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Trip to Washington, D.C., for Public Lands

June 14, Tuesday — Las Vegas to Washington DC

Up early with Liz who dropped me at the airport about 3:30 for a 6:00 am flight. The flight to Denver was uneventful, but it was nice seeing my territory from the air. We even flew over Gold Butte and I got photos of the Colorado River delta at Lake Mead.

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Scheduled to fly

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Departing Las Vegas (view north)

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Nice view of the neighborhood (view east)

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Flying over southern Gold Butte (view south)

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North Rim of the Grand Canyon (view south)

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Colorado River and Navajo Mountain (view south)

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Rocky Mountains, Colorado (view south)

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Leaving the western mountains and entering the Great Plains (view south)

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Landing at Denver Airport

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Flight delays

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Clouds over middle America

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Landing in Washington, D.C.

In Denver, the flight to DC was delayed about 2 hours. I spent about one of those hours hiking a loop on our concourse. Departing Denver, the land was different and I couldn’t figure out where we were. I got lots of landscape photos, but the Mississippi River was the only one where I recognized features on the ground.

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It pains me to even say the name of this airport

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Riding the train into D.C. (Washington Monument out the window (view northwest)

In DC, I bought a card and took the metro to near the hotel. Unfortunately, there were several exits from the subway, and I took the one that gave me the longest walk. At least I got to see some of Chinatown.

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Comfortable bed at the Courtyard Marriott

I found the hotel, Courtyard Marriott at F and 9th and got checked in. The day had seemed long and draining, even though I’d done nothing, but perhaps the 2:45 wake up was getting to me. In the room, I relaxed a few minutes, then did a FaceBook check-in to let the world know I’d arrived. To my surprise, Annette Magnus responded to my post with a “come downstairs and meet me for dinner.” No to pass up an offer like that, we had a great chance to chat and catch up on what we’d been doing back in Las Vegas and some information about what we’d be doing here.

Back in the room, I did more social media, cleared out the email, read a bit, and hit the sack about 10:00 pm. It was getting late here, but that was on 7:00 pm “brain” time, but even so I conked out for the duration.

June 15, Wednesday — Washington DC

I decided to skip breakfast so I could sleep an extra hour and got up about 7:30 am. By 8:00 am I was out the door and heading to the Pew offices just around the corner. It was convenient that they put us up in an adjoining building.

The morning meeting was a pep talk and rehearsals for the day ahead, and although they had coffee, there were no snacks, so I struck out on my skipping breakfast gamble.

After the meetings, we piled into two cabs and headed to the Dirkson Senate Building. First things first, we got lunch in the basement (philly cheese steak), then headed upstairs to Senator Heller’s office.

After a polite wait, Jeremy Harrell took us into a meeting room where we had an interesting discussion about northern Nevada land bills (the Senator is moving them along) and Gold Butte. The Senator is opposed to designation as a National Monument, but is interested in a second Clark County Lands Bill. We shall see how things go. But anyways, I went away thinking that Heller isn’t really the devil I make him out to be.

From Heller’s office, our contingent walked across the street to the Capitol Building where, after several layers of security, we go into Senator Reid’s office. We were met by Sara and Timothy and had a nice chat, then the Senator came in and spent about 3 minutes apologizing for why he couldn’t meet with us. We finished the meeting with Sara.

Four of us spent about an hour walking on the National Mall and visiting the Botanical Garden.

Back to Dirkson for a 2-hour reception. Nice chance to chat with lots of people working on lots of different land campaigns. Highlights included the VetsVoices guys (Steve and Garrett) and the GB Working Group voices I head on the weekly phone conversations.

Back to the hotel for writing and social media, then to bed late at about 11:15 pm. At least I’m sleeping in until 8:00 am.

June 16, Thursday — Washington DC

Breakfast with the crew, then off to Dina Titus’ office (Titus and Ben Rosenbaum). We had a nice chat and she said there was a chance the monument would be paired with Stonewall and declared within a month. That would be exciting. Titus seemed tired.

From there, we took a cab to CEQ across the street from the White House. Good meeting with Sally Hardin (Michael Degnan couldn’t make it), but not remarkable. Photos in front of the White House.

Walked a few blocks to the DOI building. Got there early and stopped for lunch. I didn’t eat, but the AC was nice on a hot, humid day.

We had a 1-hour delay, so we walked to the Washington Monument and back. The DOI building looked old and tired, and the restroom felt like an old visitor center restroom. Good meeting with Nikki Buffa, but she suggested Gold Butte might be set aside due to fears of armed insurrection (not another Malheur Sec. Jewel says). Nikki was interested in the northern boundary issue, but suggested that I needed to chat with Reid’s office (Carrie set up the meeting for tomorrow).

After the meetings, we returned to the hotel and left our bags, then Patrick and I went to the National Museum of the American Indian. It was an interesting cultural experience to visit the museum with a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo. Patrick showed me around exhibits of his people. He was so excited to share, and I was so eager to learn.

