Friday, January 23, 2009

In Sum

Well, we're back in Iowa, and left to reflect on the trip that was. I love stats (the baseball fan in me), so here's our trip by the numbers:
  • 1,802 miles driven in all
  • 30.5 hours spent in the Inauguration Roadster between Iowa City and Washington, DC
  • 24.37 miles walked in Washington, DC
  • 20 degrees, the reported wind chill temperature at the time of Obama's swearing-in
  • 8.5 hours gone without GOING on inauguration day for yours truly
  • ~2 million people gathered in and around the National Mall on inauguration day
  • 69 blog posts uploaded on this site
  • 49 comments left by blog followers
  • 10 different states logged on to the blog
  • 67 minutes spent trying to get from DC city limits to by brother-in-law's house upon our arrival to the metro area
  • 7.5 hours spent in the cold on inauguration day
  • 2 Obama motorcades that we witnessed up close
  • 10.5 hours of sleep I got between Saturday morning and Tuesday morning
  • 10.5 hours of sleep I got on Tuesday night
  • 7 layers of clothing I wore on the day of the inauguration

I'm sure there are more that escape me at this time.

I want to thank everyone who has followed along on the blog as I made my journey. To have folks show an interest added a layer of legitimacy to my trip that would have proved otherwise difficult. I wish, more than anything, I could have hitched all my students, present and past, to the Inauguration Roadster and brought them along for the ride. As much as I tried to be their eyes and ears, there is so much I now reflect on that I wish I would have shared (like the wave of inauguration-bound cars we encountered at every stop between here and DC as we set out last week, among others). It's hard to describe a "feel," and I fear I may be best able to do so long after these posts have been read.

I think, though, as I had mentioned in a previous post, the entire experience can be crystallized by my singular moment of entering the 3rd Street tunnel on the morning of the inauguration. We had been walking over an hour, and had encountered more people than we could count. All were ambling about in their own directions, though, each as unsure as the next about how to get where they needed to be. We were disparate emotions at that point, representing everything from annoyance to confusion and all points in between. When the hundreds of thousands of people, though, converged on that tunnel, all squeezing through to the same place and with the same shared purpose, those negative feelings were left behind, as though the tunnel were some kind of filter. I think, in retrospect, the sinking feeling I had in my gut in that moment, when I saw what I was joining, was that annoyance leaving me. What happened on stage that day was scripted and predictable, and nothing I can't watch over and over again on TV. It's why I stopped caring about how close I would get to the stage when we got in. Not that it wasn't powerful, of course, but rather secondary to the other things around me- laughter, some tears, cheering, overheard phone calls, and so on. Those are the things I'll try to never forget, because they're the things that can't be rewound and reviewed, unfortunately.

Also, I survived Ricky the Cat, which is a triumph in itself.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

QC Shout Out

This was the Iowa representative in the Newseum's display of nationwide headlines for this, the day after the inauguration. There were worldwide headlines as well- a sure reflection of the large scale significance of yesterday. I have some photos of those I'll get up when I can, though I had to get my Quad City Times photo up first...I hail from the QC area.

On a related note, if anyone has a DC trip planned for any point in the future, reserve a half day for a Newseum visit. The place is amazing, especially today, after some huge news took place in the nation's capitol.

Tonight, like the daytime hours before it, was pretty relaxed. Masses of people remain, though they move with the immediacy of window shoppers rather than anxious inauguration goers. I think for many, present company INCLUDED, this was the first day to not be checking the clock every minute, wondering how to navigate around closed roads, or convincing ourselves that 10+ miles isn't too much to walk. It was nice to relax.

Obama Sighting!

It's our first Obama sighting, in the window there!

OK, not really...it's just a cardboard cut out. Still, it gave us pause for a split second.

Cars and More

Boy, traffic is crazy in DC tonight. Apparently, the city had expected folks to vacate this morning, which to a certain extent is true. Many more stayed around than they had thought, though, resulting in traffic gridlock. At least one radio traffic reporter derided all those "out of town plates" clogging things up.

We're heading to a play this evening. The excitement hasn't subsided much today. It was hard to go anywhere without chatting with someone about the inauguration. My brother-in-law described it as like hosting the Olympics.

I got some great photos from the Newseum, all relevant to the events of this week, that I will get uploaded later this evening. I do have some recovery ahead of me after having nailed my head on a glass display at the Newseum. I leaned in for a close look, and whoever cleaned it did such a good job I didn't see. My forehead found it, though. I felt like a bird running into a picture window. I can't help but think Ricky had something to do with it.

Newseum

At the Newseum in DC. Pictured are the headlines from papers across the country this morning, one from each state. The front page of the Quad City Times was the Iowa paper selected for display.

