Murphy, Hudson, and Luke have been walking for about 18 months now to raise awareness of canine (and all companion animal) cancer and the need for more research on it. They're doing this in memory/honor of Luke's Great Pyrenees Malcolm, who developed bone cancer and passed away in 2004. Their blog and website can do a much better job explaining about their mission, so I'll leave it at that.
They were in DC this week to talk with Hill People and sent out a call for walkers to walk with them from the Pentagon to the Mall by the Smithsonians and the Capitol. The event was called The Canine Caucus.
I couldn't think of a better reason to spend a day not working and support the boys in their mission. I was also walking for a reason: my family lost our beloved cat Reggie several weeks ago to cancer. I wanted to walk for him, because there's no reason he-- and my mom-- should've had to go through what they did.
I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but trying to drive in DC is a fool's errand. First, saying that the roads were designed by monkeys is an insult to a monkey's city planning skills. The roads just aren't set up to accommodate 5 million people-- a couple of the main, extremely heavily-traveled interstates are two lanes. Fail.
Second, in a city that's a major tourist hub, the signage is the worst. Wait, let me correct that-- WHEN there's signage, it's the worst. In many cases, it isn't even there. And when it is, the signs are so packed with monuments and other roads, the type is small and you can't read it. They also do the thing where they either have only one mention right at the turn-off (and you, without fail, are two lanes over), or they'll have an arrow to turn off when there's two or three turn-offs on that side.
Other fun things: signs will say to get off to reach a destination, when in fact you don't want to get off there to get to the destination, or they'll put the "get only in this lane" arrow in between two lanes-- or pointing in a direction where there's no lane at all.
Knowing this, I knew I needed to allow extra time to get over there. The event was scheduled to start in Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove, which I didn't even know existed (further confounded by the fact that it renamed as Lady Bird Johnson Park). So I spent a few days looking up different sets of directions (I found several-- all saying to get off at different exits), and allowed half an hour of time to go the four miles. I found some directions on the National Park Service website that were to a Marina (surprise! There's a marina at the Pentagon) that joined up with the park. I feel the need to print these so you can get a glimpse:
- Take right Exit 10 A (Boundary Channel Drive) just past Pentagon/Crystal City (before 14th Street Bridge to DC)
- Merge Right towards the North Parking of the Pentagon
- Continue on in the Left lane around the Pentagon. The Pentagon Lagoon and marina will be to the right.
- Come to a stop sign. There will be a sign that says George Washington Memorial Parkway with an arrow to the right.
- Turn Right and enter Route 27 North (there will not be a sign for 27 North) for a short time (stay in right lane)
- Take first exit Right to GWMP South. There is a sign for Lady Bird Johnson Park to the right on the exit ramp.
- Merge right onto GWMP South.
- Just past yield/merge sign, turn Right into Marina (before the Humpback Bridge)
I tried following these, missed all of the exits (I swear none of them existed), but ended up in the Pentagon's North parking. And fortunately as I drove by, Luke and Murphy were walking across this tiny little parking lot, which had an even tinier sign saying that it was "Park Parking".
I got on some magic road to turn around and ended up in the Rosslyn neighborhood, then found another road (which I think was GW Parkway South) and followed the signs to LBJ Grove and the Marina. And ended up again in the Pentagon parking lot. Luke and Murphy were still there, so I figured these twenty or so spots were the parking. Unfortunately, they had a two-hour parking limit. I knew they'd been in touch with the National Park Service, so I figured that we maybe we wouldn't get ticketed or towed.
So Alice and I parked, then talked to Luke and Murphy for a bit. What a nice guy and wonderful dog. You may imagine that a long-haired guy who packs up everything he owns to walk across the country with his dogs, camping out wherever he can pitch a tent or couching it with strangers may be a little nutty. But in actuality, he seemed completely sane (and the hair is because he's going to donate it to Locks of Love). I knew just how sane when he mentioned he found DC a confusing city to navigate.
There was a little bridge that you cross to get to the park where the meet-up was, so Alice and I crossed it... and found a HUGE parking lot, with no two-hour limit signs. So we decided to cross back over the bridge and move the car-- because, really: how hard can it be to get to the other side of a marina?
Answer: in DC, absolutely impossible. I followed signs to what I thought was GW parkway and ended up at Reagan National Airport. The signage at Reagan is even worse (arrows to middle of lanes, two ways to get to different streets, etcetera, sometimes no signs at all. Although not entirely unexpected for an airport that goes by 17 different names). To get an idea of the range and roadways, here's a map of our area:
Half an hour later, I ended up in the same parking lot, with 14 minutes to spare before the start of the walk. A few other walkers had parked in the lot, so I decided that I could either turn around early (which I'd planned on, anyway), or just trust that even the Pentagon/NPS couldn't tow that many cars in such a short period of time, or that they'd feel so badly doing it after hearing why we were there, that they'd drive us in Hummers and tanks to go pick up our cars at the tow lot.
The turnout for the walk was pretty good-- I'd say probably 50-60 people and 40-50 dogs. The people walking without dogs really touched me-- these were families and their friends who'd lost their dogs to cancer. There were signs, pictures, and T-shirts. It was one of those moments when you saw sad people incredibly happy because they got to stand up and do something against an opponent they had absolutely no power to control. I really loved it.
The walk went from the Pentagon, along a highway (I seriously have no idea which one), across the Memorial Bridge, and to the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool. We stopped at the Pool for about ten minutes to regroup and have a moment of silence. And let me tell you, a big pack of dogs at a tourist spot attracts a TON of attention.
By the way, Alice made a friend on the walk. His name is Bob the pit bull. Bob adored Alice, and Alice thought Bob was pretty darn swell, too. Insert whatever Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice jokes you'd like here.
I had a pretty funny interaction with Bob's owner. Since he was wearing all the pink, I asked what her name was. "It's Bob," his owner said. Having found that not all pit bull owners like saying they have one in situations like this, I asked what kind he was. She did say that he was a pit. I told her that I loved pit bulls, his owner said "Thank you!" I love it. (By the way, I think Bob may have a blog.)
Alice and I walked to about the end of the Reflecting Pool, and then turned around-- we were coming up on the two-hour time limit, and I had an appointment in the afternoon. I didn't really want to have to figure out how to get Alice and myself to the towed car, then scurry over to my appointment. In truth, I think it was for the best. When Alice and I got back to the car (a 3.6 mile round trip), she immediately fell asleep. I think the 2.5 miles out to the Mall and then back would've been too much for her little legs.
Oh-- one of the local news crews was along for the walk, too.
It was pretty funny watching the anchor and camera guy running around trying to get the best shot (and the anchorman was in a suit). That cameraman pulled off positions and shots that you'd think only contortionists could get. Alice was extremely curious about him, too. In one spot he laid down on the ground to get a walking shot, and Alice immediately walked over in front of the camera and stared into it. I think it's safe to say, she may not have a film career in her future.
Alice sightings appear at 1:05-1:07 (along the far front corner of the bridge), and at (I have the brown and white purse-- look down):
As an aside, we talked to Lexie's owners for a bit-- the nicest lady. She told me all about Lexie and how she was rescued from a puppy mill. What a sweet little dog and kind owners.
While I wish we went the whole way, I really feel good that we even walked part of it. Our walk obviously didn't find the answer to curing cancer, but I do feel that symbolically and emotionally, it made a difference. We were a visible sign to those who do have the power to fund research, and it's always nice to find someone else who supports what you're doing.
Oh, and by the way: as I was trying to get to the highway to get back home, I turned down a random road at the Pentagon and no more than two minutes later passed the entrance to the Marina parking lot.