On Wednesday 21 August we upped and left the lovely hostel in New York and headed for the Greyhound. I was slightly anxious to discover what awaited me on the coach as I had heard all sorts of horror stories about it beforehand. A friend from camp sent me a message about his experience of the Megabus and I could only imagine a similar thing was about to occur.
In the words of Carlo Dorresteijn, “Megabus is like a weird sort of museum. Wifi comes from a router that appears to be powered by an old, obese, deeply depressed hamster spinning on a rusty wheel with a dynamo ripped from a bike attached to it. A bus driver who keeps chatting through the crackling speakers about the traffic situation still being the way it was five minutes ago in a language I can only guess is supposed to be English. A gay couple heavily making out in the seats behind me [one the size of Peter Kay and the other the size of Dec from the comedy duo, Ant and Dec.] Bus Driver update: Ladies going to the bathroom should not try and crouch over the toilet to avoid touching the seat with their ‘fragile bits’. I went to the toilet, sat down, closed the door, which slammed into my knees a good inch before closing.”
All very delightful tales so you can see why I was a little hesitant about stepping onto the coach. To my surprise the whole journey was a breeze. There was no weird bus driver warning the ladies on board to not crouch over the toilet, no crackling radio and the wifi seemed fast and quiet. I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t locate the sound of a dumpy, brown hamster roaming around a rusty wheel. My Greyhound coach story was therefore very uneventful and I ended up playing word association via Whatsapp messaging with my two traveling companions.
Arriving in Washington, DC, I expected it to be a little less humid but unfortunately I was wrong. As soon as you stepped off the air-conditioned coach you were engulfed by this overwhelming humidity. We made our way into Union Station and happily sat eating lunch back in the safety net of air-conditioning. We then took a quick tube to meet Kerry to drop of our bags as she was letting us stay at her house for the night. After briefly saying hello we hopped back on the tube towards the centre because we wanted to go and see the White House.
The White House was very much what the name says it is…white. The grass was also very green and the big black gates that surround the place towered above me.
It didn’t take long to discover that walking was an issue in the current weather conditions. You took one step but it felt like 50 and Siobhan’s mosquito bites (which had swelled to the size of a mango on her leg) were starting to get to her. Luckily we bumped into Carlo who was leisurely riding around on rentable red bikes. It is these bright ideas of his that gives him the nickname Mr Fantastic.
We soon found ourselves our own red bikes and were gleefully able to cycle around Washington Mall with Carlo as our tour guide. That day we saw the Lincoln Memorial. It was very grand.
By this time it was around six in the evening so Carlo suggested we head to China town for some dinner. He took us to a Thai restaurant and we enjoyed our first proper meal in DC. (Oh, I forgot to mention, Carlo isn’t actually from DC…he just new a lot about it.)
Tired from the days cycling and traveling we decided to head back to Kerry’s house to relax in preparation for the following day. I don’t really know why I was surprised at the size of her university living space because after living in America for three months, things like this shouldn’t shock me. American’s do not do anything on a small scale. The food portions are huge, the luggage they bring to camp is monstrous and the bagels are gigantic. Why would I ever think that university accommodation would be small, like it is in the UK?
The next day we were out on our personal Carlo tour by lunchtime. As I sat cycling on the red bike I was so grateful of there existence. The breeze that you got from a bit of a downhill made my hair blow and it was heavenly on the back of my neck.
On that day we cycled along the reflection pool, watched a march at the WWII memorial, made a quick stop at the air and space museum, had a tour around the Roosevelt memorial (which was seven acres), stood next to the giant piece of rock that was carved into Martin Luther King, visited the Thomas Jefferson memorial and looked at the Vietnam Veterans memorial. All in a days cycling.
Whilst in Washington, I always felt as though I was being followed by the Washington memorial. It seemed to spring up wherever I went. If you don’t have long to explore the place at least you will be able to say that you saw the tall pointed thing – it is everywhere.
For dinner we went to a place called Vapiano, an Italian in Chinatown (what are the odds?). I shared a pizza with Siobhan and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.
On our way to the subway, we stopped and listened to a street band play. They were all so energetic and it sounded great. As entertaining as the band were the real entertainment came from a young man in a very bright pink shirt. His facial expressions and dance moves were killing me, I couldn’t stop laughing. I really wish he was my friend!
That evening we collected our stuff from Kerry’s, said goodbye to Carlo and thanked him for giving us a guided tour and headed to the airport to spend the night. Sleeping in an airport is very uncomfortable and mundane. The quiet music helped drift me off to sleep but the hard floor made sure it wasn’t a good one. Luckily I slept the whole way on the plane journey to LA.
My favourite thing about Washington was definitely the little red bikes, what was yours?