Evil Incarnate

Morning After

The city was decidedly quiet this morning as I struck out for my coffee. There were many curb side cabs loading luggage for folks, a sure sign of the mass departure this day will be for many. Various neighborhood regulars came in and out of the coffee shop I was in, each of them recounting for the barista where they were yesterday, and which balls and parties they attended last night. It sort of feels like New Year's Day, with business and life in general slowed to a crawl, and plenty of folks seemingly sleeping in for the first time in days. All except yours truly, that is. I feel like sleeping is time wasted when there's still so much more to take in.

We're letting the traffic out of town thin out before we drive away. We're planning a Thursday departure, with a likely stop somewhere halfway to sleep. I'll still update today, as plenty seems to be happening.

Thanks, everyone, for reading and responding with so many great comments. I'm off to enjoy some waffles, and to discuss plans for the day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stumbling for Context

I'm just not sure where to begin, where to take it, and where to end. Forgive me in my attempts to navigate my own feelings, however clumsily.

This whole area- from the folks on the street, to the wait staff in the restaurants- is just alive, and in a good way. We just heard that the Obamas are going to 8 different balls tonight, with the final appearance slated for 2:30 AM...I will be fast asleep by then. I'm going to try and express what this day- as well as the two that preceded it- has meant to me.

I actually remember growing up wondering what I would tell my kids some day about national moments in my life. My mom was always telling me stories of where she was when Kennedy was assassinated, and when Americans first walked on the moon. I wondered what my moments would be. For too many years, I feared the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 would be all I’d have to share with my kids, and all my students would have to share with their kids some day. The tragedy in New York gave me my “Kennedy assassination,” but not my “walking on the moon” moment.

Is this, the Inauguration of the first African-American, my moon moment? Nobody knows. Will Obama be a good president? That’s equally as impossible to tell at this point. The only thing we can do is make sure we commemorate the inauguration in a way that will allow our students to tell their kids some day, as vividly as possible, where they were when the first African-American man was sworn in to the office of President of the United States of America. I know where I was, and who I was among. I know how it smelled, sounded, and looked, and in that, I feel luckier than any man alive. Everyone, though, from DC to California and everywhere in between, had their own tastes, smells, sounds, and sights. I only hope everyone takes a moment to record, in whatever way makes sense to them- journal, photos, recorded word- their thoughts, feelings, and experiences on this, one of the most important days in our shared history as Americans.

Overly romantic? Maybe. But, in five years, if I have the choice between looking back to today and regretting making too big a deal of it, versus not making a big enough deal of it, I'll take the former. So should we all.

Another State

Folks in Nevada have been following as well...

More States to Add

"Destination Inauguration" blog tracking has been reported from Indiana and Colorado, too...

Ramblin' Man

So, the mileage for today clocked in at 10.62, bringing the total for the trip to a robust 18.02! There are more walks to be had, too, as the crowds are expected to remain large throughout tomorrow.

Also, for the record, I was successful in making it through the entire day without a port-a-potty incident. That's 8.5 hours of no restroom break, my friends. I think that would get a tip of the cap from even the most steadfast truck drivers out there.

One More

This came from our DC family and friends (thanks, Christian!) who walked down without tickets today just to be part of the scene. Pictured is the foot traffic they encountered.

Spanning the Country

By the way...

I have received reports of the blog being followed in these states today:
  • Iowa (students, colleagues, friends, and family)
  • Illinois (friends)
  • California (family)
  • Wyoming (family, and reportedly students)
  • Virginia (family)
  • Ohio (family)
  • Arizona (colleague)

Any others to add that I may have missed?

We will be heading to dinner soon, where I intend to consume no less than 10,000 calories. I will check in later with an update or two about final thoughts on the day, as well as what the scene is like out in the city this evening.

PM Tunnel Reentry

video

This is some video of us entering the 3rd Street tunnel after the ceremony, toward the beginning of our seemingly interminable journey back home. We made it in one piece, obviously, and are enjoying some hot cups of coffee and angry looks from Ricky the Cat (she was secretly hoping we'd get lost somewhere, or worse). To be sure, though, I love Ricky, as I do all animals. I actually find her anger toward me a bit charming after all these years. Her hatred for yours truly has aged like a good block of cheese.

Home At Last

Off in the distance you can see the Capitol. It's the view from Brandon's house in the neighborhood of Columbia Heights. I took this picture as we returned home, after I checked my pedometer for our daily total. I will post that total later, though the folks who voted for "More than 17" for total miles walked on my trip will be pleased with the report.

Our New Friends

video

These were our immediate surroundings as the ceremony kicked off. Our new friends are scattered all around us.

Turn it Up!

video

A funny moment...the speakers near us were temporarily malfunctioning, and the crowd around us was quick to point it out to those in charge. That chant you hear is, "Turn it up!"

