So I really should talk about driving in Washington before I go on. Washington roads start with a North American grid pattern of streets, overlaid with a European wagon-wheel pattern of streets, overlay all that with a system of highways running everywhere and tunnels under everything else and you have one crazy system... I think you would need a 3D mapping system to keep up!
Anyway, to top it off, National Harbor where we were staying, is only about a year or so old, and is a whole new town on it's own and is not on my GPS. So... I took a best guess and headed for the area. We could see it as we drove across the bridge ... the bridge that was two highways wide... Turns out, we were on the wrong side of the barrier and could do nothing but drive right by it. So, I got off at the next exit - right? Sounds like a good choice? Problem is, the next exit turned out to be another highway headed for Baltimore. So, I got off on the next exit. Now I’m on an even bigger highway, destined for Annapolis. Now, not to be discriminatory, I mean I’m sure Annapolis is beautiful, but I was getting just a touch frustrated at this point and threw my GPS out the window, jumping up and down on it to make sure that it could never say “recalculating” again. I finally got off the highway system, and reprogrammed another point in the bent and twisted remnants of the GPS, in the field that was now our hotel. I glanced at the gas gauge and realized I had better fill up soon. The gas station needed my zip code to use my credit card. I looked around me at the tobacco chewing, zombie-like red-necks standing around me and realized that explaining I was from Canada and and their machine couldn’t accept letters was beyond their comprehension. I tried 90210. Orange County, California. The machine was smarter than the people around me. It asked again. I gave up - I could see the zombies moving in. One had already tried three pick-up lines. I was in the wrong part of town. I backed slowly to my car, locked the doors and followed my GPS. Round and round and round we went, circling the hotel like vultures around a rotting albatross. Finally we came to a giant fence. Weird we said. But then we noticed on the fence, a small blue sign. National Harbor, with a little gold arrow pointing to the right. We followed the signs blindly and finally, with tears of joy in our eyes, only 2.5 hours after leaving downtown, was our hotel.
National Harbor is a little like the city from “The Truman Show” or “The Prisoner”. It is a perfect little place... too perfect.
We checked into our hotel and Greg said he was almost ready to go to a wine and cheese party. Man could I use a glass of wine I said.
I decided to run out and grab some food at the grocery store for the kids - had to be fast. Not trusting my GPS, I had the guy at the front desk print me out directions to the grocery store - only 5 minutes away, just outside “Perfectville” - which couldn’t have an unsightly grocery store, gas station or convenience store in it, only “nice” restaurants, with $53 steaks.
I followed the directions to a “T”. Too bad the streets didn’t. At one point, the directions said “take the exit to highway 210”. Which way I thought? Maybe you can only go one way. Oh well, I thought, worst case scenario, I go the wrong way, turn around and come back. When I got to the on-ramps, there was 210N, 210SW, 210E and 210NW. Now I’m not an expert, but I really only thought that roads could go in 2 directions. I gave up. I could feel the nervous breakdown approaching from 4 different on-ramps. I closed all my windows, turned up the radio onto the loudest most obnoxious radio station I could find, and I screamed. I screamed and I screamed and I screamed, and I drove by all four of those on-ramps and I quietly made a U-turn at the next intersection, smiling peacefully at the drivers beside me at the red light, and went, listening to my screams breaking through the music, back to the hotel. I am “The Prisoner”.
At the hotel, I slapped a handful of $20’s on the bedside table. Go find yourselves some steaks in one of the expensive restaurants, I said to the kids. I’m gonna be too drunk to care how much you spent when I get back.