What I didn't realize was that the Cherry Blossom Festival snarls traffic for the better part of two weeks in D.C., and last year at that time the blossoms were at their peak, so there was a crush of people right smack in the middle of where I was trying to go. What I thought would turn into an easy afternoon turned into a more than hour-long struggle to move my car less than two miles. I had to make a mad dash 7 blocks to the expo, getting there about 10 minutes before it closed. After that I walked down to scope out the area for the next morning's race and got there just in time to see everyone breaking down everything from the Cherry Blossom festivities.
This year I decided to get to D.C. as early as possible. The expo opened at 9:30am and I didn't want to be there much later than that. I left early and hit exactly no traffic all the way in to D.C. The one thing that hung me up is that the stop lights in the nation's capital are not synchronized in any way and I hit every single one on New York Ave. But I parked in a decent lot across from my hotel, got to the expo and hung out there for a while, and since it was early -- and a beautiful day -- I walked down to check out everything I missed the year before.
For those that don't know, the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler starts and ends right at the grounds of the Washington Monument. All of the post-race stuff is on the grounds itself. This is basically what you see when you're lining up for the race:
I walked up toward the Tidal Basin because I remember from last year that's where the end of the race was. It goes up a short hill past the Bureau of Printing and Engraving and the Holocaust Museum and I wanted to see the hill to help me visualize the finish. While on one side of the street the race runs on is big buildings, the other side features this:
It's a really great run with so much to see in such a picturesque way. Also, last year when I thought I caught the Cherry Blossom Festival being torn down what I was really seeing was a Japanese street festival that's part of the Cherry Blossom festivities being torn down. So I got to check out the 50th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival. It was really neat. It covered several blocks of a couple streets, with one street featuring mostly Japanese culture and the other featuring mostly Japanese food. It was ridiculously crowded and since it was mid-day when I was there everyone was trying to eat (including me), so there were incredible lines to buy food, but I did find a couple places tucked away, and I got to eat grilled teriyaki chicken on a stick, which was delicious. It was like two chicken breast for $6. Yum.
Anyway, all throughout there were people dressed as Japanese anime characters and stuffed animals and all that other weird Otakon-type stuff. I didn't get any good pictures of that, but I did get a picture of these girls dressed as characters I'm not familiar with and doing some kind of coordinated dance. Unfortunately, this is the best picture I got of any of the cultural stuff, which isn't saying much (and man, for as neat of a toy as the iPhone is its photographic abilities are horrific):
I wish I could have gotten a decent recording of it, but there was a stage on the "j-pop" side of the festival where a japanese trio was rocking the place out. There was a drummer, a bass player, and a guy who was on something that looked like a cross between a guitar and a banjo and which he played with what looked like one of those trowels you use to spackle holes in the wall or apply joint compound to sheetrock (the link shows a quartet, but I didn't see the guitar player). They totally brought the house down.
I should have mentioned this earlier, but right there at the top of Hains Point, where 2,000 cherry trees and what everyone descends upon D.C. to see when they blossom in the spring are located, were literally the last blossoms in D.C. There were quite a few people among them trying to get decent pictures of themselves amongst decent cherry blossoms, but it really wasn't working. An A for Effort though:
Last year I thought it'd be neat if I brought the family with me so my kids could see D.C. But this year they had plans and they're not impressed by my participating in races because I don't win anyway, so I thought why bother. Next year, after seeing what a nice time of it you can have, even if the old man is waking up early the next morning to run with 15,000 other people, with 5,000 of them finishing before him, it'd be silly to not bring them. I have to make it a point. It's a great weekend away even though it's pretty nearby.