We spent a few days last week in one of our favorite places, Washington, D.C., doing your basic touristy things -- biking the Mount Vernon bike trail, visiting the top of the Washington Memorial, dinner-cruising the Potomac.
It was all a nice time, but as we traveled around the D.C. area, by car and Metro, we rather decided that at our age maybe we had become too McClellanville, too South Carolina.
We like things slower and easier and less hectic -- so unlike D.C. or, for that matter, any other big city. Once committed urbanites, we were clearly becoming, well, country.
On our final night we were driving down busy Duke Street from our hotel in Alexandria to a restaurant on the Potomac, Indigo Landing. It was around 5:30 and Duke Street was heavily into rush hour traffic.
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As we neared the waterfront, we heard several drivers honking their horns. I think I said something like, “Washington drivers sure like to use their horns.”
When we stopped at a red light, I realized they were honking at us.
Suddenly, a guy in a white shirt and tie came banging on the passenger side window.
“Your bikes are almost on the ground,” he said.
I jumped out of the car and sure enough a pin had come out of our carrier and the bikes were just inches from the pavement.
While a long line of cars waited behind us, he helped remove the bikes from the carrier.
“Don't worry about them,” he said of the cars behind us. “They'll wait. This is Washington.”
As we removed the bikes, he noticed our S.C. license plate.
“You're from South Carolina?” he asked. “I love South Carolina. We used to live in Sumter.”
I barely heard him as I anxiously struggled to get the bikes off and get out of everyone's way.
We were directly in front of his home and he told us to drive around the corner and take the alleyway to the back of the house. He'd meet us there.
He found a bolt to replace the pin as he introduced himself, Jay Aanrud, his his wife, Janet, and their two dogs. Turns out he had recently retired from the Air Force and had served two tours at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. When he retired, he got a job at the Pentagon, where he now worked.
We talked for about a half-hour and I realized that maybe the D.C. area was a lot like McClellanville. Over the years we have gotten a lot of help from our neighbors, some of whom we didn't know. Here it was happening in the nation's capital.
Before we left, Jay noted that we were lucky this didn't happen the night before -- and again I realized this definitely was not McClellanville.
“Hillary had a fundraiser across the street,” he said. “The neighbors were invited, but we weren't ready to give $2,600. So we just watched from the porch.”
No, not quite McClellanville. All we watch from the porch are the squirrels dashing from live oak to live oak. Country, you know.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.