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Road Trip to History: An Inauguration

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

At 11 a.m., sadness sets in, then anger. A rumble moves through the crowd. Just who was responsible for organizing this anyway? In their wisdom, they've placed only three stations at the general admission checkpoint. Three people entering at a time and being searched? What were they thinking?

Pamela keeps her chin up for the grandkids, as she tries to wrap her mind around the fact that this inauguration journey is about to end in disaster. How did this happen? The organizers had predicted the crowds would be significantly smaller this second time around, that the novelty factor had faded. It sure didn't look like it as you pushed through the crowds and scanned the same multitudes here today on the National Mall.

"Did they do this on purpose?" Pamela wonders, as she looks behind her at the folks who clearly will not witness this inauguration, despite traveling from far and wide. "Did they not want so many people out here?"

"This isn't right," another woman nearby complains, co-signed by a growing chorus of the frustrated.

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

By Maudlyne Ihejirika

Along the three-mile odyssey from RFK, we saa vendors selling everything Obama, from buttons and t-shirts to I-Phone covers and my favorite, a limited edition Obama dancing bear, grooving to James Brown's "I Feel Good."
We finally arrive at 7th Street, the designated general admission entrance for ordinary people without tickets.
In 2009, matriarch Pamela Frazier, an ordinary middle-class American, didn't worry about not being "connected" when she took nine members of her brood to witness the inauguration of the nation's first black president. And she didn't worry about it this time either, when she brought her four grandkids.
The Fraziers squeeze into a line hundreds deep. The waiting in the cold begins, and this is just to get into the gate onto the National Mall. We begin moving an inch at a time.
Ninety minutes later, the diverse crowd is getting antsy, nervous they won't be anywhere near enough to see Obama sworn in at 11:30. The grandkids are trying to entertain themselves in line, but as the wait drags on - it's now 10:30- bickering has begun. Pamela quashes it, masking her own disappointment in this slow process.
It wasn't like this last time.

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Road Trip to History: Inauguration Day is Here!

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

All roads this weekend have led to this day -- a 4 a.m. wake-up call.
We're in the lobby now. I feel like a zombie, many of the 98 bus travelers look like one. It's 4:45 a.ml. We board the bus heading into D.C., leaving in plenty of time for the 3-hr. ride and the massive roadblocks and traffic gridlock expected.
Alright, we've ust arrived at RFK Parking Lot, three miles away from the National Mall. Passengers from a zillion (it seems) buses chartered by people across the nation are parked here. They spill out , dressed like eskimos, recalling last year's bitter cold.
The march begins! Instructions: Follow the crowd, stay together, be back here at 5 p.m. or you find your own way back to Pennsylvania. Major walking odyssey begins.
Ok President Obama, I think to myself. I'm too old for this. This better be good.....
Signals may be nonexistent with a million people phoning, tweeting, blogging. Next post may not be till it's all over. Stay tuned!

Road Trip to History: MLK Memorial

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The Fraziers at the Martin Luther King Memorial, L-R, Semaja (in purple), Asia, Brian, McKinley, and Pamela (in orange).

The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

We're now at Martin Luther King Memorial. OMG! It may as well be the inauguration, it's that many people out here! America's first black president is being inaugurated at the same time America is celebrating the MLK Holiday.
The American people have clearly turned out in D.C. to pay homage......to both men.
Somewhere in the crowd, "We Shall Overcome," is being sung.......One gets it.
National Park Services Ranger Kawther Elmi, explained about the inordinate crowds at the MLK Memorial: "It's only a year old, so it is already very well-visited, but the intersection of the inauguration & the holiday creates a lot of energy."
Pamela gets a call from her son Marquis Wright, 32, who flew into D.C. with friends on Friday. He's looking for them at the MLK Memorial. The search is on. Finally, he is spotted in the crowd. A needle in the haystack! Hugs and glee from the Frazier grandkids who clearly adore their youngest uncle! the
Grandkids are wide-eyed and awestruck by its massiveness, and by the lifelike nature of MLK statue. Lots and lots of photos are taken here.
It's dusk now. We reboard the bus, but five folks who had ventured to the Capitol to secure inauguration tickets from their Congressmen, are missing, having encountered massive traffic gridlock and roadblocks. Some 90 minutes later!!! we're finally headed back to Harrisburg.

