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Washington D.C.: Let the Adventure Begin!

August 10, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Early in the morning of Sunday, August 9, I departed Phoenix for Washington D.C. on a week-long trip visiting my friend Milica (Mimi).

Flying the Relatively Friendly Skies

I left home at 4:30 AM for a 6:00 flight to New York City. Delta Airlines charges $15 for the first checked bag, which is unfortunately rather typical of today’s market. The security check-in process was no worse than the usual hassle. Everyone involved was very helpful. I got a window seat with noone sitting immediately to my left. Audrey, one of the flight attendants, was especially accommodating. I enjoyed good conversation with an American Airlines pilot completing the last leg of his flight home to New York from Thailand, slept intermittently and read for an hour or so. I’m reading There’s No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark.

The three-hour layover at New York’s JFK airport was certainly not the most exciting portion of the day’s travels. The terminal had no free Wi-Fi, and I could not get my MSI Wind netbook to synchronize with my Motorola Q9H phone, so accessing the Internet was completely out of the question. I spent over an hour troubleshooting the problem, all to no avail. Finally, I gave up and finished some additional reading.

Finally, the flight from New York to Reagan National was pretty bad, featuring a crowded plane, isle seat, two big guys sitting in the middle and window seats next to me and a rough takeoff capped by a rougher landing. Bernadette, one of the flight attendants, was very accommodating, doing her best to smooth some of the roughest edges.
Though the flight got off the ground late due to heavy traffic and a stalled tractor used to push the plane from the gate, we made up most of the time in the air and I was on the ground by 7:05.

Reunion and End of the Day’s Journey

Milica met me at the baggage claim section of the airport. As expected, it was very nice to see her again. As we walked outside, I was stunned by the hot, humid weather conditions. Reading a weather forecast is nothing like actually experiencing the weather firsthand. I had forgotten exactly how it felt to be outside in 90 plus degree heat with humidity percentages in the double digits. We rode the Metro subway, ate dinner at a nice little Chinese restaurant called Mr. Chang’s (where all the staff were Chinese who spoke minimal English) and connected with Mimi’s friends where I would be staying.

First Full Day

Monday’s activities began with breakfast followed by a tour of the Newseum, a museum covering the past five centuries of journalism. Our tour guide, Ryan, did a great job, making this an enjoyable, mostly accessible experience. While there were many disappointing exhibits behind cases and walls we could not touch, we were able to experience several exhibits, including touching a piece of the Berlin Wall, a guard tower from the wall, a piece of a damaged wall from the Pentagon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the journalist’s memorial wall and several more. We were even able to tour George Stephanopoulos’ broadcast studio!

In the evening, we went to the M&S Grill to hang out with Jamal Mazrui, Mikah Pyyhkala, Mark, Anne, Sam, Sarah and many others from the DC Night Out gang, a group of blind people who live in the Washington D.C. area and meet on a regular basis. Mimi and I had a great time with this wonderful group of folks! We’re even hoping to arrange a going-away party for Saturday night!

I know I’ve barely touched the surface, but I hope all of you have at least gotten a flavor of what I’ve been up to here in Washington D.C. Stay tuned for more as the week speeds along. If you’re in the D.C. area and you would like to arrange a meeting with us, please e-mail editor@blindaccessjournal.com or dial my cell phone at 480-652-3813.

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