I got into the Princeton, NJ Friday night and after hanging out at one of Colin's neighbor's backyard enjoying their new fire pit, we went to bed around midnight or so. Got up around 4AM, and we (Colin, his roommate, and myself) were out the door and on the road by 5AM. The drive down was pretty smooth and completely uneventful-- I was worried about hitting traffic, but the road down I95 was pretty darn empty for the entire drive. We decided on heading to the New Carrollton Metro Station, which is the last stop off the Orange line in MD (it's north-east of DC). When we got to the New Carrollton station by 8AM, there were a few other cars pulling into the lot when we were, but nothing crazy. There were still literally hundreds (thousands?) of available parking spots-- free parking, since the Metro doesn't charge for parking on weekends, so that's where the car was abandoned.
Colin & I got off at Farragut West & walked 2 blocks to our hotel. We only had a small backpack each, so we put all the things that we'd need/want to have for the rally in one bag (water, snacks, map, money, etc) and everything else into the other backpack (clothes, etc) and checked the non-essential one with the hotel.
By 9:30am, we were out on the streets looking for a quick bite before walking over to the rally. We were near the White House, a few blocks above Washington Monument (the rally stage is on the opposite end of the Mall from the monument). We decided to walk down a few blocks closer to the Mall, then walk on a parallel street towards the rally stage. Stopped at a Corner Bakery Cafe (apparently these are a chain?) for yummy paninis and our cashier was awesome & gave us awesome service. After we sat down, it took a while to get our food, but the line for people to order was looooooong. By the time that we finished eating and were ready to head back out to resume our trek towards the Capitol, it was around 10:30am. Upon leaving the cafe, there were hordes of people all walking in one direction, so we followed. At this point were about 3-4 blocks north of the mall, maybe around 11th street. By 11am, we were on 7th and stayed on 7th, though in hindsight we probably could have made out way further, but we were moderately satisfied with where we were.
Below are aerial shots of the Mall during the rally, with a little red dot (click to find us!) to indicate where Colin & I were.
(The first shot seems to be done earlier in the day, since I think that the fenced-off lawns got filled up during the actual rally).
As for our experience during the rally-- standing around in one tight spot for an hour until noon for the rally to start wasn't the greatest, but it wasn't quite that crowded then, so not too claustrophobic or squishy. The jumbo-trons were playing re-runs of various musical performances from the Daily Show/Colbert Report, so there was something for entertainment. Saw a few signs (but they had to come to us, as we weren't goin' anywhere). The Roots played for a while but nobody really cared.
Started getting interesting when the Mythbusters guys did their audience warm ups-- participated in multiple crowd waves (which were poorly organized at first, because I think they wanted it to start from the back and travel to the front? But nobody in the far back could hear instructions to start a wave?), but abstained from the crowd jump so I wasn't registered on the seismograph. At this point the crowds behind us started chanting "louder, louder, louder" because there weren't enough speakers for the sound to travel all the way back to the end of the Mall. We could only hear so-so as is, so I could imagine what it'd be like just a few yards back.
When Stewart and Colbert actually came out, that's when people from behind actively tried to get further up front-- there was this guy behind us who was really not having that, and kept asking people sarcastically where they expected to go, as there was "no room" to get anywhere (which, mind you, was true). All in all, some older folks pushed their way into our area, that sarcastic dude got pushed further behind, etc. At one point he and some other people wanted to pull down the walls of the Family Reunification tent (where lost people go to reunite with their families) so that they could see past it and try to get a view at a jumbo-tron, but the security people weren't having it. Good for them though-- I mean, if the tent's walls were taken down and it was only a roof, I can see a lot of people trying to park themselves in the empty space, defeating the point of a Family Reunification Tent.
But yeah, rally. Liked the fear awards. Didn't necessarily like all the music acts. Some people's criticisms were that they came for a rally/to hear Colbert & Stewart speak, not for a mediocre concert... which is somewhat valid. I did enjoy the "Greatest, Strongest, Country in the World" song though. "I use French words like croissant and bourgeoisie... There's no one more American than me"-- catchy! Stewart's ending keynote speech was great.
I'm curious of how the rally looked like aired on tv, though- still have to look for a stream or torrent of it or something.
After the rally was over, we waiting a short while to leave, then walked all over the Mall. Tried to see the stage, see more signs, etc. I wish I actually saw the one below in person. I want oneee.
Then, we spent some time at the Smithsonian Visitor Information Center and the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. I love the work of Juan Munoz, whose work we first saw in Madrid last year. Colin really dug Olafur Eliasson's Round Rainbow.
By 5:30pm, we promptly kicked out, as the museums were closing.
