Just before six on Saturday morning, after about five hours of sleep, I met my NJHS co-sponsor, two faculty members, eleven parents, and 59 eighth-graders at the Austin airport for our flight to Washington, D.C.
And that was the easy part.
Day One included:
- Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
- WWII Memorial and Washington Monument (with extra vigilance to ensure they’re not positioning themselves just so on either side of the obelisk for their pictures)
- Potomac River dinner cruise
The dinner cruise is typically the second or third night of the trip, but this year we happened to do it first. We finally reached our hotel at about 10:30 pm, about eighteen hours after I left my house. Even with the 2.5-hour flight, the drive from Baltimore, and an afternoon on and off the bus, I ended up with 14,116 steps, according to my Vivofit.
- Iwo Jima Memorial (AKA the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial)
- Wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery
- Ford’s Theater and the Peterson House (where Lincoln died)
- Newseum (whose stairs make it look like an Escher painting)
- MLK and FDR Memorials
- Jefferson Memorial
- Air Force Memorial
The hike up to the Tomb of the Unknowns contributed to–but was not solely responsible for–my 21,873 steps for the day. And I didn’t even run. Yeah, 21,000 steps and 4:22 of sleep tells you everything you need to know about my day.
- U.S. Capitol tour
- Supreme Court (where a line of spectators stretched across the plaza, waiting to attend the first session since Justice Scalia’s death)
- White House
- Holocaust Museum
- Vietnam, Lincoln, and Korean War Memorials
- Einstein statue
And…. The 2016 Asscrack of Dawn 5K! I met J in the lobby of my hotel at 5:45. It was still dark, and while I’d managed to get more sleep than the last two nights, it was nowhere near enough. But getting up early was worth it to watch the sun rise over Washington, just me and my friend, our chatter and footsteps the only sounds as we ran through the quiet streets. A short window, one of the brief moments I am awake but no one needs anything from me. No cacophony of adolescent voices, no
herding cats counting heads at every stop. No checking to make sure they’re wearing coats and aren’t staring at their phones the entire time. No ducking out of a guided tour to find a restroom because some of the girls are still learning to manage, shall we say, adult responsibilities (I have a son–our conversations have not included the importance of black pants, pockets, and planning). No panic at hearing the words, “Are you with that group from Texas?” even when the next sentence is a compliment.
So let’s be honest–I needed a lot more than 5K to offset these factors, but I had to be showered and ready to go by 7:00. Still, I got time with my friend and about 8000 steps before breakfast. My total for the day was 25,308.
- Mt. Vernon (George Washington’s estate)
- National Cathedral
- National Zoo’s panda exhibit
We had enough parents along that the co-sponsors didn’t have to lead groups at Mt. Vernon, so she and I went through the mansion and then got something to drink at the food court. And it rained much of the day, so we did a lot less walking than the day before. Even at the zoo, we just saw the pandas and came back to the bus. Some of the kids ran around a bit more–we were virtually the only people there–and visited a few of the indoor habitats, but after a total of <24 hours of sleep over the last four nights, I was tired, so I sat on the bus and drank another coffee.
This is my sixth year to accompany a large group of honor society students to Washington, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. Parents have entrusted us to keep their kids safe half a continent away, and over four days we deal with everything from upset stomachs to food allergies, Snapchat and Instagram, disagreements and budding romances, traffic, bad weather, and itinerary changes–all of it fueled by a diet of restaurant food and insufficient caffeine. My 5K run with J costs me a little sleep, but it buys me some sanity in the middle of chaos.
Same time next year, okay?