hello and welcome! if you’ve been here for a while you know that I’m a country girl. I can’t parallel park; crowds make me anxious; concerts hurt my feet; the list goes on and on.
so I’m guessing you’ve clicked on this to hear my DON’T’s when it comes to a trip to our beautiful nation’s capital which *alert alert* is a city. which is the opposite of country. which means, I wasn’t born for this. And therefore my advice comes honest and natural and most of you will never struggle the way I do, but nevertheless, you’re here and you’re reading, so let’s move on.
if you are driving distance away from DC, you might be debating driving into the city or taking the metro, or maybe you have some other fancy plan that I don’t understand.
well, we (my husband and i) decided metro was best, so we found the closest station to our home (about 1 hour and 15 minutes away) lovingly known as “Branch Avenue.” we make it to the station and find an EMPTY parking lot in the front. And I chuckle to myself and think, wow, we have really outsmarted everyone. NO ONE is going to DC on a Wednesday – my calculations were correct! Wife of the year! Mom of the century!
My smart husband jumps out of the car only to find a parking meter positioned in front of our car bumper. No problem. Every meter in the United States of America now takes credit cards and we’ll get the max amount of hours and be on our way.
No. No. Not Branch Avenue. These are 1974 quarter meters. With no sign of life or direction. We drop a dime into the slot just to see if it will register some kind of amount. No luck. Then I remember passing a crap-ton of cars parked in a parking lot as we drove in. I think – let’s park there! I bet it’s filled with open spots just waiting for country families like us to arrive and fill them will glee. So we hop on over to the first lot, which has a marquee sign in front saying FULL, but who believes those, right? So we drive around, being followed by another desperate car, trying to find a spot. No luck. Then we wonder, why won’t the gate open to let us out of this full lot? hello? anyone there? I back up the car and try to figure out how the heck we are getting out of this place without paying. Plus, how are we even supposed to pay if we HAD found a spot? We never got a parking card thing. Then I realized if I press the help button on the payment box, a little video screen pops up with a man sitting at his desk, laughing at me (I think), and he opens the gate for us. Out we go! But don’t worry! I saw ANOTHER parking lot nearby that I’m SURE will have spots. Let’s just copy and paste this whole last paragraph and cut to the chase — there were no spots.
So now I’m officially panicking. I did not drive 1.15 hours to have no where to park. So we drive back to the metered parking. I check my purse — I have 4 quarters. I’m instantly ANGRY that we don’t have bags and bags of coins in my car for this very moment. Grant decides he is going to take over and drives us to the nearest gas station to beg for change. Meanwhile, Stone is pissed. He’s missing his morning nap and he’s not happy about all this parking chaos nonsense. Grant comes back to the car with a pack of gum, tons of cash from the ATM that charged a fee (ugh) and a roll of $10 worth of quarters. Have you ever heard of such a thing?! I mean, what a beautiful establishment to not be so greedy with their quarters and give us an entire roll! And on the way out a guy had over heard Grant begging for quarters and traded him 4 for a $1. Angels on earth!
Things were looking up. So we race back to the metered lot, throw $5 worth of quarters at the dang meter, and run into the station.
Then a sudden wind storm approaches. I forgot to mention we picked Wednesday because it was supposed to be near 70 degrees – but suddenly we feel 40 degree wind in our face and regret everything we’ve ever decided to do in life.
We get our metro cards – enough to get us to the Smithsonian metro stop. Although we weren’t traveling during peak time, Grant added $8 to both our cards ($4 to DC, $4 back). He just wanted to be safe.
This was Stone’s first trip on the metro, and of course we brought our big *** stroller along for the ride. I tried to enter the metro through the regular horse stall, and was promptly humiliated and told to go through the wider stall. and then I scanned my card backwards and it didn’t register. The helpful man also had to show me how to do that too! It’s only going to get worse, so hang tight!
We find our train, which wasn’t hard, because there is only one train out of Branch Avenue lol and it’s the green line. So we find our seats and wait 10 minutes for its departure. Stone promptly finds the first friendly face to entertain him and then we were off. It took about 22 minutes to get to L’Enfant Plaza. We got off, went down the escalator and found the silver line train leaving! So I told Grant, GO! and he slowly pushes the stroller onto the train and the next thing I hear is “doors closing.” and my life flashed before my eyes. I couldn’t make it. The doors slammed in my face and I watched as my husband and child zoomed off into the darkness.
I began to cry. Why? Well, I was in shock, first and foremost. An entire train full of city-folk had watched me not make it on, and subsequently saw my husbands face fall to the ground. The second reason I cried? I had NOTHING. My phone was on the stroller, my wallet was in the diaper bag, my metro card was in Grant’s wallet, and my dignity was crushed on the train tracks. I wiped away tears, panicking, for about 5 minutes. I knew he was on the silver line, so I checked the monitor and the next silver line train would be back in 10 minutes. It felt like an eternity. Someone actually walked up to me while I stood helpless and asked me for money and for the first time in my life, I literally had NOTHING to give (I was able to tell the ACTUAL truth!) It was the craziest feeling being left behind and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!
Alright, now that I’ve had my dramatic moment, let me tell you what happened about minute 8 of my panic break down. I realized that ALL the trains (blue, orange AND silver) stop at the Smithsonian. Me missing that train and watching my family zoom off into the distance was actually NOT a big deal lol I could have literally jumped on the next train (orange line or blue line) and met Grant at the Smithsonian stop. But the shock had already entered my heart and I wasn’t thinking straight. Learn from me, if anything else. Or laugh with me. Because Grant felt HORRIBLE and at the point, we needed a win for the day.
So we make it to the Smithsonian together as a family, travel up the long escalator to daylight, call my brother who was meeting us there, and walk with the massive crowds of excited people towards the Tidal Basin. At this point it’s about 11AM, our goal was to arrive around 10AM, but I’m just happy we made it at all!
We make it to the Tidal Basin, we admire the trees, the instagram models living their best lives, the festival excitement and loud music, and I just can’t help but smile.
We find a vendor selling the usual festival-ly food, and $40 later, we find a shaded spot among the trees to eat lunch.
I would venture to say we got there at the perfect time. There was NO wait for food, but about 45 minutes later when we wanted a funnel cake, Grant waited in line for 20+ minutes. So yeah, the weather got nicer and the crowds came running!
My brother had to catch his train home around 11:50am, so we only got 50 short minutes to hang out 😦 which was a major bummer to being late to this whole shindig. Around 12:30pm we walked back to the metro, which was about 10 minutes of walking. The most chaotic part for us was pushing the stroller through the crowds at crosswalks. It’s every man for themselves at that point, so Grant had to be aggressive. And I made sure I stayed close to his side because I was never gonna let myself get separated from him again!
Another 25 minute ride back to our beloved Branch Avenue, a quick diaper change for the baby, and we hit the road back home! Stone was TIRED and managed a 20 minute nap. We stopped at Wawa for a pick-me-up when nothing would calm his crying, and then we finally made it home.
home sweet country home: where there are parking lots as far as the eye can see, filled with open spots, free spots. I could kiss the asphalt just thinking about it.
So if you’re planning a trip to DC, I wouldn’t necessarily use this post as any sort of advice or direction, but you can snicker at our tomfoolery and use your own city expertise to have an amazing adventure with your family.
until next time, DC.