NYC to Washington DC – To Washington, We Go

I’m sweating like a pig.

Thats not all that uncommon, to be honest.

But what is uncommon is that Bec is even sweating a little.

I pretty much am her electric blanket in winter. For some reason, her body runs so much colder than mine, so I am usually feeling the warmth much more than she is. Last night, however, we were both feeling it.

We wake up and snuggle for a bit. Its 7am again, and I am on breakfast duties. I have been tasked with using what we have left so that we don’t have to take them to Washington DC with us. Piece of cake. I whip together some eggs on toast with cheese and tomatoes. The only funny thing is that the place we are staying at, doesn’t have a toaster, so in the spirit of ingenuity, we have to use a pan and make french toast. I have to admit though, once it was all cooked up and we actually got to eat it, I don’t understand why we don’t do this more often.

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Eggs on french toast. 10/10.

We pack our bags all up, and check out. We are able to leave them in the living room to collect later, but we just need to have checked out by 12. So, we have brekky, pack up and make our way out to Brooklyn Bridge for a better, and hopefully less crowded look of the bridge. Bec has got the directions sorted. She tells me that it’s a 2 hour long walk. I would find out later that I misunderstood her, and that it was a 2 hour return trip. Just over an hour’s walk there. We load our bags onto our backs.

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We begin walking along Flatbush ave. We pretty much just follow that ll the way to the bridge itself. Just over an hour into the walk, we come across this pet shop. Its just before 10am, and Bec needs a Band-Aid, so we kill the time before the shop opens by preventing her foot from blistering up. We head back to the shop, and to our delight, the door is wide open, and staff welcoming. We watched before as the lady reached straight through, and into the cockatiel’s cage. When we walked in, there was nothing there still. You could totally just reach straight in, and hold a bird if you wanted to.

I did want to.

So, I did reach in and grab a bird.

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The really cool thing about this pet shop is that all these pets are hand-reared. Its incredible. All the birds just climb up onto your hands and are friendly as. We hold a few of the cockatiels, but they are old hack the moment that the lady brings out the pineapple conjures (or something like that). These guys are super friendly and super affectionate. They climb all over you and will grumble in your ear and everything. Its great.

We finish up at the pet shop by checking out real life hamsters, giant geckos, ribbon snakes and all sorts of pets that we could only imagine having in Australia.

We continue on our walk, and a few minutes later, Bec gets her phone out and says to me, “Ahh babe… I think we have been walking the wrong way”.

I stop dead in my tracks, turn around, my arms hanging by my side and with a look of blatant hopelessness in my eyes. She knows that this isn’t ideal. She knows that this sucks. She laughs, nonetheless. We’ve got enough on our metro pass cards to do two more trips each, so we have to decide, are we going to walk to the bridge, double the distance, or are we going to catch a bus or subway and pay the extra $?

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I mean, its not much, but at the moment, every penny counts.

Bec is keen for the walk. I am keen on the bus. Naturally, we come to a happy medium, and we decide (mutually, naturally) to walk. This whole time, I was thinking, surely, we are going to start seeing some buildings, or some evidence of the walk that we took over the bridge the other week. The reason that we hadn’t seen any buildings yet, was because we were walking in the complete opposite direction. I mean, its all so clear now.

My gootch is sweating like a gypsie with a mortgage, and I can feel the chaffing starting to brew in the depths of my groin.

I make sure Bec knows what I am having to endure.

She shows me only the finest of sympathies, by not laughing directly to my face, but instead will roll her shoulder over and cover her mouth while she chuckles on the side of the Brooklyn footpath.  I mean, lucky for us though, now we really get to see the rest of Brooklyn.

Twice.

Nonetheless, we walk.

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I keep stopping, shoving my hand elbow deep into my baggy pants to grab the greatest fist full of my thermals that you can imagine, and drag them up higher than Wiz Khalifa, so as to create a buffer between my thighs. I walk with just a slight waddle to try and trap the material, so that I don’t have to stop so often to readjust. It is worth it. At this point, though, I don’t care too much for how I look to people around me. Most of these punters are pretty bogan, so I am sure they have seen, if they haven’t done worse, themselves.

