Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My unfounded fears of travelling to DC

I've been putting off writing about my vacation for weeks, because I find it hard to tackle and wonder really does anyone give a shit? Although I LOVE reading about people's getaways, I find writing them really awkward...but I know they are good references for other people...so here goes...I'm awkward 99% of the time so truly, this is just on brand for me. This will likely be part 1 in a series so if this is your thing, "yay!" and if it's not...."oh well." [Tangent: I am writing mostly to tell people what I wish I knew before I went to DC, so suck it.]

Last month, Jamie got some vacation time he had to use that wouldn't roll over, so of course I got excited because it meant an excuse to go somewhere during that narrow window when the weather and landscape is at it's pinnacle of coppery gorgeousness and before the havoc of holiday reigns down upon us, and we become too over-scheduled to even wipe our butts. I'd been tossing around the idea about going to DC for a while and we thought election time would be optimal time to experience this city.  [Tangent: My dad was invited to go to Obama's inauguration by his democrats group, and he didn't go...I'm still bummed he missed out and wanted to carpe the ever-living f#*k out of the diem...especially given election season always makes my inner patriot emerge from its caccoon. I needed to go STAT. Remember where I revealed that slowly, and much to my chagrin I am shape-shifting into my dad, the fact that I was super jazzed to go to a bunch of museums on my "relaxing vacation" only further supports this hypothesis.]  

For some reason, unlike every one of my fellow peers from Tennessee, I never visited DC on my 8th grade field trip, so clearly I was deprived. Although, to be honest, everyone I know that went said the only things they remember are staying in a hotel with their friends or watching an Adam Sandler movie on the bus. [Ex: Jamie went in 8th grade and said his fondest memory was that the ads in the subway were for Hot Shots Part Deux, that Snow's Informer was really big and that he bought juggling scarves. Middle Schoolers are unappreciative assholes. Lesson learned.]

My former roommate and forever sister, Andraea [Tangent: She's my personal Oprah. Seriously, she and I are opposite in so many staggering ways but are basically the same person. Go read her blog.] lives there and works there and is a big deal there, so more than anything I really wanted to go see her...and have her escort me around her city. 
 Within hours of texting her, I had concocted this plan in my head, fueled 90% by enthusiasm and misplaced senses of security, to drive to DC...which is an 11 hour drive overall [Tangent: Unfortunately, outside of backing it out of a tight parking space, Jamie cannot drive my car, which is the only vehicle between us capable of lugging around the monstrosity that is my power chair. I also know if I want to travel in a city, I would go apeshit and Hulk out in frustration if I had to pushed around in my manual chair. Additionally, Jamie might not be too jazzed to push my chair all over those cobblestone streets.] In lieu of flying (which is also a gamble with a power chair), we decided to make the trip a couple days longer and stay with his parents on the way there and back. They live near the Virginia line, so its the perfect halfway point. Once again, this was on a grossly confident day that I concocted this plan. [Tangent: The furthest I had driven prior was in April when I went to Atlanta. Interstate driving for more than 5 hours in a day when you use hand controls is a beast. Cruise control doesn't exist in my universe.]

Aside from the drive itself, I acquired a couple other new worries after fully committing to this trip. It mattered not that everyone had reiterated to me numerous times how handi-friendly the area was, my mind raced with new unfounded fears like...

1. How do Subways work? 
As I slept in a bed at Jamie's parents house, halfway to DC, I started to have a mild panic when everything started to come into focus. Parking in the district is crazy expensive and frustrating, so I would have to shed my country mouse ways and learn how to use mass transit. [Tangent: All native Tennessseans probably share this ignorance about mass transit. It's so off my radar that I kind of forget that in some mythical places some people use it everyday. Riding the tram at the Atlanta airport hardly counts and Jamie said he was terrified the one time he rode the subway alone in NY. I swear, we are not complete slack-jawed yokels. Maybe.] All of these factors I had been too busy (or naive maybe) to plan out. I just imagined I would jump off a cable car and land on Andraea's stoop...easy breezy and ready to see the sites...as if there are even cable cars in DC. [Tangent: Perhaps I fell asleep watching the Full House intro. Who knows?]
Yes, the metro system seems super daunting. Luckily Andraea showed me the ropes, and even showed me that if you act like you know what you are doing, and are in a wheelchair, you don't even need a metro card. [Tangent: I mean you probably do...but I am down for the cheaper albeit possibly unethical option if it makes things easier. I just didn't make eye contact and tried not to look as confused/overwhelmed as I felt.]  We only rode it a couple times, but I was pretty excited that we didn't get off on the wrong stop or get on the wrong route. I am most thankful I had a local to show us what to do, because I didn't want "Tourist: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME" to be written on my forehead. This website is a good primer.  