Video of Our Morning Tunnel Experience

video

Here's a video clip to accompany the photos of our early morning trek through the 3rd Street tunnel. It was probably- oddly- one of the more stirring moments for me throughout the day. Prior to this, it was just walk, walk, and walk some more. As we converged with the legions of others in the tunnel, and the singing and chanting rang out, it became apparent very quick that we were part of something special. It makes it easier to forget about the feet that throb and the dearth of morning coffee when emotion is running high like this.

President Bush Departing

That speck you see in the sky is President Bush leaving the ceremony, and officially departing the office of President.

President Barack H. Obama

Here's a photo of President Obama's Inaugural Address. Anyone who can bring a crowd of roughly two million to absolute silence with his words needs to share his secret with me and my fellow teachers. You can see behind the jumbo screen, slightly to the left, the stage on the west steps of the Capitol.

3rd Street Tunnel

This is a slightly better photo of our 3rd Street tunnel trek from this morning. Basically, Brandon lives on one side of The National Mall, and we needed to be on the other side for our security check. This was also true of hundreds of thousands of others, which usually wouldn't be a problem as numerous roads cut across The Mall. Today, though, only TWO roads were open, which explains the throng of folks we encountered.

Also...

I'd like to send a big shout out to my BlackBerry, without whom none of this would have been possible (I consider my BlackBerry a person, by the way). It was dogging by the end of the day. In fact, I think it was in a race with my fingers to see which would die first.

Departing

This is the scene leaving the ceremony. It didn't move very fast, but we're home now and trying to warm ourselves. Service was jammed for both calls and internet, hampering my update capabilities. I will have more later, including some more photos, and some video. Quite a day!

Ahoy!

We're in! I just want to get through this with all my fingers...cold!

Beginning

The music has started. People are huddled close, some have climbed trees, and kids are riding high on parents' shoulders. We're losing feeling in our extremities, but the excitement helps.

Mileage

Late morning update- 5.25 miles this morning alone. Whew...

Port-a-no-way

Just got the first toilet update, and I think I'll be waiting for however long I need to after what I heard. It sounds more disgusting than a Nixon breakfast in there.

I met a new friend in a giant fur coat. I offered to buy it from her...she's still laughing.

We're In

Well, I tried to send a photo, but text only is hard enough to get uploaded. Updates may suffer, though I'll keep trying. They just showed the Obama motorcade in transit, and the crowd is getting anxious. I was told incoming calls were being received, if anyone wants to ring us.

The Expectations Game

I spent half my sleepless night worrying about how close we'd get with our ticket. I've already realized it's not about that. I'm going to remember this experience for the new friends I'm around, from all walks and corners.

Send some heat our way...

Update

May not have too many more pictures until later, as uploading is glacial in speed. We're cold and tired and a block or so back from the front of the line, but there's nowhere I'd rather be. Just met some more Iowans! People are constantly stepping on each other, elbowing accidentally, and tripping over one another, but I've never heard so many "excuse mes" and "no problems" in a crowd this big. People would have every right to be surly, but are not letting anything dampen their spirits. More later...

In Line...

...though not moving. Just met some fellow Midwesterners. It's cold, but the body heat helps.

3rd Street Tunnel

Unbelievable...people as far as the eye can see. Plenty of singing, chanting, and kindness carried us through.

Scene on the Street

This is before we entered the 3rd Street tunnel. We are in line now. Unbelievable number of people, all in good spirits despite the lack of elbow room.

Ready to Eat

Jefferson/Coolidge/Johnson Cakes on the Griddle

Inauguration Breakfast

Here we are, Inauguration morning at way-too-early o'clock. I'll be manning the griddle for a bit, so no updates for a spell. It took me about 20 minutes just to get all my layers on. The bright side to that is that Ricky the Cat's bite marks cannot penetrate past all the cotton.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Anticipation Mounts

Well, here we (almost) are. We had an uneventful dinner, which was kind of a nice change of pace after a day that was anything but.

First things first, my mileage total. Today, we trudged 5.15 miles, bringing the total thus far to 7.4. No need to fear if you guessed more than 17 and are a bit concerned about that total. Tomorrow will be a monster day for travel-by-foot, and I expect the number to SWELL at a rate at least equal to, and likely exceeding, that of my feet. Also, we still have Wednesday.

The roads are beginning to become almost unnavigable. Many are being shut down, and significant bottlenecking on the others is the result. Parking is a joke, so the "old-fashioned" way is becoming the only option for getting around. Thinking back to this morning, and realizing what happened thereafter was all part of the same day, is pretty stifling. I honestly can't believe that a little more than 24 hours ago, we were just getting in. So much has happened.

We plan for an early morning- probably rising around 5, and leaving by 6 to get in the security line, so as to get as close as we can with our general admission ticket for the zone to which we've been assigned. My wife is thrilled by our early morning plans, and by "thrilled," I mean, "cranky." She's not a morning person. The greatest testament to the importance of this moment in our nation's history may be the fact that she's rising and walking when she is.

