We had a meeting with the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, DC on Friday. We took the train up on Thursday. The train was pretty uneventful, until we got to our stop. We got off in Alexandria, and had to wait for the train to move before we could exit the station.
The stop was not a smoke break stop, so passengers continuing on the train were not supposed to get off. But one woman decided that since they had announced it would be a bit of a wait at the stop to get the baggage off, that she would de-train anyway.
So we are all standing there waiting for the train to move so we can cross to the other side of the station. Said woman was smoking a cigarette and talking on the phone. When they finished with the baggage, they started the train up again. The woman started screaming that she needed to be on the train, and started running after the train! She couldn’t catch the train, and was distraught. The Amtrak personnel were not very supportive because they announce ALL THE TIME not to get off unless at a designated smoke stop. I imagine she was able to take metro to the DC station, where there is a long layover to switch engines. So luckily it wasn’t horrible. But still, don’t leave the train people!!!!!!
Anyway, we got to the hotel and met up with Gerry from the listserv! We had a great time chatting away and eating Thai food. The servers in the restaurant were not pleased I had brought Hestia inside their restaurant, and they tried to make us leave. So I showed Gerry how you can just walk in, keep repeating service dog, and sit down. The servers were really upset for a bit (more disconcerted than mad), and then they called someone who told them it was OK, and then they were nice to us. It was a good meal!
On Friday, we woke up early and met up with Jenine who was in town for the same reason. Her guide dog Roger was happy to see Hestia, and Hestia did some prancing when she saw Roger! We ate at the hotel and then took the metro in to DOT headquarters.
The meeting was interesting, we got to talk with DOT about all the various airline regulations regarding service dogs, various ACAA things, and so on. There were about 10 advocates there, and about half had service dogs. Hestia was a gem. Brad did a very good job with a short one page speech about our community’s views on how the airlines were treating us. They are going to have more meetings like this over the coming years, so that was cool.
After the meeting, a few of us went out to lunch at a pizza place (Brad and I had Lara bars instead). One of the people was the director of Assistance Dogs International. We had some very different opinions about many things service dog, but stayed cordial even through some difficult conversations. At one point, I had to take a break and took Hestia for a potty walk to calm down. It was really interesting to see how differently we viewed some things!
After getting pics with Jenine outside of DOT, Brad and I headed to an Indian place nearby. They had hanging chairs which I loved! And pretty good food, too. Then we headed to an art museum. There was an exhibit of Tintoretto paintings that Brad really wanted to see because it was the first time it was in the US and was leaving soon. So we headed straight for that exhibit and spent about an hour there before heading back to the hotel.
The next morning we woke up early again and headed to the African American museum. You have to get tickets either 3 months in advance for this museum, or they have a few same day tickets available that sell out in minutes. We were lucky enough to snag some of the same day tickets!
The museum was SO crowded. It was really difficult for me, especially at the start of the museum where everyone wanted to read all the exhibits. There were many times I was stuck behind a crowd of people and couldn’t move, and it was really anxiety producing. I held Hestia both so she could help me, and because it was too crowded and dark in the museum for her to safely be on the floor.
Overall it was a good museum! Brad and I really like the civil rights stuff, so we really enjoyed those parts of the museum. I wish I had had more space in the beginning of the museum when they were talking about the roots of slavery to read the displays and all, as that was really interesting stuff, too.
But my favorite part of the museum was the restaurant. For those who don’t know, many of the Smithsonian museums have restaurants based around the theme of the museum. I got a “soul bowl” which was a bunch of veggies, black eyed pea falafels, and a nice creamy sauce. Brad got fried catfish and carrots and parsnips. Both were super tasty!
I would go back to that museum again (someday or year when it is less crowded) to see the exhibits we missed, and to eat there again, too!
On our way to the hotel, Brad’s chair battery got into the red zone. At first, he just was not able to go full speed ahead, which is fine because that is a little too fast for me anyway. But as we headed from the subway to the hotel, he just kept getting slower, and slower, and slower. We had an uphill walk to get back to the hotel, and I ended up having to give his chair an assist uphill! This is no small feat as his chair weighs about 500 lbs or so! We managed to get off the elevator and get to our room, and by then the chair was crawling along at slower than a snail’s pace. A little bit into the room, the chair died. We were happy we made it all the way back to the hotel, but the chair had died right in the middle of the passageway between the bed and the TV. Scary to think we could have been in DC and had that happen! Luckily we had the charger with us, so we could have stopped somewhere and charged it hopefully! Brad says that having the charger (heavy) with him probably was the straw that broke the wheelchair’s battery in not being quite able to get home he he he!
On Sunday, we took the train home. We had a pretty good ride, with nothing eventful happening. We got home at 10PM and were exhausted! But it was very much worth it to have the trip. The DOT meeting was very important to attend, and the museum was great, too. Plus anytime we get to hang out with Jenine is a bonus!
Below are my favorite pictures, but to see all the pics we took, visit this link: