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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA

    Default UK to UK via Washington DC and Kansas City

    Day 1 Ė Sunday October 26th

    As my previous trip report made mention of, I am lucky enough to head to the USA fairly regularly.

    So it was that a scant 6 weeks after my 3000 mile road trip around New England, I found myself heading once again to the shores of the new world.

    After a month in West Africa, my business flight deposited me at Heathrow terminal 5 at 8.30am on Sunday morning.
    The previous month, on the way out of the country, I had registered myself for the IRIS recognition immigration system as it reduces the time taken to enter the UK to basically 0 so I was soon back in the country.

    After a quick breakfast in the arrivals lounge, I headed back through passport control and spent a couple of hours in the departure lounge waiting on my flight to Washington DC.

    Unlike last time Iím travelling economy, so no reports of flat beds and decent food!!
    The flight to DC is fairly short however and I spend most of it asleep.

    Itís been 7 years since I was last in Washington, but judging by the arrivals hall at Dulles, precious little has changed, I donít think the airport at the nationís capital has even seen a coat of paint in that time.
    With the exception of Atlanta, I have never queued for so long to get through immigration into the USA, 110 minutes after joining the line, I finally get to the front.
    A barrage of questions later (The INS guy didnít like the fact that I was returning so soon and had African visas in my passport) and I was through.

    Flying with hand luggage only, there was no risk of bags going missing this time, so I was straight to the Washington Super Shuttle desk to sort out my ride into town.
    The Super Shuttle service is a great way of getting from airports to hotels Ė for typically half the cost of a cab they will take a group of people who are staying in the same area and use a large passenger van to drop them off in turn Ė massively faster than using public transport (especially from Dulles) itís only slightly slower than a cab and cost $29

    I had booked accommodation in a bed and breakfast called The Adams Inn in Adams Morgan Ė due to it being election time, the major hotels were charging upwards of $400 a night and as I didnít want a hostel, a B&B seemed the best idea Ė trip advisor also rated this one highly.

    Trip advisor were right, Iíve lucked out here with a fantastic en-suite basement room with a sofa, desk, fridge etc. The owner met me upon arrival and told me about the free breakfast and free high speed Internet so I was very happy I chose the place.

    As it was Sunday, my initial plan was to head to a sports bar to catch an NFL game, but thanks to the delays at immigration, I was too late.

    A quick bite to eat and then I was away to the land of nod.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA


    Day 2 Ė Monday October 27th

    Up early this morning and I head to the free breakfast Ė itís continental only, but fresh and filling.

    I head out to find the nearest Metro station, which is 10 minutes walk away according to the flyers in the B&B. This turns out to be correct and Iím soon buying a travel card. (Unlike London you buy a card and then top up the dollar amount on it, getting roughly 10% free as a thank you.)
    When I was in DC last time, I used the Metro a lot, so I put $20 on the card for the 3 days of my trip.

    The Senate and House galleries are to be my first stop Ė Iím hoping to hear a session of the senate, unfortunately, just like my previous trips, theyíre not working this week (neitherís the supreme court, so I canít go and hear an argument either)Ö. One day.
    I make do with the quick tour of the senate chamber, no photos of the galleries allowed, but the hallways are fair game.

    The view from the rear is also pretty special, with the Washington Monument towering into the sky.
    I did the tour last time, so settle for a photo op.

    Walking along the street towards the Metro station I happen across the Supreme Court, so pop in for a quick look, even though I know theyíre not in session.

    As I walk itís great to see the trees this far south are still turning, my previous trip was slightly more rural than this, but the colour is no less spectacular.

    The Bureau of Printing and Engraving next Ė no photos allowed again unfortunately, but this is an interesting little tour, showing you how American money is made and distributed (did you know that if thereís a little star next to the number on your bill then itís a replacement for a bill damaged in printing and therefore is completely out of sequence Ė There are less than 5000 notes printed this way per year!)

    Next stop was right next door in fact, the United States Holocaust Museum has won awards for its pull-no-punches approach to telling the story of the Holocaust.

    When you enter the museum you take a ďlife passportĒ of someone who lived at the time and as you go around, you learn what happened to them.
    The museum hides the really graphic depictions behind screens that younger children cannot see over, but the whole place is still very moving, particularly a 40 minute video interviewing many survivors.
    The pain evident in their faces and tones as they spoke about their lives reduced pretty much everyone in the audience to tears; in fact, the memory of it is all but doing the same to me now as I write this 3 weeks later.
    Everyone should see this museum.

