“The State of the Union” – Confession, ferris wheels, and cheat meals

Confession:

I have many fears, most of which all draw back to one central fear of the unknown. The fear that directly relates directly to present circumstances, however?

I am afraid to fly.

Southwest plane in clear blue sky, confession, spioaertriac

I know what you’re thinking. Why in the WORLD would I travel (by plane) if I’m afraid to fly? I know, I know, seems crazy. My first flight was to Vegas in 2003, age 15. Nearly 4 hour flight for a first time flyer (not recommended, by the way; fly to DC instead. Less than 2 hours in the air). Why would a 15-year-old go to Vegas? I’m very glad you asked (I get to plug my school!!)

The Cooperative Developmental Energy Program (CDEP), founded at The Fort Valley State University in 1983, seeks to alleviate the under-representation of minorities and females in the oil and energy industry. The Mathematics, Science, & Engineering Academy (MSEA) branch of the program educates minority and female high school students in math, engineering, and the oil industry. CDEP sends students to a different sponsor school across the country each summer to dive into each subject with experts. University of Nevada Las Vegas is one such school.

As a result of this program, I’ve touched down in Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona (the Grand Canyon. Twice), and the program sent me on my first trip to DC! I also know random facts about geology that a woman with a Psychology degree and a Masters in English probably shouldn’t know.

So back to the first flight to Vegas. I refused to sit by a window; I plopped my behind down in an aisle seat, gripped the armrests so tightly that I had red hands, and prayed. The entire flight. We didn’t crash, obviously. And by the time I graduated from high school, I’d flown four times. Eventually, I found a small thrill in sitting in the window seat and watching as we took off (knowing how something occurs, lessens the fear of the unknown). I love flying above the clouds, the soft pink and yellow hues that ride and glide over each rounded puff of vapor. I especially love it when it’s actually storming underneath but we’ve risen above the chaos, into peace. The closet to Heaven we’ll get without dying–or being an astronaut.

Southwest plane preparing to land over water, confession, spioaertriac

I’m still afraid to fly, but not as much as that first flight. What truly terrifies me now is airport security. Especially when the rules change. Especially when I had never flown with so many electronic devices and had no prior knowledge of how I needed to reveal what I carried or unload it in a bin–remember, fear of unknown.

Small Tip:

Good news! At present, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta offers expedited security–nothing comes out of your bag and shoes stay on. You must remove your jacket and take everything out of any pockets. Of course, a dog walks around you and becomes more intimate with you than your spouse (and did I mention I am afraid of dogs too?). But other than that, I loaded my bags into bins and waited for the items to run through the scanner.

My heart throbbed like a teenager at a Harry Styles concert (he’s in right??) the entire time I moved through the line. I feared that TSA would stop, frisk, and detain me (or worse, destroy my equipment) all because I decided to travel with a DSLR. In my mind, lights would flash, alarms would sound, and a loud, foreboding voice (soundly oddly like Voldemort in the Dealthy Hallows) would echo in the airport saying, “IT’S HER.”

And there’s no real way to plan for that without experience. I tried. I read over 20 different posts about travelling with cameras, laptops, etc. I asked several people. No one was 100% clear on what we would or wouldn’t have to do–I like my instructions step by step by minor step. I like steps that don’t even need qualification.

Tell me I’m not the only one with these fears?

The flight itself? I hate turbulence, my stomach always drops when we’re descending, and flying over water scares the crap out of me. Which proved comical when my Southwest flight descended over the Potomac as we landed at Regan National Airport. I watched the woman in the seat next to me tightly close her eyes, her lips slowly moving as if mumbling a prayer. I thought, “she gets it…” But I made it in one piece, despite the rattles, shakes, drops, and my many prayers. My only regret is I couldn’t get a window seat…

Regan International Airport, confession, spioaertriac
Regan National Airport, DC

Ferris Wheel…

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I make the trip to DC every year–for the last 3 years. My friend, Noria, lives in the city and, thankfully, she’s putting me up for the weekend. However, that also means I can’t exactly disclose where I’m staying (since it’s not my place and I don’t think she wants people knowing where she lives). However, after a nice trip to Target (or Tar-jey when we want the store to sound boojee) for some snacks, Noria took me over to National Harbor.

I could have taken you all on a beautiful photo tour of DC with shots of the National Mall, the towering monuments and stately museums. But, 1) I toured all of that last year, along with the Capitol and the White House, and 2) Google has excellent pictures of those already. I had never been to the National Harbor (or even knew we had one for that matter–don’t remember that place being mentioned on Scandal) and I figure if I didn’t know, maybe others didn’t know.

shot of national harbor with capital ferris wheel, confession, spioaertriac wander focus love, state of the union, spioaertriac, national harbor national harbor entrance, confession, spioaertriac shops in national harbor, confession, spioaertriac restaurants in National Harbor, confession, spioaertriac

Now, National Harbor (in Maryland, by the way) is fairly new. By new, I mean less than 10 years old. National Harbor officially opened in 2008 and immediately filled with shops, various restaurants, a Tanger Outlet mall, and, most recently, an MGM Hotel Casino (but that’s for another post, sweet readers…). The place has its own Census demographics. However, what struck me immediately–other than the gorgeous expanse of it while driving across Woodrow Wilson bridge–was the beautiful Capital Ferris.

