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Spring Break 2007 - 3 Days in DC

Spring Break 2007 - 3 Days in DC

Old Mar 27, 07, 2:26 pm
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Spring Break 2007 - 3 Days in DC

Spring Break is that time of the year when college students invade warm places all over the world to escape from school work, stress, and to have one great time…Or at least most of them do. I myself, being a resident of one such spring break destination (Panama City Beach, FL), decided that I needed to head in the opposite direction. While I did go home to PCB for the first five days of my trip, I headed north to Washington, DC for the remaining three days. Also you can find photos of my trip at my web gallery.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Since I wanted to maximize my time in DC, I booked an early morning award ticket on AirTran out of Orlando. Thinking that I would have to get up at probably 3:30/4:00AM, and since I am not a morning person I just decided to drive from PCB through the night. I stopped in Tallahassee, visited a friend then got back on Interstate 10. About an hour down the road, traffic came to a standstill. There must have been a serious accident, as I was stuck in traffic for over an hour. I got to my place in Orlando at 3:45, already over an hour behind schedule. After unloading my car, I was parking my car at MCO 30 minutes later. A short bus ride to the terminal from the satellite lot; I got off at American Airlines then walked to AirTran. Good thing as right after I got in line, it got long.

As I approached the counter I asked the agent about upgrading my ATL-DCA flight. There was space, so $40 later I was in seat 3A instead of 25C. I headed to the Starbucks and grabbed a scone and café mocha while watching the people go through the security checkpoint. Soon enough I would get in line. Of course I picked the “wrong” line and got stuck behind people flying Southwest who were clueless as to what to do.

AirTran Airways Flight 854
Orlando, FL (MCO) - Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Departure: 6:50am Arrival: 8:36am
Aircraft: 737-700 Seat: 17D Class: Coach


I thought about getting on the 6AM flight to ATL, but they had been delayed despite the screens saying Final Call. They announced it was due to a missing flight attendant, so I decided to just sit tight and use the free wifi.

We boarded and consequently took off early. I had a short connection in ATL, so I took this as good news. As soon as we crossed 10,000 feet I pulled out my tablet and watched the last episode of the Amazing Race (I had missed the first 30 minutes). Having a 14-in screen on a laptop in coach is a burden, but one of the things I like about the tablet is I can swivel the screen around for a much more comfortable viewing angle. In flight service consisted of three packs of Biscoffs and orange juice. My seat mate couldn’t get the XM to work, and I think he resorted to watching Amazing Race off of my tablet sans audio.

We landed on the new runway in Atlanta which meant it took forever to taxi, making us about 10 minutes late. I headed to my connecting gate and after trying to charge my tablet, I went to go change my shirt that I had been wearing for 24 hours. When I got back over half of the gate was gone! I was away for five minutes! Needless to say, I walked straight onto the plane.

AirTran Airways Flight 184
Atlanta, GA (ATL) – Washington-National (DCA)
Departure: 9:20am Arrival: 11:22am
Aircraft: 737-700 Seat: 3A Class: Business


This would be my first time ever flying in the front cabin on any airline. I was excited about this opportunity! I noticed how much bigger the seat was, and then shortly after sitting a flight attendant came by to offer pre-departure drinks. I ordered orange juice and drank as the remaining passengers boarded as well as watching the activity outside.

We took off 10 minutes early and climbed rather quickly. I pulled out my tablet again, but this time to watch an episode of the BBC show Top Gear where they travel across the southern US on a road trip. Of course this whole time I was enjoying the space I had: lots of room for my tablet, feet and the seat. I could get used to sitting up here. Also, it appears you get a choice of snack in Business, instead of just Biscoffs like in coach. While I like Biscoffs, choice is good. Overall I was very pleased with my AirTran Business Class experience.

When it came time to land, we flew in over the Potomac, so I took pictures of the mall area right before landing. Of course my seatmate had to take it upon himself to warn me of the FBI going after people taking pictures…

After getting off of the aircraft, I headed straight outside, and walked to the metro station and waited for the next Blue Line train, which wasn’t long. 10 minutes later I was in Rosslyn, and I made my way towards my hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott Arlington/Rosslyn. Walking only took 5 minutes, even when dodging all the business and military people running between buildings.