    Final stop today was the museum of crime and punishment Ė more of a tourist attraction than a genuine museum, itís clearly designed with kids in mind and was actually very interesting Ė detailing the ways that law enforcement began and has changed over the years and including some depictions of prison life through the ages and interviews with some notorious felons such as Frank Abignale Jr (the subject of the movie Catch Me if you Can)

    Back on the Metro to Adams Morgan and a quick shower before heading to a sports bar to catch Monday Night Football Ė unfortunately there was a baseball game on that night as well, so hardly anywhere was showing the NFL Ė found somewhere eventually and had a bite to eat.

    A good first day in Washington.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Wow, lucky you !

    Hi dangermouse, welcome back.

    Great report and pics as usual, thanks for sharing. I'm really looking forward to your updates.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA


    Day 3 Ė Tuesday October 28th

    Breakfasted with some other people staying at the B&B this morning, including a mother and daughter from California and an Australian solo traveler Ė this place is definitely good for meeting fellow tourists!

    First thing on the agenda today was to revisit Arlington Memorial Cemetery. Although I came here the last time I was in DC, I wanted to come again and hopefully walk through the cemetery to reach the Pentagon before visiting the new 9/11 memorial.
    In the event, the guide at the cemetery told me that this isnít possible as thereís a rather large Interstate in the way, so I settled for the tram tour before hopping the Metro to Pentagon station.
    Because Iíve been here before, Iím not worried about seeing the tomb of the unknowns or the house etc

    I do walk along the road to take a look at the womenís memorial though.

    Whilst I was at Arlington, I got chatting to the family of an ex-marine, buried at Arlington who were home schooled and in DC for a 2 week educational project.
    They were great and I think we all learned something, if only the knowledge imparted to the kids about JFKís life, death and family.

    A short, one stop trip on the Metro brings you to Pentagon station.
    I was here barely 2 months after Sept 11th and as the only non-uniformed person who came up out of the Metro, I have rarely felt so unwelcome anywhere Ė in fact, I turned back around and got back on the next train.

    No such feelings this time however, there are any number of people heading to the memorial, which is clearly signposted.

    A strange place for a memorial this, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the military machine is this tiny oasis of calm, presided over by 2 young people in uniform.
    Once the trees have grown a little more, I think it will feel much more like it should.

    Next it was another Metro ride up to the International Spy Museum. Iíd been warned that this was a little gimmicky and again, very child oriented and so it proved.
    It was interesting in parts Ė the sections on Watergate and the bugging of embassies were good, and it was interesting to see a lot of the technology that ran the cold war.

    For obvious reasons I guess there was precious little information on current techniques which was a shame. The kids present loved the ability to test a lot of the items on display though.

    Back to the B&B to get changed and head out to a bar called Madamís Organ which I had loved last time I was in town.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA


    Day 4 Wednesday October 29th

    Another new attraction now, the Newseum has only been open a year or so and isnít particularly well known.

    Itís a really interesting look at the way news is collected, presented and reacted to all over the world.
    The site contains a memorial to every journalist Worldwide who has lost their life whilst performing their job Ė itís updated yearly.

    It contains a tower from the Berlin Wall, part of the World Trades Center and many other artifacts from the world of news including a map of the world showing where the presses are free (green) and restricted (red)

    Final stop of the day is the National Air and Space Museum Ė part of the Smithsonian Institution; this place is huge and contains a visual feast on the history of flight. From the Wright Brotherís Bi-Plane to a model of Amelia Earhartís amazing machine, itís all here.

    Again itís slightly geared towards children (something Iíve noticed at many of the DC attractions Iíve visited) itís a great way of spending a day.

    Being an IT geek, I especially liked the Cray supercomputer they had Ė the first Iíve actually seen.

    This amazed me, the model maker worked 1000 hours a year for 12 years to produce this scale model of the USS Enterprise Ė whilst Iím pleased itís in the museum, I think if Iíd invested that much of my life in something Iíd want it a little closer to hand!

    Finally kicked out of the museum at closing time, I decided to take a stroll along the Mall and grab some photos of the White House. Just like when I was here previously, the tours are still closed to the general public, although US citizens can arrange a tour through their Congressman.
    Interestingly though, a congress staff member did tell me that International visitors can arrange tours through their embassy.

