It Was as if I Had Never Traveled Before

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“I can’t believe you’re a travel blogger!” Or, it was something like that my friend Tom exclaimed after I confessed being lost in Washington, D.C., over the weekend.

Yes, these things happen. I’m not ashamed admitting I’m navigationally challenged and wholly confess I do make mistakes while traveling. Nobody’s perfect. Except, maybe Tom. (Hi, Tom!)

Traditional Map of Washington, D.C., with iPhone Showing D.C. Metro Map

Traditional Map of Washington, D.C., with iPhone Showing D.C. Metro Map

Art of Map Reading
Sure, GPS units help but my iPhone battery sucks so I couldn’t use the Google map function. (I only have one battery and tried to conserve it during the Rally to Restore Sanity. It was now 4 p.m., the 20% battery life notification kept warning me and I couldn’t find a place to recharge.)

Read a map? Phfpt! Sometimes I can read them, sometimes I can’t. I often use the sun for direction but when Tom asked whether I was heading north or south, I was staring into a setting sun so I wasn’t going in either direction.
Plus, I THOUGHT I was going in the right direction, I just didn’t realize when the street address is a NW or SW, it doesn’t mean the side of the road – as it does in Florida – it means a totally different direction of road.

So Easy a Caveman Can Do It, Huh?
My whirlwind trip to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in D.C. was planned almost as if a caveman did it. No offense to cavemen but I made some pretty stupid mistakes on this trip:

Flights
I couldn’t take off from work (mandated – no time off in October) so I booked a 7 p.m. flight putting me into Regan National (DCA) around midnight. No problem until I realized I only had a 30 minute connection in Atlanta. A storm passed through the day prior and I hoped and prayed it wouldn’t impact my flight. Thankfully, all was on schedule.

It was on the return flight I messed up. I booked my return from Dulles International Airport. For 6:20 in the morning. It really wasn’t that big of a deal and I probably did this because it was the cheapest option. I recall booking the earliest flight back so I would have time on Sunday to blog, upload photos and enjoy Halloween, none of which really happened because I was dead tired when I finally made it home.

Lodging
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Washington Georgetown (2101 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Tel: 202-338-4600) which was actually quite nice. Except when I found used dental floss behind the nightstand. Ew!

The problem was I paid $150 +  a night and spent about 6 hours total in my bed. Also, the closest Metro is 1.5 miles away (Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan on the Red Line). I’m not opposed to walking but once I returned to the Metro that night (at midnight) I was in no mood to walk. Taxi cabs seem to be at a premium because of the zoning regulations – taxis can only pick up in areas they are permitted to do. For instance, a Virginia taxi driver may drop off within D.C. but they cannot pick someone up in D.C.

Waiting for the Metro in D.C.

Washington, D.C. Metro

Affordable accommodations were at a minimum when I booked my travel but I should have tried harder to at least find one with complimentary breakfast and business center. I ended up paying almost $5 to check in for my flight and print my boarding passes because business center’s Internet connection was sooooo slow. I’ve stayed at other hotels where this is free. To top things off, the boarding passes didn’t print meaning I had to visit the night auditor at the front desk. He was busy trying to explain to international guests why the rate changed during their stay. Because of this, I lost about 30 minutes of precious sleep.

Ground Transportation
A bus stop is located across the street from the hotel but who knows how to use the bus? I don’t! I didn’t grow up with buses and never really learned to use them with grace. I always feel awkward and like a fish out of water. I suppose it’s the whole exact change thing and reading a schedule that looks like entries from a phone book. Detailed and confusing. At least with a Metro map I can figure out the direction and line.

By the way, there are several iPhone apps for the DC Metro, I downloaded and used “DC Metro Map” by Taapuna.com. It’s pretty simple – the Metro map – but useful. Since it’s a free app, it has rotating ads but worth putting up for it free. Click here to download it from the iTunes store.

Rally for Sanity Oct 2010 Post Rally3

Post Rally for Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2010

Once on the bus, I wasn’t sure what stop to get off. I didn’t have a schedule and didn’t know where the bus stops being announced were located in relation to the National Mall. My strategy? No, not asking the driver but figuring out who on the bus was attending the rally and get off when they did. And so I did. Once off the bus, I just followed the hordes of people.

Super Shuttle
Since a taxi from the hotel to Dulles was a luxury (probably $40 or $50) I reserved a seat with Super Shuttle for about $25 plus tip. My original pickup time was scheduled for 3:30 a.m. (Ugh!) The night prior Super Shuttle called saying they needed to move my time to 3:35 a.m. No problem. I arrived to the hotel lobby at 3:15 a.m., afraid I’d fall asleep in my room and a few minutes later another hotel guest joined me. She was on my flight and also waiting for Super Shuttle.

About 3:30, the Super Shuttle van driver called saying he was running about 10 minutes late. No problem, I told him, and said I would relay the message to the other passenger waiting. Five minutes later, her phone rang and the driver said he was running about 10 minutes late.

I thought that was odd but figured the driver was just doing his job.

Super Shuttle arrived around 4 a.m. and the driver walked into the hotel lobby asking for Marla. I asked if he had a reservation for Jennifer, too and he said, “yes.” Away we went but I thought it was odd he asked whether I was going to Dulles, too.

Five minutes later my phone rang. The number was from Virginia. Uh, oh.

“Hello?’

“Jennifer. This is Super Shuttle. Where are you?”

“Oh, s&!t,” I thought.

“I’m on the Super Shuttle van,” I said, and explained what happened.

“Let me talk to the driver,” he replied.

Turns out the driver of the van I was in thought I was traveling with the other gal and since had room, he just picked me up. I had pre-paid and there was no problem.

Long story short, I got on the wrong Super Shuttle van!

I’m not sure how that would happen especially when it’s a hotel pickup and not an airport pickup, but I found a way to make it happen. Honestly, I don’t know how this could have been prevented.

I have to question, why would Super Shuttle schedule two separate pickups for the same hotel for two people on the same flight? Seems inefficient.

No Insurance
I usually do it and thankfully I didn’t need it, but I didn’t purchase travel insurance.

The Destination or Journey?

Yeah, I made some rookie mistakes but the upside is I didn’t get robbed, returned safely and had an incredible time. Will things like this happen during future travels? Oh, I’m quite sure. Besides, sometimes it’s about the journey rather than the destination.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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