Tap, Tap, Tap. Is there anybody still out there? So yeah, I went on vacation and didn’t announce it. Real life got really busy and before I knew it I was chunking random things into a suitcase at 11:30 at night when I had to leave at 6 the next morning. My family and I did the great American road trip. We drove halfway across the country (nearly 1,400 miles each way) to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. It was two days there and two days back, although, not as brutal as I feared it would be. We took in all the big sights – the Mall, the Monuments, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Capital Building, the National Archives, the White House and multiple Smithsonian Museums. It had been almost 20 years since my husband and I have visited and my kids had never gone. And, since they are now 12 and 14, it was a good time age wise to plan this trip.
I find the people and the sights you see within certain regions simply fascinating. We stopped in the mountains, hiked down the embankment in flip flops (not our smartest idea) and played in a mountain stream. We saw a florescent yellow Lexus with giant tires being pulled by a U-haul in another state. We met country folks, mountain people, and city dwellers but never once did we meet anyone rude. We did pass through some areas where we never once saw anything but white people and for some reason that worried me. (Whispers – If y’all didn’t know I’m white.) We live in a suburb of a very large city with no real minority. Sure, there is a little self-segregation, but for the most part it’s very multicultural. It was weird being in a place where there’s only one kind of people. It can be unnerving and in some cases uncomfortable, especially when you aren’t used to it. Speaking of which, enjoy this off the wall story about our hotel stay.
We originally booked a room in Alexandria, VA right across the street from a Metro station. What we didn’t know we got there was that the Metro station was closed for an overhaul until September and the two beds in the room were full size beds with a queen fold out bed. It’s just downright creepy for a teen boy and preteen girl to sleep in the same bed and since my hubs and I don’t like to touch when we sleep this was not going to fly for a week. So, my hubs and I started frantically searching for anything that had two beds and a fold out couch that didn’t involve a full sized bed. Fun fact, apparently that is standard in D.C. because it wasn’t until we looked in the surrounding areas did we find a set up that would work. The hubs finds a new hotel and books it and the next day we go to check in. We were a little stumped that there was no food or grocery nearby only a metro station, a church and a bunch of car dealerships and a gas station but still we said, “whatever it will be great”. The lady at the front desk was so helpful in providing a list of nearby stores and restaurants so off we go to pick up dinner. The nearest grocery, about 5 miles away is smack in the middle of the hood and four exceptionally white people in a generic small SUV with a Mickey Mouse sticker on the back window sticks out like a sore thumb. The next morning we arrive at the continental breakfast in the lobby and again, no white people. I whisper to my husband, “Remember when we were driving through that super rural part of the country and we couldn’t find any people of color? Yeah, well apparently we found the opposite end of the spectrum.” For the rest of the week if we were at the hotel or the surrounding grocery store, Target store or restaurant we got lots of stares. Our daily walk to and from the Metro station garnered looks as well. We don’t look weird. We’re as average as they come but you would have thought we all had a multi-colored mohawk and a third eye. About halfway through the week, I started wondering what they thought. Did everyone think were crazy? Did they think we were lost? Did they resent us being there? No one was ever mean or unkind. Despite the stares, everyone was pleasant but why the stares. The only thing I can think of is we were different from their norm. And, let’s face it, different can be strange, uncomfortable even. The funny thing is my kids never blinked about the whole situation. They were oblivious to the stares and odd looks. They didn’t notice the sketchy strip mall and the grocery on the edge of the hood. Some of that could be their age but I think a lot of it is they are growing up in a world where we are striving for more equality and multicultural experience. As they get older I hope they have fond memories of our trip, even the daily trip by the collection of malt liquor bottles by the Metro station and the baffling case of Bible tracts at every stop for 300 miles.
Photo Credit: Yours truly. It’s the crazy lifted yellow Lexus I spoke about. Who would paint a nice car that color?