    The seat of democracy was, unfortunately having some work done on the streets outside, but still looked amazing. At the time I was here, the election hadnít taken place, now it has I only hope that Obama is allowed to serve his term in peace and take the country forward.

    Back to the B&B, stopping for a meal on the way and itís time to pack and book a cab for tomorrow.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA


    Day 5 Thursday October 30th

    Up very early this morning to catch a cab to Union Station for the 6.20am train out to Baltimoreís BWI airport. Unfortunately flights to Kansas City donít depart or arrive from Dulles, so Iíve got some transferring to do.
    I fulfill another ambition on this journey by sitting on the upper deck of the Amtrak train (trains in the UK are all single level)

    Northwest have just been sold to Delta, but itís business as usual at BWI and Iím quickly at the gate waiting for the first leg of my flight to Detroit, Iím nearly stuck in Baltimore though when a hydraulic leak is discovered in the brake system. Weíre going nowhere.

    One of the best gate agents Iíve ever had the fortune to come across announces that rather than everyone with connecting flights queuing up at the desk, they will call people up in order of the urgency of their connections.
    This works so well as thereís no panic and those with connections are shuffled to other flights and airlines rapidly.
    Before they get to calling my name however the mechanic appears and announces that the plane is fixed and we can fly.

    A smooth changeover in Detroit and I land in KC about an hour late.

    KC International airport is huge and I walk aimlessly for miles before getting the courtesy bus to the car rental place and collecting my steed for the week.
    My booked economy car has become a Jeep Liberty, but as fuel in Missouri appears to have dipped below $3 a gallon Iím not worried.

    Plugging in the sat-nav, I set a course for my friendís house in one of the leafy suburbs of KC (they take great pains to point out that itís the Missouri side!)

    Once there, I unpack and have a shower before we head out for some dinner and a couple of drinks at their local bar.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA


    Day 6 - Friday October 31st

    Today is Halloween.

    As a Brit, Iíve long heard tales of how big a deal they make of Halloween in the USA; in fact itís one of the main reasons for this trip.
    Most of today involves setting up the house and ourselves for trick or treating and the big Halloween fancy dress party that follows. We do head into the centre of KC first though, to the power and light district.
    This is an area of the centre that is home to a semi open air stage and a number of bars and restaurants. Lunch is had here, looking at the newly built indoor concert hall.

    We find time to go to a sporting goods store to pick up some ammo for shooting tomorrow and also find me a costume for this evening.
    The kids start to arrive at about 6, some having made no effort on their costumes; others have spent a lot of time.

    The one that makes us laugh the most though is the boy who arrives dressed like this

    And announces that heís come as a leaf blower!

    During the day weíve put skeletons by the front door and hidden a stereo in the bushes with a CD of scary noises on it Ė this nearly ends in disaster as a combination of eerie laughter and me opening the door in full costume nearly causes our first child (a girl of about 6) to burst into tears!
    I have to divest myself of my mask pretty quicklyÖ. Crisis averted.

    Eventually it becomes too late for the kids, so we head out to the bar dressed in our finery.

    It turns out to be a great night, somehow I become the International judge for the best costume and sexiest costume contests Ė best costume being won by Sharon and Ozzie Ozbourne (they even had the mannerisms down to a T) the sexiest being won by someone else Ė canít remember who!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA


    Day 7 Ė Saturday November 1st

    Having not got to bed until well gone 3am this morning, an early start was never going to be on the cards.

    Got up eventually and headed to Waffle House for the traditional greasy breakfast Ė Iím not sure if it killed me or cured me, but I definitely needed some food!

    Whilst I was in the US on this trip, I was determined to pick myself up a new laptop, so we went off to Circuit City and accomplished that task before heading to another local restaurant for lunch.

    The afternoon was spent shooting with Mike and friends Ė we had an assortment of guns, from an AR15 to a couple of Glocks and a Sig Saur Ė Iím still an appalling shot, but I really enjoy it!

    Another small task to complete this morning Ė one of my Angolan colleagues has asked me to pick up an Obama T-shirt to take back with me, so we head off to the Missouri campaign headquarters to buy one and collect some bits for Mikeís wife Whitney.
    We also go to the McCain HQ to collect her some stuff.

    Back to the house to get ready for Saturday evening with the family at Mikeís father-in-lawís house.
    Iíve met most of the family previously, so this should be a fun night. Weíve built a guy and thereís a huge bonfire awaiting us, so Mike and I are going to spend the evening explaining Guy Fawkes and Bonfire night to the Septics!

