Road Entry#21 (Charlotte to Los Angeles Flight - 2:09pm - August 16, 2010)

Saturday in Annapolis started with me waking up a little later than expected for my quick 3 mile run. It was around 11:30am when I got down to the kitchen for some hydration before hitting the pavement. It was due to a 2:00am bedtime on the computer and watching some TV. I really need to stop watching TV - I'm not following what I believe to be a healthy amount of TV entertainment per week (an hour per week). Either way - I woke up late and didn't get out the door until the humidity was really starting to set in and it was lunch time.

I was supposed to wake up earlier and get the running done so that I could complete the 27 pages of federal documents for this Cartography position. I got back from the quick run to find James leaving the house once again to go back to the Joust at the church. They invited me to go with, but I had to finish these documents. So I sat in their house with some smooth jazz in the background as I crossed my 'T's' and dotted my 'I's". It took me another 3 hours to get all the information filled in. Now I was done. The family wasn't back from the Joust still, so I worked on my blog/memoir entry for a while as well. The writing lag was and still is significant - I was writing about my second time in Boston when I was sitting there in the Hanrahan's home. Lena, Anne, and James got back from the Joust around 6pm and we went back to the harbor area for another sail on Chuck's boat. It was a very similar night as the night before of sailing, but this time we had dinner (burgers, chicken, snap peas, and veggies) on the boat before sailing east into the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay. Once we made it our of the Severn river (harbor) the wind picked up dramatically and we were coasting along until sunset and into dusk. It was a beautiful night and the adults had great conversation while the kids played, dreamed, and acted with a natural curiosity about the boat - sailing- and other variable topics. We turned back around and got back to the dock around 10pm and tucked off to bed at their home once again - situated next to Sandy Point park.

The next morning kicked off with some cereal and hanging around the house with Lena. She showed me some of her favorite shows on TV and introduced me to Sammie the hamster while she was cleaning his cage. Later in the day, I went over my blog and started to read older posts from this trip and even back when I was traveling in Europe. I was on the couch surfing website for a while as well because I wanted to find people in the Washington DC area to meet while I was there. I knew that I was going to stay with Steve and Nancy from Monday-Thursday, so I figured that there would be some interesting people to meet in the DC area while my hosts went to work in the day (9-5pm). At this point, I also started a preliminary search for a way to get down to Charlotte on Friday.

There is a feature on the couch surfing website that allows you to search for people that are just traveling in an area of the world. There are opportunities for people to meet through the website for coffee, a drink, lunch, dinner, a tour, and even couch surfing group activities. The community of couch surfers is over 2 million strong worldwide. I have probably written this before - but is one of the most organic websites out there in the world. I did the search for some people that were traveling around the DC area but didn't get a chance to meet up with anyone in Washington DC - just digital communication over the website. I got in touch with a young lady from Slovakia that was in the area - but she was leaving back home from DC where our schedules didn't align.

So I was doing all this internet searching and work as I waited for the sun to start setting and the humidity to drop because I had my long-run of the week this day. I had to run 12 miles for the marathon training. I left the Hanrahan's home around 5:45pm for the run. I listened to a variety of podcasts as I ran - Marathon Training Academy, Adam Corrolla, ESPN PTI, Sports Business Radio, and The Moth Stories. I first ran through Sandy Point park a little before hitting the access road from their community area to the next community area up the road that was 3-4 miles away. I must have ran by 6-8 deer in the park and harmlessely scared them off the trail I was running. I ran up to and throughout the Cape St. Claire area and back down the same road to their house - a total of 14 miles. I got back around 7:30, stretched, took a shower, and then sat down to a wonderful dinner prepared by the master chef James. The run, exhaustion, dehydration, and hunger were overwhelming as I sat down to this beautiful family dinner. There was a delicious and large salad sitting at my spot when I sat down along with a bowl of corn on the cob to my right and toasted sourdough to my left. Gemma was back from her weekend concert series with her friend in Pennsylvania and had a lot to share at the dinner table. Lena was quiet and reluctant to eat her vegetable salad medley and healthy foods. We all sat down to the dinner, talked, listened, shared, and had a great time together - I was so happy to be there with them.

We all finished dinner and cleaned up a bit before driving off to downtown Annapolis for some dessert. James and Anne insisted that we go to the colonial area of downtown because it is an important part of visiting Annapolis - with all of it's history and energy on a Sunday night. We arrived to find a great parking spot - courtesy of yours truly - and got to the ice cream parlor to find a daunting selection of delicious treats. They had over 50 different flavors and a line almost out the door. I sampled three different selections as they all tantalized my pallet in different ways - causing me to become perplexed on which flavor to choose. The verdict was in - a default choice of pecan praline as an homage to what my Mom would order in this scenario.

