Tuesday 7th April 2009
Our flight from Houston left at 6:00am so although we had a late night, of sorts, last night it was up at 4:00am and out the hotel door at a bit before 5am.
The GPS got us to the airport where we dropped off our rental car and caught the shuttle bus to the terminal.
Service at the airport was no better than anywhere else it had been in Houston (other than the 2nd hotel). We were flying Air Trans for the first time - a Boeing 717 to Atlanta followed 35 minutes later by a 737 flight to Washington DC.
The lady at the Air Trans counter was slow and security was also slow and so by the time we got to the gate area of the terminal we heard our names being called over the PA. We still had 15 minutes to spare when we got to the gate and the plane backed out a few minutes after 6:00am. It was probably 20 minutes before we took off and headed for Atlanta. The flight was OK until descent started at around 8:45am. The descent seemed to take ages and I remember seeing the rising sun out both sides of the plane. Later my GPS tracker showed that we had done two full circles as we descended into Atlanta - see picture.
This, and the extraordinary amount of taxi time at Atlanta, resulted in us having around 10 minutes spare before our next flight was scheduled to leave. We hurried to the correct gate and found that they were still boarding and running a bit late. Just as we boarded we noticed a very nasty fire over to one side of the airport. Looked like a plane crash or at least something serious but when we boarded the plane the pilot advised that there was an emergency services exercise going on and the fire was nothing serious.
The flight to Washington DC took around an hour and a half and landed around 40 mins late. We caught a taxi to our hotel. Scott did well here, a very nice business style hotel 500 metres from the White House. Sadly Obama is in Iraq.
We were too early to check in but they took our bags and so we went to a nearby Burger King where the lady botched a simple order - a combination of our Aussie English and her Spanish English.
It is very cold in DC, 9C degrees but a wind chill of around -100C (or F..... who cares). Poor Scott found it tough going with his light tracksuit and lack of body weight.
We wandered around the White House - not that impressive and then headed back to the area of the hotel. A few blocks away we were held up by the police - must have been 10 police officers on bikes, some in cars and even one on a horse. After a few minutes a bunch of black cars came out from the White House and with many sirens sounding headed down the street. Not sure who it was, must have been some one important.
Got back to our hotel at 3pm, checked in and relaxed for a bit - Scott watched Manchester United v Porto on TV and kept an eye on Arsenal on his computer.
Around 5pm we walked to a Radio Shack and had a general walk around the hotel. Then it was back to the hotel where we rested after out long day and then at 8pm we went and had dinner in the hotel's restaurant.
A long day, two flights and a lot of walking.
Washington DC is not a pretty city - all the buildings are shades of grey, brown or white. There are beggars on many street corners but there is much here to do. Tomorrow hopefully we have Arlington Cemetry, the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Wednesday 8th April 2009
Slept well last night and the alarm woke me at 9:00am. After brekkie at Burger King (cini minis Rayls!!!!!) we caught the Metro train to the Pentagon Station. Lot's of work going on here. We walked around to the Pentagon Memorial which remembers not only the people in the Pentagon who died in the 9/11 attacks but also the people from Flight 77. There are individual memorials for each victim, the youngest was Dana Falkenberg who died along with her sister and parents - the family was starting out on an adventure holiday to Australia. I went to get a photo in front of a Pentagon Police Car but was firmly told to go away by the lady police officer inside. One thing you notice at the Pentagon is the newer brick work where the repairs were made after the 9/11 attacks.
After the Pentagon we caught the Metro train back to Arlington Cemetry where we walked up to the gratesites of JFK and RFK. This cemetery is tough going for an old dude like me, walking up and down a hill, glad we did it.
We then walked across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial and the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial.
We then caught a taxi to the Smithsonian Air and Space and later walked to the American History Museum.
Around 4:30pm we walked to the Smithsonian Metro Station and caught the train back to the hotel.
Later we had dinner at the Luna Grill and Diner. Nice place.
Lot of walking today - tomorrow Scott heads off early for Wilmington NC whilst I stay on in Washington till Saturday.
Thursday 9th April, 2009
Scott headed off at 6:30am - he caught a taxi to Ronald Reagon Airport and then a 23 minute flight to Philadelphia and then onto Wilmington in North Carolina where he will spend the next 2 days.
I decided that I wanted to head back to the Lincoln Memorial area and so I caught the train to the Smithsonian Station and walked along the mall past the National Monument and along the reflecting pool. I spent aout an hour checking out the 3 memorials in this area - the Lincoln, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. I believe there are 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial and I found a Gary R Hartman - no relation.
I had a pleasant chat with an elderly guy (around my age) who thought my accent was English) - ha.
