Pack Your Patience


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By Wesley P. Hester/Media General News Service
Published: January 20, 2009

Brace yourself.

A trip to the nation’s capital can be trying on a good day. If you’re not prepared, getting there on a great one could be borderline unbearable.

If you are already on your way to D.C. this morning in hopes of catching a glimpse of soon-to-be President Barack Obama, maybe you’ve considered some of these travel tips. We hope you’re ready for long hours ahead.

A few things to be prepared for:


Portable electronic devices such as iPods, video games, laptops and portable movie players will get plenty of use.

Bob Broomfield, owner of Play N Trade in Carytown, predicted that hand-held gaming consoles such as the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS will be popular with forward-thinking travelers as a way to alleviate the boredom and frustrations of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“These things are good for moms, dads, kids, even grandma and grandpa,” he said, noting that quiz, puzzle and trivia games will be a useful way to pass the time. There’s even a device that’s fits onto the DS that allows gamers to play Guitar Hero in the car.

“I don’t think anything is going to keep people away,” he said. “So take snacks, take some water, relax and enjoy the ride. If you get worked up, it’s gonna be a miserable trip. And I would recommend rechargeable batteries, and a lot of them.”

A lack of comfort

Parents bringing kids to see the inauguration of the 44th president may regret seriously not hiring a baby sitter.

No chairs are allowed along the parade route. No thermoses, coolers or backpacks, either. Strollers? Nope.

“Extra consideration needs to be made for people traveling with children, because if you look at the list of prohibitions, you can’t bring strollers, you can’t bring umbrellas. We’re talking mass crowds — shoulder-to-shoulder — for hours,” said Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police.

And if you happen to be one of the 240,000 ticket holders who’ll be sitting in on the ceremony, prepare to get wet in the event of rain, because your umbrella isn’t coming with you, either. Neither is that poster you spent all night working on. Signs are prohibited.

Metro-stop toilets will be closed for security, too. Instead, attendees will line up for the 5,000 portable toilets dispersed near the National Mall.

“Can you change a diaper in a port-o-john? I’ve never tried it myself,” Geller said.

Phone problems

Save the memories.

Cell-phone carriers say customers should try to save the phone calls and picture messages for the way home. Due to the volume of cell-phone users in close proximity, networks almost certainly will experience gridlock, causing dropped calls and lack of service, especially during peak hours for the festivities.

Sprint and Verizon are spending millions to add capacity to their cell sites ahead of the inauguration but still don’t anticipate a lack of problems.

“If you must use your cell phone for a nonemergency — text, don’t call. Text messages take up less bandwidth than voice calls and may get through more easily,” Sprint Nextel spokesman Rich Pesce said. “If you take pictures or video on cell phones, save the files and send them later.”

Wesley P. Hester is a staff writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.


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