Thursday, January 30, 2014

RAK Day 17: Heading up the East Coast

After a few weeks soaking up as many gorgeous rays of sun as possible, we were reluctant to head into temperatures that are closer to our ages...and below. We also knew that we had to head back eventually and we still had some RAKing to do, so we packed on some layers, got out our parkas (well, my parka...Dan is better at winter than I am) and prepared for the chill.

We arrived in Washington DC around 8pm and miraculously found parking very close to the apartment where our host for the evening, Jerry-- Dan's brother Pat's best friend lives. We headed into the lobby to wait for Jerry to get back from class and had a funny chat with his extremely friendly concierge, George, who also provided us with some helpful maps and sight-seeing ideas. Jerry and his good friend Alex arrived at the same time, so we all went to Jerry's apartment, ate a gourmet meal of Costco frozen pizza and played some pool. We'd had a long drive, so it was nice to kind of lay low and head to bed early. Plus, we were waking up extra early for a VIP tour of the Capitol, which is next door to the Senate offices where Jerry and Alex work.

We headed over to the Capitol around 8:00AM, grabbed some visitor badges and got started on our Jerry-led tour. The best part of receiving a tour from an employee is that you get to visit all of the restricted "staff only" areas; IE: getting a behind the scenes look at the Library of Congress and exiting through the same trap door that Nicolas Cage does in the movie National Treasure 2.

We also were fortunate enough to ride an underground subway dealio inside the Capitol building. They definitely do not offer that privilege on the public tours. After our amazing Jerry-tour, we parted ways with our host and made our way through the snow and bitter wind to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, which was awesome. We spent a solid three hours learning about the history of...well...Air and Space and even enjoyed a fighter jet simulator ride, which literally turned us upside down and caught us completely off guard.
Hi there Library of Congress, you're lookin' extra ornate.
We then trekked over the National Mall and paid visits to the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House, and Vietnam Memorial. After those visits, our feet and faces were a bit frozen, so we headed back to Jerry's apartment to warm up a bit before we met up with some of my friends from college for dinner at Matchbox. I hadn't seen that lovely group of girls for around two years, so it was really great to catch up.
Myself, Danielle, Manisha, Sam, and Jordan -- some of Gainesville's finest, if you ask me.
The next morning, we packed up and prepared for our next RAK, which was going to take place at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center...except we didn't plan for the limited access, which led to our RAKing not taking place as planned.

You see, we reached out to our friends at theCHIVE and asked if they would be willing to sell us a few Military KCCO shirts to pass out to some of our military friends/strangers. Instead of allowing me to purchase some shirts, they said they were sending some free of charge....and that "some" meant two dozen shirts, which is equivalent to around $600.00 of merchandise. We used half of the shirts on our RAK in St. Augustine (which I realize I still have to tell you about, but I'm waiting for some photographs. I'll tell you all about it, I promise) and planned to distribute the other half of the shirts at the hospital to soldiers who need a little pick me up. You see, theCHIVE is extremely popular among the military because it's an excellent time filler photo-blog website, so receiving a free KCCO (aka Keep Calm and Chive On) shirt would be a great gift.
Examples of what the military KCCOs look like via theCHIVE

Sadly, we were unable to enter the grounds because we did not have a point of contact. We spent around an hour trying to call different liaisons at the hospital, but were unable to reach anyone that could either meet us at the gate to let us in or come and get the shirts from us. We left a little defeated, but then Dan remembered that his friend had some contacts at that hospital. He gave him a call and hopefully we will be able to find a point of contact to whom we can simply mail the shirts. Alternative plans for the win!

Despite our setback, we put on a happy face and drove on towards New York, where we were staying with Dan's hometown friend, Taylor. We met Taylor and his girlfriend Liza at a bar/farm to table eatery called Black Tree where Taylor is part owner. We had one of the best meals of our entire trip, which was made up of delicious fare such as a squash and bacon sandwich, a burger that came from a cow that was delivered that day (their menu changes daily based on what fresh meats they have delivered each day) and craft beers. All foods and drinks at Black Tree are sourced locally -- seriously, they don't even serve any alcohol that comes from more than 100 miles away.

The next morning we headed to another local spot for brunch, where I ate the most amazing pancakes I have ever eaten. They were lemon ricotta with fresh blueberries and I'm convinced that a divine being created those wonders. After we were stuffed of amazingness, we hopped on the subway and spent the day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was gigantic and extremely impressive. When we took in all of the art we could handle, we visited Time Square (it was both mine and Dan's first NYC visit, so we had to take it all in), attempted to win tickets the Matilda the Musical via ticket lottery, lost the ticket lottery, and then headed out to a bar near Taylor's apartment to watch the Michigan vs. Michigan State basketball game and grab a drink with another of Dan's friends, Spencer. We had a great time, despite the Michigan State loss.
Taylor, myself and Dan at Times Square!
We kept the fun going by grabbing dinner at Katz Deli (the diner where the famous scene from "When Harry Met Sally" takes place...you know the one I'm talking about) and playing some Cards Against Humanity at Taylor's place.

The next morning we kept the scrumptious food train going by visiting Clinton Street Baking Co., which has a two hour wait on any given day...we found out why the second we bit into their food. After brunch and a decent nap, Dan and I decided that we had two goals for the day: 1. Attempt to win tickets to see Wicked via ticket lottery and 2. Complete our NYC RAK.

Attempt 1: ...did not happen. We (mainly me) are not awesome at navigating via subway, especially when we're in a rush. We miscalculated how long our traveling would take us and missed our opportunity to enter the ticket lottery by a measly four minutes. Tragic, I'm aware. We decided that we still really, really wanted to see a Broadway show, so we purchased some pricey, but amazingly centrally located, seats for the night's show. It was well-worth it and we can now check that experience off of our bucket list.

Attempt 2 also known as RAK #48: Taylor told us about a program that he participates in when he can (which he is providing the name for very soon...he's a busy man). The idea behind this program is to provide clothing, professional counseling and life-skills to help men in poverty look sharper at interviews, allowing them to obtain careers that help them to be stronger contributors to their families and communities. Dan and I both agreed that this was a pretty wonderful idea, so we made a stop at H&M to pick up some men's interview wear. We left with two large bags full of dress shirts, pants, suit jackets, ties, belts, and dress socks. The next drop off for clothing is later this week, so Taylor is helping us out and donating the clothing for us.
The goods we donated -- those are going to be some sharp looking men!
Today we said goodbye to the big apple after doing a drive by past the Statue of Liberty and the One World Trade Center/Freedom Tower and drove up to our next destination, Cape Cod. On the way, we stopped for a lunch break in New Haven, right next to Yale's campus, which was beautiful. Our lunch at Prime 16 was just what we needed -- fresh, inexpensive and far less rich than our NYC meals. We took a quick walk around Yale's campus and committed RAK #49 by placing two iTunes gift cards on boards announcing various campus activities for the next interested party to snag.

We're enjoying a quiet night in at Cape Cod, where Dan's friend Kevin and his family graciously allowed us to stay at their "Getaway home" for the next two nights. We're headed to Boston tomorrow for even more RAKing and touristy fun!

This is usually the part where we would promote our GoFundMe page and ask you to donate, but we closed off donations on Friday with a grand final total of $6,610 (the site says $6,550, but I was given an additional $60 in donations physically)!!! We are blown away by the generosity of our friends, family, and kind strangers who believed in us and the RAK Roadtrip mission -- we could not have done any of what we've accomplished, no matter how big or how small, without you!

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