We took our cones and cups of deliciousness to the boardwalk and walked to the end of the dock. There I learned a little bit more about the downtown area - James and Anne enlightening me with historic tidbits. We got back into the car and took the back roads through the downtown area, pass the old congress house of the United States, and by the local rival college (name??) of the Naval Academy where they have an annual croquet match for bragging rights and Annapolis glory.

We got back to the house and I passed out after watching Entourage on HBO. It was very easy to fall asleep after such a long run and an interesting Sunday.

Anne had to work in Washington DC the next morning so she and I hit the road early to beat the extreme traffic with all the commuters making their way into the city. She got off the freeway about three-quarters of the way through and took some back-roads that were less congested. It reminded me of Dad cutting through all the side streets in Los Angeles whenever we had to go from the valley up and over to the west side of the city (Santa Monica, Westwood, etc.). We got to the place she was working that day at 9:00am - which was right by Dupont Circle. I was coming to Washington DC to visit Steve Amraen, a good friend of mine from the University of Oregon. Steve works in the same vicinity and it was just by coincidence that Anne worked so close to Steve's office that day. I picked up my stuff after saying thank you and goodbye to Anne and walked the 5 minutes north to Steve's office on 18th and Massachusetts Ave. I got there early to pick up Steve's keys to his apartment - another 15 minute walk north of where he works. We hadn't seen each other since Chad Bumgarner's wedding and he and his girlfriend, Whitney, have been living in Washington DC since January 2010.

I walked the 15 minutes in the intense heat to Cliffbourne and Calvert Ave in a very beautiful and colorful neighborhood. Steve and Whitney live in the basement unit of a traditional mid-Atlantic row-home on Cliffbourne. There house is situated in the middle of 5 other row-homes, with all of them being a different summer pastel color. I used his keys to enter their unit to a rambunctious brown labrador wagging it's tail and jumping all over me. Wrigley is their dog that bought a year or so ago in Oregon and took with them to Washington DC. They have raised it since it was a infant - and he has a lot of energy and a playful personality. It took me more than 20 minutes to figure out that calming Wrigley down is not through petting and attention, but a total and complete disregard for the animal. Ignoring Wrigley was the only way to get him to calm down, stop jumping up, and trying to play with me.

I showered and settled in before getting ready to go back down to meet Steve for lunch near his workplace. I walked from his place back down south while stopping for a McDonald's Sweet Tea on the way. He had about an hour for lunch before a two o'clock meeting with the president. Steve works at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Steve actually got this traditional 9-5pm job only a month or so ago and says it's pretty good. He works as the program assistant to the program director of the Trust. Steve took me to "The Burger Joint" - yes that's the name - within Dupont Circle. It was a great burger and I also got some sweet potato fries instead of regular fries. It was a splurge lunch and I knew I had to watch what I was going to have for dinner that night.

Steve and I caught up and he told me all about living in DC for the past 8 months. I also told him some stories of my adventures and also told him about the federal government Cartography position I was applying for - which got him somewhat excited about the prospect of me moving to DC. That application packet they sent me was actually due this day - Monday August 9, 2010. So instead of post-marking the application packet in the prepaid FedEx envelop they inclosed in my packet - I thought it would be fine for me to hand-deliver my materials to their offices in McLean, Virginia. McLean was only 15 miles away from Dupont Circle and I figured I could take public transportation out there and drop it off.

So after lunch, I got on the Metro to make the journey out there and drop off my papers. I had found out that is better to get a metro SmartCard to get around from subway to bus and visa-versa. I went from the Dupont Circle metro stop to the main station to pick up one of these cards before heading out to Virginia. This took about 25-30 minutes to do and I was then on the Orange line going west into Virginia. I got off at the Rosslyn stop along the metro line and waited for the 15K bus to take me out to their headquarters. As a prelude to making this trip out to McLean, I had been calling and calling the offices to reach out to a representative to make sure that I could drop off my documents in-person. I never got confirmation after leaving three voicemails, so I went out there anyway because the documents were due at their offices by 5pm. I get the bus at 3:40pm out to McLean and arrive at the headquarters at 4:00pm. The bus arrives to headquarters and we are greeted with two federal guards with MK-5 assault rifles - no intimidation factor whatsoever right? One swept the bus with a mirror and the other guard came aboard with a look in his eye like there had to be terrorist materials on this bus. After the guard on the bus was finished with his inspection he stepped off as I tried to follow him out the door. He turned around and promptly held out his hand with the uniform hand single of stop. He asked, "Do you work here or are you an official visitor"? I said, "No, but I am trying to drop off my employment documents for a position I am eligible for and they are due today by 5pm." He firmly responded with, "If you're not an employee or have an official visitor designation - you cannot step off this bus". I tried to reason with him because no one in the office was answering my calls and with a desperate and sincere tone attempted my previous quote once more with more conviction. A bit louder he responds, "Do you not understand the words that are coming out of my mouth!" I said I understood and we drove off - hopeless.

