Destination: D.C.

I made the one day trip from West Virginia to the nation's capital in order to take in WVU's game against Georgetown, and while the game didn't come out the way that I would have liked, there were enough interesting sidelights on the way to justify a travelogue of sorts.

Taking advantage of Independence Air's low cost flights into Dulles International, I arrive just a few minutes after 8:00 a.m. Since the game isn't until 4:00, Cam Huffman and I decide to go check out the new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which is just a couple of miles away. But first, I have to get directions.

That should be a simple matter, but my attempts to get them kick off a day-long series of frustrations and incorrect instruction. I approach the information desk and ask for the easiest way to get to the new museum, but instead of a map or directions, the lady behind the counter says, "Do you have a car?"

Well, yeah. I probably wouldn't need to ask directions if I was getting a taxi, would I? But, I manage to avoid the smart-aleck response and say, yes, I have a car. (I really don't as Cam is picking me up, but I don't figure she needs to know that.) I get a card with the simple instructions, and then decide to go two for one.

"From there, can you tell me how to get to the Metro?" I query. Knowing the traffic patterns in D.C., I always take the subway, and since there's a Metro stop right under the MCI Center, that has to be the way to go.

This one throws her, however. I get the Radio Shack look. You know, the one where you ask a question of a Radio Shack employee, and he looks at you like you just grew an extra head. (‘You've got questions, we've got blank stares' should be their motto.)

Fortunately, an airport policeman chooses that moment to walk by, and he has the scoop. He makes a couple of notations on the map I'm carrying, and I think I'm set. I head to the front of Dulles and await Cam's arrival.

My BGN co-worker arrives soon, looking quite bleary-eyed, but I don't question him, even when he nearly falls asleep on the drive to a nearby Bob Evans. We get there safely, however, and Cam orders eggs Benedict, while I opt for a mondo farm breakfast consisting of about five pounds of food. Soon after, my food arrives (carried by a never-ending parade of waiters), but for some reason Cam's eggs don't show.

We wait it out, but still nothing. We finally get the waiter, and when Cam tells him his eggs never arrived, the waiter says, "Really?" I can tell from the tone that he's not buying it. He eyes my pile of plates, obviously looking for the remains of his dish. He can't spot any evidence, so he removes the eggs from our bill. He also inadvertently removes the rest of Cam's order, so in the end we come out ahead, although we risk being branded as some sort of scam artists.

Next stop, the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. Admission is free (what a bargain), but parking is $12.00. Must be some sort of consulting deal by the Beltway Bandits. This being a government operation, we decide not to apply logic to the situation, and fork over the cash.

Shuttle Enterprise
The museum ends up being the highlight of the day, although we don't know it at the time. Make sure you include it on your next trip to D.C. However, don't fly your colors in front of the elevator guy, who turns out to be a Marshall grad. We're surprised when he delivers us to the correct floor in spite of our gold and blue gear.

As we head for the Metro, I discover that I've somehow lost the directions. Do we take U.S. 50 all the way? Or jump over to Interstate 66? We make the call to go interstate, and get close, but get off one exit too soon. So, it's another stop for directions.

This one sounds easy, courtesy of the lady at the 7-11. Left at the light, left at the next light, right at the stop sign. Out we go, only to discover that you have to take the second left at the second light after the first left. But, performing the typical male ‘drive around until you find it' routine, we eventually make it.

On to the Metro for the Smithsonian stop. Upon arrival, we calculate that we still have some time before we need to get to the game. So, we decide to make the walk to the World War II memorial, which neither of us has seen. Unfortunately, renovations to the Washington Monument make the walk twice as long as it would normally be, but it's still worth it. The whole area does a great job of setting a contemplative and respectful mood in honor of The Greatest Generation, and not even a few unruly kids playing in the fountain area in front of their do-nothing parents can spoil it.

Our sightseeing visits complete, we head for the MCI Center, where our adventure in directions continues. Arriving at the ticket office, no one seems to know where the media will call window is. Cam finally gets some vague directions from a security guard, and as we are leaving, we run into B.J. Byerson's family. They have the scoop – another ticket pickup area is around the corner.

We trot around the corner, and there are doors, but they are closed and locked. An oblivious worker stands inside the door and stares at us like monkeys at the zoo, but makes no move to open the door to help. After about ten minutes of standing, one comes out to put a barrier in place, and I ask him is this is the media pickup. "No," I'm told. "That's down at the end of the building."

Thinking that a sign would be nice, we walk down to the garage entrance, and tucked on the other side is a small door marked ‘Media". Hooray!

Inside, security "checks" our camera bags. Cam notes that between us we have about 30 zippered pockets on our bags, but that security never looks inside any but the biggest ones. Fortunately, we are not terrorists, so that's not a problem.

After getting our passes, we get directions to the media room. Down the stairs, left, then another left, then a quick right. And as usual, wrong. There's no second left – but we manage to find it without too much trouble.

After eating, we wander out into the arena, The biggest problem I've experienced in arenas that serve both pro and college interests is the total lack of communication and consistency in the sharing and application of rules. One person will tell you one thing, and three minutes later, you get a totally opposite story from someone else. You try to resolve the conflict, and nothing good ever happens.

That was certainly the case here, as two different people on the floor gave us two entirely different sets of guidelines as to where we could sit to photograph the game. While neither was rude, neither would budge when presented with the differing set of rules provided by the other. We get kicked out of two different spots before finally finding some precarious and painful spots from which to shoot.

My photo spot for the SR-71 Blackbird far exceeded my vantage points for the game
As an aside, Georgetown has to provide the fewest spaces for photographers of any place I've been in, and that includes James Madison. Typically, photographers get one half of the baseline on either end of the court, but at the MCI only half of that space was available. Rolling signage boards blocked two of the other locations, with the Hoya cheerleaders dominating the rest of the space. One of the two people we spoke to said he could do nothing about it, so, suffice it to say, securing space was an adventure.

The other item of note around the game was the total absence of inventiveness from the Georgetown student section in terms of cheering. "Sit down, coach," seemed to be the limit of their collective imagination. Maybe it has something to do with being so close to Congress every day.

Following the game, we reverse our course, Metro to car to Dulles, and I prepare to board the plane home. At Dulles, I face a far stricter security screening, which includes this exchange.

Screener: "Put everything in the bins for screening – you can't carry anything through in your hands or pockets."

Me: "O.K."

Screener: "I need to see your boarding pass."

Me: "You told me to put everything in the bin. I'll get it."

Screener: "No, no. I'll get it. You will have to pass through the detector again."

Me: "(Sigh.) O.K."

If I'm missing some logic here, let me know what it was.

I arrive home around 10:30 p.m., but other than the result of the game, I have to admit it wasn't a bad trip at all. But next time, I'll do my own directions.

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