Capital Ferris wheel, confession, spioaertriac

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I know we just finished the confession, but I have another. I love Ferris wheels. Ferris wheels, to me, symbolize innocence, romance, and freedom. I think of sweet country fairs, humid air and a light breeze. I think of soft music and jean jackets, hand holding as we ride to the top of the wheel, a soft kiss as we fall down. One wish of mine is a date that features a Ferris wheel ride. So understand why seeing this simple image made me smile as a soft ache spread through my heart, curled in my belly. The wheel lights up at night in an array of colors and flash, the reflection against the black mirror of the Potomac spectacular from any angle.

Noria and I also hung out with a few celebrities people while we walked up the shady sidewalk, perhaps you know them? Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Louis Armstrong, and the Navy sailor and woman in white who rose to fame from kissing in Time Square back in 1945. National Harbor has several statues of these figures and more–including an adorable old woman carrying a bag of grocery and a Talbots bag. They scatter all about the walkways of the harbor. I didn’t grab all their images, but who could resist Rosie the Riveter and Marilyn Monroe?

statue of man and woman kissing, confession, spioaertriac

statue of Rosie the Riveter, confession, spioaertriac me posing with Rosie the Riverter statue, confession, spioaertriac

So, something I would never do? Like ever? Ever, ever because I would feel extreme embarrassment? Taking a picture with a statue. I’ve always wanted to, but I always get the feeling everyone is staring at me like I’m crazy (once again, do feelings like this fade in your thirties? I need that to happen soon!) and I talk myself out of the shot. As I nearly did here. But Noria really got into taking the shots for me, despite my embarrassment. And it fulfilled my #1 rule for my time in DC, so yay.

I meant to get a shot with Marilyn…mimicking her famous pose with the white dress. But, in jeans and black tank, looking the opposite of glamorous and photographic, I couldn’t quite bring myself to pose next to all that red lip and blonde.  So I just captured her image instead.

The harbor is beautiful no matter what time of day and is always filled with people–families, teenagers, groups of friends, cute couples walking hand in hand. There are festivals, concerts, and all kind of events that celebrate in the late evening through the night. Definitely a place to visit if you’ve already done the a tour of your monuments.

full body shot of Marilyn Monroe statue, confession, spioaertriac marilyn monroe, wander focus love, state of the union, spioaertriac, national harbor

Cheat Meals (and Rule #2!)

Lots of people have a cheat meal. Plenty of people enjoy a cheat day. Confession: I enjoy a cheat weekend. My doctor would not approve… I enjoy my cheat weekends because during the first 25-28 days of the month my normal diet subtracts all the fatty fun out of most foods. The one-weekend-a-month is a reward. Call me odd, but it works for me and, I’ve lost weight (turn backflips and shake pom-poms in happiness).

I’d told Noria prior to my arrival all about my rules for travelling this year and she did not disappoint with her selection for a local restaurant–and my first cheat meal of the day!

outside shot of RT's Restaurant entrance, confession, spioaertriac

Founded over 30 years ago in Alexandria, VA, RTs Restaurant surprises you with the warm, intimate feel. Often called a “little gem,” it is the place to go if you suddenly have a craving for Creole cuisine in the middle of the nation’s capital. Cajun shrimp, catfish, she crab soup–don’t forget red beans and rice and the bread pudding, RTs did not disappoint my desire for seafood and butter.

RTs restaurant, alexandria, virginia, wander focus love, state of the union, spioaertriac, zommed in shot of bread, confession, spioaertriac order of Stuffed gulf jumbo shrimp on white place with side of garlic parsley rice, confession, spioaertriac

I ordered the Baked stuffed jumbo gulf shrimp and a side of garlic parsley rice. Oh. My. God. First off, do not order this meal without the rice. Completely compliments the entire meal and fills you up more than just the shrimp itself. The crab butter cream sauce is rich and heavenly in your mouth. The crawfish on top mixed with crab? “Yes…a thousands times yes.”  I’m sure New Orleans does their meals to perfection, but I’m equally certain they would enjoy this beautiful substitute.

Oh and bacon wrapped scallops? A must.

All in all? A very satisfying cheat meal that didn’t completely destroy my caloric intake for the day–though I’ve already decreed I do not want to monitor or think of calories while traveling. Takes all the fun out of trying new things. “Two thumbs way, way up” (a reference from Disney’s Hercules) for RTs and their stuffed shrimp.

And two thumbs up for my first day in DC. Trust I have more than just creole cuisine and family fun on the itinerary. Even as I type this, I’m exhausted from the day I had, still editing photos, and outlining posts, but I’m smiling. Stay tuned!

Final Note: The initial title of this post comes from the hit ABC show, Scandal, Season 4, Episode 2.

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