Hopelessness turned into frustration which turned into anger - all in a matter of 5 minutes. I then realized that I had done all that could of and it was impossible to get those documents in on the due date. I should have followed instructions and sent them FedEx. I then got back on the bus to get back on the metro to get back to Dupont Circle because I remembered there was a FedEx-Kinkos there....... Now it's 4:45pm (3 hours and 45 minutes after I left Dupont Circle originally). All that effort and time wasted - where I could have just walked into an air-conditioned Kinkos, seal the envelope, and send it off like I did when I got back - total time 10 minutes.

I could have used that extra 3 hours and 35 minutes to explore the city and meet new people like I wanted to. Opportunity Cost. The positive results of the trip are that I know exactly how to get there if I ever start working there via public transit - and I got to see some of the lovely Virginia countryside along the way.

I am now back with Steve in his apartment at 5:30pm because he got off work at 5:00pm. We play 30 minutes of his new video game (NCAA College Football) and then go get groceries at the supermarket. We get some beer, salad fixings, produce, a pizza, and other goodies for our meal together. We get back to his place - cook and eat. Then watch some TV and pass out. It was a good long day.

The next morning Steve gets off to work at 8:15am and I wake up around 9:00am. I get my running gear on, eat a banana, drink some water, and leash up Wrigley for my run. I figured it would be good to get him some serious excercise because Steve and Whitney don't have a lot of time for it and it would drain his energy for the day - making him slightly less vivacious in the unit while I'm trying to work on the computer later. We hit the road and it takes me about a mile to get Wrigley into a rhythm of running with me. He is so used to being the leader on his walks and when he gets outside the apartment that he doesn't know how to run alongside or walk alongside as a follower. We ran two miles when I started to notice Wrigley slowing down and falling behind - and I acknowledge that he has had enough for the day. I take him back to the unit and fill up a couple of water bowls for him. I then get back outside and run on my own for another 3 miles. I run up a slight hill and then down a large hill towards the National Zoo that is situated less than a mile north of their home. The streets that I'm running on go all the way down into this valley to where I am at least 300 feet lower than where I started in the area. I find the right street to start heading back and then I encounter this steep grade in the last mile and a half. It was great for me to push myself through that - especially 2 days after the 14 mile run in Annapolis.

I get back to Steve's place drenched in sweat yet again and have to take an hour to cool down and stretch before taking a shower. Oh yeah - Wrigley was pretty much passed out when I entered the unit this time. I loved it.

It was a scorching day in Washington that Tuesday - 99 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity. I decided to stay inside until Steve got home from work and do some internet work. I searched for rides down to Charlotte, NC and contacted Nancy - my next host in the DC metro area. We ironed out some details on when we would meet Wednesday afternoon or evening. Time passed as I used the computer and the internet and I then through the pizza in the oven at 5:00pm before Steve got back. We were on a time crunch because Steve got off work at 5:00pm and we needed to be on the metro before 5:45pm towards Nationals Park for the baseball game. Steve and I got tickets to the Nationals vs. Marlins for this night - and it just so happened to be the return night of Steven Strausburg and his elbow soreness. Steve got tickets for me and him for $21 but then also got a pair of season tickets from his uncle that lives in the area. So we had 4 tickets for the game - enticing Steve to get to the ballpark early to scalp the two tickets he bought online.

We catch the metro down to the Naval Yard area where the ballpark is located and start looking for buyers. All Steve wanted was his money back - especially because the game wasn't sold out - even for this young pitchers great return! Steve was somewhat reserved when selling the tickets and we hadn't sold them in 30 minutes of standing outside the stadium. I took initiative to take the tickets and get them off our hands immediately because it was getting closer to the start of the game. I puffed my chest and projected my voice - "TICKETS!" "WHO NEEDS TICKETS!" To say the least, I got rid of them in 8 minutes - close to face value.

