Monday, December 27, 2010

Greg’s “Less-Than-Excellent” Christmas Adventure

For the past month or so, I have been planning a “quick-in/quick-out” trip to Southern Maryland over Christmas Weekend so I could represent our family as my brother-in-law’s three daughters were baptized on Sunday morning.  Even packed my camcorder so I could record the event, since everyone in Dex’s family was involved in one way or another.  My mother-in-law has been visiting with them for a week, so she would be able to attend as well.

I had three airports to choose from (Dulles and National in Washington, and BWI in Baltimore) and all involved a two to three hour drive from the airport to Lexington Park, MD.  I found the latest direct flight from Dayton so I could spend as much of Christmas as possible with my family, and made reservations for a rental car and a hotel room in Lexington Park – burned points for most everything, so the whole trip was going to cost less than $100.00.  And this past week I watched the weather, as a snowstorm inched across the country, invaded the south, and prepared to sweep up the east coast.  It was refreshing to watch the weather weasels admit that they really had no idea where the storm would go or how much snow to expect.

At a little after 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Day, I left my parents’ place in the middle of a euchre game (and I was winning!) and headed for the Dayton airport.  Should have known that there were challenges ahead when the economy parking lot was full and I had to head for an overflow lot at the outskirts of the property – where I stood, alone, in freezing temps and wind waiting for a shuttle to come.


This was a look back at my plane after it landed – it’s out of focus because I was shivering.  I found it interesting that at the little Dayton airport, when you fly on a smaller “regional jet” you walk down a heated ramp and straight onto the plane, but at huge Dulles airport in Washington they’re not equipped to handle that and you have to stumble down the stairs onto the tarmac and wait for them to deliver your carryon bags because the overhead bins aren’t big enough to accommodate them.


Not a whole lot of activity at Dulles on Christmas evening.  Walked and rode a mile or so out to Ground Transportation, where I waited 20 minutes in the cold for a Hertz shuttle, while shuttles from a dozen other rental car companies picked up their customers.  Then I waited 45 minutes in line at the rental desk (and there were only three people in front of me), which gave me time to check the weather forecast – Washington was now expecting 3-5” of snow, and Lexington Park was expecting 6”-10” – with the possibility of much more.

So I got in my car at 10:00 and started driving.  The snow started about 10:30, and by the time I arrived in Lexington Park shortly before midnight it was coming down hard.  I went to bed wondering what I would see when morning came.


This is my toy rental car when I left the hotel Sunday morning – you’ll notice that the parking lot was completely clean, with just a light coating on snow on the roof that was there when I arrived!  Yep – the weathermen missed it again . . .

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Dex and his family met me at the hotel, his three girls jumped into my car, and we drove to church – where we found this note taped to the front door!  You will note the absolute lack of snow in the parking lot – church had been cancelled on the threat of snow, with no warning to the members.  It never occurred to me that we probably should have called the minister and asked him to hop on his sled and come over and perform the baptisms anyway.


The forecast was still calling for 6-10” of snow, and it was starting to flurry a bit.  So we decided to go out for brunch – at Bob Evans.  Now I like Bob Evans, but this is a restaurant chain that started in Ohio, and one is located about two miles from where I am sitting.  It seemed ironic that I flew 500 miles to Washington and drove 100 miles in a rental car to have brunch “down on the farm” (that’s their slogan).


The family shot at the table.  Clockwise from lower left – my niece Alexandra, my niece Natalie, my mother-in-law Merea, my brother-in-law Dex, my sister-in-law Ella, and my niece Mary.  Bob Evans was doing a brisk business on the morning after Christmas, and while we were there the snow came down harder and harder.  Even though it was only 10:45 when we finished brunch and my flight was at a little after 5:00, I decided it was time to start heading home – CNN was still warning to expect delays for snow and wind at the Washington airports.


This was the view as I started my journey back from Lexington Park.  But I noticed that the farther I went, the less it was snowing.  By the time I got to the Beltway, it was only flurries . . .


And snowplows loaded with salt were sitting idle at the side of the road all over the place, waiting for a snowstorm that missed them completely and blasted Philadelphia, New York, and New England instead.  So I was on the outskirts of Washington at 12:00, with time on my hands.  And I hadn’t been there since 1978.  Time to make lemonade out of lemons . . .

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So I decided to head downtown.  When I saw an exit sign for Nationals Park (the new ballpark where the Washington Nationals play), I couldn’t resist.  Not much to look at from outside, other than the row of silver baseballs hanging around the outfield perimeter.


But from the corner next to the ballpark I could see the Capitol building only a few blocks away . . .


A few minutes later, I had parked my car on the street (free on Sundays) in front of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and was standing on the National Mall.

