Timing Is Everything

Sunday, April 01, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 18 (part 1):  Washington, DC 
We've been having a great time on the first two weeks of our history-seeking trip, visiting many remarkable and awe-inspiring sites where critical events in American history occurred.  But in our minds, the heart of this excursion was Washington, DC, our nation's capitol.

Yes, we have visited the city a few times before, but always just for a few days.  This trip we devoted two weeks to seeing lots of sights of this beautiful city on the Potomac River.  As a special bonus, this is the first time we have visited Washington since we began letterboxing.  We were delighted at the idea of searching out some boxes commemorating historic sites in the American capitol.

After spending yesterday resting and catching up on laundry and other chores, today was the first day we had an opportunity to go into the city from our apartment in Arlington.  Since it was Sunday, we thought it might be a good time to take our car into Washington and seek out some drive-by letterboxes.  Were we ever wrong!

For young children, teens, and others still in school, let this be a lesson to you.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!  Naively, we thought we could just drive into our own capitol city without making prior arrangements or obtaining previous approval to do so. Wrong!

When we reached the city limits of Washington, we had to pass through a border patrol crossing.  Huh??  This was certainly a new development.

Immigration officers demanded to see our passports (which we actually remembered to bring this trip!) and questioned us about our intention in visiting the city.   We considered telling them we planned to do some letterboxing, but thought better of it when we saw the intensity of their gazes and instead claimed that we just wanted to sightsee and visit national monuments and museums.  Apparently, this was not the answer they wanted to hear.

"Monuments?  Museums?  I'm afraid we need to see your interstate leisure travel visa with federal district access before we can allow you to enter the District for your stated purposes."  the agent explained politely, though the officials behind him acted as if they viewed us as potential risks.

"Leisure?  Travel?  Visa?" Ken asked.

"Yes, Sir," the officer replied.

"We've never needed that kind of document before to visit within the United States," Ken protested.

"Don't get rude with me, Sir," the agent exploded. "Do not get rude with me!"

Afraid he was about to go Bon Qui Qui on us and have us taken away by security, we tried to placate him, telling him we just wanted to go into the city and drive around the lovely streets, and look at the pretty cherry blossoms, that we wouldn't actually visit any monuments or museums today.  "Really," we promised.

Finally, he acquiesced, since we did have our passports.  "But you stay away from those monuments until you have the proper papers," he warned.  We assured him that we would and headed into the city and straight to the location of the first letterbox on our list.

We were absolutely stunned when we arrived at the small park with the hollow tree where the letterbox was supposed to be hidden.  This is the sight that met us.

Apparently R2D2 and his friend had found the letterbox before we did.  But, hey, if you don't like the stamp, there are better ways of dealing with it than blowing up the letterbox.  We found that a bit extreme.  But there were other boxes to be found, so we counted this one a loss and moved on to the next box.

Well, this was definitely showing signs of being a pattern, wouldn't you say?  Yes, the box still appeared to be viable at the moment, but how would we wrest it from this guy who thought he was about to defuse a bomb in an apocalyptic episode?

Maybe we should move on to the spot near the (cannot be named) national monument where two letterboxes were planted.  Convinced that the previous two episodes were bizarre coincidences caused by overzealous geocachers, we drove to the next letterbox location to find that another letterboxer had already found the box, but then someone had found him.  (Note the box in his left hand in photo on previous page.)

Although we admired this boxer's attempt to defend the letterbox, we have to admit that we just drove on past without offering him any kind or support and moved on to one more letterbox location.  This was at a very minor historic site.  Surely it wouldn't attract the attention of the authorities, right?

Oh, so wrong!  Sadly, the letterbox at this location (which we cannot reveal, of course) had been compromised also.  Deciding there was definitely a pattern here, we determined that our best course of action was to leave the capitol and maybe post a message on the Atlas Quest boards to notify other letterboxers of what we had seen in Washington.

Strangely, when we visited the AtlasQuest site, we read an announcement that the entire site would be taking a vacation tomorrow.  "Major downtime coming!"  the headline proclaimed.

Whoa!  Would this craziness ever end?  Looking at the calendar, we decided that maybe there was hope.  After all, tomorrow is April 2.  We can't wait!