We got into the park with time to spare and watch Strausburg walk from the bullpen to the mound before the national anthem. Steve and I then sat there for the entire game and watch the Nationals suck it up against the Marlins. Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez lit him up for 5 runs in 4 innings. It was a blowout and the Nationals couldn't do anything about it. The entertaining highlight of the night in the park is the President's race in the middle of the 5th inning. The Mount Rushmore mascots all run from the outfield along the wall and down the first base line every home game. As another entertaining piece, Teddy Roosevelt never wins the race and his subjected to being the 'dunce' of the four runners. The great moment in this race though was that George, Abraham, and Thomas came out first and then Teddy was riding a mini-motorcycle at a delay. Teddy zipped by them and the stadium went crazy because everyone thought Teddy had won for the first time. Not the case. He was disqualified and "everything went back to normal".

The game ended with no suspense, drama, action, or thrills - and we took the metro back to Steve's place. It was late and we got to sleep (I've been on the air-mattress this whole time at Steve's).

The next morning I woke up and started cleaning Steve's apartment as at thank you. I swept up all the dog air throughout the apartment and collected about 4 grams worth of air on the ground. I took a camera-picute and sent it out to friends saying that I had cut off Steve's sideburns and that he was pissed (it's somewhat of an inside joke amongst the guys in from Oregon). They got a kick out of it - laughed a little via text message - and it probably made them smile a little as well. I was glad to enlighten their day with some silly humor.

Steve got back to his place as I was packing my bag around 12:30pm. Steve was leaving for Chicago this day because his Dad was going under the knife at the hospital to get a tumor removed. Steve abruptly found out that his Dad had pancreatic cancer just a couple of days after we agreed of my arrival and departure times in Washington DC. I just found out yesterday that his Dad is doing fine with no complications and the tumor removed. Now Steve, his family, and I just have to wait and see if they got all the cancer out of his Dad early enough. Steve said they caught it early and the surgery and results looked promising.

Steve left for the airport and I left for Open City cafe for some WiFi and to write some more. I spent the next 5 hours in Open City cafe on my computer, drinking an ice tea, having some lunch, and writing.

I eluded earlier that Nancy was my next host in the metro area - she is a long-lost friend of my Mom's from their young adult years. Nancy was actually my Mom's maid-of-honor at her first wedding in the late 1960's / early 1970's. My Mom had got in touch with her a couple of months ago and told her about my journey through the United States. Nancy and her husband David said they were happy to host me for a couple nights while I was in Washington DC.

They live in Alexandria, VA and I had to take a long metro ride to the end of the Yellow-Line to meet her. She picked me up from the Huntington metro stop and we drove another 6 minutes south into the suburban wilderness of Alexandria. Nancy and David have been living in this gorgeous home for 28 years and have truly made it their HOME. They have raised three daughters there and have so many family artifacts and belongings in one place after almost three decades. I was treated like another child of their family and was taken care of with graciousness, love, and open arms. We had dinner together Wednesday night and I got to tell them all about my past 2 months and some of the adventures I've gotten myself into. I also shared my future outlook with them - a shimmering vision of what I might do with the federal government, or cleaning up oil in the gulf of mexico, or building homes and teaching english in the caribbean/south america. The desire to help others that are less fortunate than me has slowly manifested itself over the past couple of weeks - since I wrote my 'Iridescence' post at the Boston Public Library on my yellow pad with pen.

I think my next blog entry in Los Angeles will actually be a proactive forecast on what I want to do. How I might accomplish it? Where I can accomplish it? When I can accomplish it? I am going to craft my future ambitions in Los Angeles and produce results. I feel like I can get a couple of DJ gigs while staying in LA through connections - allowing me to make some money to get down south in the Caribbean and South America for this next adventure of my life. I will also need to figure out how my school loan works if I start volunteering for an organization and/or start declaring unemployment (which I haven't done in the past 2 months as I've traveled). I think there is some kind of deferment if you are doing one of many things that is not career oriented with a steady income stream.

So let's get back to the memoir...

I have dinner and talk with Nancy and David for a couple of hours and they recommend that I go to Mt. Vernon the next day for some educational lessons on George Washington, this great nation, and entertainment as they go to work for the day. I agree that it would be a fantastic idea and then ska-daddle off to bed before my next day at George Washington's old home. Before falling asleep, I send out 5-7 more e-mails to Craigslist rideshare hosts to get down to Charlotte, NC. At this point, I still don't have a ride down south. I am hoping that I can find a ride because the bus, train, and flights were extremely expensive, $100-$200 respectively.

The next morning I get up and make some breakfast around 9:30am and read the Washington Post. While picking up the post, I also see the New York Times from Sunday in their house and the business section with the main page article title - " But Will It Make You Happy?" and an illustration of a man and women surrounded by material goods (ie - luxury cars, jewlery, sunglasses, flat-screen television, thing#1, thing#2, YOU GET THE PICTURE).

