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Some not-so-expert do’s and don’ts for traveling in D.C.



Published: Sun, August 9, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)


By Todd Franko

I’m not a travel writer.

And I’m not really a traveler. I’ve been as far north as Ottawa, Ontario, and as far south as Fort Lauderdale. I’ve been only as far west to the sand hills of Nebraska, and as far east as the waters off Cape Ann, Mass.

Although the bar in East Hampton, N.Y., may have been farther east, I did not compare longitudes.

Regardless, our summer travels took the Franko clan to Washington, D.C., last week.

And since I almost stayed in a Holiday Inn Express, I’m almost a travel expert.

So here’s a list of my do’s and don’ts of traveling to D.C.:

U Do not look for a historical marker by the solitary tree that sits at the base of the Washington Monument facing the Lincoln Memorial. It’s an old tree; its deeply grooved bark is Teflon slick from years of kids’ climbing; and it’s being held together by wires because someone wants it to stay for some reason. But no sign says why. So I made up a story for the kids: Lincoln’s hockey skates are buried underneath.

U Do wade your feet into the water at the World War II monument fountain despite the signs that say “No wading.” Apparently in Washington, “No wading” means that you can’t walk in the fountains. If you do walk in, a burly guard will come out of nowhere and start blowing a whistle at you. Yes, you. A whistle means you have to get out. So sit on the side and just dip in your feet. No whistle.

U Do not be too alarmed by the drunk, homeless guys. They’re loud. But the ones immediately surrounding the mall area are harmless.

U Do take time to “push over” a monument and photograph it. You’ll be puzzled at first glance when you see people in an assortment of mime-like poses. But you’ll catch on.

U Do wonder what the most boring job is in D.C. I first thought it may have been the many, many guards in front of the many, many government buildings standing and awaiting terrorist strikes. But hands down, the most-boring job has to be the elevator operator in the U.S. Capitol. That job wins my “I-hand-out-tickets-at-a-toll-booth” award.

U Do buy the $1 waters from the rough-looking guys selling them from coolers on the street corners. They’re cheaper than what you’ll find elsewhere. And, more importantly, they are not tampered with as I’m still alive to write this.

U Do hit the Smithsonians. They’re free.

U Do not hit the Smithsonian eateries. They’re not free, and the prices make beers at the Covelli Centre seem like a bargain.

U Do not tempt yourself with the snacks in the hotel room. The prices make beers at the ... ah, that’s piling on.

U Do rent your hotel from Priceline.com. I became a first-time user of the William Shatner-fronted Web site. I found myself with a pretty good deal a block away from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. My price was about one-third of the one posted on the back of the hotel room door.

U Do not tour in D.C. longer than three days. It’s an overwhelming place. We live in Youngstown, Ohio; not Youngstown, Mont. If you hop in a car after lunch, you can be in D.C. for a late dinner. Go once per year.

U Do bring good walking shoes. Seven days later, my blisters are just subsiding.

U Do not be alarmed by M16-toting policemen walking the streets just as they do in places such as Jerusalem and Baghdad. Like homeless folks, they’re not a sight you see on D.C. postcards. But you’ll see them.

U Do stop by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s congressional office for a visit and possibly some tour help. You get free mini-Constitution booklets and bypass some lines in the Capitol tours. We did not get a Tim bobblehead, though.

U Do eat breakfast at the Lincoln Waffle House across from Ford’s Theater where President Lincoln was killed. It’s sorta clean; and you can find room to eat so long as you extend your arms front to back and not side to side. But it reeks of character and texture like having breakfast at your favorite truck stop.

U Do not wonder why an exhibit at the Smithsonian that touts the wonders of insects in our world is sponsored by Orkin — a company that kills insects.

U Do go to D.C. more than once in your life. D.C. reminds you in every step, even in the grittiest or most impoverished points, that despite our many, many shortcomings, we do live in the most fascinating country on Earth.


Comments

1toddfranko(101 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

Reader email:
I was reading your article about D.C. and thought you pretty much hit it right on when thinking about traveling to D.C. I agree with you about hitting DC on a regular basis. I have lived there and there are other spots I would suggest that are also free. I also suggest eating at he Lincoln Waffle House. I ate there last week and had a great experience as always. I started going there because I saw all the police and other workers in uniforms going there to eat. The prices are very reasonable. I agree it is like eating at the truck stops on Rote 7 in North Lima.
Other Suggestions:
1) Get a Washington Post before you leave for DC and plan part of the trip for a special ........ ie an art exhibit, something reopening after it has been closed, new part of the Smithsonian events at the Holocaust Museum etc.
2) Use the subway, the taxi services, and the bus system to save your legs.
3) you did not mention Arlington National Cemetery. If you walk around it will take you a while to seed everything including thee Iowa Jima Memorial ( next to Arlington). A metro stop.
4) get a Travel book from AAA or other publishers and plan you days in DC before you go.

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2toddfranko(101 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

Reader email:
Ha! Didn't see vid yet but column was hilarious. Reminds me of the columns OReily used to write for SI

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3revel(12 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

Let me see if I understand Franko correctly.

He starts off by saying:
"I’m not a travel writer.

And I’m not really a traveler. I’ve been as far north as Ottawa, Ontario, and as far south as Fort Lauderdale. I’ve been only as far west to the sand hills of Nebraska, and as far east as the waters off Cape Ann, Mass."

