Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Obama or Bust… hitting the road for DC

Posted on Monday, January 19, 2009 by 1 comment

UPDATE: Click here for some TV news coverage of our journey.

Joel Banner Baird wrote a piece in today’s Burlington Free Press about a little community adventure my wife is organizing.  Should be wonderful!  Good, bad or otherwise, you can follow along as the Free Press will be reporting live along the road.

Vermonters take bus ride to history
By Joel Banner Baird
Burlington Free Press
January 19, 2009

Her preparations include flag-topped cupcakes and sensible shoes; pillows and a back-log of reading.

She anticipates sleep deprivation and full-tilt improvisation.

Valerie Wood-Lewis’s inauguration itinerary for the next 48 hours falls somewhere between a no-frills rough guide and a magical mystery tour.

This evening, she and 56 other bus passengers will board the red (and white, and blue)-eye to Washington, D.C. They plan to take in the presidential-elect phenomena, then re-board the bus Tuesday evening and head for home.

Anything more is anybody’s guess. Amid ever-shifting security regulations and crowd estimates, the logistics of pilgrimage continue to evolve. Fervor is the constant.

“People are just pumped up,” Wood-Lewis said last week. “Everyone’s pretty much going to go their own ways, then regroup for the trip back.”

Valerie Wood-Lewis of Burlington chartered a bus with her friends and neighbors to travel to Washington, D.C., on Monday evening for Barack Obama’s inauguration.

She organized the trip on a whim. It began at her mother’s home, while watching inaugural preparations on television.

“It was an epiphany-type thing,” she said. “It became real to me for the first time that people were travelling from all over the country for this thing. I thought — how exciting, just to be in that crowd — and I wondered if I could pull it off.

“My mother said, ‘You wouldn’t catch me dead there,'” Wood-Lewis continued. “I said ‘Aha! I’ve got to be there. I’m going.'”

After investigating several bus services, she settled on Bristol Tours — a company she said has considerable experience with quick trips to Washington, and is “wonderful, unflappable,” she said.

She envisioned a neighborhood field trip. She posted a note on the Front Porch Forum e-mail network, and the reservations swarmed in. She turned aside requests to charter a second bus. The list of standby passengers grew longer.

When Wood-Lewis got word that strollers would be forbidden along parts of the parade route, families with young children bowed out. Their seats filled within minutes.

Wood-Lewis and her husband, Michael, decided to wing it. She wrote out a three-page list of instructions for relatives who will watch over their four kids.

“We’re looking forward to a ton of walking,” she said. “We lived in D.C., in the years after college and before children. We didn’t own a car and we’re familiar with the Metro and bus lines. We’re feeling almost like it’s a little honeymoon.”

She packed and re-packed. Then word arrived that backpacks, too, would be restricted in the Capitol area. She put out another appeal on Front Porch Forum, this time for a fanny pack.

“Some of them were big enough for a camping trip. Others just had room for a Chapstick and a $5 bill.”

She settled for one that could manage a water bottle, power bars and a small digitial camera.

Aboard the bus, she plans to dig into a stack of neglected “New Yorker” magazines and read a couple of books. She brought re-runs of “The West Wing” to share with her fellow passengers.

“And hopefully, people will sleep,” she said.

When the bus arrives at RFK Stadium (sometime between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Tuesday), she and her husband will hoof it to a friend’s office with windows overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue — with the understanding they might be turned away at security roadblocks.

Or they’ll take a shuttle to the parade route.

They will have to choose between glimpses of the parade or staking out a few square feet on the Mall, where the swearing-in will be screened on a series of giant television monitors stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

“It won’t feel as daunting for us as it will seem to for someone coming all the way from New Mexico, for example,” she said.

At the end of the day — whenever that is — Wood-Lewis and the other 56 passengers will return to RFK and the bus that will ferry them back north.

Has launching the Obama-mobile inspired her to organize more calls to community-action?”This is mostly a personal undertaking,” she said. “It’s been a ton of work. But it’s upping my excitement levels.”

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 or

Additional Facts:
Live Blog:  Follow the bus ride and the complete Inauguration coverage by The Burlington Free Press right here at the Free Press Web site ( Join the moderated conversation when it opens at 6 tonight. We welcome your comments and feedback. Reporters Lynn Monty and Mark Gould will report live from the bus ride to D.C. as well from all the festivities in our nation’s capital.

Posted in: Community Building, Democracy, Front Porch Forum, Good Government, Knight Foundation, Local Online, MacArthur Fellows, Media, Neighborhood, Newspapers, Politics, social capital, Social Networking, Vermont

One comment

  1. […] And some newspaper coverage of our journey is here. […]

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