About breakfast...

I hate to override the will of the people, but even though the vote from the previous poll I had posted implored me to go with the artery-clogging Kennedy breakfast, I have to go with the pancake research that was unearthed thereafter. At about 5:30 AM, EST tomorrow, I will be pouring some flapjacks on the griddle for my Inauguration Breakfast. We'll call it the Jefferson/Coolidge/Johnson Breakfast. I'll chronicle as much as possible, so long as Ricky the Cat isn't trying to off me when I'm not looking.

Updates tomorrow will be as frequent and substantive as I can make them, which will largely depend on the availability of cell towers and internet capabilities. At the very least, I will keep something of a video diary that can be uploaded later in the day to this site. My general schedule is as follows, just so people can know when may be the "hot" times to check for updates, providing I'm able to from my phone:
  • 5:00 AM, EST- wake up
  • 5:30- making breakfast
  • 6:00- depart for the National Mall
  • 8:00- security begins letting us in
  • 10:00- musical performances begin
  • 11:30- ceremony begins
  • 11:46- supposed minute of Biden swearing-in
  • 11:56- supposed minute of Obama swearing-in
  • 2:00- reception at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, hosted by the Iowa Congressional Delegation
  • 4:00- begin our trek back up to Brandon's house

Weather is supposed to be 29ish for raw temperature, 10-20 for wind speed, and around 20 for the wind chill. On a funny side note- the DC area had about a 40% chance for an inch of snow today, and the salt trucks were out like crazy salting the roads in anticipation of the "blizzard." The weather is downright balmy for Iowa folk such as ourselves. I may even take swim trunks with me tomorrow and work on my tan while I'm waiting in line in the morning. Take care, all- our country's on the verge of history, and you're all about to have an answer to one of the biggest questions future generations of youngsters will ask you:

Where were you when the first African -American was sworn-in as President of the United States of America?

The Luck!

So, we're walking to dinner when we run into another Obama motorcade! It was so unexpected that my camera was not exactly at the ready, but I was able to snap the tail end of the caravan, represented in the sirens you can kind of see in the picture. Very cool! Now, it's dinner, and my wife has ordered the BlackBerry to be silenced.

More Video

video

As explained before, we were unexpectedly stuck in Union Station after riding the Metro to our stop near the Capitol. As we were halfway up the escalator, an alarm sounded, the escalator stopped, and people began to panic. We were able to walk up the escalator, but it was a walk into the crush of people unable to move forward. No word on why we were held there for so long- about ten minutes total- but it was a bit tense. Luckily, we made it out to fresh air eventually, thanks in no small part to the military folks you see in the video who jumped up on the escalator overhang and took charge. I'm afraid of heights, though, and thought I was going to black out when I saw them standing where they were...you should be able to see what I am talking about in the video clip.

Some Video For You

The narration on the video explains it all. Reports from those on the scene- including the police officer- were that President Elect Obama was in the second black car. The police officer on the scene was great, and very nice, considering how many times he had to SHOUT at people to stay out of the road, and on the grass.

We totally lucked into this. We were driving home from a late breakfast/early lunch, and saw that police were beginning to flock to a certain area. Brandon, being from DC, identified this as a likely security detail for a possible presidential transport. We drove around the immediate area until we found a group of people gathered with signs (the ones pictured in my previous post), and they gave us the skinny on what was going down. There were helicopters swarming over us, and police everywhere. It was pretty neat to see something from five feet away that I normally see just on TV.

video

Oh, How My Fingers Will Hurt


That's me in the picture- with Brandon and Christian- sending a blog update for you all. I am trying to spend as much time surveying as I am blogging, and am enjoying every minute of sending the updates back home for y'all. This blog update was being written from our street side wait for the Obama motorcade to roll by us.

Our Oprah Moment


Well, the quest for two (or more) extra tickets was not to be. But, there is a little more to the story than that.

We each had to write our name on a card outside Harkin's office, and they were going to draw for the remaining 10 tickets they had. Only my wife and I could put our names in (even though we already had our own tickets), because any winner had to provide an Iowa ID to claim the tickets. Each name that was drawn would only get one ticket, so we knew the odds were long on getting both of us drawn.

We got half lucky- they pulled my name. With only one ticket from the raffle, though, and more than one who wanted to go from our DC group of people, we decided to give the ticket we won away. We gave it to the woman we met in line from Cedar Rapids (pictured above with us, second from the right). She had planned to come out to DC for the inauguration with her mom and friend. Both of her travel mates had to bail out, leaving her to travel out here alone, which she did. All she wanted out of the suddenly lonely trip was some luck for a ticket, and it was cool to give her that. I think she hugged me 17 times, and started crying as we walked out of the Senate Office Building with her.