2. How much of a pain in the ass will it be to get an accessible cab? 
I have only taken a cab a handful of times and usually my overserved friends made the call on that and I was using a manual that can be tossed in the trunk. [Tangent: Including the time I rode home in a party cab with strobe lights and blaring music and mardi gras beads for a ride that was less than 3 miles.]  This whole business of not driving everywhere is so outside my wheelhouse that I am not even in the driveway of said wheelhouse. [Tangent: Am I using the term wheelhouse properly? I don't even know anymore.]  In Nashville, accessible cabs exist, but not in mass and I have never summoned one before, so to be honest I just kind of assumed it would be a huge ordeal...much like most things that are specific to people with disabilities.

Luckily I googled (fully Ask Jeeves style as is my MO): "How do wheelchair users hail taxis in DC?" and I came upon the most helpful website ever. On this site I was patched through to the Taxi transit app, which gave me the ability to schedule my taxi via app and even request an accessible cab.
do you like my obnovious Jason Manzoukas wallpaper?
I worried that I would have to know hours in advance when I needed a pickup, but it worked like a dream and generally, if we were near downtown, which we always were, we only needed about 10-15 minute notice. Only once did they send us a sedan, but he immediately called in for a minivan to pick us up. [Tangent: It was surprisingly convenient, and most of our drivers were so nice that Jamie didn't even feel provoked to ask them, "Have you ever seen the movie DC Cab?" even though he really wanted to.]
 
3. Did I really just blindly book a hotel that no one has ever heard of? 
When we first picked our destination, we assumed we would just stay at an airbnb [Tangent: We had such mind-blowing experiences with our stays in Atlanta and Gaitlinburg, that surfing the app has just become a pasttime of mine, even if I am not going anywhere. Oh and while we are on the topic, this seems ripe for a shameless plug. Use this link and get $35 toward your first trip.], but as we searched the "accessible" options that offered free any kind of parking, we realized all the decent ones were already booked.  Therefore I went for plan B, I asked around what was a good neighborhood to stay in and sight unseen booked a room via Expedia at a small boutique hotel called The Normandy. [Tangent: I ran it by my friends and a colleague that went to school in DC. Everyone had been so shocked that I found a hotel in a hip part of DC for under $200 a night. Their surprise meant I was starting to become certain it was a front for a crackhouse or haunted...or both. A money-laundering hot spot swarming with ghosts. Perfect.] 

I was dead wrong. The Normandy was freakin' adorable and the staff was SO NICE. Here's proof!

It was small and private and tucked in between a bunch of embassies and most crucial- it was totally safe [Tangent: Unless some sort of reverse-Argo situation transpired.] When we arrived there had been a mix-up and they assigned us an accessible room, but not one with a roll-in shower, so within an hour they had sent someone on foot to the rire-aid down the road to buy me a shower chair. [Tangent: I sincerely would have settled for sitting on a bucket, but I was impressed with their commitment to service.] They even were so baffled by my robot car that they let me park illegally on the street all week in lieu of worrying about valet...and my bill was never charged. These people were the bees knees. And the inside was super cute toille wallpaper and a super nice bathroom and dammit if now I don't want a bedside espresso machine. 

Also, it wasn't haunted, but this sucker was right next door...and probably was. It had a very Great Expectations vibe. Every morning when we waited for our cab, we looked for faces in the window.

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