Friday, April 15, 2005

New Frontiers

Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Follow the Yellow Brick, Follow the Yellow Brick,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

We're off to see the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
You'll find he is a whiz of a Wiz! If ever a Wiz! there was.
If ever oh ever a Wiz! there was The Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things he does.
We're off to see the Wizard. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz...

Don't ask me why I thought of that song as I was planning our weekend in Washington, DC. I mean, I could've picked another song from The Wizard of Oz song list much more blasphemous. (If you're at all into South Park, check out that version's lyrics here.) But I didn't!

I've never been to DC before, so I wanted to visit before I return to Vancouver to wait for my visa (I'm on a meter here, and it's nearly expired). I'm familiar with the West Coast, having driven and flown up and down many times, but my knowledge of the East Coast is mostly through media, friends, and maps. When I was younger we took regular summer trips to visit relatives in the Midwest (Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin), then we'd all head down to Kentucky to visit other relatives. (Why is it called the Midwest, anyway? There's nothing western about it!)

As a freewheelin' adult, it wasn't until Dec '93/Jan '94 that I left Scotland to take a trip around the U.S. and Canada for six weeks on a Greyhound, but never again!! What a blur... on the East Coast, I travelled from Toronto to Chicago to Kentucky with even more relatives, then left them in Kentucky to bus it down inland through Tennessee, Alabama, and New Orleans for New Year's. From there I turned westward through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, then headed up to Vancouver along the coast to see my family for the first time since leaving Canada in '91.

After that, I vowed to steer clear of Greyhound in the U.S.!! In Canada, Greyhound is one company, and the buses are pretty much all the same -- quite new and clean. However, in the U.S., at least at that time, Greyhound was made up of regional bus companies, so the buses differ largely in age and cleanliness between states. The fact that it was regional meant that you had to switch buses constantly, and you never knew if your bags were indeed transferred to the next bus. It was a miracle I didn't lose anything. The stations were grotty and neglected, and invariably in the worst parts of town. There seems to be a huge stigma associated with coach travel (at least, non-chartered/scheduled); the love affair with the car, I'm sure, has everything to do with that. In Europe there is no such stigma with coaches, and I've never had a whiff of ill feeling travelling around on a bus by myself, in any other country.

I'd love to take Amtrak sometime, but the schedules on the West Coast bear no logic whatsoever -- Karl and I looked at the schedule between Vancouver and Seattle, arriving at the conclusion only the retired and the unemployed could make use of it. I know Amtrak schedules are better on the East Coast, with the greater demand from the greater populace, but the prices are a bit prohibitive versus what we'd be paying for aviation fuel in the Tri-Pacer or plane rental. We were thinking about visiting Chicago, and compared Amtrak to renting a plane, taking the Tri-Pacer, or a commercial airline. To take Amtrak would be mostly for the love of train travel, which we both have, but we'd also need more time to make it worthwhile, like a long weekend.

For this trip to the capital, David's booked a hotel outside of the city for tomorrow night, and we'll ride the metro in and walk our way around. The plan is to drive down in the morning, stay over Saturday, and return Sunday evening. I know it would be impossible to see everything we wanted to in a weekend, so this will just be an overview. The main attraction for me isn't the seat of government, although no doubt its monuments and architecture are photo-ops, I'm going for the MUSEUMS. Every capital, no matter what the size or whether it's provincial (or state) or federal, has museums. And the boon with Washington is that the museums are FREE.