This morning we headed over to the White House to drop off the signed petition to President Bush asking him to respect the U.S. Constitution and reconsider writing discrimination into the document. I was dismayed to discover that you can’t even get onto Pennsylvania Avenue any more. The street is closed off, as are the blocks around the White House and the grounds of the Capitol. A sign on the fence around the Capitol says “Closed for construction in preparation for the 2005 Presidential Inauguration.” That seems lame to me… Congress especially is supposed to be a place of the people, not a fenced enclave with signs reading “Pass holders only.”
Well, surprise, no one at the White House would accept our petition for the President, even with California Assemblyman Mark Leno working the cell phones. So we rolled it out in a park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, chanted way too much, and then rolled it up again. Before leaving, we each took turns reading lines from the petition our loud. It’s a pretty good petition and might make a difference if our President wasn’t such a satanic retard. I think that someone is going to mail it to the White House. But right then I was tired and wanting to get away from the group.
It’s not that I dislike the other riders, though a couple of them annoyed me often. They were professional activists, and way too strident and self-important for my tastes. Curiously, Molly, who is a professional activist, doesn’t have this effect on me. I think she has a disarming humility that wins people over. It works for me.
There are other members of the group whose company I genuinely enjoy. There is Leslie, who is a irreverent and sassy, but who still raises a fist when reading a petition. There are Joe and Frank, who cute stoners who hide behind curtains when they think that the E.C. might be doing room checks. And there are many others from the ride who are really good people. But we were all on edge from a week of too much in too little time, and I needed space.
So Dan and I headed over to the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. It’s a spectacular building of curving irregular sandstone blocks. Around the museum are plantings (including a mini corn field!) and a flowing river and waterfall. When you enter, the first thing you notice is that you’re in a kiva, a ceremonial meeting place. The circular ceiling soars 4 stores above you, and carefully-placed prisms cast rainbows onto the walls.
The exhibits we saw were also unique. We didn’t have much time, but we saw a bunch of small exhibits, each one curated by members of one tribe. There was an exhibit from the Igloovik of northern, northern Canada. There was a Auto-Neige (snow car) used by the Saint-Laurent to go ice fishing. There was an exhibit on Mohawk ironworkers. And one tribe seemed really obsessed with their new casino.
Unfortunately we only had 45 minutes in the museum. If you go, I suggest leaving yourself 2 hours minimum, and more if you have the time.
Then I drove Dan, Allison, and Heidi off to Dulles. Dan and I got into a fight on the way about back-seat driving, and we both went into a funk, leaving Allison and Heidi (who told me that they never fight) looking uncomfortable in the back seat.
After dropping off the crew and making up with Dan, I headed south along I-81. Along the way I found a shop to weld two brackets on my muffler that sheered off somewhere along the way. I suspect that there were originally damaged by the severe vibrations of my drive-shaft in northern Brasil. Fifteen minutes and $15 later, they’re patch-welded. I suspect that the welds won’t hold, and when I get back I’ll try to get the problem solved more permanently.
From I-81 South, I turned west onto US 33, which took me into the Appalachians and Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. It’s now 9 p.m., and I’m in Seneca Rocks State Campground. I’ve driven 3330 miles since leaving Sausalito on this journey.
Despite the long way I have to go, it feels good to be back in my camper, with linen sheets, down pillows, and a big fluffy down comforter. Filling in for the part of Dan is a king-sized pillow. The sky overhead is brilliant with stars. I wish Dan were with me, but otherwise things are pretty damn good.