Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

Day 7 – Mister Smith goes to Washington
08/03/2009, 12:47
Filed under: twitchhiker project | Tags: , ,


Hello there. Before I crack on I’d like to clarify yesterday’s post, because judging by the comments and emails I’ve received, perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.

Yesterday’s post was not about my dead cat.

I was upset that Elly had died, of course I was. Despite the fact she ruined a perfectly good leather sofa with her guerrilla claw-sharpening tactics, I loved her to bits. But if you own a pet, you accept they’re going to die before you do; if it’s a cat, you hope they reach their fourteenth birthday, and aren’t found dead in the road after two.

Yesterday’s post was not about my dead cat.

It was about running on empty and not been able to console somebody I love, about feeling I’d abandoned them when they needed me most. I was 3,000 miles away from Jane, she was breaking her heart down the phone to me, and all I could do was listen to it.

Besides, anybody who knows me reasonably well knows I’m soft as shit, and I’ll cry if there’s a particularly moving scene in Lost.

Alright, maybe a little of it was about the cat, but mostly it wasn’t.


Friday morning saw me wake up in a substantially more positive mood than the one I’d taken to bed with me. I managed six hours of sleep before my alarm licked its finger and wriggled it in my ear, which helped shun away the demons of the night before.

Mark had a suitably British gift to exchange with me – a box of Rington’s teabags – which I exchanged for Andrea’s gift from Germany. Originally, it was to be a box concerning a cake mix made by Andrea’s family business and a cake tin shaped like a man, right down to his stubby metallic genitalia. Andrea was concerned about carrying the cake mix through Customs, so instead her gift was a bottle of shower gel.

Gifts exchanged, we headed off to the bus stop at 33rd and 7th, across from the mammoth Madison Square Garden. The day was fresh and warm, Spring had blown into New York, and Washington was promising temperatures of 22C. Happy days. All this, and I was wearing clean underwear. The journey was back on track.

I was travelling to Washington courtesy of @katyhaltertop on a Bolt Bus, and not since Centraal Station in Amsterdam was I so excited by the prospect of my transportation; a Bolt Bus meant free wifi. It wouldn’t be four hours of dead time, I could work my way across the USA. Wifi. On a bus. It was voodoo. But good voodoo, not the bad stuff that re-animates the dead.

The person who’d brought me to Washington was also my host for the afternoon, and that was Katy, a bubbly 20-something year-old Texan, now working at an advertising agency in Pennsylvania. She’d asked how I’d like to spend the afternoon, and as it was my first visit there, I wanted to ooo and ahh at all the pretty buildings I’d seen on my television. It was the first time in a week of travelling I was going to play at been tourist.

We grabbed lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian – my choice of buffalo chilli sat awkwardly in my gut as walked back and forth up the National Mall, from Capitol Hill to the Washington Monument. We swung by a rather modest mansion-sized residence that would be entirely unworthy of mention if it hadn’t happened to be the White House. It’s tiny. My Great Aunty Anne had a farmhouse in Kirkby Lonsdale that was bigger.

That evening saw the first real tweet-up of my trip so far; dinner in Paris was sprinkled with Twitter users, but this was the first time a gang of tweeps had got together through Twitter. We met up with Allison (@ateedub) who originally offered to put me up on her sofa in DC for the evening, but some people are wary about those they let into their home ( “He’s a stranger I met on the internet, honey”) and Allison’s boyfriend was one of them. The consequences for me were far from unfortunate – Allison booked me into the 4 star Henley Park hotel for the evening.

We were joined at a packed Cuban restaurant called the Banana Cafe by Kate (@wonderchook) and Lauree (@wordtravelsfast), who would be driving me to Frederick in the following morning. We celebrated our tweet-up with a round of margharitas and a double gift exchange; Katy received the tea bags and handed over a scented blue candle, which I exchanged with Allison for a hand-knitted scarf. I was quite taken by it, and promptly purloined it for the remainder of the evening. Allison, who had seemed timid and shy when we first met, revealed herself to be a well-travelled, gorgeously goofy nerd. Lauree enthused about her work in community media and Kate the former roller derby player was quite possibly the hardest woman I’d ever met.

I had a long drive to Pittsburgh the following day, so it we said our goodbyes at 11pm. I’d been out of contact with Twitter for eight hours and still had no place to stay in the city on Sunday evening. I checked into Twitter at the hotel and there was a glimmer of hope; while on the Bolt Bus, I’d asked one person if I could take up their offer but couldn’t see a reply. Instead another had appeared to offer me a bed for the night and a lift to the airport on Monday. Hopefully by the morning I wouldn’t be facing the prospect of a night’s sleep in an airport terminal.


8 Comments so far
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You heartless bastard – how could you get over the death of a pussy cat so quickly?!

Good luck on your continuing travels ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by @gerald_d

๐Ÿ˜ฎ 8 hours without Twitter?

Comment by Richard

I can’t imagine how hard it must for you being away from your family, what a shame about your kitten. How the hell did you manage to not imlpode listening to your wife. My heart goes out to you mate. Good Luck with the trip, raise some good and well needed dosh!!

Comment by A Reynolds

Glad the weather is cooperating for you in DC. Wish I could have been at the tweetup, but I was watching my son and his team wrestle at States at the University of Maryland.

Pittsburgh is a friendly town — but I don’t know any twitterers there.

Sorry about your loss (and not being able to comfort your wife)

Comment by Cedar Waxwing

Yay! It’s obvious you’re feeling perkier. I’m glad to know that.

I don’t know if I could go a month without seeing my hubby, so I’m sure that some of yesterday was a part of your missing Jane.

I’m not sure how I would have handled a 2 a.m. call from a distraught hubby or how it would have affected me the next day. I think you did better than I would have.

Comment by Lee

[…] Via Germany he doubled back to Amsterdam Schiphol and Flew into New York City. From there he traveled to Washington DC […]

Pingback by Travel by Twitter (update): #Twitchhiker Day 8 | Happy Hotelier

The best view of the day – good pic choice!

Thanks again for the Margs, looking forward to seeing the rest of the pics (and the video!). BTW- could you email me some of the ones that I’m in? (and possibly the video?) I’d like to write a blog about Saturday as well…

Best wishes in Chicago and onward. Hoping you’ll make it to either TX or Denver so you’ll get to see two of my favorite places (oh and Sydney too!). In the meantime, safe travels and don’t work too hard ๐Ÿ™‚


Comment by @KatyHaltertop

I love your project, keep it up!

Comment by Erik

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