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Day 19 – DC

After getting folks married off, and failing to collect my 3rd garter, it was time to hit the road again.

My flight was an early one, but a very nice person agreed to get up at 5 a.m. to drive me to the airport.

Back in Baltimore, I found everything pretty much as I had left it. My kayak was still not stolen—that’s good. The only thing that was missing was about a gallon of water from my 5-gallon jug. Did somebody steal some water? I didn’t see a leak.

I made my way down to Washington, DC, and just drove around the city streets for a while. Here I was, in the seat of power. The modern-day Rome. The home of some of the most powerful people in the world. The—wait a minute, the people in the white van beside me want me to roll down my window.

“We need to get over,” the driver said, as his son motioned toward the lane I was in.

I looked around. We were both stopped at a red light, and each of us had a car stopped in front of us. I was in the right-hand lane, and he was directly beside me in the left-hand lane.

I was a bit confused as to what he wanted me to do. I couldn’t pull forward, unless I put it into 4-wheel-drive and pushed the Lexus in front of me into the intersection, where it would likely get T-boned by the cross traffic. Was I supposed to just vanish into thin air? Or did he expect me to back up? Even if I did back up, he would have to back up as well to make the turn without hitting the cars in front of us. So why didn’t he just back up? It seemed like he was asking me to break a traffic law because he was not willing to do it himself. And why was he in the left-hand lane in the first place? He had at least a whole block, with no traffic, to change lanes before the intersection.

None of those options really mattered, though, because at that instant the light turned green.

“You can get over as soon as I pull forward,” I said, and did just that.

“Man, %#&@ you, t…” he screamed. I didn’t catch the rest of what he said, since I was already through the intersection and out of his way. What more had he wanted me to do? The other three options would have involved me breaking either traffic laws or the laws of physics.

I looked back in my mirror and saw the van still, inexplicably, having difficulty getting into the right-hand lane, even though there were now no other vehicles around him.

Oh well. I felt sorry for his son, though.

I stopped at McPherson Square to find some lunch.

I put a quarter in the parking meter, but it was broken. Oh well. The meter in front of me was broken as well, and there was a car parked there with no ticket.

McPherson Square is a grassy park with a statue of a horseback McPherson in the middle. Who is McPherson?

There were a bunch of pigeons in my path who seemed much too comfortable around humans. I pulled out my disposable camera, which has no zoom, and experimented to see how close I could get to the pigeons before they would become concerned.

Pretty close.

As I walked back to where I was parked, I noticed a parking ticket on the windshield of the car parked at the broken meter in front of me. My vehicle still had no ticket.


It was a relatively nice day in DC, so I thought I would take advantage of it by doing some kayaking.

I had wanted to paddle around the tidal pool, around which several of the monuments were located. The only place I could find to easily get into the water was on the Potomac, though, and the waterway between the Potomac and the tidal pool was blocked off, so no boats could get through.

No matter. I headed up the river, past the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center up to what I decided must be the Georgetown campus.

Near the campus, I came across a rowing team—I assumed it was the Georgetown Crew—and their coach out on the water. The boats were stopped, and the coach, in his motorboat, was doing some coaching. I had seen this often at Dallas’ White Rock Lake, with the SMU team, but I always wondered what the coaches had to say. To an outsider, it just seems like such a simple sport. “OK, I want you guys to pull back on the oars. No, pull back. No, BACK! PULL!”

Conspicuously, I paddled over to where I could hear the coach’s instructions.

The coach looked to me like he was only about 20 years old, and the rowers looked 18. It turns out that he was talking to them about the proper technique for the very first stroke of a race. They practiced the first stroke several times. Then, they started working on the second stroke of the race. I didn’t hang around after that, but I wondered how far the micromanagement went. “All right, now I’m going to teach you how to do the 122nd stroke of the race, but only when there is a strong headwind and you are in the lead.”

I left the Crew team and headed for some boulders along the shoreline of Roosevelt Island. I realized that there were some land-lubbers climbing on the rocks from the shoreline. Since it appeared to be kind of a rustic area, I was surprised to see that one of them was wearing some sort of fancy white dress. It turns out that they were having some kind of fashion photo shoot by the water. With my disposable camera, I snapped a picture of the scene. A half-second after this photo was taken, the professional photographer’s flash bulb went off. So, if you are looking through Vogue and see “unidentified man in kayak” in the background of a photo, that would be me. So the readers know, the man in the boat is wearing a grey long-sleeve T by Eskimo Joe, accented by a cheap yellow life vest.

While on the river, a large helicopter flew overhead at a very low altitude, taking a very zig-zag route. It was Marine One, or at least one of the helicopters they use for Marine One—I think the President was out of town, since the next morning he voted in Crawford, TX. I guessed that the odd round-about route had something to do with security. The ground-hugging altitude, though, I imagine had less to do with fears of an attack and more to do with the steady stream of jumbo jets flying low over the Potomac on the way to Reagan International.

If you have your own kayak or canoe and are looking to do some paddling around DC, you can get to the water fairly easily by parking along Ohio Drive near the FDR memorial. The shoreline has been built up with rock, but there are a couple of places where the rock has broken down and you can get down to the water without jumping off the wall. Parking along Ohio Drive is plentiful and free, but only for 3 hours.  


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© 2006 by Kevin McConaghy. All rights reserved.