I have found it very difficult to put the appropriate perspective on this entire experience. I guess being so close to the situation, and being so caught up in the constant events, I'm hard-pressed to articulate my own feelings. Sometimes it's easier, though, to realize my own feelings through seeing those of others, and this woman reminded me of why I have put up with the trials and tribulations of traveling out here in the first place. It's all worth it.

Hopeful Iowans...

...waiting outside Senator Harkin's office to learn if they got lucky or not in the raffle for forfeited tickets. Our DC folk await their inauguration fates, too.

Waiting...

...in this line at 3:00 to see if there are unclaimed tickets we can capture for our DC family and friends. They are planning a raffle for those hearty souls willing to wait through the line, and able to make it through the security on the other side. Of all the people gathered here in DC, we landed in line next to a woman from Cedar Rapids. Go Iowa!

Order...

...is restored in Union Station by this man who is strikingly unafraid of heights, apparently.

Union Station

Here's the scene at Union Station at about 2:45. That crowd you see did not move for about 10 minutes. There was an alarm that went off, freezing us and shutting down any and all in and out.

More

The crowd is growing as word gets out on his route. We were here to stake our spot, luckily, after some stealthy driving by my brother-in-law. Obama's about a couple minutes away, coming from a community service luncheon through Crestwood.

Obama Motorcade

We're here gathered with others (pictured) waiting to see the Obama motorcade roll right by us. We can literally reach out and touch it as it comes by...more later!

Us With Our Tickets

Beltless in the Beltway

We're back, and only a little more than two hours after we departed for our tickets. It was a smooth pickup, though the metal detectors certainly did not like me much. Belt, shoes, wallet, phone...it all had to go. The people in Senator Harkin's office were helpful and nice, though, and our tickets are in hand. The line was long- as you can see from the picture on my previous post- but they did a terrific job of moving people through.

On a funny side note- snow fell this morning in DC as we waited in line. For my wife and I, it only brought terrible flashbacks to the weather we left a thousand miles behind in Iowa. For the folks in DC, it was quite a treat. A woman in front of us in line is from DC, and, after learning we were from Iowa, she asked me for winter weather coping tips as we moved through. It's kind of cool being a weather celebrity out here- they're so impressed that we even survived the cold weather we had last week in Iowa. I feel a little like Shackleton recounting our battles with the cold winds for those out here. The DC area has seen temperatures colder than they've seen in quite a few winters, and has even set some records. I was happy to tell my new friend all kinds of tips to stay warm (like, the most important one, DON'T GO OUTSIDE).

Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying their Martin Luther King holiday, and that we all take a moment to reflect on Dr. King's importance to where we are as a country, especially on this, Inauguration Eve. In honor of Dr. King, they are going to be running his entire, 17 minute "I Have a Dream" speech on the jumbo TV screens on the National Mall today. Not sure yet if we'll make it down for it, but, like every year, at the very least I plan to pull it up on line and view it.

The Line for Tickets

This is outside the Hart Senate Office Building, where Senator Harkin's office is located. This is where folks from all states wait in line for entry. Then there are separate lines for each senator's separate office.

Let's just say, after what I saw inside, I'm glad we weren't having to pick up tickets from the California delegation. Their line on the inside was at least equal to, if not longer, than the one you see here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Miles From...Everywhere, Really

Boy, did we walk tonight. My left foot is either really swollen, or is growing a new foot.

As noted earlier, we touched down at my brother-in-law's around 5:30 PM, EST. By about 6, we had showered and were off to eat. A walk was a welcome treat after far too many hours behind the wheel since last night.

Anyway, the scene thus far here in DC has been electric. There are street vendors everywhere, selling everything from Obama hats and t-shirts, to purses and jewelry. The jumbo-sized TV screens have been delivered to the National Mall, and are being set up for the crowds gathered on the day of the ceremony. Countless people were milling about getting pictures, scoping out the portable news station studios, or just simply taking it all in. Restaurants are packed, and the Metro (the underground, public railroad transport) is rocking with travelers galore.

Tomorrow morning we will set out early to head to Senator Harkin's office to pick up our tickets for the ceremony. Other than that, I plan to not drive, not go to rest stops off Interstate 80, not consume five times the recommended daily amount of coffee, and to, unfortunately, once again not see Bruce Springsteen live. Some things I will do:
  • Drink another almond and coconut hot chocolate from ACKC in downtown DC
  • Eat a chili dog from Ben's Chili Bowl (the line tonight stretched an entire block just to order)
  • Walk enough miles throughout the day to justify our dinner at the Iron Gate Inn
  • Not get mauled by my brother-in-law's cat, Ricky, who hates me for reasons I'll never understand (an explanation for this deserves an entirely separate post, which I will provide this week...for now, let's just say I'll be sleeping with both eyes open)

Without further ado, my first mileage update. Tonight, we logged 2.25 miles, so the total is off to a good start. Thanks for all those who have already voted. The rest of you can continue to do so on the top left of this page. I will update the total tomorrow evening after another day of logging my mileage. I will also provide frequent updates throughout our first full day in DC about, among other topics, how things are looking and feeling on Inauguration Eve.

