Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ticket For One

Somehow growing up in Syracuse, whose downtown was once bisected by the Erie Canal, must've influenced my taste in recreation more than I thought because I keep taking weird boat rides.

After my toxic cruise on the Gowanus Canal last summer, in February I found myself in a much cleaner but not much more habitable canal during the worst snowstorm in London in 20 years: the Regents Canal, living for a few days on a houseboat. I was freezing and cramped and ever so damp, and despite my deep love for its owners, I was glad to leave.

So what on earth brought me to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal today, Easter Sunday, to sit on a boat again in the biting wind (improperly dressed for the weather of course) and once again freezing?

Maybe it was the mules that drag the boat along the original towpath.

Plus, the C&O is a national park, and my recent travels have proven to me that I have the same taste as parents with young children and senior citizens. Now that I've left a fulltime job behind me, maybe I can really pretend I'm retired under the age of 40.

And finally, it was Easter Sunday, and although I am in Washington, DC alone, I felt like I needed to do something special to commemorate the day, as all my friends are roasting lambs and having seders and spending time with family. Easter has never meant much of anything to me, but I don't like to be left out, either. So I took myself out for brunch at the Peacock Cafe, and bought a $5 ticket to the boat ride.

"Just one?" the costumed visitors' center clerk asked. He then quizzed me about where I'm from and tried to ascertain what on earth brought me there. It was he who blamed the Erie Canal.

In the end, the ride seemed pretty uneventful from inside the boat, but it sure drew a lot of spectators - who especially liked the two mules that towed us along. The mules' efforts made for a much smoother ride than the Bobby Dazzler provided, despite having an engine...

And the excursion did feel like a hidden treasure of DC, one that might only be discovered after exhausting all the museums and monuments. In typical form, I skipped the Smithsonian and the Spy Museum and a lot of that other stuff and instead found myself at a Bob Marley photo exhibit at the Govinda Gallery with Bob's widow. I saw the Hay Adams from inside the Presidential Suite. And tomorrow I'll see The White House from the green room and the dressing room, two places a ticket will never get you into.