On the way back from Baltimore to Memphis, we passed through the little town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, known primarily for John Brown’s raid on the US Arsenal there in an attempt to foment a slave uprising. Although the effort failed, it contributed to the start of the Civil War. What I hadn’t known about is the absolutely beautiful setting of the little town, situated on a peninsula beside the wide Potomac River. An old church with a tall steeple dominates the townscape, and it appears to be full of old and historic architecture. I’m not sure if there’s much of a tourist trade, but there seems to be a bed-and-breakfast and a handful of restaurants and bars. The town is probably worth a special visit in the future.
Even after we got back to the Capitol Hilton, we were in for a long wait, as our bus driver could not find a way through the parade roadblocks to the side of the city where we were waiting. The Congressional Black Caucus was having an inaugural ball at the hotel where we were waiting, and I caught a brief glimpse of the old-school rapper Doug E. Fresh in the lobby. Our bus finally arrived about 9 PM, and we got back to the hotel in Maryland with just a brief window of time to get to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner.
Getting back to the area of Washington where our buses were going to pick us up at 5 PM proved to be easier said than done. The waits to get on trains at Metro stations were about an hour, and eventually the Metro was shut down altogether for some reason. We were forced to walk out of the Inauguration area instead, but when we attempted to head back north to get to the Capitol Hilton Hotel, we kept running into barricades that kept us walking ever further west toward the Potomac River. We finally were able to make it through the National Mall area when we got to 18th Street (we had started at 3rd!), and the bright side of it was that we got decent pictures of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately, tight security kept us from being able to watch the parade, and frankly after the long walk, we weren’t up to it anyway.
Ultimately, we had to ride the Metro to get to the appropriate entrance to the Inaugural events, but once we were on the National Mall, there was a sort of awesome feeling to seeing the Capitol building in person and all the crowds of people. We were quite a ways back, but there were TV monitors and speakers around, and we were easily able to hear the selections by the US Marine Band (they played at least one piece by Arkansas composer W. Francis McBeth). There was also a prayer by Medgar Evers’ widow Myrlie Evers, and of course the main speech by President Barack Obama. As the basic ceremony came to an end, our group decided to leave out of the mall area so as to be ahead of the crowds, or at least so we thought.
The morning of the Inauguration was bright but rather cold, and we had to walk a considerable distance to find where we were supposed to enter the event based on the tickets we had. But everyone was in good spirits, and there was a general upbeat mood in the air. At one barricade, we briefly saw President Obama emerge from the National Cathedral after a morning prayer service.
On Sunday evening, January 20, the buses took us to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for dinner. While some of our group went to Phillips Seafood, I decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory, which has always been one of my favorite restaurants. Upstairs, Uno’s Chicago Pizza had the Ravens game on, and I walked upstairs to watch it just as Tom Brady threw an interception that helped seal the game for the Ravens. Within a minute after the end of the game, horns starting honking all over the downtown area, and cars began racing down Pratt Street with heads sticking out of sunroofs and Ravens banners waving. Revelers in Ravens gear also began to appear on the street, and one vehicle had a paper-mache Ravens player on their car roof!. The police soon arrived as well and started pulling some of the more excessive partiers over and writing them tickets. We had by this point gotten back on the bus for the ride back to our hotel.
Our hotel was about 18 miles from downtown Baltimore, but fortunately, there was a large shopping mall across the street called Hunt Valley Town Center. There were quite a few restaurants, a coffee bar, an Italian dessert cafe, a specialty book and gift shop where I found a Ray Lewis shirt for my best friend who’s a Ravens fan, and a cool burger joint called Boardwalk Burgers and Fries, where I grabbed a late lunch before the restaurant closed early due to the Ravens/Patriots playoff game. Actually, all around the shopping center were evidences of Ravens mania. Not only were many of the customers wearing Ravens shirts, but the shopping center had placed Ravens gear on the two decorative statues of horses in the central park of the center.
On Saturday January 19, 2013 I got on a bus with my friends from college days and the Law and Order Crew to ride to the Inauguration of the president in Washington, DC. Despite long hours on the bus, cold weather and a bus breakdown, we had a ball and managed to arrive all in one piece. Our hotel was the Embassy Suites in Hunt Valley, Maryland outside of Baltimore, as hotel rates in the District of Columbia were outrageous, if you could get a room at all.