Walking into the hotel I was expecting the worst: being questioned because of my age (it has happened before) or because the hotel was overbooked or they couldn’t offer me early check-in. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about and was checked in about one minute. Actually now that I think back on it, cheap hotels care about my age and the more expensive ones don’t. Seems a bit backwards…..

I headed up to my room on the sixth floor and found it to be much nicer than I thought. Much better than that Super 8 I had been considering. Quickly got settled in and decided that now would be a good time to take a shower to keep me going for the rest of the day.

On my way back out I grabbed a hot dog, got on the metro and made my way to Capitol South station. From there I walked up along 1st Street past the Library of Congress, the US Capitol, the Supreme Court, and Senate and House office buildings. It wasn’t long before I made it to Senator Bill Nelson’s office to pick up a Senate Gallery ticket. For the entire 15 minutes I was in that building I think I was the only person in shorts and t-shirt.

Despite the fact I have been to DC several times I have never been in the Capitol, so I made that my priority. The line wasn’t long for security (15 minutes) and took my time going around the capitol before going inside. Of course, to get to the Senate Gallery it involved checking my electronics, navigating a maze of corridors, and passing through yet another security checkpoint. There were only a handful of senators there listening to Senator Biden, I believe, give his remarks on the Iraq situation. Quite interesting to see and next time I will check out the House Gallery.

Afterwards, I made my exit and then decided to walk around the Capitol and take some pictures from various angles. My next stop was the Library of Congress. I went and got a card, as I wanted to see the LoC and maybe do some research for a class. The research assistant told me to use the tunnels to avoid security again, but since I couldn’t find my way to the tunnels I just decided that I could come back later. After wandering around I finally arrived at Union Station. I grabbed some dinner in the food court and then walked around the station for a bit. After that it was back to the metro, which I rode around to various spots, but it started to rain. I eventually found my way back to the hotel, where I eventually crashed at some point.
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Old Mar 27, 07, 2:28 pm
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Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday would be my only full day in Washington, DC on this trip. I had made plans to try and take in the entire mall and several museums. Even after finding out that the forecast included rain for most of the day I still remained optimistic.

I headed to the metro station, but first decided to stop by Burger King to grab a cheap breakfast. I ran back across the street to the station and bought my pass, but as I stood there the person next to me needed some help. They quickly turned to me to ask for advice, since I had moved through my transaction rather quickly. Maybe they thought I was a DC local…one who was crazy enough to wear shorts on this cold (38 F), wet day.

As I made it back up to the surface at Federal Center SW, I could see that it was still raining. I didn’t want to spend my entire day soaked, so I made my way to the first building I saw: the National Museum of the American Indian. Now, I had not planned to visit this museum, partially because I had not really known about it. As I entered I noticed that it looked incredibly new….maybe it was not here six years ago when I was last in DC. Anyways, there were some interesting exhibits about all the different tribes in not just only North America, but some in Central and South America as well. Many of the exhibits were very informative and I learned quite a bit. However, it just seems like they could put so much more in the Museum, which I have a feeling they will….or I just missed some of the stuff.

Next door is the National Air and Space Museum. On my short walk a man and his daughter were walking when a man shouted at them “What are you F#$%ing looking at? Get your eyes off of me!” The father didn’t say anything, and we all entered the museum shortly. This is probably one of my favorite museums in DC. All the aircraft and spacecraft, both new and old are just so fascinating to me. I noticed SpaceShipOne was now hanging up. Also, the civil aircraft section was closed, along with the jet aircraft all. I was a little disappointed, but I will just have to come back again. I thought about seeing an IMAX film, but decided that I could see many of those back in Orlando, and that there were more pressing sights to see. After a quick stop in the gift shop I was back outside.

I crossed the mall, snapped a few photographs and then went directly across to the National Gallery. I did not spend a long time in the galleries as I am not much of an art person. However, I did check out some Italian Renaissance art, some portraits (briefly) and spent the most time checking out the photography section. On my way out I snaked my way through some of the sculptures, tapestries, and other non-paintings.

