Ironic, I live in a travel trailer and spend the majority of my nights sleeping in campgrounds far from a city center. I love cities. I dislike driving and prefer public transportation. 18 years living in Washington, D.C. traveling to work on the METRO either underground or on the X2 city bus.
I enjoyed my commute, reading the newspaper (a real paper, paper), or a book. Washington, D.C. is the most educated well-read city. Sure, people had ear buds in their ears, but the vast majority of us were quietly enjoying our commute reading a paper or book. More recently reading on phones or tablets. It isn’t easy reading a newspaper when sitting on a crowded bus. The other great part of public transportation is walking to and from the station. In the suburbs people drive to a parking lot and ride into the city. But living in the city allows you to walk to a bus stop or METRO station. Watch-out for the commuters with ear buds, they can’t hear and will run into you. I want to yell “Look-up!” Better yet, “unplug”! Enjoy your surroundings a beautiful city, great architecture, trees and parks — even monuments.
I moved to Washington, D.C. from Carson City, Nevada in 1999. Living on Capitol Hill four blocks from the Eastern Market METRO. Mr. Jefferson was the METRO station manager, and instead of sitting in his glass booth, he stop at the entrance gates and greeted commuters with a big smile and a bigger “HELLO, GOOD MORNING, YOU ARE LOOKING GREAT!” I stopped daily and chatted with him getting to know he enjoyed fishing on his days-off and was looking forward to retirement. A few years later Mr. Jefferson retired, and I missed his greetings. I hope he is happily fishing somewhere and enjoying his retirement and union pension. Mr. Jefferson proudly wore his union pin ATU 689 (Amalgamated Transit Union).
In 2007, I purchased my home in North East Washington and began riding the X2 bus westward on Benning Road to downtown D.C. The ride was a cultural experience. I was often the only white person on the bus. As we traveled closer to the city center other Caucasians would board, and the reverse trip white riders disembarked long before my stop at 17th and Benning Road. By the time I sold my house in 2016, the bus was about half and half. The gentrification of D.C. is ongoing. In the past two years the character and construction of Benning Road is overwhelming. Gone are the African-American Mom and Pop store front businesses. Replaced by Whole Foods, Starbucks and luxury apartments, displacing long-term residents and businesses.
Washington, D.C. has become unaffordable to working people, the poor are most certainly unwelcome. In the three years since I left my beloved adopted city high-rise luxury apartments are being constructed in every part of the city, especially in neighborhoods where whites would not have ventured only a few years ago. I was one of those white people who bought a home in a black neighborhood. Sister Robin on her first visit said, “Wow Alison, you even bet the gay guys into the neighborhood”. My neighbor Vivian’s father was a chauffeur for President John F. Kennedy. Other neighbors had been born in their homes, transferred down from Grandparents, to parents to children. Jimmy Carter, was one of those neighbors born in the house he now owns, he was the Operating Engineer at the SEIU building where I worked. The movie “The Butler” (which I recommend), depicted the Capitol Hill neighborhood where I lived. I loved my neighbors and tried to be sensitive to the fact I was an invading gentrifying interloper. I have always preferred to live in diverse neighborhoods.
Washington is the world’s capitol, every nationality, offering marvelous ethnic food. This past week I ate at a new upscale Peruvian restaurant Pisco y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar. The food was great, especially the Ceviche! Within a few blocks there are restaurants featuring Indian, Ethiopian, Asian, etc, whatever your taste buds and stomach craves. I prefer a hole-in-the-wall, family owned restaurants. D.C. is losing the character and charm of small family owned restaurants, in exchange for up-scale and modern places.
For my fellow RVers, there are campgrounds around the Beltway in Maryland and Virginia. You don’t need to drive into D.C., take METRO into the city. Once in the city, there are great alternatives ZipCars and City Bikes provide short-term rentals. Duck and Trolley tourist buses. In addition, to Uber, LYFT, and taxis. Walking in D.C. is the very best way to see the city.
My new Airstream lifestyle means driving distances and living outside city limits. Visiting new places and far-flung friends, and seeing this beautiful country. I try not to patronize chain restaurants, finding small local businesses especially when I can meet local patrons and engage in conversations. The beauty of a travel trailer is unhooking setting up your campground home, and using your tow vehicle (in my case a Toyota Tacoma truck), or using public transportation to visit points of interest, city centers, golf course or wilderness areas. You will more often than not find me in a city center cafe, theater or museum. Walking not driving, whenever possible.
Friends ask, “what is your favorite place?” I can’t say I have one — not yet.
But, Washington D.C. is my favorite city.
UPDATE on TRAVEL:
Scout is at Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, NJ undergoing repairs. I expect to pick her up after October 1. Delay has allowed me more time in Washington, D.C. to see friends and former colleagues. When we are back on the road I hope to avoid I-95 and take the coastal route south from Lakewood, N.J visiting Cape May, taking the ferry to Lewes, DE, and going to Chincoteague Island to see the ponies. Thanksgiving in Cary, N.C. with family, then cross-country to Tucson, AZ and Palm Springs, CA for winter 2019.