Mr. Fantastic, wearing peasant’s clothes sewn by Fiercely, was calling me from 16th century Europe, sort of. “It’s amazing! I just met a scrivener from Italy! There’s a giant castle wall 50 feet from me right now!! You have to come next year!”
About a year ago, he had seen an unusual formation of canvas tents outside of Pittsburgh, PA. After a little research, he happened upon The Pennsic Wars and a new Fantastic adventure was born. How had we not known about this before? It has been going on for over 40 years! It is kind of a Renaissance Fair, where you live and act SCA style, for up to two weeks every summer. There are classes and artisans and everyone wears costumes the whole time. In its 43rd year, it draws thousands annually. What does it look like? I had to borrow some internet pics because I’m not there and none of the Fantastics brought a camera!
Per reconnaissance reports from the Fantastic 5 I understand there is a daily newspaper that reported a population of just under 10,000 the other day. Over 2,000 participated in a war reenactment per Mr. Fantastic. And yes, dear reader, as you may have guessed I am missing out on this experience because someone has to go to work around here.
addendum: someone showed me this article yesterday by another East Coast first-time Pennsic participant!
But our heroine finds a trip!
Not to be deterred, I noticed a 3-day weekend in my work schedule as this trip was in the planning and immediately schemed a solo trip to DC. I do not mind at all being left out of some trips if I get my own adventure plus a rendezvous with that rare and coveted beast Free Time! So, aside from spending time at my job, I went to DC, relaxed, slacked, cooked and cleaned very little, and worked on this blog. Which reminds me of a quote from a far more dedicated writer than myself, Whoopsie Piggle: “Life as a writer: I sent my family on vacation this morning while I stay home. So I can write about them.” So I sent them off. And off I went to the nation’s capital! And now I write.
How to get to DC without a car? I love trains, but with the always-limited budget, bus travel is pretty appealing. There are several large bus companies that go up and down the east coast, some even offer $1 trips if you plan well enough, but this was sorta last minute. I really like that Sino-pseudo-Greyhound: the Chinatown Bus. These buses go between NYC, Philly, DC, and Richmond, VA and a few other places that apparently have Chinatowns of their own. The buses arrive and depart in Chinatown in each city. Richmond, VA has a Chinatown? Well, according to a very short Wikipedia entry with multiple quotation marks, Richmond
has a “Chinatown” on a “semi-suburban road” setting on Horsepen Road
So, say Ni Hao and thanks for the great cheap bus service if you’re ever on Horsepen Road in Richmond! I paid $18 round trip from Philadelphia to DC – $10 there and $8 for the return trip. I felt like I was cheating someone; I think it costs more in gas and tolls for that trip! The buses were on time to leave and early to arrive, clean, and they have bathrooms. Word to the wise: BYO TP because there wasn’t any in the bathrooms. So maybe its a little unacceptable for the typical traveler, but to me it brought back days of travel in Central America and I didn’t mind. The bus stations are small and basic, they do have bathrooms with toilet paper BTW.
Selfie on LW’s balcony, walking around Arlington with Lincoln
My friend LW from Peace Corps Honduras lives outside the “diamond” shape of DC proper but still on the metro line and about 10 minutes from The Mall. She and her dog Lincoln were gracious hosts and happy to walk me around the neighborhood. Arlington is a strange mix of what the young and upwardly-mobile want today – high-rise apartment buildings that have the feel of upscale student housing, a farmer’s market, bike share, and big-box stores on walkable city blocks. At one point, we walked by a strip mall (Crate & Barrel, Barnes & Noble, etc.) that anywhere else would be surrounded by a large parking lot, only there was no parking lot, and this was on a very pedestrian street. There was also a dog park, not like a fenced field, but a dedicated lot with a special fence, some type of kitty litter stuff on most of the ground, and a waterfall/water play area designed for the upscale dogs we saw strolling around.
Rock Creek, Chevy Chase
So, Link liked the dog park, but what he really loved was jumping into Rock Creek. We visited Chevy Chase, Maryland and took a long walk next to the creek. There was a wooded park there perfect for a long walk. Apparently Rock Creek Park is the largest park inside city limits in the US – 1700 acres- impressive! We saw deer, which Link had fun chasing.
If you’re getting the idea that this trip did not involve any museums or historic sights, you are right. We did a lot of walking and hanging out. There is a lot of DC outside the Mall, interesting neighborhoods and surprisingly nice parks. We did get to see a monument at Roosevelt Island, a small car-free island accessible by footbridge in the Potomac with hiking trails and plenty of river access. We saw kayakers, and plenty of dogs including the joyful, swimming Link. I didn’t bring my camera, but here are some pics:
It really was a strange place – a sort of hidden monument that most visitors to DC will never see. It seemed to be a popular spot for locals who were jogging, hiking, and walking their dogs. There were large defunct fountains at the monument, but otherwise the area was maintained. I wonder how Mr Roosevelt would feel about it.
Adams Morgan/Columbia Heights
We found ourselves in this neighborhood visiting some peace corps friends. There were a lot of hip-looking shops, at least one bike shop, and Victorian archetecture to make me feel drawn to the area. Bottom picture is of a faux-historic mews-style condo I liked. The peace corps folks say there are baleadas here as good as the Honduran ones – we weren’t able to get any that day so clearly I must return!
And back to Chinatown
The Chinatown neighborhood seemed to be gentrifying as evidenced by the fact that I saw a sleeping drunk and a family of brunching yuppies on the same block. They have a lovely arch and some good-looking restaurants. For me, though, it was just about catching the bus back. This time, with memories of a great weekend in my mind and toilet paper in my pocket.