We cover the streets that I never intended on covering twice, and finally reach the place we were staying. We duck in, stretch out our muscles, have some lunch (because it is lunch time at this point), and head off in the right direction for the bridge.

The longer we walk, the more normal the urban scenery looks.

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We begin seeing stores that I am more familiar with, and being seeing a lot more suits and ties. Finally, we are in the heart of Brooklyn, and we by chance pass this donut store called Donut Place, and it is every part as good as they say it is. I’ve come to find that people who put a lot of effort in the appearance of their restaurants/cafes, also put a lot of effort into their production and flavour. This place was really well presented. Huge big windows to look out onto the street through, and nestled right on the corner of a little split in the road. Great place, and a 100% must do.

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One of my favourite things about walking the streets is actually getting to have a really good feel for a place. A car will give you a snap shot, and a bike will give you a touch more of taste of a place, but if you really want to get a good feel for a place, you really do have to just go for a bloody big long walk and see the place that you are visiting.

Fortunately, this opportunity was granted to me much easier than I had anticipated.

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We pass people left right and centre, I have my focus on my camera set, with the strap around my neck, timing shots as people come closer to where I think that they will be in focus, I hit the shutter. Capturing real, unadulterated life with a camera has been the back bone of my philosophy with photography. I find that people always have an expectation as to what they should or shouldn’t be doing when you have a camera in front of them. But, when they don’t know, you really get to see the real side of people.

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Street photography, is my favourite. It was fun to get into some more of it, this time in a little bit of an unorthodox manner.

We finally reach Brooklyn Bridge, and its still busy, but there is inly about half the amount of people that were on the bridge last time. Everywhere you look, there are people posing in a variety of ways that they would deem as attractive. I spot a few people with the selfie sticks, doing the whole ‘candidly looking to the distance’ shot. Its sad, and is Instagram at it’s finest.

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Regardless, Brooklyn Bridge really is oddly attractive. You’ll walk across it, and see all the architecture, and then you’ll get to the end, and you kinda just wanna go check it out again. Its a really odd thing hey. Like, I have crossed it twice now, and I kinda wanna go back and do it again. I can’t explain it. Maybe if there wasn’t so many people on the bridge and I could get my fill of it’s architecture and old-world design, I wouldn’t feel the need to go back. Anyway. Its worth checking out.

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We hit the end of the bridge, take a quick look back before jumping down to the subway. The whole walking the wrong way situation set us back a couple hours, so we have got some catch up to play now. We reach the place we stayed at again, grab our bags, and jump straight back on the train to get to the bus in time.

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Tonight, we are headed to Washington D.C. Everyone has told us that we have to go check it out, and being that we don’t have the whole crew with us, we can kinda just do whatever we want. So, two days ago, we decided that we would actually do it. We booked the tickets for this evening, and found ourselves a cheap Airbnb, as we couldn’t find anyone to host us on short notice.

We lug around both our main packs on our backs and our day bags on our front, and it is no light feat. Super not ideal to have to do on a regular basis. We also have to consider this mammoth double sleeping bag that we bought while we were in Montreal. I keep just tying to the back of my bag, but it smacks around and hits my legs and its not ideal. We are working on coming up with a better system at some point.

We all fill into the bus, and its a first come, first served arrangement. Lucky for us, laziness has served us well in this instance. Everyone else was seated, but we didn’t want to have to move our bags twice, so we just dumped them at the front of the line, and sat on top of them instead. We were front of the line.

We win.

Thank you laziness.

We get in, and I actually think that this is my first ever coach ride. We’ve done the plane, train, ferry and now the bus. Almost ticked off every mode of transport, and haven’t even left one continent yet. We settle into our seats, and everyone else seems like seasoned veterans at this. They’re bringing pizza on the bus, this chick on the other side of the bus is breastfeeding, this other guys is listening to his meditation podcast. Its all happening, I tell ya.