Took cab to Vietnam Veterans Memorial and walked a bit. Brought back powerful emotions from when I was a young man. We took a long walk on the mall, then cabbed back to the hotel.

Dinner alone in the hotel restaurant, then social media and to bed late.

June 17, Friday — Washington DC to Las Vegas

Had a hard time sleeping. Stayed awake thinking about the meeting in the morning. Got enough sleep in parts, and could have stayed up at 5 am, but got up about 8:30 am. Breakfast at the hotel buffet, then checked out about 10:00 am leaving $10 in the room.

I walked a bit more than a mile to the Hart Senate Building. It was warm and humid outside, but the morning was fresh and it was nice to walk, get some exercise, and see the people (first obviously homeless people), birds (mostly robins, starlings, and house sparrows), and Eastern Gray Squirrels (seemed to be a lot of Sciurids out this morning. It had rained overnight, so there was wetness in places, and that added to the humidity.

I arrived at the Hart Senate Office Building about 10:30 am. Thought about relaxing outside, but decided to cool off and dry out inside. Met Sara Moffit and Thomas (Tim? the BLM intern) in Reid’s office (#522) at 11:00 am and talked about map issues regarding the northern boundary. I wanted to make sure they knew about the Mud Spire area and how that would make a nice site for the Visitor Center, but willing to compromise in other areas. Matching boundaries with Parashant make some sense, and I really don’t want to give away the Bunkerville Ridge area. It sounds like DOI is really afraid of antagonizing Bundy, and Reid may have to give a little to keep a lot. DOI is talking about pulling the boundary back to Whitney Pocket, which would be a real tragedy, but Sara says this is just the first whack at the ball and Reid will try to get it all if he can.

Sara also said that Reid had tried to get “garden valley” twice before in the 2000 and 2006 Lincoln County bills, but it didn’ts work that time. This gives data points to the story that Basin and Range didn’t come out of nowhere. There was 15 years of work put into the project, but I still wonder why the conservation community didn’t rally the first two times.

After the meeting, I walked over to the capital and got a few photos with the Gold Butte sign, then walked all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.

Along the way, I toured the Botanical Gardens again. It is such a cool place (actually hot and very humid) with Gray Catbirds, Red-wing Blackbirds, and Song sparrows inside. The cactus section was closed for roof repairs, which is disappointing because I wanted to use the Gold Butte sign with the cactus. I did get some nice orchid and other photos for Liz. Maybe it is time to visit Washington again.

Walked up to the Washington Monument, then on down to the WWII memorial. It was interesting, but without the features I expected (no tanks). There was a nice pond with fountains, lots of stars, and a pillar for each state and territory.

Continued along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Stopped about where MLK gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. For such a powerful place, it was interesting that there was no marker in the flagstones memorializing the event. I’ll have to pay more attention to photos from the event to see exactly where he stood (on his platform). Sitting on the plane next to a Black lady and an Asian lady, I think about how far we’ve come — yet how far we have to go.

Inside the memorial I was one of hundreds of people taking photos and contemplating the events that led to this memorial. I started to read the 2nd inaugural speech on the wall, but decided I needed to get going. There are a lot of steep steps up to the memorial, and as I was leaving, an elderly man was taking his last, wavering, step upwards. I offered him a hand to steady his last step, but he smiled and wanted to do it on his own. I guess it was an event for him too. He was dark skinned and I didn’t think black, but maybe so.

From there, I hustled back up the Mall, following along the shaded walk on the other side of the Reflecting Pool. I stopped to set off SPOT between the Reflecting Pool and the WWII memorial, then hiked on to near the Smithsonian. There I detoured right and walk out Independence Ave to 7th, then down to the L’Enfant Plaza to catch the subway to the airport. I had hiked pretty hard and was soaked in sweat by the time I got to the subway.

I found my way to the subway with the kindness of strangers, and after getting off the train, I gave my left-over card with $5.60 left on it to the ticketing guy who was helping tourists buy tickets. I asked him to give it to someone who needed it, perhaps a single mother or a vet, and he suggested a homeless person. I got the impression that I wasn’t the first to give away my card before departing, but that it was an uncommon event. The ticket agent seemed surprised and delighted to have it.

The airport was really crowded, so I’m glad a saved one last clean shirt for the trip home. Everything worked out and the flight departed on time for Charlotte, which was only 45 minutes away, but took twice that long just because of taxi out and taxi in time.

Charlotte was much more peaceful, and we departed there on time too. We chased the setting sun all the way to the middle of Arkansas, and even now more than an hour farther west (western Oklahoma [got tracks]), we still have a grand glow of orange on the horizon as we are passing what looks like a great salt flat with a small lake; I wonder is this is the place we visited at the Prairie Chicken Festival.

We are now in the northeast corner NM and we still have sunset orange in the northwest sky (other side of the plane). Out my window, it is essentially dark with lots of lights on the ground in places but not here. We also have a nearly full moon tonight. A bit farther along, I can see the lights of ABQ in the distance coming out from behind the Sandia Crest,

Looking forward to getting home and seeing Liz.