04/07/24 – After settling in at the Westin on Saturday night, it gave me and my group pretty much the whole day Sunday to explore and get acclimated with our surroundings in the immediate vicinity, since the Disability Policy Seminar didn’t officially begin until Monday. We decided after we had breakfast at the Westin that we would go on one of those Big Bus Tours where we could hop on and off at any time along their designated route. So we waited in front of a St. Patrick’s Church near the Chinatown District for the Big Bus to pick us up.

Our first stop was Union Station where we decided we needed to use the restrooms and grab lunch. Some of us wanted to take a look around Union Station before getting back on the bus, so we ended up at the Union General gift shop on the top floor to have a look around. I settled on a $20 gray T-shirt with a D.C. flag in rainbow colors and a $7 U.S. flag lapel pin that I could put on my suit jacket for when I went on my Capitol Hill visit later on. I handed the guy at the register my purchase, saw him take the shirt off the hanger, fold it up, and put it in the bag. But when I looked at the receipt later on, I noticed I was only charged for the lapel pin. At this point, I’m like, whatever, I’m not gonna question it.

When we got back on the bus, we decided we wanted to have a look at the Air & Space Museum. But we didn’t realize when we got there that we needed to reserve a spot ahead of time, and judging by the line out front, they sold out fast. So we ended up backtracking a little bit and went to the Museum of History of The American Indian. We noticed a fair amount of food trucks lined up along the way. Part of me was like, if I had known there were gonna be food trucks over this way, I probably would have held off a little bit on grabbing lunch. This part of our day was what ended up taking the longest. There was so much to see inside this building between the different display screens and exhibits. It was easy to get distracted and completely lose track of time.

So we get back on the bus, and some of us are listening to the guided tour in the headphones they provided for us. We get off again near the Washington Monument for pictures. You’ll notice how you can see the Washington Monument in the background just about everywhere you look over this way. Then we waited a little bit for another bus to come pick us up. When we get back on the bus again, we’re trying to decide if we want to get off at the Jefferson Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial. I guess the Lincoln Memorial is having some work done at the moment, judging by the big signs announcing a “new” Lincoln Memorial “museum” with an anticipated 2026 opening date, so we end up stopping at the Jefferson Memorial, not realizing that these Big Bus Tours were wrapping up for the day.

So after our group gets pictures at the Jefferson Memorial, we try to catch an Uber to take us back to our hotel. But apparently the mobile app was giving us fits, and because of Cherry Blossom activities going on in the area this time of year, Uber drivers could only stop to pick people up at certain spots. The mobile app would have wanted our group to try to cross multiple lanes of traffic from the Jefferson Memorial and get on the interstate to catch an Uber. That didn’t sound very safe, so clearly we were not gonna do that. Thankfully, Jon spotted yet another Big Bus coming over our way, and we all agreed in that moment that if that bus was gonna stop for us, we were all getting on it.

We end up taking a scenic route on the bus back to the Chinatown District from the Jefferson Memorial. Upon arriving to the Chinatown District, we notice the Capitol One Arena, the original Ford Theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the building across the road where he was taken afterwards and died, and the new Ford Theater Center For Education and Leadership next door to that.

We decided to pay a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe down the road from Ford Theater for supper as a surprise. Abbott had just had a birthday recently and we wanted to do something special to celebrate. I had never been to a Hard Rock Cafe before. Pretty sure the closest one to me is in Boston. But I enjoyed myself here. It was a lively atmosphere, and there was plenty going on inside to keep my attention pretty much the entire time. After supper, we stopped in the little gift shop inside the Hard Rock. I was hesitant to pay $37.50 for a navy blue Hard Rock T-shirt with a U.S. flag motif behind their official logo. But since I didn’t get charged for the D.C. flag T-shirt I bought at Union General earlier that day, both shirts kind of offset each other a little bit, so I can’t complain too much about that.

We end up walking back to our hotel from the Hard Rock once we figured out where we were headed. By this point, Eric, Kile, and Stephanie have flown into Washington and checked in to the hotel representing Maine LEND.

Preliminary Takeaways

After The First Full Day In Washington

One of my biggest challenges was knowing when to step in as a leader if I was called upon and when to back off if I wasn’t. I struggled at times curbing some of my people pleasing tendencies as I found myself checking in periodically with people in my group to make sure they were all doing okay and slowing myself down when I noticed some of them getting too far behind me while we were out and around.

I knew there were some things I would have to work at while I was on this trip. I just wasn’t counting on them being so obvious to other people I was traveling with. Then again, maybe that should be a clue as to how long and how well we’ve all known each other at this point.

If you are self advocate and would like to share a blog post with us please email Laurie Coldwell at lcoldwell@sufumaine.org   

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