Quite the Find

Touchdown

The inauguration roadster's gotten us where we need to be, though not until after an hour or so battle with traffic, and a missed opportunity to see The Boss (don't worry...I'll be OK). I'll post more details later, after I've eaten and attempted to regrow some brain cells after the drive. Long story short for now...weather across Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania added an extra three-or-so hours to the trip. By the numbers:

-90 ounces of coffee consumed
-1 gallon of windshield washer fluid used
-And, perhaps most important, only 3 restroom breaks taken (remember, I'm practicing for Tuesday)

We're going to walk down to the Mall in a bit...I'll be keeping a keen eye on the toilet situation.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Onward

Time of departure- 11:26 PM, CST

We're leaving my mom's in Bettendorf in a minute. I have my top 149 songs of all time loaded on the iPod, about 30 ounces of coffee, and an insatiable will to make it in time to catch the Boss at the Lincoln Memorial. Blog posts may be a little fewer and farther between as we travel, but I'll try to throw an update on as we ramble.

Port-a-Progress

Newest reports are putting the people to toilet ratio now at anywhere between 250:1, and 550:1. There are, apparently, about 7,500 port-a-potties on order, and anywhere between 1 and 4 million people expected on the National Mall. We're getting there, slowly but surely. I'm going to practice up for the big day by trying to stop as few times as possible on our drive out to DC...I'm sure my wife will be thrilled with that decision.

Baby We Were...

not “Born to Run,” unfortunately.

We had been hoping to leave Iowa in time to get ourselves to tomorrow’s free concert at the Lincoln Memorial in DC. Everybody’s Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is slated to perform (as are a bunch of other artists known only here as, “not Bruce Springsteen”). Packing and preparations being what they are, though, our hopes of getting there in time are dwindling. I won’t complain, because I’m getting the opportunity of a lifetime with the inauguration alone.

Ah, forget it…I’m going to complain.

I could have seen The Boss! For free! Who knows, maybe there’s still time, but I’m thinking the only Springsteen gracing my ears will be that which comes from my iPod. At least we’ll get to see Aretha Franklin the morning of the ceremony on Tuesday. That's something.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Building My Cabinet

All due respect to Joe Biden, but it remains a fact that my second in command- if I were to some day ascend to the presidency- would be one Jack Bauer.

However, if I were to win the lottery, my first act would be to hire Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III as my personal chauffeur. Did you all witness his Hudson River heroics yesterday? I mean, come on. Is there seriously anything this guy couldn't accomplish behind the wheel? The likelihood of his successful crash landing of the 155 passenger US Airways flight was almost nil, or so say the experts. But, every one of his passengers walked away unscathed, and with a story for the ages.

I've put in a call to see if he can drive my wife and me out east for our trip, but it has thus far gone unanswered. Something tells me he has a few talk shows to answer to first. He would most certainly be a member of my cabinet some day (Secretary of Transportation, anyone?).

Not sure how this relates to the inauguration, or the presidency at all. Except, of course, for the fact that incoming President Obama should get him on board Air Force One ASAP.

Not to mention, this pilot might have the coolest name of all time.

Oh, How My Dogs Will Bark

My mom gets me lots of cool and useful Christmas gifts each year, and this year was no exception (even though she did give me about the 537th pad of sticky notes she’s gotten me since 2000…I’m fixing to go Pee-wee Herman on my house soon by creating a sticky note themed, Post-it wallpapered room).

Among the stocking stuffers this year was a little pedometer I can use to track the mileage I walk each day. I plan to wear this from the moment I get to DC, until the time I leave. My brother-in-law’s house is about 3 miles from the capitol, so with our roundtrip walk on inauguration day alone I should log at least 6 miles (same with the day of the ticket pick-up on Monday). 3 miles may sound like a lot, but they are expecting cabs to be almost impossible to find, parking to be practically nonexistent, and public transport to be clogged at best. We're sitting pretty, actually. We’re expecting to walk everywhere- restaurants, grocery stores, various other events- so I’m thinking the mileage will climb high over the course of the trip.

I’m going to put the over/under at 17 for total miles walked on my trip. I usually run 18-20 miles per week at home, so maybe this will allow me to skip my daily workout while I’m gone. Tomorrow, at the top left of this page, a new poll will allow you to place your vote on the over/under question, and we’ll see how it comes out. I’ll provide daily updates on the total beginning Sunday.

Now THAT'S What I'm Talking About

Progress, people. Progress indeed.