After listing a variety of asinine "Dos and Don'ts" for DC-bound travelers, he then concludes with:

"D.C. reminds you in every step, even in the grittiest or most impoverished points, that despite our many, many shortcomings, we do live in the most fascinating country on Earth."

So, he admits that he's not a "travel writer." He then readily admits to traveling just about nowhere. But, he concludes that this country is "the most fascinating" on the planet.

Oh yea, I think this piece makes it pretty clear why he's the Christocator's Editor in Chief.

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4toddfranko(101 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

Rev El:

"Lame," "weak," "shallow," "worthless" ...

I can take those. But "asinine" is very low.

It's been 20 months since you last expressed your anger with us under this sign-on. Welcome back.

Todd

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5th(61 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

The Smithsonian?

...You lucky dog!

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6mcraft51802(1 comment)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm the Vice President of Public Relations & Corporate Communications at Rollins - the parent company of Orkin. Ever since Orkin became the founding sponsor of the O. Orkin Insect Zoo in 1993, people have asked why in world we sponsor the exhibit, since they think all we do is kill bugs. In fact, we LOVE insects - they are fascinating creatures, and the world could not survive without them. They're only pests when jeopardize your health or your property. We have lots of educational programs about insects, and if you're interested, you can find them at www.orkin.com in the learning center tab.
Glad you enjoyed the O. Orkin Insect Zoo and all the terrific exhibits at the Smithsonian!
Martha Craft

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7revel(12 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

Todd:

"Anger?" In typical fashion of Vindy writers and editors, you obviously perceive everything that spotlights the inanity found in its pages as "anger" and hostility. I suppose it is a big stretch to assume that when one exposes the blantant inanity of anything published in your pages the first thing is to believe that maybe, just maybe, the writer will engage in a little self-examination of their words and/or ideas. No, it's obviously much easier to cast dispersions of the one who merely exposes said stupidity.

You have a problem with my selection of the word, "asinine?" Ummm. What would you have preferred? "Stupid?" Ridiculous? "Senseless?" "Absurd?" "Factuos?" "Daffy?" Dopey?" Given the possible choices, I would think that you would consider the word, "asinine" to be the least condeming.

Let's examine just a couple of your "Dos and Don'ts." They're fairly representative of the entire pile.

"U Do not tempt yourself with the snacks in the hotel room."

"U Do eat breakfast at the Lincoln Waffle House."

"U Do not wonder why an exhibit at the Smithsonian that touts the wonders of insects in our world is sponsored by Orkin."

"U Do not be too alarmed by the drunk, homeless guys."

"U Do stop by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s congressional office for a visit and possibly some tour help. You get free mini-Constitution booklets... "

"U Do hit the Smithsonians. They’re free."

Seriously, do you still want to defend yourself against my charge of asininity?

Get serious, Todd. Take a good hard look at your writing, grow a little skin and resist being so defensive of the criticism that comes your way. There's a reason why the Vindy struggles to maintain its readership and the so-called "contributions" that we read under your name on 8/8/09 is one of them.

"Asinine" and "illogical" are probably the best (and most tender) evaluations that can be made of them.
~Rev. El

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8toddfranko(101 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

From a Monday reader:
Just some personal suggestions from having lived there a couple years. Check the "going out gurus" online chat every Thursday in the Washington Post for restaurant, cultural, and entertainment suggestions (including things for kids) http://voices.washingtonpost.com/goin... with a link to their most recent suggestions http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

Here are some ideas that aren't necessarily part of the usual tour packages.
- check out the free daily early evening concerts at the Kennedy Center http://www.kennedy-center.org/program...
- explore Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River across from the Kennedy Center http://www.nps.gov/this
- attend Sunday service at America's largest Catholic church //www.nationalshrine.com/site/c.osJRKVPBJnH/b.4719297/k.BF65/Home.htm <http://www.nationalshrine.com/site/c....>
- go to the National Geographic headquarters/museum http://events.nationalgeographic.com/...
- stop in at C-SPAN and see if they'll take you on an "unofficial" tour (many years ago the founder Brian Lamb took me around) http://www.cspan.org/
- watch a game (or two) from the front row recliners in the ESPN Zone restaurant http://www.espnzone.com/washingtondc/
- visit Lincoln's favorite place in Washington http://www.lincolncottage.org/
- have lunch in the Supreme Court cafeteria after watching oral arguments on a case http://www.supremecourtus.gov/visitin...
- try an evening dinner cruise from the National Harbor http://www.nationalharbor.com/consume...
- brush up on all things Shakspeare at the Folger Library a block from the Capitol http://www.folger.edu/index_sa.cfm?sp...
- zip around underground on the Capitol Hill subway http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_S...

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9daysleeper47(59 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

Todd,

Great article but a few comments: First, the most boring job in the world is NOT that of an elevator operator in the U.S. Capitol. Every day those people get to engage with their legislators in ways that you and I can barely imagine. Most are known to Members of Congress by name and are so dedicated that they have decades working in the Capitol.

Second, while the "Capitol Hill Subway" is a perk of my job, it isn't generally available to the public. Also, the same people who operate the elevators drive the subway cars.

Lastly, everyone needs to keep their feet out of the WWII Memorial pool. I find it a pretty poor way to honor the 418,000 Americans killed in the war.

Otherwise, good article.

Joe Lowry
Sterling, VA
Former blogger,
http://youngstownpride.blogspot.com

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