A Trip Hard to Trump

If you ever want to channel your inner Ben Gates, take a trip to Washington, DC. Even for the most law-abiding citizen, the thought of stealing the Declaration of Independence will cross your mind while visiting the National Archives. It’s inevitable. Before you do tho, remember National Treasure is a movie and Nicholas Cage is an actor.

…but in all seriousness, Washington, DC is a truly fascinating place. Mom and I spent 3 ½, fast-paced, fun-filled days exploring DC and the surrounding area. While it’s difficult to put into words just how great our DC experience was, I believe this post does the trip justice 😉.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Transportation wise, Metrorail is the way to go. We loaded up our SmarTrip cards prior to the trip and hopped on and off trains throughout Virginia and Maryland – it was not only convenient but provided us with a glimpse into the daily life of everyday commuters. We were experts ourselves by the end of the trip, but never quite mastered the ole, DC-no-need-to-hang-on-to-anything-when-the-train-makes-sudden-stops, maneuver, that the locals seemed to be quite good at. If we weren’t riding the Metrorail, we were walking…10 miles a day in fact!

So where did all this ridin’ and walkin’ take us? Well, the real question should be, where didn’t it take us?

Day 1 – Freedom isn’t Free.

We began our trip at Arlington National Cemetery. Somber, beautiful, peaceful, moving and humbling are a few words that come to mind. The Changing of the Guard is incredibly moving, and I got chills down my spine when Veterans bound by their wheelchairs stood the entire ceremony to show their respect.

As we walked around the 624 acres of beautifully maintained grounds and looked about the rows and rows of perfectly aligned headstones of those who honorably served our country, the true cost of freedom was put into perspective.

For those who have never been, the best way I can transfer that perspective is writing exactly what I read in the visitor’s center. “Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. The cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 services each weekday and 6 to 8 services each Saturday. More than 3,000 ceremonies and memorial services take place at the cemetery each year.”

For any servicemen and veterans reading this, thank you for your service.

We then went to the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. Much like Arlington National Cemetery, somber, beautiful, and peaceful are a few words to describe the indescribable.

We ended our day in Alexandria, VA – exploring the quaint, historical town along the Potomac River. We actually stayed in Alexandria during our trip which was super convenient. It was a quick, 17-minute Metrorail ride into DC and our hotel was just across the road from the King St. Metro Station. I highly recommend staying in Alexandria.


Day 2 – E Pluribus Unum

We began day 2 by visiting the Rayburn House Office Building that is home to all the US Representatives’ DC offices. We stopped by Michael McCaul’s and Bill Flores’ offices, our respective Representatives. We then headed to the corner of 7th and C Street to take off on our Capital Hill and Monument tour.

Our ever so enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide, Montie, gave us an exceptional tour of the monuments, the White House, and DC in general. We even saw Marine One bringing President Trump back from one of his most recent travels. Montie’s lunch recommendation of Tortilla Coast didn’t disappoint! It was a bustling place, filled with many Capital staffers and lots of DC chatter.

We continued our day at the Library of Congress where we perused the hundreds of books in Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection and were in awe of the building’s architecture. We exited through the tunnel that is connected to the Capital to begin our tour of the Capital, which was another fascinating experience.

Additionally, we coordinated ahead of time with Representative McCaul’s office to obtain passes to the House and Senate chambers. I highly recommend this. It’s neat to take a seat in the two rooms responsible for our legislative branch of government.

We rounded out our day at the National Archives. Walking into the Rotunda and up to the Declaration of Independence was just like a scene out of National Treasure, “180 years of searching and I’m three feet away…I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence”.

In all seriousness tho, seeing the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and Constitution from three feet away is neat. All the documents are difficult to read because they are quite faded, but John Hancock’s signature was the first thing I spotted while viewing the Declaration of Independence.


Day 3 – Justice, The Guardian of Liberty

Our second and last full day in DC began at the Supreme Court. This was arguably our favorite building and tour out of the three branches of government. Truly fascinating. We went into the actual courtroom and had a 30-minute program about the inner workings of the court. All the federal court cases from 1935 to present day, took/take place in that very room. It was remarkable to be just steps away from the chairs that seat essentially 9 of the most powerful people in the nation.

We continued our DC journey at the National Museum of American History and National Air and Space Museum. Both places were very fascinating, but The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem exhibit at the American History Museum was our favorite. The exhibit begins at the Battle of Baltimore where the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key’s lyrics is on display.

Our day ended in Georgetown along the Potomac River.


Day 4 – Mount Vernon

We squeezed in one last activity before departing DC, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. We toured the 21-room mansion and Washington’s entire estate along the Potomac River. Washington was quite the businessman as evidenced by his operations throughout the estate. There were reenactors all around the grounds and the experience reminded us a lot of Greenfield Village in Michigan.

We then headed back to Alexandria to retrieve our suitcases, but not before stopping at the oldest farmers’ market in the United States, held each Saturday morning at Market Square Plaza in Alexandria for over 260 years. In fact, George Washington sent his produce from Mount Vernon to be sold here. What an all-American experience.

Even though we had a plane to board in a few hours, that didn’t stop us from stocking up on several baked goods and pastries. We had every intention on sharing our finds with Dad and Grandma back home, but between us and one of the stewardesses on the plane…the goods were gone by the time we touched down in Houston.


Take Me to Texas

As Mom and I reflected about our trip on the plane home – fun, educational, and moving were reoccurring words used to sum up our DC experience…. then Mom added one more adjective to the mix, emotional.

…and she is so right. Sure, Arlington National Cemetery and all the memorials will bring a tear to every American’s eye, but exploring DC in general is emotional. We get so caught up in what we see on TV and read on the internet, that it’s easy to place our government and Washington, DC for that matter as some unattainable organization for the everyday person. When in reality, it’s just regular people doing the most important work in the land.