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I started walking down the mall toward the Washington Monument, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a banner hung on the Newseum a block to my right.  I have always been a fan of newspapers and journalism in general, and have wanted to go to the Newseum ever since it opened.  With an hour or so to kill, why not?  I thought it was really cool that the current day’s front pages from newspapers all over the country are displayed outside the front door.  Then I got to the front door – and discovered that unlike most of the other museums in Washington (which are free), this one costs twenty bucks.  Now that gets you admission for two days – and I will likely do that someday – but for a little over an hour?  Not today . . .


So I started back down the street, bundled up against the cold and wind.  There is something cool (bad pun) about the idea of walking down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on the way to the White House.


But not all of the sights are cool.  There is a person underneath all of those blankets (you can see the shoe).  And I saw five more in doorways and on benches as I walked.


This is the Old Post Office – I just thought the building looked interesting.


In front of the White House, with my cell phone just inside the gate so I could get a shot without the bars.  Unfortunately, Barack and family were not home – and I could have used a warm welcome and a cup of hot chocolate . . .

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National Christmas Tree across the street from the White House.  Seriously underwhelming – I assume it looks much better when the lights are turned on.  There is a shrub for each state arranged in a circle around it – this is the Ohio shrub.

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Two views of the Washington Monument.  The one at left was while I was standing next to the National Christmas Tree.  The one at right was from the base of the monument – and that is not the tip of the monument at the top of the picture.  You can’t see it from the base.


This sign was on the street next to the Washington Monument.  I took the picture because I thought it was appropriate that Ohio Drive in Washington was under construction, since every street in Ohio usually is . .

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Then I walked on down to the far end of the mall, and found the only Washington politician who was willing to sit down and visit with me . . .


The view back the way I came, from the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps.  I kept thinking that soon I would hear Forrest and Jen-ny hollering at each other . . .

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Alas, it was time to drive back to Dulles.  Filled up the gas tank, dropped off the rental car, and rode the shuttle back to the terminal.  Absolutely no crowd at security – and no, I had no body scans or pat-downs.  Made my way to the gate and found a Five Guys right next to it, so I had two hours until my flight and plans for dinner.  Then I noticed that on the Departures screen, right above the listing for my flight to Dayton at 5:07 was another for a flight to Dayton that was supposed to leave at 12:25, but was just loading because the plane was delayed getting out of Richmond on its first leg (there, they got snow).  And it was beginning to snow harder outside.  So instead of ordering a hamburger, I walked over to that gate, waited for everyone to load, and then asked the gate attendant if he would mind sending me home a little early.  Got the last boarding pass on the flight, and ended up landing in Dayton about the time my original flight was supposed to leave.

So I am back to work today, a little sore from my hiking tour of Washington.  And soon, my Christmas Adventure will be just a distant memory.  Oh yeah, I got a call from my mother-in-law as I drove home from the Dayton airport last night – my brother-in-law had just come back inside from scraping off his driveway in Maryland.  They ended up getting about two inches . . .


  1. I saw ALL those things in Washington a few years ago when I went with the band. Isn't it amazing? Lincoln gives you shivers when you are in there with him. Too bad you couldn't spend time at the park where the war memorials are. And I fully recall just how sore one gets walking around in Washington. I'm sorry you burned all those points for a "pointless" trip, even though seeing family is important. Better luck next time! PS: We NEVER close anything down here on just a "threat" of snow! ~ Tyra

  2. You're a trooper. I'd have gone out to the parking lot at the church, melted some snow in my glove, over the rental car defroster, sprinkled the girls and proclaimed the girls "baptized", kissed the mother in law on the cheek, and been outta there. (Not really, but the whole weird scene would have played in my head...LOL)
    At any rate, this might be your karma or something. The good thing was you were "protected" by bad weather because of all your "good deeds". (Like Free shipping at Marcos- which I was SO GRATEFUL FOR that I FORGOT about the 5% discount for email subscribers..... but it was SO worth it!)
    Your "bad" karma may have been due for the fact you were bragging on the trip costing you less than 100 bucks. Hahahaha!
    Hey- speaking of "bad" karma- I was in tornado alley last week! My "good" karma? They were all around me but missed MY place because I shop at Marcos! LOL!
    Happy New Year & thanks for reading my bull-
    Becs Middleton

  3. What an unfortunate trip, but you do have a good story & a nice visit to make up for it.

    And I'm pretty sure Ohio Dr. was under construction the last time I was there too, several years ago! The sign is quite appropriate.

  4. Very well told indeed. Good job making the best of the situation. Glad you got to visit with family and see DC. I grew up just outside DC and was thinking the other day I'm going to have to actually take a vacation there some year soon so my kids can see DC. Bizarre :) (p.s. and yes, the Newseum is neat, but $20 is very pricey for what you see)