As I walked, I managed to make it to the National Archives. As soon as I reached the main floor, I noticed the line for the Constitution/Bill of Rights/Declaration of Independence. Since I had already seen those, I moved on and went through the rest of the Archives, which I had never seen. There was a copy of the Magna Carta, and the Public Vault. The “vault” was a completely hands on experience through computers, audio, video, etc. If anything it was interesting to see how the Archives have added technology into the exhibits.

Afterwards I went to find food, and wound up behind the Archives on Pennsylvania Ave. I went in to a deli, which I realized as I ate, that I had eaten here back in 1998. It is strange I remember these things. It made the long walk towards the White House, but I stopped at the White House Visitors Center to dry off quickly. Once dry, I headed back out and headed to the White House, but it was on lockdown after a 66-year old man jumped the fence. Since it would be on lockdown for at least one more hour, I decided to try the Washington Monument, but they were out of tickets. At this point, not only was my jacket soaked but my shirt was too. Not a good thing when it’s cold, so I quickly walked to the Smithsonian station.

I was back at the hotel by 3PM, where I ran my wet clothes down to the dryer, and then took a hot shower. After getting my act back together, I headed back into DC and decided I would try the Museum of Natural History. Went through the Mammals and Gems/Minerals Exhibits and left since they were about to close at 5:30. After this, I went to the White House, but could only get to the north side. I took pictures then headed north to the McPhearson Square Metro station to head back to the hotel again.

Getting back to the hotel around 7:00, I started to think about dinner. When I finally headed out around 9PM to pick up food at Ruby Tuesday’s I noticed something. It was SNOWING!!!! It was the first time in a few years I had snow. After bringing my food back and eating, I headed back outside to play. I made some snowballs (I still have the skill) and made a mini-snowman. The locals probably thought I was crazy, but I enjoyed the only snow I will probably see for some time…..unless it snows in Orlando!
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Old Mar 27, 07, 2:32 pm
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Saturday, March 17, 2007

I am not a morning person, so my alarm at 6:30 did not wake me. Luckily, the 7:00 wake up call did. After getting ready and packing I went downstairs. There was a breakfast buffet, so I opted for that. It was pretty good, but I paid more than I wanted to ($13). It was also at this time I discovered there was a menu on my table as well that had some cheaper options. So much for that, but at least it was a good, hot, filling breakfast. I then walked outside and noted that it was still cold and windy. After a short ride on the Metro, I made my way to the Washington Monument ticket booth.

I got there around 8:10 and talked to a few people who made comments about me wearing shorts and other things. Shortly after 8:30, I had a ticket for an hour later. With time to kill, I headed over to the World War Two memorial, since that was not there in 2001. It is a very nice memorial and was covered by ice, so the school group that was there has sliding all over it. After taking some pictures, I went back to the Washington Monument and got in line. There were two guys from China ahead of me, and one of them wanted to know if he could take a picture with me shaking hands, and I obliged. Of course I made sure to get a picture on my camera as well. Then we both discovered we were in wrong lines. It was the 9:00 line, I needed to be in the 9:30, and they needed to be in the 10:00. After getting into the right line it wasn’t actually long before I got in.

After clearing security, my group had to wait for the elevator that would take us up 500 feet. Upon reaching the top, I went around to each of the windows took pictures and just looked around for a good amount of time. Went down to the 490th foot level and waited for the elevator and noticed there is a gift shop up there. There is not a lot of space, but they managed to put one up here. After the ride down, I headed towards the Korean War Memorial. Quite a few people were visiting it, mainly those who were counter protesting, it appeared. Next was a quick walk over to the Lincoln Memorial to see the larger than life Abraham Lincoln. Since the two protests were right outside, I decided to go and check it out. I walked over to the counter-protest side, which were mainly veterans, and snapped a few photos of the action, before heading to the Vietnam Memorial, which was inaccessible due to crowds. I just kept on walking to Smithsonian station, and 20 minutes later I was in my hotel room where I finished packing and checked out.

I took the Metro to Federal Triangle then walked over to the White House to see it from the South Lawn. There were not very many of us out here. From there I moved to the Jefferson Memorial, and as I got closer to the memorial, it got windier and windier. Not wanting to stay in the ferocious wind for long, I took some quick pictures before heading under the dome.