We made our slow walk back to our hotel then-- I was so tired. So so tired. So so so tired. I think I became delirious from how tired I was. Made it back in about half an hour (the walk is less than a mile from the Mall), and checked into our hotel officially. After constantly staying in private rooms in various hostels (with an occasional budget hotel) in Europe, it felt good to be in a real hotel room. With a television! That plays English-language television programs! And a coffemaker! And multiple clean fluffy towels! And toiletries! Haha. I was sooo tired, but still had to look through everything in the room (what's this? Room service menu? We can order room service?). Then I passed out in bed and watched some footage from the rally on cable news stations.
Being nearly 7pm, we were starved since the last time we had eaten was around 10:30am that morning. I would have been happy ordering a large delivery pizza from our hotel room and scarfing it down in bed while watching tv (doesn't that sound so so heavenly? Haha), but Colin insisted that we go out to somewhere nice. Blerg! Haha, so obviously he was made to do the research on where to go. Decided on Founding Farmers (an apparently "certified green restaurant" whose whole thing is about sustainability farmed products and locally-sourced items), which had a huge amount of reviews on Yelp, was vegan/vegetarian friendly, was nice but not insanely unreasonably pricey, and was within a few short blocks of walking distance. I looked at some reviews myself, and A LOT of reviews said to expect a 45 minute-1 hour wait without a reservation on a normal night. And seeing as how this was a night with thousands of ralliers in the city, I was dubious that we'd ever get a table. Colin called to try to get a reservation so that if there was an hour wait we could nap until our slot, but they said that there weren't any more available reservations for that night.
We decided to walk on over anyway and see what the wait was like.
It actually turned out that we got seated immediately when we got there-- amazing. Good decor, great service. I hear that they also have a special vegan menu, but I just ordered off the regular-- and the dinner was great! Especially the yummy memorable cornbread appetizer, served in a heavy skillet with honey butter. We were both stuffed and incredibly satisfied by the end of the meal.
After we got back, I tried to stay up for as long as I could... and was out cold by 11pm. The next morning, after we got up and checked out around noon, we met up with Colin's roommate at Dupoint Circle and walked around a farmer's market. So many apples. Then had crepes for lunch and walked over the the White House to gawk at their Halloween decorations (including scarecrows and a, like, 10-foot tall pile of multi-coloured gourds out front). Finally made our way down to the Mall and visited the American History museum (which was actually more interesting than I had thought it would be), and then took the Metro out of the city to go retrieve the car and drive back to NJ. Got to the car by 4pm, got back to NJ by 8pm or so. Took the 9pm train back home to NYC shortly afterward, got home around midnight. Lots of traveling in so little time!
I had fun though.
- Walking around and people watching, I was really surprised by the amount of older people who came out (40+ years old) because there were so MANY of them! Broke all sorts of stereotypes in my mind. So many older folks... which is great!
- Nobody I know who went to the rally, it seems, were actually able to see/hear anything? Which can only be contributed to the greater-than-expected turnout, hurrah. And not being able to get to the rally at least an hour before its start-time, I guess, due to the craziness of road traffic and metro traffic. Apparently Princeton had a bus for their students, and it departed from campus at 7am-- which would have been way too late, with traffic and all. A classmate of mine went from Queens, NY on the HuffPo bus, and they were supposed to depart by 6am, but didn't end up leaving Queens until nearly 7:15-- I think she said that they got to downtown DC around 1:30/2pm. All 200 or so of the HuffPo buses...
- Cell phone reception at the Mall was crazy during the rally (as expected)! I didn't get any texts til way after, sorry! There was this lady standing on a chair in the Family Reunion tent who was just on her phone during the entire rally, calling up her husband a few hundred times. It was a constant stream of pretty-hysterical, "I don't know why you're not picking up, but I've been looking for you for the last THREE HOURS. I'm in the Family Reunion tent- please come find meee!". She also called up her daughter at some point with her hysterics, pleaded for her to please call her father because she couldn't understand why he wasn't picking up her calls or responding to her texts when she's been looking for him for THREE WHOLE HOURS. Lady, your husband's not responding because he's not getting your messages, not because he's ignoring you. Also, he's probably just trying to enjoy the rally & have some fun. Relax! Also, you should have really decided on a meet-up spot prior to getting to the rally, ya know.
- I didn't get a Reddit t-shirt! I didn't know where the tent was, but apparently it was right near the First Aid tent? The First Aid tent that I had been staring at for hours and hours on Saturday. Poop! Colin and I really got a kick out of seeing all the Reddit signs though. (I only have 238 karma, so I'm not a huge Redditor... but still, I would have liked a t-shirt! And will probably sign up to do the Reddit Secret Santa this year- fun!)
- So, Republican House and Democratic Senate. Great- now let's work together.
I turn 24 tomorrow.