I then walked back along the reflecting pool to the World War II Memorial and then on past the Monument and back to the Smithsonian American History Museum and spent another hour there.
Then I walked back to the Smithsonian Station and caught two trains to a shopping mall about 20 K's north east of DC. I felt a little weird there, seemed to be the only one of my race in the area and so I shopped quickly and headed back on the train to DC and to the hotel.
The days of long periods of sight seeing and walking are behind me and at the hotel I had a nap before I walked to Burger King to have dinner.
It was a bit of a lonely day but I did OK and was pleased with what I achieved.
Friday 10th April 2009
Another OK day on my own.
I decided I would walk back to the Smithsonian and check out the Air and Space Museum.
Today is Good Friday but nothing seems to close one this day in the USA. There did seem to be a bit more colour out there today - usually all the locals are in dark business attire but today there did seem to be more tourists about and a lot more colour.
I walked past the White House, a lot more people there today and then down to the Smithsonian - I got a bit lost but overheard a guy telling his mates he was heading towards the Air and Space so I followed along till I recognised where I was and managed to get there myself. I spent another 2 hours at the museum. Lots of lines to some of the good stuff but I still manage to see most of what I wanted. There are a number of small theatres with short films and they were ideal for sitting and resting for a bit. The Museum store was interesting.
Afterwards I headed back and instead of walking the same way I came I went a different way and ended up walking through what I assume was the centre of the city. There was a store with Law Enforcement stuff, I think proceeds to go to fallen heros. I enjoyed the walk back to the hotel, stopped at a Subway for some late lunch and found that my little GPS tracker had me down at a 10.7 K walk. Phew.
Saturday 11th April,
Today had a slow start with a busy and at times frustrating second part.
Scott spent the day in Wilmington, we meet up tomorrow in Philadelphia.
I had a 11:00am check out and a 1:25pm flight from Ronald Regan Airport. So I packed and was ready to go - I watched a movie on TV till 11:10am and then checked out and walked to the Metro Station in the rain and caught the train to Ronald Reagan Airport. It was a $2.10 fare compared to $18 and a tip for a taxi ride.
No problems on the train and it took 20 minutes to get to the airport.
Check in and security was the usual problem - frustrating. The people who work there know the procedures and seem to be little help to those of us who have no clue. Proceures are different at each airport and with each airline. Today was with American Eagle and tough going.
Took 30 minutes to get to the gate area and we boarded the plane at a little after 1:00pm. Then pulled out from the gate at 1:05pm and taxiied to the end of the runway where we parked up. The pilot told us there was a weather delay at New York's JFK and we could not take off for 20 minutes. This 20 minutes turned out to be 100 minutes. very frustrating but more so for others who had connecting flights. The guy next to me was trying to call Olympic Airways regarding his trip to Athens and the lady behind me was tryine to organise something for San Diego, I think they both might have spend the night in NYC.
We eventually took off at 3:05pm and the flight to NYC was fine.
It was a long walk to baggage claim, we must have been as far away as possible, I just stood back and let the others go for it - those that needed the connecting flights.
There was no rental shuttle buses when I came out of the terminal - security advised me you had to take the Air Train - nice to know.
The Air Train worked OK and I the rental procedure at Budget was OK.
I then drove just over 200 K's back gto Philadelphia. Tough going at times but once on the New Jersey Turnpike became much easier. I had to pay $18.80 in tolls along the way.
We planned the trip this way because renting a car in DC and dropping it off in NYC would cost an enormous drop off fee. Saved money but was a bit stressful.
Worked out OK although and the hotel in Philly, near the airport is great - nice bed.
Dennys for dinner.
Sunday 12th April 2009 - Happy Easter.
Today Scott flew from Wilmington NC to Philadelphia where I picked him up at the airport.
Apparenty Scott had a late night out with the boys and had a few to drink. He got to bed around 2am and then had to get out of bed just a few hours later for a 7:10am flight.
He called me when he landed and I drove from the hotel to pick him up - it was bitterly cold and I did three laps of the airport before I got the right road and found him. Scott was shaking like a leaf and feeling very unwell when I found him. A quick stop for food had him feeling a little better. He slept most of the way as the GPS took me into downtown Philadelphia before finally back onto the New Jersey Turnpike and eventually to Six Flags Theme Park where Scott road a couple of the roller coasters, one of them the highest in the world. Better him than me. There was some delays due to the strength of the wind. We didn't stay that long but Scott did what he wanted to do.
After Six Flags we headed down to Somerest in New Jersey where we stayed the night at a nice Crowne Plaza hotel. Nice and quiet at this place and I managed to catch up with the laundry. We are right to go for another 5 or 6 days. Tomorrow is New York - traffic horrendous.