I hiked back over to Smithsonian station and took the train to Metro Center where I connected to the Red Line to Union Station. At Union Station I got a small quesadilla to tie me over until dinner, which I will note as having a salsa that was based on onions more so than tomatoes. Afterwards, I walked across the street to the National Postal Museum. It was somewhat interesting, but some of it I just wasn’t too interested in. Of course it’s also a much smaller museum than the other Smithsonian museums. While I was here I also mailed myself a post card, so I can see how long it takes to get here.

Before heading back on the Metro, I walked around Union Station for a bit. I eventually took the Red Line to Chinatown. I walked around the Chinatown area for a while, and noted that I shouldn’t have eaten at Union Station, as I could have just waited until I got here. Chinatown also wasn’t as large as I thought it would be. But then I guess DC isn’t known for its Chinatown like other cities are.

Next I took the Yellow Line to Pentagon station, which when I got off, the exit was blocked off by Pentagon Police due to the protests that were happening right above. I waited for the next train and took it to L’Enfant Plaza, where I went up to the surface and then realized I could have used this station the other day. After a few minutes I went back down and got on a train back to Rosslyn. I then headed back to my hotel to pick up my suitcase and charge my cell phone. After 15 minutes I walked back to the metro for my last ride on this trip.

I arrived at DCA shortly after 5:00 for my 7:35 flight. Since I had been upgraded to First Class, I decided that I would use the First Class/Dividend Preferred line, even though I could have just used the kiosk. I talked with the others in line and listened to their stories of trying to travel with the nor’easter that hit. One had been trying to go from New York to Detroit for the past two days, the other somehow had his flight to Charlotte cancelled that morning. While I waited, the First Class line moved about 10 feet and only one agent helping two people the entire time. Even as supervisors walked by, they wouldn’t do anything. Finally it took one guy being pushed over the top before they added anyone else. Also, the coach lines seemed to moving quite a bit faster. I noticed two people who were at a bar downstairs, and they made it through the coach line before I printed my boarding pass. When I finally went to check in, I didn’t have any problems and I wished good luck to those I had been waiting with and headed towards security.

Security was quick and hassle free, but the concourse was a mess: very, very crowded. Gates were overfilled with people and the line for the US Airways Special Services desk was the length of half the terminal. Since I still had time to kill I grabbed some dinner. My flight was delayed until 8:05, but I knew it would leave later than that. As I waited I was sitting next to a family with many little kids. Their son started to cry and whine right next to me and it started to get really annoying. I pulled out my noise cancelling headphones, but they didn’t do enough on their own, so I pumped music into my ears until he stopped.

US Airways Flight 1189
Washington-National (DCA) – Orlando, FL (MCO)
Departure: 8:55pm Arrival: 10:50pm
Aircraft: 737-400 Seat: 3F Class: First


We finally boarded at about 7:50 and I was the third person on. Of course when I was stowing my suitcase, the flight attendant had to make sure I was sitting in that row. I was the only person to get asked in First Class, probably because of my age and my UCF shirt, as most people my age don’t usually sit up there (and neither do I). The other passengers piled in, and at one point a woman tried to steal a First Class seat, but was discovered when they guy who had that seat came back. Eventually, it seemed like we were full, but I noticed still some empty seats in First and I knew that out of the 12 seats 11 were assigned. Finally it was announced that we were waiting on five people from a flight at gate 35 (we were at 39). It took them 15 minutes to get there, but once they did the started immediately with take off preparations. Our drink orders for in the air were taken and shortly we rocketed off of the runway at DCA around 8:55.

Looking down it was rather cool to see the city all lit up. I didn’t have the chance this time to spend the night in the city on this trip thanks to the weather, so this would have to be it for me. Once we passed 10,000 feet I pulled out my tablet and queued up Casino Royale. Shortly after I got setup, the flight attendant came by with my drink, and shortly after that, the snack basket. I enjoyed my window seat as I watched my movie, trying to guess the cities below. Unfortunately, I only made it a little over half way into the movie when I noticed we were beginning our decent. As we made our approach I tried to look for UCF below, but I couldn’t tell with it being night. Upon landing we were at our gate quickly (benefit of landing late at night). After deplaning I made my way through the terminal to go catch a bus to my car.