What a blessing it is to have the right to vote, the ability to visit with our Congressmen, and the opportunity to explore government buildings. Most importantly, what a blessing it is to have the freedoms we do because of the brave men and women who give the ultimate sacrifice.

Although, emotional wasn’t the first word to come to mind for me when recapping our trip, it’s a word that’s become hard to shake. I’m not sure it’s possible, but this trip gave me an even greater appreciation for our country, the good ole USA.

Without a doubt, this trip will be hard to Trump!

If you’re curious how to pack all this education and fun into 3 ½ days, I included our exact itinerary we created and followed, here. It was a fast-paced, 10 miles a day of walking type of itinerary, but so worth it!

Pun Times in Austin!

Pun-Off- Austin, TX

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love a good pun. Heck, 99% of my social media posts that include a picture are accompanied by a caption full of wordplay and well the titles to my blog posts usually have something to do with a pun as well. Corny? Well maybe if you ask my brother, but deep down I know he, like most, appreciate a good pun. After all, they’re punny! Well, about 3 years ago we had some family over at the house and we began discussing my fascination with puns and my aunt mentioned that she had read about the O.Henry Pun-Off World Championship that is held nowhere other than Austin, Texas each year around mid-May.  That was all I needed to hear, a pun-off world championship, not 80 miles from my house and I was sold.

However, finals were in full swing the Saturday of this competition and there was no way I would forgo my studies to attend it. Of course I was in the same predicament the following year and the year after that. However, by the time the third year of hearing of this event rolled around I was a senior and getting ready to graduate…my mindset was much different from my first and second year of college. It wasn’t that I no longer cared about grades, but I had a better understanding of balance and that there is a such thing as over studying. That brings us to today, I left my textbooks in College Station and headed to Austin for the highly anticipated O.Henry Pun-Off World Championship.

Go ahead make your jokes, but the creativity and the ability to think on your feet that the “punsters” exercised was phenomenal. The competition is held right downtown, a block off of Sixth Street and one would assume a great location for some characters. While the competition is certainly filled with nothing but characters, many of the “punsters” actually traveled from all across the United States and local competitors were pretty slim. The competition is broken into two parts, Punniest of Show and Punslingers.

Punniest of Show is a prepared “punny” story with a 90 second time limit. Each story had a theme that the puns were based on. For instance, one local competitor crafted a story using well known Austin landmarks, another told a story through US Presidents and another took full advantage of the Trump campaign….just to name a few! I’m not sure how many hours, days, or years it took to craft 90 seconds of whitty wordplay, but it was 90 seconds of pure cleverness.

The second part of the competition was the Punslingers competition. A pair of competitors were given a topic and each player in his turn had 5 seconds to deliver or begin delivering a pun and it was back and forth until one of the contestants failed to make a pun. Topics ranged from sports, to movie titles, to space travel and everything in between. After the first couple of rounds I really started to get into the mindset and flow of the puns. I begin mentally crafting my own puns based on the topic and I Strait killed the country music topic.

All in all, it was a great day and I anticipate attending once again! I’ll admit it was a bit on the corny side at times, but you cannot knock the wittiness of the “punsters” and their creative mind. For me, in addition to my personal fascination with puns it was also a great event for one who is about to graduate with a degree in marketing. Puns are creative and catchy and often times quite memorable because you have to actually think to catch the pun. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is that not the ultimate goal for marketers? Creative…catchy….and memorable, all tied into one! Just as the “punsters” were mindful of the topic, marketers have to be mindful of their target audience, once this is accomplished the creative, catchy and memorable puns or in marketing terms: slogan, brand name, tagline, product, etc. must follow to achieve total success. At the Pun Festival, the well thought out puns advanced to the next round, leaving the competition tongue-tied. Likewise, those with well-planned out and executed marketing campaigns surpass the competition.

Now it’s not like attending this competition was some educational experience that replaced the time I should have studying for finals, but it gave me something to think about and many ideas for future social media posts.

It was a pun day in Austin!

The Aggies Takeover Nashville

Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman- Nashville, TN

I just got back from one of the neatest Aggie experiences ever. Saturday, Texas A&M Football played Vanderbilt in Nashville. Myself and some family friends made a trip out of this game. We flew out Wednesday night and were surrounded by the maroon and white the second we stepped foot in the airport. Aggie Rings shined off the industrial lighting, “WHOOPS” trickled down the security line, and fellow Ags that were once strangers became friends. This same Aggie comradery followed us on the plane, at baggage claim, at the hotel, on the streets in Nashville, at the Opry, and followed up at the football game, and on the plane back home. It’s fair to say the Aggies took over Nashville.

During the Grand Ole Opry I felt like the performers just wanted to hear the power of a receptive crowd because any mention of Texas, football, A&M, or Aggies deserved a “WHOOP” from the ALL Aggie sold-out crowd. In true Aggie fashion at the conclusion of the Opry we joined in unison at the singing of the Aggie War Hymn. We then made our way to the largest venue in downtown Nashville, Wild Horse Saloon, where we once again packed it to capacity and held Midnight Yell. While the others who were turned away due to fire code held their own Midnight Yell on the streets.

Saturday the Aggies filled Nashville streets once again and then headed over to Vanderbilt for some Fightin’ Texas Aggie Football. We arrived to campus in full force and in typical Aggie fashion we took over a parking lot for tailgating purposes and questioned if Vandy had fans or not because all we were seeing was maroon and white. Once in the stadium, our fans were 2 to 1 compared to Vanderbilt.

Sunday we all congregated in the Nashville airport and boarded our respective planes home, once again flying with ALL Aggies. We said our good-byes before parting ways back home in Texas and anticipated the next Aggie football game.