Just as I was starting to lose hope, I came across a tasty nugget of information last night. Apparently, the breakfast favorite of Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Calvin Coolidge, and Lyndon Johnson was pancakes. Now we're finally getting somewhere. Anyone who knows me knows my affection for pancakes runs deep and wide. In fact, you can have your mountaintops and sunrises over oceans. I'll take the majesty of slow bubbles in silver-dollar sized batter on a hot griddle any day. As a matter of fact, I've busted the guts of many a friend in fall with my annual tradition of making flapjack o'lanterns.

This news came at a time when I was ready to throw in the towel and submit to something nasty for my inaugural morning feast. In fact, I had just learned that President Ulysses S. Grant's favorite breakfast was broiled mackerel, spinach, steak, bacon, and fried apples. And I thought Kennedy had unhealthy mornings. Seriously, though, these guys needed a class on the food pyramid.

Anyway, barring any new research- and I will keep looking- it looks like pancakes may be the winner. No word on toppings (maple or blueberry?), but I don't even want to know what Nixon put on his.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When School Is Not to Be

So we're hunkering down and readying for our third consecutive school cancellation on Friday. Here's hoping everyone has remained safe and, well...somewhat warm.

Anyway, with four full days remaining between now and the day of the inauguration- and with time aplenty for those students out there who may not recognize the look of a classroom after the thaw- I have created a list of my top five, "presidential-themed" (my definition of presidential-themed, that is) movies to watch between now and then. Odd choices, perhaps, but they're what leaped to mind.

Field of Dreams

President Bush is a huge baseball fan, so this should come as little surprise. Also, in addition to being one of my favorite movies, it is oft-reported that it is also one of President Bush's favorites. So, in honor of our outgoing president, the movie makes my list. It doesn't hurt that the film is so relevant to Iowa, and who couldn't use a dose of green grass, hot dogs, and the crack of the bat in this, our deep freeze?

Hoosiers

It would be hard not to be aware of incoming President Obama's affection for basketball. In fact, the NBA has reportedly offered to build a full basketball court in the White House for the incoming president. I know of no better basketball movie than this. We're in uncertain times with two wars, and an economy in strife. This feel-gooder can help remind all of the importance of remembering we're all part of the same game, and anything is possible with time left on the clock.

To Kill a Mockingbird

For our kids to understand the historical significance of an African-American being elected president, they need to also understand how unlikely such an election would have been within the time period from which this film is set (especially since, during the movie's time period, African-Americans still could not vote). Kids have to know where we've been, and that our history is theirs, too. It's no documentary, and other films certainly do a better job of crystallizing what this era in our history was all about. Sometimes kids feel safer in the confines of a good piece of fiction, though, and you can't go wrong with this one.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

In a time when we're more comfortable (often rightly so) criticizing rather than romanticizing our elected leaders, this film could just reignite the spark (depends on how much news you've been watching). Mr. Smith's quest for honest policy reminds that where there's a cause and a will, there still may be a way.

Little Women

While- as with To Kill a Mockingbird- I would recommend reading the book first/instead, four days may be too short a time to do that. How is this presidential? Well, in a presidential campaign season unlike any other, Senator Hillary Clinton and Governor Sarah Palin rose to prominence on the national political scene unlike any other woman presidential candidate before them. Plus, it takes place during the Civil War, another period in our history that should not be lost on the events of next week. Also, the source book's author was outspoken on issues of women's rights, suffrage among them. As a man, my credibility on selecting movies with strong women protagonists may be a bit thin. I've always liked this, though- and, hey, a classic's still a classic, right?

So, there it is. You now know how I'll be spending my few days- when not driving- between now and inauguration day.

NOTE: MPAA ratings for all the above movies come in at PG or milder. They are all from different time periods, however, and different time periods mean different standards for what is and is not appropriate. Like in the classroom, screening for content and subject matter is always recommended.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A New Presidential Breakfast Low

Move over Nixon...

Apparently, President Theodore Roosevelt's favorite breakfast was...wait for it...bratwurst with a warm cup of milk.

I love a good brat, especially at a ball game. And warm milk? Maybe if I liked milk more than I do, I'd turn to it when sleep won't come (or is that a myth?). I'm pretty sure I'd feel like garbage by the time my second group of kids rolled in if I started each school day with nothing but a brat and a glass of warm milk, though.

I'm not big into using emoticons, but if there was one that expressed a gagging sensation, it would be inserted here.

Future Posts

Things I plan to report on as the inauguration nears:
  • My drive east, and the traffic batttles that will ensue
  • The amount of time it takes us to get from DC city limits, to my brother in-law's near downtown
  • Our hopeful attendance at the free concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday
  • Picking up our tickets in person from Senator Harkin at his office on Monday
  • The "feel" of the city at all points in our trip
  • The ceremony itself, including the anticipated three hours of security checks we will endure
  • The 1,000:1 people to port-a-potty ratio
  • The reception at the Dirksen Senate Office Bulding (near the Capitol) to which we are invited as ticket holders (hosted and attended by Senators Grassley and Harkin, as well as our state representatives)

Any other suggestions? I'm all ears...

