The long road to the 57th Presidential Inauguration started at 5 a.m. today. I drove to the Portland Transportation Center, hopped on a bus to Boston, and then waited 90 minutes for the train that would take me to Washington D.C. The bus was surprisingly full at that hour, most passengers heading to Logan Airport for a flight, I presumed from their luggage. In the predawn dark, cell phone screens lit up the faces of those who weren't plugged into the movie (Princess Bride!) playing on the monitors every few rows of seats.
By the time I get to Washington D.C. tomorrow morning, My sister and I will have travelled 540 miles (according to Amtrak.) The Amtrak trip will take about seven hours. We'll be spending the night with a friend near Aberdeen, which is an hour north of Washington. Sunday morning We'll head into the city on another train, pick up our tickets at Maine U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's office (thanks state rep. Andrew McLean!) and then find our hotel room near Union Station, chosen to put us within walking distance of the Capitol Monday morning.
I packed lightly for the trip: layers of long underwear, turtleneck, sweater, fleece and parka, since it's forecast to be in the 30s on Inauguration Day. But I am still weighted down by the communication devices that I hope will help me transmit this experience back to my classroom. I've got a school-borrowed iPad (thanks Mr. Lucchese), my laptop, my iPhone, and newly created accounts on Skype and Dropbox. I'll be leaving my laptop at a friend's house (where I'm staying tonight) until after the inauguration, since I was concerned that my computer bag wouldn't make it through security. It's hard to tell from the Homeland Security website what size bags are allowed. It's seems strange that camera bags aren't allowed, but cameras are. Our Eagle Times camera is pretty light, so I'll be OK with it hanging around my neck all day!
The first glitch in my plans concerns the iPad. I figured it would enable me to connect to this site and blog during the day, but when I tried to connect using the bus' WiFi, I discovered that Adobe Flash isn't loaded onto the iPad. I'm hoping I can get a strong enough signal once I'm at my friend's house to download it later tonight. Otherwise, I'll be transmitting with my iPhone -- possible but not ideal.
Transmitting the experience live to my students is the real purpose of this trip. Four years ago, I took a group of students to the (even more historic) 56th Inauguration, when Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term. This time around, perhaps because of the economy, I couldn't entice any of my current students into the making the trek. But after I was able to secure tickets to the swearing-in, I decided to make a virtual field trip out of it. I'm sure there will be more glitches to overcome, but those too will provide a window into the world of 21st Century journalism for my students and anyone else who reads this blog.