Wednesday, May 8, 2013

there and back again

let me tell you a little bit about my weekend.  for those of you who tend to be worriers, like me, it all turns out fine, so you can relax as you read.  there's still plenty of tension, though, to make it an action adventure story.  not a movie version of such a story, mind you, as there were no crashes or chases or extraordinary explosions.  perhaps this will be nail-biting only for anyone who is uncomfortable driving in an unknown area, even in clement weather and little traffic and few time constraints.

the kids and i had attended sunday morning meditation sessions at the shambhala center in davis, ca quite often and i was looking forward to seeing what similar opportunities i could find here.  shambhala has a center in washington, d.c., and it features a children's program on the first sunday of the month, which this was, so i brought diana along to participate in and evaluate the program while i meditated in the main shrine room.

i had fussed and fretted for days beforehand, wondering if i should drive or take public transportation, considering time and cost and the nerve-wracking experience i anticipated in finding a place i could parallel-park a minivan.  i spent a frustratingly long time trying to locate and navigate the metro system in order to get there from here.  perhaps my fatigue late at night affected my brain; it wasn't until i inspected the google maps driving directions more closely that i saw the convenient options it offers: by car, walking, bicycling, and...drum roll, please...by public transit!  it lays everything out so conveniently!  what was i thinking trying to do this on my own?  of course someone else had built a tool for that!

in the end, i decided on driving.  traffic congestion and parking issues would be minimized by the day and time.  i dutifully printed out the driving directions, as i am in the habit of doing, regardless of the fact that steve had purchased for me some time back a gps that was invaluable during our cross-country trip.  i also spent a little time studying the map beforehand.  i'm so pleased that i did; in hindsight, that was the key to getting us (back) on the right track.

after firing up the engine, i attempted to plug in the address.  the gps, set for lee (the australian male voice i find both amusing and comforting; we reset the system back to him after employing margaret, the british english female voice who accompanied us from califormia), would most determinedly not accept the zip code or address i offered to him, multiple times, in a variety of orders and attempts.  i shrugged and decided i could do this on my own.  i didn't need any stinkin' gps.

all went along swimmingly until i hit my first snag: the insterstate was closed for a small section just on sunday morning for i don't know what.  i sighed and followed the cars ahead of me to the detour.

the thing about a detour on a major thoroughfare is that there are so many options that travelers may take, so the detour doesn't actually get you back to the interstate as it would (should?) on in-town roadways.  i found myself heading somewhere away from where i felt like i should be.  as i wondered aloud, diana, with excellent timing, graciously offered the information that our vehicle has a built-in compass.  good.  that, combined with my knowledge that arlington was definitely south of where we wanted to be, based on my previous night's map inspection, we turned around and headed north on the same roadway.

success!  we crossed the potomac river, i made a snap decision to follow a particular exit, and we found ourselves in the city.  the city.  washington, d.c. city.  and i was driving in it!

diana was the first to spot the washington monument, surrounded by scaffolding (apparently there was some damage due to the august, 2011 earthquake).  i pointed out the bureau of engraving and printing.  diana started to identify all sorts of other places she had read about, and, because i had placed some relevant reading material (capital! washington d.c. from a to z by laura melmed) in the minivan, she began reading aloud, sounding remarkably like a young, enthusiastic tour guide reading from an excellent, relevant script.  for several moments, i forgot about where i was headed and just reveled in the total cool-ness of where i was.  diana and i decided that, even if we didn't make it to our destination that day, the adventure was worth it for what we had seen just from the car windows.

it gets better, though.  i figured out from my printed google map where we were and started looking for ways to reach our destination.  i wanted to travel to connecticut avenue but couldn't seem to find it; i only saw street signs for massachusetts avenue.  then diana yelled from the back that we had passed it; she was watching the gps while i was looking at the actual streets.  i backtracked and found my way to the correct street.  i had an epiphany at that moment - we had gotten mixed up in dupont circle!  i laughed at the time, and still chuckle as i think about it (i remember a line from the movie the american president where annette bening's character refers to being stuck on dupont circle).

i had only a little difficulty in finding reasonable parking; after almost getting lost on a twisty-turny road with lots of offshoots, i found a larger neighborhood street with several spots under lovely trees.

we had made it.  only 90 minutes for a 45-minute drive.  so we were late, but kids were still getting signed in for the children's program, so it wasn't a problem.  diana was able to join the group and i was able to relax into my sitting meditation almost immediately.

so, about the trip back...

we knew that the gps had information about our current location, so we set it to take us home.  i was confused from the start - it wasn't going anywhere like the route we had attempted to come by.  i took another deep breath, still calm from my meditation, and recommitted myself to following harold's purple crayon (some of you with similar gps units may recognize the color).

it was a lovely, scenic drive.  over rivers, along winding roads, past beautiful houses that made diana think of horse-drawn carriages pulling up to their grand entrances, depositing men and women in fancy dress and wigs for grand parties in the 1700s.

just when i was beginning to doubt the gps route, i saw the name of a familiar sign and knew we really were minutes from home.

so we did make it there and back again, unscathed, refreshed and ready to regale the awaiting males of our household with our adventures.  and yes, we do plan on going back, both to the shambhala center and to visit washington, d.c.  my experience has released my trepidation.  well, at least some of it.

for those interested in the difficulties with my gps:  i was trying to locate a street/postal code in virginia, rather than d.c. as its own locale.  with the correct location information, the gps found the street without issue.  the gps was also set to avoid toll roads, so the trip back accommodated that request.  lessons easily learned; information easily incorporated without embarrassment.

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