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Its a 4 hour bus trip, and nothing is really eventful, so I’m not gonna waste your time lingering. What is WAAY cooler is that when we arrived at Washington DC, you walk out the front of the station, and you are greeted with a great big view of Capitol Hill. This is crazy surreal. I’ve seen it on so many movies and seen so many pictures. To just rock up, and Bam. There it is, is such a surreal feeling. I honestly never would have thought that it would be that easy to find. I mean, there is no way you can avoid it.

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It’s grandeur and monumental shape is impossible to miss. Once it’s got your gaze, you’ll struggle to shake it. We walk from the bus depot to the train station, and naturally, we end up walking closer to the building itself. You begin to see more of the details, and it is no less impressive. An absolutely astonishing build. In fact, as we walk the streets, the thing that I began to notice was the lack of ordinary buildings. Everything has giant roman columns, marble, endless steps and sculptures. Every facet of a building that would make a building impressive, is evident in every building. I mean, they all are for valid reasons. There is the supreme court, the white house, any of the insane amount of Smithsonian buildings, Capitol Hill and the list goes on and on. And, you’ll notice that the the entire place is as clean as clean gets.

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Anyways, by the time we finish gawking at the sights, we arrive at the train station, which is going to take us to our Airbnb. We got this place for a steal. It was $150 AUD for 5 nights. $30/night. Not bad. It’s a shared room, and its about half an hour out of the city. Comparing that to NYC, we were about the same distance away, so we should be good. We get to our station, walk up the escalators with all our gear on, and we have about 12 minutes of walking ahead of us to reach our place.

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12 minutes walking is ok.

With a big back pack, and a full day bag too, its not ok.

We cross the road. Its 10:40pm. There is pretty much no traffic at all. We both start to feel like we are in a bit of a ratty area of town, but neither really want to say it out loud. We cross the road, straight onto the road that it adjoined. We are chatting away, and begin to start crossing over to the footpath on the other side. Bec is a metre or two ahead of me, and as we start to cross, I hear the beginning of a faint screeching of tyres, squealing more and more as they approach us. I turn around, to see what is coming our way, only to be met with a sight of head lights that are about chest height.

I straight away think that it is a Ford Ranger, or Raptor, or something like that. Its got the same nose and shape to it, but its been jacked up a fair bit. Still about 50m away, I say to Bec “Babe… BABE…” with the panic increasing in my tone, the closer it gets. I don’t start heading for the footpath behind me just yet. This guy doesn’t seem to be correcting his trajectory fast enough, and being that Bec as a little ahead of me, I think I am going to need to tear her back across the road any second. My head swivels from the car, to where I knew Bec was. She isn’t there, and isn’t further in front of me, so logic says that she must have started moving behind me already.

My head snaps back to the car. It’s centre of gravity is starting to go, as it lifts the chassis from the left side of the vehicle, in a bid from the driver to adjust the path of the car. I instantly collect the information that I need from the car headed our way, step back to what I would guess would be just enough to keep me safe from the projected path of the vehicle, and swivel my head behind me to check and make sure Bec is safe.

Bec is well and truly out of the way. With this knowledge, I face my attention back to the driver. The car is now on the right path, while I take a few more steps back just to be sure. As it passes me by, out of frustration, I lift my arms up, followed by the universal “Come on mate!” flop by my side. Head titled to the side, anger pouring from my expression, I utter “What the hell?!”.

The guy jumps on the brakes straight away. By the time he comes to a halt, he is nearly at the end of the block. We both estimate that we was clocking 60-70km when he came around the corner. He’s pulled up, but not doing anything. We both aren’t so comfortable with the neighbourhood, and seeing what we have seen with the shootings in the states, we opt not to take our chances. Naturally, I want to head over and make sense of what the hell is going on, but logic tells me that this situation won’t pan out well.