I dropped the Post to read this Times article. There was so much information that relate to what I'm doing and what I believe in that I will write an individual response piece about this article and send it to the editor of the Times as well.

After reading the newspaper, I call Nancy to let her know I am ready to go to Mt. Vernon. She comes back from work real quick to pick me up and take me there - and for me to spend the day there. I take my laptop, camera, book, and an extra t-shir with me just-in-case. I get to Mt. Vernon around 10:30am and the Texas-Gate entrance. The Mt. Vernon estate, land, home, and museum were all contained within this grandiose entrance. Through the gate to the right is the ticket window and the orientation center. Nancy obliged to pay for my ticket - $20 - and a very kind gesture. The orientation center is a building that was erected in 2006 with the sponsorship of many corporations and wealthy indivduals. The Ford Motors Orientation Center is where you get your map, audio-guide, memorabilia, and even a picture with the statue of George and Martha Washington. There is a miniature model of the Mt. Vernon mansion; full-functioning and built to scale with precision.

The next step of the self-guided tour is to watch an orientation video in a theater that was built within the center. It is a 15-minute reflective documentary of George Washington, his family, his home, his heroics, and his leadership of this "Great Nation". From the theater, you exit outside to the beginning of the estate and all the supplementary buildings - The Blacksmith, The Farmer, The Inkeeper, The Kitchen/Cooking Area, The Slave-House, The Cotton Mill, etc.

George Washington was a farmer, business man, and land surveyor. He used all the land he accumulated over the years as his grounds for self-sufficiency and money making. They cultivated and produced food, product, alcohol, and tools for the entire 8,000 acres and for selling them in the markets (all over the colonies - but primarily in the mid-Atlantic region. The most interesting building outside the mansion was the blacksmith building. They actually still have a certified blacksmith making all the metal tools, nails, and items for the continued upkeep of the Mt. Vernon estate and gift shop.

I headed into the mansion next where I "wasn't allowed to take pictures". I did anyway. The mansion sits on a higher point of the land with the front door facing the bowling green lawn (bigger than a football field) and the back porch facing the Potomac River. It really is a majestic place to own a home. There is so much space that I could see why George referred to it as the best piece of property in all of the United States. I walked around and saw the home where diplomats and leaders came to visit him decade after decade from 1750-1799. It was interesting, stimulating, educational, and fascinating all at the same time. There was so much information that I can't remember it all and don't want to type everything that I learned in this posting because it is just too much. You might consider looking it up or experiencing it for yourself.

After the mansion, I stepped back outside to take another picture but then dropped my camera on the ground - denting the casing of the lens. I didn't break the lens and the camera still worked - but the dent in the casing prevented the lens to extended outward for zooming purposes. It was unfortunate, but I knew it could be fixed easily.

I walked around the grounds some more - checking out the donkeys and horses - and the tomb of George and Martha Washington. I couldn't take any more pictures, so I went to the museum to walk around and be inside with some A/C. It was getting hotter and hotter as the day progressed - another scorcher in the area (95F).

I went throughout the museum for a while and cooled down before eating lunch and using my computer for the remainder of my time at Mt. Vernon. I need to use the internet to finalize my ride down to Charlotte - I found one randomly from a posting from the Charlotte craigslist site and not the Washington DC site. I stayed around in the food court area until Nancy came to pick me up at 4:30pm. I was at Mt. Vernon for 6 hours. It was a great time. I thanked Nancy for that opportunity to go there and we made it back to the house before dinner. We ate dinner together again to all share stories about facts and moments of Mt. Vernon.

I helped Nancy clean up the kitchen after dinner and made my way back to the bedroom to pack my bag. I was leaving in between 5am and 6am the next morning. My ride down to Charlotte was with a man named Kenneth Chamblee. I only talked to him on the phone one time but had a half-a-dozen e-mails or so with his girlfriend Nannette Simmons, native of Maryland and living in Baltimore. Nannette told me that Ken was driving down south to Charlotte and could give me a ride. The issue with Ken and his driving style is that he likes to get going early: BEFORE SUNRISE. That means that he was leaving Baltimore in between 4-5am and picking me up between 5-6am. It was similar to waiting for the cable guy and the ridiculous windows of service; but in my scenario - a total stranger driving me 7 hours south.

So I packed up and said goodnight to Nancy and David. I watched some 11pm Sportscenter before going to bed and waited for Ken's call the next morning.... "just remember to keep the ringer loud and pick it up between five and six", I said to myself.

The stars shine as I dream into the night.