Even though I ultimately watched the 59th Presidential Inauguration on a screen, my trip to Washington, DC was not in vain. This report recounts my quadrennial January journey to the District of Columbia, this year for the inauguration of Joseph Biden.
2021 Biden Inauguration Report
Four years ago, I missed my connection in Newark and ended up having to take an Uber from Newark Airport to Washington, DC. We arrived just in time and secured prime standing room space to view the swearing in of President Trump.
This time, I chose to fly to via Newark again (for the lie-flat bed) and connection to Washington National Airport, had a long layover once again, but thankfully did not miss my connection.
The redeye flight from Los Angeles to Newark went exactly as planned. Dinner after takeoff followed by three hours of solid sleep.
In Newark, I spent several hours productively working in the United Club before boarding my connection to Washington National.
I’ve written before about why I love flying into DCA, but this trip was an added treat because I got to fly the CRJ-550 for the first time. I should note that additional TSA screening took place in the boarding bridge. My carry-on bag was opened and contents examined. There were only 15 people on the flight and all were well-behaved.
The EWR-DCA flight is quick and the view are always amazing when coming into DCA.
Arriving at National Airport, I marveled once again at the beautiful terminal (my favorite in the USA) and hopped on the Metro Blue Line up to Foggy Bottom.
Just outside the Metro station, I noticed the first military presence (and Biden-Harris memorabilia):
The Metro station is a 10-minute walk to the Park Hyatt Washington, DC, where I redeemed 20,000 points for a one-night stay. The cash rate was $879. Hopefully the National Guard received a huge discount…
President-Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris held a vigil at the Lincoln Memorial the night before their inauguration to commemorate Americans who have died due to COVID-19. While I knew the National Mall was sealed off, I set out on foot to see how close I could get.
Walking through Foggy Bottom and past the US State Department, I ran into the perimeter fence, guarded by heavily armed National Guard troops on the other side.
I walked along the permitter of the fence for a bit, then headed west back into the city. The sun was setting and I was surprised how close I was able to get to the White House. The streets were most empty and I did not encounter any protestors or people wearing MAGA hats. Military-style checkpoints were present, but pedestrians were allowed access without any questioning.
Back in my room, I worked for a bit and then headed out for dinner in Georgetown. Indoor dining is currently limited in DC, but patio dining is available. I made a reservation at Clyde’s only to receive a call warning me that heat lamps were out of fuel. It was under 40ºF so I decided to get some takeout at Moby Dick, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Georgetown I used to enjoy when I lived in the city.
After a good rest, I woke up and headed to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where President-Elect Biden attended a mass with Republican and Democratic leaders from Congress. It was a fitting display of humility and bipartisanship. I dressed in a suit and tried to attend, but of course I was turned away by Secret Service when I was not found on the guest list…
I did see the presidential motorcade arrive and marveled at the police presence around, which my pictures do no adequately capture.
Back in my room, I ordered breakfast then headed to the gym to workout.
The dining room at Blue Duck Tavern was closed, but room service available. After my workout, I enjoyed a very nice breakfast of egg whites with jumbo crab, pancakes, berries, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a cappuccino.
After showering, I put my suit back on and headed back out, hoping to get as close as I could and perhaps even view the inauguration ceremony in-person. As I walked through the city, I encountered my first checkpoint, which was staffed by officers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Because I was not carrying a bag, I was waived right through.
I walked by what is apparently called Black Lives Matter Plaza where I encountered the only protestors I would see the entire trip.
Continuing on, I headed down 14th Street where I encountered another security checkpoint. Again, I was waived through.
When I reached F Street, one street above Pennsylvania Avenue, I hit a final checkpoint in which only credentialed members of the media were permitted. Not allowed to proceed, I went through another checkpoint outside the Willard Hotel that included metal detector and comprehensive patdown before being to enter.
Inside, I ordered a cappuccino and watched the inauguration from the majestic Willard lobby…that merits a post of its own.
After the swearing-in ceremony, I headed back to the Park Hyatt where I worked for a couple hours before checking out and heading to the Northern Virginia suburbs to visit friends.
Although my experience was quite different than past inaugurations, it was nevertheless meaningful to me. To see the military presence and fortifications in the District of Columbia is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The future weeks and months appear tenuous, but I am hopeful that a certain level of civility will return to Washington. Civility is not inherently a virtue, but a foundation for healing many of the wounds that have recently festered.
I hope that in four years the National Mall will again be packed with patriotic Americans of all backgrounds cheering on the continued experiment of ordered liberty known as the United States.
See Also: Photo Essay – The 59th Presidential Inauguration (different set of photos)