    Itís a lovely house, in a really rural part of the state, the kind of place that you can sit and watch the storms roll in. I loved it, although why one man needs 4 ride on tractors Iím not sure!! (Turns out heís a collector)



    The fire burns hot, and we roast marshmallows whilst we watch the fireworks light up the sky.

    The neighbours are here and itís a regular little party.
    Thereís food too, chilli and soup and homemade apple pie.

    A fantastic evening, with good company, made better by the fact that I am designated driver so canít drink for the night so I remember all of it, Iím still not sure the Americans understood the whole Guy Fawkes thing though!!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA


    Day 8 Ė Sunday November 2nd

    This is the main event for me.

    Thanks to a friend of Whitneyís, we have tickets to see the Kansas City Chiefs game. Theyíre playing Tampa Bay at home at Arrowhead Stadium Ė the NFL venue known for being the loudest in the league.

    Iím up early to make a full cooked breakfast for the gang and weíre out of the house by 8.30 heading to the parking lot for the tailgate.
    Iím driving again and Iím glad of the extra space offered by the Jeep as weíve crammed in 4 people and all their luggage, as well as beer chairs, a BBQ, beer and food.

    Thereís not a cloud in the sky, itís 65 degrees, Iím wearing a Chiefs Shirt. Weíre all set.

    The parking lots are starting to fill up already when we get there and meet our tailgate neighbours. Theyíve driven for about 3 hours to get to the game and have the same drive home, so itís a bit of a worry to see them all drinking Jagermeister and beer in copious quantities.

    Theyíre a good laugh though, and insist that I have a go throwing and catching an American Football.

    Itís a lot harder than it looks, and having nearly broken a couple of windows I decide that Tyler Thigpen has nothing to fear from me and I retire gracefully.
    By 11.20 the car parks are full and itís time to head into the stadium where the cheerleaders are warming everybody up.

    And the local military are getting ready for the starting ceremony

    We have great seats, and the stadium is deafening although many of the seats are an empty testament to the poor quality of the team this year (1-10 at time of writing)

    The team have a great start however and by halftime are leading 24-3 Ė the local fan next to me says ďtheyíll lose it in overtime, you wait and seeĒ prophetic words it turns out.

    In fact, with 5 minutes to go in the 4th it looks as though the chiefs have sewn it up, half our party leave the stadium and are mighty surprised when we donít arrive back 10 minutes later.

    The unthinkable has happened you see, the Bucs have tied the game and weíre going to overtime.
    My seat neighbourís words turn into prophesy when KC loses in overtime and depressed, we head for home.

    We have a quiet evening, heading to Whitneyís sisterís house for a pizza and a chat.

    They live in the district of KC that was ravaged by a hurricane earlier in the year, and itís fascinating for me to talk to them about something Iíve only ever seen in a movie but theyíve lived through.

    Theyíre great company, and all too soon itís time to head home.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA


    Day 10 Ė Tuesday November 4th

    Up and out early this morning, I have to be at the airport at 8.15 to return the car before flying to BWI (via Detroit) again.

    No dramas from Budget this time (I never did get my refund from them for the foul ups last hire) and the flight lifts off as normal.

    Sitting next to a company director for a cosmetics outfit that are expanding into Britain, the flight passes quickly and soon Iíve changed planes and am on the way to BWI.

    No chance of super shuttle this arrival, itís hugely pricey to use them from one airport to another, so I use public transport instead, first the bus and then the Metro get me in the direction of Dulles before one final bus gets me there.

    I check in, get the location of the lounge and head straight there to relax with a drink whilst watching CNN coverage of the election.
    The polls have been open for nearly 10 hours now and the result is already starting to look predictable.

    After a few hours I head out to the gate. Getting to the front of the queue to board the plane Iím pulled to one side Ė no idea why.
    Iím quickly told that for operational reasons Iíve been upgraded. The first time this has happened to me.
    Itís only to world traveler plus, but it makes a huge difference on the flight home, and by the time the captain announces Obama is the President elect as we descend into London Iím feeling quite rested.

    A train ride away lies my house, a location that Iíve not seen in nearly 6 weeks now and only for about 3 weeks since July.

    Iím determined to keep travelling like this whilst I have the chance, but I think that Iím going to have a break next time and stay in the UK over Christmas.

    Iím already planning the big tour next summer though Ė a month long road trip all around the west coast of America.

    Iíll be writing a blog on that trip of course!!

    Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed my trip!

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