Bec is mildly freaking out, and tells me that she wants to head back.

Fair enough. We haven’t even walked 100m.

We begin to walk back around the block, but then stop to see what is going on with our mate. He has pulled up a little further up the road, and is ever so slowly inching forward. It’s so slow that I can’t actually tell if he is moving or not. Finally, we see him turn down a street to the left. Not ideal, as that is the direction we need to head.

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Not having spoken to the guy, or seen him or anything, I have no idea what kinda guy we are dealing with, so we play our cards safe. I suggest that we just chill out at the station for a bit, see if he swings back past, and if not, we’ll take an alternate route.

10 mins pass.

Nothing happens.

We load up our packs, and walk the alternate route to our accommodation. The closer we get, the more dodgy this is seeming. When I booked the accommodation, I was really only thinking about the $ factor. Pictures usually are a good enough judge of a place. Pictures, in this case, lie.

A LOT.

We get to the address (which isn’t the address listed), and the instructions that the host gave us say “You wont be able to see the house at night, you have to walk up the street until you see a white Mitsubishi Eclipse parked out the front”. Red flag #1. Eclipses are largely owned by drug dealers. Not ideal. “You have to look for the red light, but that isn’t where you knock. Turn to your right, and follow the path, and you will come to a door at the back”.

This place is a joke.

Beyond description.

It is the sort of place that you would scout out for Trainspotting 2 or something. It is hidden behind dead shrubbery, trees and the place is dilapidated. It’s 100% a drug house. We open the door, which funnily enough has a code-lock, so you are kinda safe. As the door opens, it gets worse. There are two dirty big power cords hanging down from the second level, directly in front of the staircase.

The staircase, itself doesn’t even have a bannister. We push the cords out of the way, as we duck and weave, so as not to catch our bags on the cords also. We climb up, and fortunately, there are bannisters on the second level. But, the cords that hang over in the lower level, are plugged in to two power points which cut directly across the path to our door. We take off all our bags, and feed them under the cords, so that we can then climb under and open the door to our room.

As we open the door, we realise what we have got ourselves into.

A shared room is really just a room with 4 mattresses on the floor. To get to the private room, you have to walk through the shared room. The private room’s bed isn’t even made. We were told in our instructions that there may be others checking in, so make sure that we get in the bed with the covers in the pictures that we booked. Luckily, there is nobody else here.

We unload everything, and plug in our phones. None of the power points work. I try all 6 of them. Nothing.

At this point, we decide to sleep in the sleeping bag, instead of the linen provided for us. We gather all our valuables, and stuff them in the sleeping bag next to us, so that at least someone would have to come fishing for our gear to find it. Bec decides to go scope out the kitchen, because if we can get some groceries, we won’t have to spend so much on food while we are out.

She comes back in, and the look of horror on her face was something to behold. Dishes had been left in the sink for weeks at least. On top of that, it looked like someone had vomited into the sink also. And again, there was no power, so she had to use her phone’s torch to have a good look around. I am shocked, but I shouldn’t be. I mean, there is a pressed tin ceiling piece just propped up on the top of the shelves in our room. I really shouldn’t be surprised.

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We climb into bed, and decide that tomorrow, we are going to sort something else out. I know tonight is going to be a restless night, so I just have to tough it out.

Our lights are off, and we are trying to sleep.

As we begin the lengthy process of trying to convince ourselves that we are going to be safe, we hear the door down stairs open. At this point, we haven’t seen any one else. There were lights on, but no body else was home. Creepy af. We listen, as the steps make their way up to our level. There is a knock, but not on our door. We wait a few minutes, and then there is a knock on our door. I took the initiative to lock our door by this point. I don’t care how much the other guy has paid, I am going to be deciding who shares this room from here on in.

I open the door, standing in my undies, and this very normal looking and somewhat plump human is standing in front of me with his coat and briefcase by his side.

This is the oddest night of my life.

I assume straight away that he is another guest.

“Ahhhh… Is this the private room?”, he asks with a hint of hopefulness that I am going to say it’s not.

