This weekend, I found myself driving down through the backroads of Maryland, passing the fields of yellowing corn and basking pumpkins, toward the capital of our country. The wind became a bit rough the closer I came to the National Harbor, but not even its harsh sting could pull away the excitement I felt blooming. You see, even though every week I currently find myself at the Universities of Shady Grove, perusing the nearby Starbucks and writing propped up on one of the local benches, I had not been inside the nearby district of Washington DC for years… even decades.
On Sunday, October 17th, I pulled myself out of the car, my bones heavy from the hour and a half drive, and looked out across the National Harbor, toward Virginia. The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge chased the skyline, and small swells of bay water skipped through the marina, racing for the slowly turning Ferris Wheel. Small billows of cloud accented the sparkling white bridge, as they seemed to bound and hunt one another in the cool autumn wind. It all gleamed in bright blues and cool whites, and reminded me of so many places I had seen so very far from home.
The last time I found myself in the United States Capital was probably in middle school. Seldom during those trips did I find myself outside of the famous museums of DC, and while a beautiful area on its own, staring out at the harbor brought me a sense of adventure unique to any previous experiences in DC I had yet known. This view was new to me, and I quickly realized just how little of DC I knew.
I remembered that I was not at the National Harbor just for the view, and began to make my way to the day’s first adventure; The Taco, Beer, & Tequila Festival held on the large field and parking strip next to the Gaylord National Resort. A long walk down by the rocky beach line brought us up to the large field where food trucks and vendor tents created rows on the asphalt that bubbled with the smell of cooking beef, smoking brisket, and fresh churros. People waved as we entered, beckoning us toward their stands for tequila samplings or free margaritas. A band worked to set up on stage, while festival goers buzzed around laughing and eating and tasting. With four taco tickets in hand, I worked my way through the booths, trying the famous food truck fares DC had to offer. Of the various stands and stalls there, by favorite was the Virginia-based mocktail company, Bar Therapy. The local company makes cocktail mixes with fresh, locally sourced produce, that tastes just as amazing with alcohol as without. I couldn’t help picking up their “Queen Bee” lavender Apple Cider mix (the fall-obsessed white girl inside me insisted), which I found to be the most refreshing and smooth apple cider I had ever had.
A few hours later, we made our way back down the pathway by the rocky harbor beaches, back toward our car. The few hours I spent in DC had reminded me of just how much world I was missing out on, so close to home. Had my mom not purchased tickets to the festival months before, I may never have seen the harbor in my lifetime, even though it was only an hour and a half away. Had I not said yes to going, I would have never been reminded of the beauty of the local areas I had been taking for granted. It is so easy, I realized, to get stuck inside your schedule of life, following the same patterns you always follow without deviation. But doing nothing but the same, never taking the time to leave home and take the risk, leaves you with nothing to remember or to look back on. An hour and a half is a lot of time, until you get to your destination and realize that hour won’t be what you remember; this place, these experiences, the time you have out in the world will be what you bring back home. What is the point of life but to live it, I think. To see all the things you thought you never would.
The sun had already begun its descent down the sky as I peered out the window of our car. I wasn’t done exploring just yet, and with a quick look, I could tell my group wasn’t ready to go home either. With a smile and only a few words, instead of turning for the highway, we made our way deeper into DC, ready to see more of this world we seldom get to see.
My mom piped up from the front, “have you ever seen Georgetown?” And our next destination was set.