Overall I had a great time in DC. I still have a lot more new things to see when I go back next time, which hopefully will be sooner than six years. I look forward to my next trip, whatever that may be.
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Old Mar 27, 07, 2:56 pm
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Nicely written. I lived in DC for several years and return often. You seem to enjoy walking as much as I do.

The Museum of the American Indian is quite new and, I hear, still adding exhibits. It's on my list of the places to see next time I'm there.

Excellent report.^
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Old Mar 27, 07, 4:17 pm
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Great report!! I'll be spending a couple of days in DC later this year, so I enjoyed your report of the city as much as you rreports of the flights! Thanks Berto!
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Old Mar 28, 07, 2:45 pm
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Kind of ironic that just after you came from Panama City Beach to Washington for spring break, The Washington Post ran a front page story on spring break in PCB.
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Old Mar 28, 07, 10:44 pm
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Good to hear people enjoyed my report!

Originally Posted by hoyateach
Nicely written. I lived in DC for several years and return often. You seem to enjoy walking as much as I do.

The Museum of the American Indian is quite new and, I hear, still adding exhibits. It's on my list of the places to see next time I'm there.

Excellent report.
Yep, walking is my favorite way to explore a city. ^

Originally Posted by More Champagne Sir?
Great report!! I'll be spending a couple of days in DC later this year, so I enjoyed your report of the city as much as you rreports of the flights! Thanks Berto!
Have a great time in DC later this year!

Originally Posted by greggwiggins
Kind of ironic that just after you came from Panama City Beach to Washington for spring break, The Washington Post ran a front page story on spring break in PCB.
Interesting! That article caught the PCB spring break atmosphere quite well. Its all about the marketing, but reading the article it seems that they are taking it to some more extremes this year (could also be since my "hotel" is home I dont see some of the stuff).....
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Old Mar 29, 07, 3:40 am
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Going off at a tangent here, but what did you make of that edition of Top Gear that you mention?

I thought it was quite amuzing but only in a very, very immature way. I hardly think they were the best ambassadors for the UK on that gig...
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Old Mar 29, 07, 10:04 am
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I can see that from a UK standpoint that they probably were not the best ambassadors of your country. One expects its citizens to make good while in other nations and to not be the "ugly" types, especially those in the public eye.

I would disagree that the only humor in it was immature (I agree that some of it was). However, as a resident of the state of Florida, I found humor in a different way. I apparently edited it out of my report, but one of the reasons that episode appealed to me was the fact that their road trip took them through areas I live or are familar with.

Of course in the end I liked what they did with their cars.
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Old Mar 29, 07, 11:28 pm
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Originally Posted by Berto View Post

Of course in the end I liked what they did with their cars.
Do you mean the way they gave them away to the people of New Orleans, or the bit before that where they wrote some deeply offensive (to the locals) slogans on the side of them before driving through a bunch of backwater towns in the deep south?

(For those who are unfamiliar with the show/episode, these included "Hilary for President", "NASCAR sucks" etc).

A far better episode IMO was where they attempted to convert a reliant robin into a reusable "space shuttle".
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Old Mar 30, 07, 7:13 am
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Originally Posted by Swiss Tony View Post
Do you mean the way they gave them away to the people of New Orleans, or the bit before that where they wrote some deeply offensive (to the locals) slogans on the side of them before driving through a bunch of backwater towns in the deep south?

(For those who are unfamiliar with the show/episode, these included "Hilary for President", "NASCAR sucks" etc).

A far better episode IMO was where they attempted to convert a reliant robin into a reusable "space shuttle".
Giving them to people in New Orleans.

Ill have to check out that episode with the reliant robin space shuttle.
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Old Mar 30, 07, 7:53 am
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Berto, you are really turning into the intrepid traveler! I love to go to Washington, D.C., too, but the National Gallery is one of my favorite museums in the world. ^

Last edited by Dorlee; Mar 30, 07 at 7:55 am Reason: Spelling
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