“Oh nah man. It’s actually through here”, I say with enough humour in my voice to prepare him for what he is about to witness.

“Really?”

“Yeah”

He walks through, scans the room, dumps his stuff on the floor, and begins making his bed. He seems like a bit of a task-focussed kinda guy, so he just knuckles down. Our dialogue is exchanged with momentary glances in recognition that we are still engaging in wilful conversation. He’s in DC for a job interview in the morning. He has to be up at 5am. Its about 11:20 at this point. He’s not getting much sleep tonight, but he knows that already.

We exchange opinions and remarks about how absurd this place is and how we were going to get our money back from the host. He finishes making his bed, and heads for the bathroom to take a shower. The same bathroom that Bec had to flush a bowl full of poo away. As he is in the shower, we hear two blokes start talking. One is distinctively African. No hint of American in his voice.

He’s fresh off the boat.

They keep arguing, and the conversation gets more intense, as they head up the stairs. We put a few pieces of the puzzle together, and work out that one of the guys is the house manager, and the other is a long term tennant. The tenant started paying the owner instead of the manager, and the manager has now cut off the power. Its hard to make sense of it, but it all comes together slowly.

Things get more heated and there are a few thuds, and no words. Usually, this means that there is a blew going on. The focus is on landing the punch, not exchanging the words. We wait and listen, but can’t hear anything else. We then hear them walk back down the stairs. I thought that they may have been talking with Cody (the other guest) too, but when he got out of the shower, and I asked him what was going on, he was none the wiser. He over heard someone saying that he was going to call police. He looks at us, and says “I’m gonna get out of here man”. I look at Bec, look back at Cody, and say “Wanna split a cab?”.

“Yeah for sure”

“Wanna split a room?”, I asked

“Yeah for sure”.

I want to get photos of this place, both for Airbnb’s reference, and for mine, but Bec isn’t comfortable with me taking photos while these two blokes are going at it down stairs, so instead, I just take a video of Bec telling me everything, and include a little peek outside out room.

We are packing our stuff up, and we hear the classic police ‘thud thud thud’ on the front door. The tenant starts explaining the situation to the cop, and we seize the opportunity to head out in pursuit of another room. Cody called an Uber and called up a motel to see if they had any cheap double rooms. The cop finishes sorting the two guys out, and heads back to his partner, who is waiting at the end of the drive. As we are walking down the drive way, the tenant comes running out and says “Sir! Sir! He said that he isn’t going to turn the power back on. He said “I am not afraid of the police”.”.

As we leave, another couple is rocking up to stay at the place. The cop stops them from going any further and encourages them to find somewhere else. They happily oblige. We climb in our uber and head to our motel. Cody is legend. We drop him cash for the ride and the night’s accommodation. He’s a champion about it. He is the head of HR for the American embassy in Moscow. Very interesting bloke to talk with.

We walk up to our room after checking in, give Cody our blankets, because we have the sleeping bag and each other to keep us warm. He could do with the extra layers, plus, we wouldn’t be in the motel without his help. He tells us that he is having to get up at 5 am to get ready for the interview. Its midnight. Now he really knows is isn’t getting sleep.

“Mate. That is totally fine. Do whatever you need to do”. There is mutual feeling of victimisation that we currently share. Just as long as we aren’t concerned that someone is going to come and a try nick all my gear, I couldn’t care less right now.

Everything goes under his name. The room. The credit card. Everything, and then this guy that we met no more than an hour ago, asks that we just check out in the morning for him. Cody has been a huge life saver. It’s the least we could do.

We climb in bed.

Cody is in a bed separated from ours by a half metre wide night stand. Like I mentioned before, we just met this guy, but right now, booking a room with this complete stranger is the most relief I have felt in a long time.

Cody heads to sleep. We go to sleep.

It has been a very bloody eventful last few hours.

Surprisingly, Washington D.C. is thug af.

Come back tomorrow,

Billy

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