Last weekend, my family and I decided to spontaneously take a trip to Washington D.C. for the weekend and Twitter played a big part in making it happen. Here's how this memorable whirlwind experience all came to be.
A month or so back, I jokingly mentioned to one of my Twitter friends, Niki Murray, who works in season ticket sales for the Washington Nationals, that she should hook me up with some tickets for a game at Nationals Park when the Cincinnati Reds made the trip to our nation's capital the first weekend in June. She had responded at the time and encouraged me to make plans to do just that.
Well, early last week, I decided to see if that ticket offer was still good. I figured that if I got free or inexpensive tickets to a pair of games that it would be worth my time to make the trip, knock off one of the three remaining cities where Carla and I haven't seen a baseball game over the past 14 years, and give my girls their first opportunity to see all the monuments and other sights in D.C.
Niki assured me that she would have tickets waiting for me at will call when we arrived for the game on Saturday night. Then, I cashed in most of my Marriott Reward points by booking a free two-night stay in a very nice Courtyard by Marriott that was located in Navy Yard, about two blocks away from the baseball stadium.
So, we packed up the car and made what turned out to be about a seven-hour drive to D.C. as soon as our oldest daughter, Ashley, got out of school on Friday. A line of storms followed us to the north most of the trip, but we had pretty smooth sailing with just one stop. We rolled into D.C. around midnight. I had joked with my wife, Carla, that we should just go see all the monuments that night since the weather was questionable for Saturday. Well, after missing one of our turns, we ended up seeing all the monuments as we got stuck in the loop much like in National Lampoon's European Vacation before we were finally able to get our bearings and find the hotel. We quickly got checked in and situated and went to sleep so that we could be ready for the next day.
Saturday morning rolled around and everyone got up eager with anticipation to do some exploring in downtown D.C. before going to the baseball game that night. Our hotel was conveniently located about half a block from a Metro station and we quickly purchased an all-day pass for unlimited access to the great D.C. subway. (Quick note: The D.C. Metro is awesome and definitely the way to get around town!) Two stops later, we popped up right in the middle of downtown and we were ready to start walking. We were on Pennsylvania Avenue, so we decided that our first stop might as well be the White House so away we went.
After walking between the White House and the Washington Monument, we headed back to the subway with a quick stop for lunch at one of our new favorite places, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, along the way. It was a welcome break to sit down in the air conditioning for a short break on the hot day.
With our bellies full, we headed off to find the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln is Ashley's favorite president and she was looking forward to this stop. We spent quite awhile there and then walked around the reflection pond to the Washington Monument where we also saw the Jefferson Memorial from a distance. From there, we walked past the Smithsonian and then boarded the Metro for the ride back to the hotel. A nice swim in the hotel pool later and we were all refreshed and ready to head to Nationals Park for some baseball.
Heading into the weekend, Washington D.C. was one of only three cities (along with Boston and Miami) that Carla and I had not seen a Major League Baseball game in, so we were really excited to see the ballpark. Add in the fact that the Reds were in town and we couldn't wait for the first pitch to be thrown. My friend, Niki, took great care of us with field level seats just up from first base and we got set to watch a good pitchers' duel between Reds' Rookie of the Year front runner Mike Leake (5-0) and Luis Atilano (5-2) with Leake coming out on top and collecting two hits as well as the Reds won 5-1. We also saw a home plate collision, two ejections, and I caught a ball in batting practice for Ashley. All in all, a very good day.
On Sunday, we woke up and took advantage of the very good extensive all-you-can eat breakfast bar at the Courtyard by Marriott that was a great deal for the price. After packing up the car, we headed to the ballpark again. The girls each got a batting helmet which they then got signed by Jamie Burke, one of the Nationals' players. There was no batting practice due to an on-the-field event, but I was still able to talk to Drew Storen, a first round pick of the Nationals in 2009, for a few minutes for the second straight day and later he would throw me a ball up from the bullpen. Two games, two balls...not too shabby. Drew's a good guy just starting his career and you can follow him on Twitter at @DrewStoren. I would also like to say a big thanks to my friend, Elizabeth McGraw, for helping to get us together.
The Reds rallied to win the game on Sunday 5-4 in 10 innings thanks in part to a pinch-hit, two-run homer by Scott Rolen in the 9th inning that landed a section away from me as we watched the ninth inning from leftfield so we could get on the road as soon as the game ended. So, with two wins and lots of memories from the whirlwind trip, we headed for home.
On the way home, we made a slight detour to see one of my high school friends, April Boulton Amberman, and her family in Olney, Md. We had a great visit with her family and then journeyed the rest of the way home. We were able to make it all the way on one stop as the girls were great. The only real problem on the way home came when we were just 27 miles from home and had to wait for 40 minutes on a train to go back and forth and back and forth and.....well, you get the picture. We finally got back to Mount Vernon at 2:00 a.m.
D.C. is a great place to visit and Nationals Park was a fun place to watch a game. There is really not a bad seat in the place, and with friendly people like Niki making the visit fun it's a must-see for every baseball fan. I can't wait to see what adventure we decide to embark on next time. If you've got a suggestion, let me know and you might be part of the next adventure, too.