huge figure, a towering symbol of civil rights. Pretty amazing when you think about it.
What also amazes me is that no matter how things change, things also stay the same. On my last trip to DC, after Bo had finished his interviews at John Hopkins, we found ourselves wandering around the monuments during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. We randomly found this microbrewery that served a seasonal cherry blossom beer, which to this day I remember as the best beer I’ve ever had. (We looked for that microbrewery on this trip, but couldn’t find it.) What hasn’t changed is that somehow for two straight guys, we end up in some really bromantic situations. Luckily this time Jack was around, so I was more a third wheel to Jack and Bo’s bromance. The three of us ended up watching Les Miserables at the Kennedy Center. The next day we drove out to Shenandoah National Park to see the autumn leaves.
The other thing that hasn’t changed is the gluttony. We had way too much food, all sorts of food, from late night Korean food to Greek brunch to Native American inspired cuisine to Chinese/Mexican fusion to chili dogs (a local favorite that even Obama eats). It amazes me that Bo is still pretty skinny. If I lived out in DC I would be like 800 pounds for sure.