Friday, March 20, 2015

DC Adventure: Day #1

One thing is certain…

…my life is never, ever dull.

I just spent the last week chaperoning Daughter and her fellow high school music students on a whirlwind visit to Washington, D.C. - where we soaked in the sights, made beautiful music, and ate lots of crappy food.

Notice how I did not put "sleep" in the above sentence...because, Dear Readers, there was none of that. Nope. Nada. And I learned a valuable lesson: that I am much, much too old to go a week without sleep, because now, I am cranky. And tired. And feeling very, very old.

Let me back up and start at the beginning of this adventure…which would be last Thursday, March 12th, when we gathered up our 100+ students, instruments and parents and boarded three charter buses, embarking on a 20+ hour drive to Washington, D.C.

The Bus. Our home away from home for the next week. Joy.

Trust me. After a week, with 36 kids and a half-dozen parents & teachers onboard, our bus did NOT look this pristine….

Our adventure began at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, and we would only make one stop that evening - for dinner, at some food court somewhere in either St. Louis or Illinois - since I wasn't driving, I wasn't paying attention - where we began our crappy-food marathon. Finding gluten-free options at a shopping mall food court is like finding the winning lottery ticket - it's pretty much impossible, and with limited time to hunt down something both safe AND palatable, I ended up noshing on a Philly Cheesesteak - minus the bun, of course.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

It was awful.

Fortunately, I had packed a Lifesaver Bag of gluten-free snacks, which supplemented the meager dinner…and before long, we were back on the road, throwing in some DVD's for the kids to enjoy, while the adults settled in and attempted to make our "nest" comfortable. We would be spending the night on this bus, with no more stops scheduled until a breakfast stop Friday morning somewhere in Ohio, so we fiddled and finagled with our pillows and blankets, tasked with the impossible of trying to find a position that our bodies would find restful enough to sleep.

Around 11:00 pm, the DVD player was turned off, as well as the interior lights, and one by one, kids began nodding off into slumber…and the buzz of laughter and chit-chat dwindled down to silence…other than the rumble of the bus's tires as they traversed the highway.

And I tried to sleep. I really did. First, I popped a Benadryl, which is normally all I need to fall into a Zombie-like slumber. But that's normally when I am sleeping in a comfortable bed, prone - not sitting up in a HUGELY uncomfortable bus seat that dug into my back like a pokey, annoying child. Gah. Ninety-minutes later, I popped a Valium - and while I eventually fell into a rather restless doze, I woke up numerous times during the night, enviously eyeing the parents around me, trying to see what position THEY had managed to discover would be comfortable and bring on sleep, and quickly copying them. It was funny to discover the next morning that apparently, every other chaperone was doing the same thing during the long night - popping up every now and then, trying to see in the dark how others were sleeping, and then attempting to emulate them.

I eventually copied these guys - putting my head on the armrest, while putting my legs up in the air on the window. As bizarre as it sounds, it worked - until my legs developed some pretty painful pins and needles from lack of circulation.

I was up bright and early the next morning, but fortunately, all the kids behind me were nowhere to be seen - which meant they were all still sacked out, sleeping:

Soon, it was time to stop in Ohio for a brief breakfast - at another food court, of course, gah - and then we were back on the road to Washington. Although we were scheduled to arrive around 10:00 a.m., it was several hours later when we finally arrived. The excitement on the bus grew exponentially as we got closer - whether it was because we were finally getting to our destination, or whether it was because we'd finally get off our bus prison - who knows…who cares, actually - because that bus was awful.

Our first stop in Washington was for lunch at Union Station, where I gathered a bunch of kids and made a bee-line for Johnny Rockets. There, they were kind enough to create a hamburger in a lettuce wrap, rather than a bun, which I greatly appreciated.

Looking down on the craziness and insanity of the Union Station Food Court…it was truly a mishmash of people, smells and noise...

Johnny Rockets…always fast, always fun...

We didn't have a lot of time to dally, as it was back on The Bus for our first "official" tour stop in D.C., Ford's Theater:

Outside of Ford's Theater…such a small and nondescript place for such a momentous moment in history...

Ford's Theater is where Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth. Although it briefly shut down, it was renovated and reopened as a working theater in 1968. We were not able to go into the actual theater itself, as there was a performance rehearsal going on - so we were relegated to the museum in the basement, which had multiple items related to the assassination on display. That was all great and dandy, but I was a tad bit disappointed to not be able to visit the theater itself.

Daughter, Friend and myself at the theater…

We then walked across the street to William Petersen's house…which is where President Lincoln was carried to a back bedroom after being shot. While doctors cared for Lincoln, the Petersen family and their boarders spent the night in the basement, while soldiers stood guard at the front door and were posted on the roof to keep the growing crowds under control. President Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15th, 1865 in the back bedroom of this house.

Petersen House exterior...

In case you forgot what happened here…

The bedroom where Lincoln died…although it's important to note that NONE of the furniture is original to the house...

We exited the Petersen House into a gift shop, which is part of The Center for Education and Leadership. The Center was closed, so we were unable to view the exhibits there, which features two floors of permanent exhibits addressing the immediate aftermath of Lincoln's death and the evolution of Lincoln's legacy. We DID get to look at this amazing 34-foot book tower containing nothing except books written about Lincoln:

Trying to get the entire tower into my frame...

Up close...

I'd give Ford's Theater 3 out of 5 stars…the fact that we couldn't actually get into the THEATER at Ford's THEATER was a major bummer. I mean, isn't that the whole point of going??!! The museum was okay…but being in a basement, it was small, and dark, and could easily get crowded - especially when 3 bus loads of high schoolers descend on it. Petersen's House was cool - but knowing that the furniture pieces are reproductions kinda' takes the significance out of it…so meh. And the Center was closed. So double meh.

The tower was cool, though. Towers of books are always cool - especially when they're over 34' tall.

Before too long, it was time to get back on The Bus and head to our next stop…and along the way, we passed through Chinatown:

I now know how to write "Starbucks" in Chinese…in case I ever needed to.

Stay tuned for more in the adventure...


1 comment:

Leslie Swaters said...

I think you would have been reading my mind as you wrote this...your blog is hilarious if not educational. I experience some of what you went through when I was a Girl Scout leader for my older 2 daughters. Please continue your exerpts. I am fascinated to know what was going on in the mind and body of a "Middle-Aged Drama Queen".