Road Trip 4 Sanity

by mo on 11/1/2010

DC is 12 hours away. Driving there and back in a single weekend is typically not very reasonable OR sane. But 7 of us piled into 2 cars early Friday morning, to get our potential lack of sanity redeemed by Stewart and Colbert at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30.

Also potentially insane (for me) because I don’t actually watch Stewart or Colbert — I’ve probably seen a combined 2 hours of their shows in my life. Stewart does seem to be consistently funny at least, though. Colbert, not so much my cup of tea. My friends are much more actual fans of this stuff, but they rightfully identified the fact that I would at least enjoy this trip. Stewart, Reddit, Colbert, and road trips. Here we go! And it was, in the end, a completely sane choice of me to go.

The Drive to DC

First 8 hours or so were pretty boring. Then we hit hills and pretty trees, right around West Virginia. So much nicer than midwestern farmland. Ooh-ing and ahh-ing ensued. This was also where Bhargav learned first-hand that it’s bad to schedule phone interviews for when you’re driving through the mountains of West Virginia at 70+mph because YOU WILL GET DROPPED.


Stopped for food at WVU. Morgantown was significantly bigger than we had imagined, and even had a building that was like a Bizarro Assembly Hall (this is the real one, of course).

Finally, we realized we wouldn’t really be on a roadtrip without a good hashtag, so after browsing the internets for a while we found what we needed: #roadtrip4sanity. Stolen by a group of rally-goers from Drake University in Iowa (that’s further from DC than us!) Sorry dudes, you had the best hashtag.

Arrived in DC around 7 PM. Ate Thai food and crashed.

The Rally

Our hotel was at the end of the Green Metro Line. Here was the line to get on the train at 9 AM. Queue4sanity:

RoadTrip4Sanity members, minus me:

Metro was kind of crowded after a few stops, as you can see by this reflection:

Oh right, we’re in DC!

Finally got to the rally around 10 AM. It was not too crowded at this point. We did find these charming folks:

The corn syrup is a nice touch.

I had some friends already standing somewhere in the crowd, but it quickly became apparent that meeting them was NOT going to happen. So we settled into our spot.

Team Fear dude in the background trying to horrify us. We are unfazed.

Nearby sign:

People behind us:

We were behind jumbotron #2, on the left.

And then hooray, the rally finally started!! The Roots played for a really long time (too long in my opinion), and then finally we got some Stewart/Colbert goodness. Thoughts on the rally lineup:

• Mythbusters = boring. Doing the wave once in a crowd of 215,000 people is kinda cool, but doing it like 5 times is not. Move along, guys.
• Music was overall pretty eh. I did like Cat Stevens vs. Ozzy Osbourne though, that was entertaining. But, um, KID ROCK?? REALLY??? That was unnecessary torture, guys.
• The Fear Awards were great. Zuckerberg for Facebook’s creepiness and privacy nonsense, Anderson Cooper’s tight black t-shirt for only appearing in disaster situations, and NPR for not showing up on Saturday: “If their employees attend Jon’s rally, someone might think that NPR is liberal. No one could tell from the free pledge drive hemp fiber tote bags they use to carry their organic kale rollups to their compost parties.”
• Stewart/Colbert banter was right on. Wanted more of that, less of other stuff (like Kid Rock). There was also a surprising lack of Colbert, in general. When he did make appearances, it was entertaining, but the thing was a whole lot of Jon. Great job on that duet, too, Jon.
• So Jon’s speech at the end. We all knew it was coming, and by 2:45 the crowd was notably antsy for it to happen already. He did a good job, people were moved, we got the point that the media is fucked up, and that the 2 sides refusing to listen to each other is, well, kinda a problem. You can go read lots of other commentary on his speech elsewhere, but at the very least it gave people a sense of closure about why they were there. Sorta.

And then it was over. I split with my group, and battled the horrible crowds for over half an hour in order to meet up with some Philly friends at our pre-designated meeting spot. On the way out, I was watched by all the hipsters on port-a-pottys:


Technology Fail, part 1, and Philly Meetup:

Now, phones on the Mall had basically not been working since we arrived at 10 AM. I knew this would be a problem — I was in DC for 4th of July, which was much much less crowded than this, and could barely get a connection the whole time. Unfortunately, being in a crowd of 215,000+ people when you are trying to meet up with a specific set of 5 of them is NOT EASY without the benefits of modern technology. I had phone service for about a grand total of 2 minutes over the course of 10 AM – 3 PM, during which I called Rob and worked out that I’d meet them on the steps of the Air and Space Museum after the rally. Of course, it took me like 40 minutes to make it there due to the crowds, and I couldn’t call to ask which of the zillion staircases they were on. I did manage to run into them just as they were getting up to leave, by a stroke of magic/good luck!

Jake found a good sign:

Post-rally hunger, conquered, in Eastern Market, which was still REALLY crowded but not as crowded as the stuff near the Mall.

Probably the most normal picture of Crystal ever taken.

Unfortunately, Philly peeps were off to B-more for a Halloween Party, so we only could hang for a couple hours. Still good to reunite with the BroHo gang though, after a 2 month break. And, they were kind enough to give me a ride over to Dupont Circle for the…

Reddit afterparty

First I had a brief meetup with a couple of random Michigan friends who had driven in for the rally. Afterwards, I was walking down the street to go find the UIUC group again, when I practically ran into Alexis Ohanian (who I’d met at Reflections | Projections 2009, of course) in the giant mob of people outside of One Lounge, the main Reddit venue was. UIUC group came to Reddit party, but unlike promised, the bar was not letting anyone under 21 in, which sort of ruined it for half of us.

So we tragically had to split up, or risk being beat up by a giant and unfriendly bouncer. It was also annoying that the bar was also hosting some other costume party, so it was not purely Reddit people, and yet my friends couldn’t stay. The party itself was pretty excellent though. Everyone from Reddit was really nice (both people who actually work on Reddit, and people who USE Reddit). Reddit is not always the friendliest community (especially to girls. on the INTERNET.) but I was pleased to see that no one who was a jerk showed up (I guess they stay in their internet-caves at home and don’t like to come out to parties across the country). Met Jenny Lee, Chris Slowe, Foo, and the the dude who created Awesomesauce, plus about a zillion other people. Spez was there too. Got that weird “oh I recognize you from the internet” feeling going on. But yeah, good party, Reddit, minus the part where my friends couldn’t actually attend it.

Technology Fail #2

Finally headed back from the party around 1:30. The Metro ride went swimmingly, encountered prince charming (who is apparently a UPenn student) headed for a Halloween Party, and things were good up until the taxi drive from the station to the hotel. Of course, the driver had no idea where anything was, and I needed the actual address of the hotel for the GPS. I don’t KNOW what the address of my hotel is! Used iPhone to log into facebook, find the message containing this info, read off the number and the street name, and BAM, iPhone dead. Come on iPhone, how many times are you gonna put me in dangerous situations by dying on me when your battery meter says you’re fine? (I had even charged it during Philly-meetup-fooding!)

Highway-Chase Reddit Meetup

Sunday we woke up earlyish and embarked on the 12 hour journey back. Near the rally there were lots of cars with related signs, etc. But we were out of the general rally radius, and back in Ohio or so when we encountered this car.

They also had a Reddit alien in their window. OMG! We flashed a QR code at them (Redditors were collecting each other’s QR codes all rally long) but that failed, so we just wrote usernames on pieces of paper and held it up to the windows. Best reddit friendship ever, formed at 70 mph with some Wisconsin dudes.

TL;DR: sanity, restored.