Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Sunday: Our festivities started with the All Souls Inaugural Ball.

Monday: I met up with some grad school friends downtown for further celebration. Nancy brought us all some inaugural headgear from San Francisco.

We headed to Dupont Circle, where there was a sage-burning ceremony to rid Washington, D.C. of evil spirits. People were throwing shoes at this large inflatable George Bush:
(note the shoes hanging off his ear for scale)

Then off to the Brickskellar for more revelry!

Tuesday: We get ready for many hours outside, below freezing temps. My outfit consisted of: ski mittens, two hats, a fleece neck tube thing, a scarf, two undershirts, two wool sweaters, a fleece jacket, my winter coat, two pairs of long johns, fleece pants, jeans, and four pairs of wool socks (under a pair of Matt's shoes)!

We left our house at 8 AM and biked the 7 miles downtown...

...to check our bikes at the Inaugural Bike Valet at 16th and K. They checked over 2,000 bikes -- the biggest bike valet operation ever.

Then we joined the masses streaming toward the Mall. That's me with Luke and Sarah and several hundred of our friends.

On the Mall we ended up near the Washington Monument, which is about 1.2 miles from the Capitol.

We passed time taking pictures and talking with friends and strangers. Matt entertained our immediate neighbors by announcing: "Only 45 more minutes of George Bush!...only 40 more minutes of George Bush!" etc.

Once things got underway, we had an excellent view of a big screen (except when the kid in front of us waved her flag in the wrong direction). The sound was also surprisingly good, but delayed from the video -- usually it was just randomly off, but when Joe Biden was sworn in there was something about the cadence that resulted in Joe Biden's lips moving when the Supreme Court guy was speaking, and vice versa. Which was pretty amusing. The announcer also got a big laugh from the crowd when she said (multiple times): "Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats."
Two of the two million very happy people on the Mall:

After the ceremony, we came across a Haitian Rara band -- so we spent some time dancing while we waited for the crowds to thin out, before we made our way home.
A picture's worth a thousand words, but the band's video from the Mall is even better:

And then home again -- with an extremely slow-moving crowd back to the bike valet, then the 7 miles back uphill to Silver Spring. We were home by about 4:30. At which point I promptly got sick. But it was all worth it!

Friday, January 09, 2009

FL Pics: Big Cypress

As you get upland (we're talking differences of inches of elevation) and away from saltwater, you start to see fewer mangroves and more and more cypress trees.

And then you're out of Everglades National Park and into Big Cypress National Preserve.

We saw at least one alligator every time there was enough of a break in the trees to look. And several were right on the edge of the road!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

FL Pics: Hell's Bay & Florida Bay

Ever since our last canoe trip in the Everglades -- on the Turner River, through mangrove tunnels so close we had to put down our paddles and pull our way through -- Matt had been thinking we should check out Hell's Bay. "Hell to get into and hell to get out of," the saying goes, because of the mangroves. Instead of following a single river, though, it's a path that has been marked through an estuarial area that is miles and miles of mangrove islands. There truly is no way you could find your way through the maze without following the posts that have been laid out. There were many quick 90 degree turns that we learned about only once we could see around the corner to see the next marker. And thank goodness someone warned us about a missing marker, or we might have been going around in circles for hours.

After 5 miles of twists and turns, we made it to the Hells Bay chickee: our home for the night.

Before we set out, a ranger warned us we might hear very sporadic breathing noises in the night: dolphins coming up for air. Sure enough, we heard quite a bit of splashing and breathing and even got out of the tent at one point to shine our headlamps around, but saw nothing. The next day, though, we made several dolphin sightings.

At dawn and dusk, the mosquitoes were abundant, noisy, and hungry. Thus, this picture of the sunrise through the tent window. If you zoom in you can probably see the dozens of bugs on the screen.

We also made a bonus canoe trip out on the Florida Bay, which is more open. We saw many more birds than we had seen in Hell's Bay, including huge white pelicans. They were a special treat because we had also seen them in their summer home up in Montana.

And then, after we had pulled the canoe out of the water, someone spotted a couple of manatees from the dock. We watched them play for quite a while until some boats came through and scared them away.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

FL Pics: Beaches

live starfish

sunrise/moonset on Sanibel Island

Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island -- the pictures don't do justice to the waves crashing on the rocks. Who knew there were rocky shores in Florida? This one only lasts for about a mile.

We kept finding blue balloons of various sizes on one particular beach and couldn't figure out what they were until we found this more-recently washed up specimen. Apparently it's a Portuguese Man o' War -- ouch! (Check out the wikipedia entry for more fun and fascinating facts.)

Not pictured: we watched someone reel in a 4-foot-long black-tip shark! Kinda like this guy. Matt held the pole for a while while two people wrestled it up onto the sand.

Friday, January 02, 2009

FL Pics: Merritt Island

We stopped at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (near Cape Canaveral) thinking we might just pass through for a day, and ended up spending three days. There were so many birds, of so many kinds, it took us several hours just to drive the 7-mile wildlife drive...and we drove it over and over.

One afternoon, we stopped to look briefly at an anhinga. We then noticed a little gator sitting nearby, watching the anhinga.

We noticed some movement far off, and after a while squinting through the binoculars saw two wild pigs, and watched them for a while. Then someone else spotted a pair of ears in the grass in front of us. Raccoon? Panther? After a while it trotted into full view...a bobcat.

After a couple of tours around the wildlife drive, we knew where to look for this guy -- a roseate spoonbill. I thought they were endangered, but it turns out that after reaching the brink of extinction in the late 1800's (due to hunting for their feathers), populations have recovered just enough that they're no longer a protected species.

These guys are listed as endangered -- but we saw quite a few on our trip: wood storks.

We especially liked sunrise and sunset, when the birds would fly in flocks to and from their roosting/feeding spots.