On Iowa

Our fine state will be represented by more than just those of us civilians making the trek to Washington, DC in less than a week. According to reports, 1,000 National Guard Women and Men from the state of Iowa have been called up for duty...at the Inauguration Ceremony and related events. The same reports indicate there will be about 7,000 total soldiers and airmen on duty, representing 8 different states. That means service men and women from our state will be providing about 14% of the security and crowd control on that day. Pretty impressive.

I'm going to get busy writing those 1,000 going to see if they can throw an extra port-a-potty or two on their military transports. That is, of course, if I can finish shoveling my driveway at some point before nightfall.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I've Gone Without GOING Before, But...

The first alarming report about toilet availability during the Inauguration Ceremony I saw was in December, when they were estimating, roughly, a ratio for people to toilets of about 6,849: 1. I remember my jaw dropping, the corners of my mouth curling, and the laughter that soon followed.

That was, of course, back when I was sure I would be watching the Inauguration at school, with my students at my side and free bathrooms as far as the eye could see.

Now that I will be attending, let's just say I've given my morning water intake that day more than a little thought. A friend at Grant Wood Elementary today told me the ratio had dropped to 1,000: 1. Let's assume, worst case scenario, that I'm the thousandth person in line, and each person before me takes, on average, two minutes (maybe too generous a guess). That would mean a wait of just over a half hour. Should I be excited by this suddenly improved ratio? I guess it does beat the daylights out of the more than three hour wait the previous ratio would have promised, but come on.

Me and My Dog

We once left our dog, Bernie, penned in his crate for fourteen hours. When we returned, he did wind sprints in the hallway for ten minutes, threw up on the carpet, drank about forty ounces of water, and then chewed his bone for an hour, growling and staring at us the whole time.

I'm sort of like Bernie right now as we wait for our trip. Our ticket information came from Senator Harkin today, and it only made me want to skip ahead to next week.

Inaugural Breakfast Update

So far, in my (very) preliminary research, I have unearthed the breakfast favorites of two of our former presidents. They are as follows:
  • President Nixon- cottage cheese with ketchup and/or black pepper, fresh fruit, wheat germ, and coffee
  • President Kennedy- orange juice, poached egg on toast, crisp broiled bacon, marmalade, milk, and coffee

Look, I've got no problem with ketchup, cottage cheese, or black pepper alone, but together as one? It seems like something my five year-old niece might cook up. And come on, President Kennedy, where's the health in that spread?

Some combination of the two presidential breakfasts would be preferable at this point, though more research is definitely needed.

Paging President Taft (he supposedly had a HUGE appetite, or so say the history books)...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Presidential Gastronomy 101

The Congressional Inaugural Committee announced today their menu for lunch on the day of the inauguration, a lunch where the honored guest will be the newly sworn-in President Barack Obama. They have announced a Lincoln-style lunch consisting of fish stew, pheasant, duck, and apple sponge cake. Apparently, Honest Abe liked simple meals. It got me thinking about what my not-so-simple ideal lunch would be (it would definitely include, among many other items, beef brisket and doughnuts from The Pit Barbecue in Iowa City).

I’m pretty sure that while President Obama and other guests at the lunch are having their “simple” meal, I will probably be eating a frozen energy bar pulled from my pocket in the middle of my trek through the cold back to my brother in-law’s house. That is, of course, if security lets me through to the ceremony with an energy bar in the first place. I think a good breakfast may be in order that day.

In the spirit of dead president-inspired meals, I’ll do some research into presidential breakfast favorites, and theme my inaugural morning feast in that manner. Check back as the day nears for updates on my progress, and if anyone has any insight that could help me, it would be most appreciated. I have a feeling that beginning with some research on President Taft may be wise…

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Setting Forth

13 days and counting...

We await the ticket package from Senator Harkin's office at this time. In it, we will find out how close our ticket will get us for the inauguration ceremony, as well as other information we will need, like items prohibited from the ceremony, and so on. Many people have asked how we possibly found a hotel in DC this late in the game.

We didn't.

My wife's brother lives but a brisk walk from the capitol, making this whole experience possible. Although I joke that I'd sleep on concrete a few nights if it meant witnessing this historic moment in person, reality would likely dictate otherwise. We have driven to DC many times, so our car is practically programmed to get us there. I can't wait to join with the 239,998 other ticket holders- as well as an estimated ~1 million just hanging outside the ticketed area- in seeing our 44th president sworn in.

Check back as the day draws nearer for thoughts, photos, videos, and plenty of rambling from your roving inaugural attendee.