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Pamela's son Marquis, who flew in separately, surprisingly finds Pamela and the grandkids in the immense crowds

Road Trip to History: Arlington National Cemetery

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

Arrived at Arlington National Cemetery. The bus lot is full this inauguration weekend. We're dropped off at a distance. The walking odyssey begins. It's a beautiful day! Balmy, 40 to 50 degrees, and it seeps into your spirit, even as you traverse miles and miles of tombstones. You're quiet here, even the rambunctious Frazier grandkids.

On the bus was Carolyn Sue Smith, 59, of Chatham, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel with 32 years of service. She served in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne, 2008-2009, her last tour of duty. This visit to Arlington is important to her, as will be the visit to the Vietnam Memorial. "I'm looking forward to saluting my fellow veterans."
First stop for Pamela is the Women Veterans memorial. Asia, 16, and Semaja, 12, particularly enjoy it.

Next, we follow the masses filing toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Lionel Jackson, who's worked as a public safety aide here for seven years, says President Obama and Vice President Biden's motorcade visited the tomb this morning. "They don't tell us when they're coming," he says.

No sign of them now. We catch the poignant wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb at noon. Uniforms. A rifle. Taps playing. Hands over hearts. Wreaths laid. Salutes. Then the ever-constant guard begins marching back and forth in front. Beautiful!

The Fraziers take lots of pictures. Grandkids ask lots of questions. "Who's buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers? How do you qualify to be buried here?" Michael Naylon of Reston, Virginia, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel who is at the cemetery visiting friends' graves, helps provide some of the answers. He too will be buried here, he shares.

"At church this morning, the pastor preached about the peaceful transition of power the inauguration represents, and I guess most of the people who are buried here subscribe to that," Naylon notes. "Everyone here died in allegiance to our Constitution, and in that vein, the inauguration of the president is a continuation of that."

The Sun-Times followed the Frazier family on its first Road Trip to History on Jan. 20, 2009. Revisit the series here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/roadtriptohistory/

Road Trip to History: A Day in D.C.

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

Morning. Woke up late. Worried. Hit lobby by 8:15 a.m. No worries. Many stragglers. Bus finally pulls off at 8:45.
First stop, Virginia. Arlington Cemetery. The 2nd stop, Martin Luther King Memorial. A mutiny is brewing. The passengers question the order of the day. They're more interested in the King Memorial. Why not a visit to King Memorial 1st? Answer: Geography. From our location in Pennsylvania, Virginia is before DC. Mutiny is squashed. Now, a bit of church. It IS Sunday. Claudia Bolton leads bus in a hymm, the Lord's Prayer. O.k. where's that laptop cord....

Road Trip to History: We Arrive!

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

Stopped for dinner in Somerset, Pennsylvania, destination still 3 hours away, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Every hotel anywhere in or near the D.C. border is booked, so event organizer has group staying 3 hours outside of D.C. You know what that means: A 4 a.m. wake-up call on Monday to get into D.C, which will be a madhouse!
WE'VE ARRIVED! 14 hrs on a bus!!!!! 98 tired inauguration goers - including 4 Frazier grandkids, the only youth among them, and 1 cranky reporter - pull up to Sheraton in Harrisburg, Penn.! Alleluia!
Lobby suddenly fills with diversity. Despite the deluge, event organizer Angel LaCruise, the front desk staff and its general manager do a wonderful job of assembly-lining everyone's keys.
Due back in the lobby at 8 a.m. But not before a civilized meal and cold one at the hotel's Dog & Pony Cafe.... yeah, that's the name.
See everyone in the morning for a day in inauguration-consumed D.C.!

The Sun-Times followed the Frazier family on its first Road Trip to History on Jan. 20, 2009. Revisit the series here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/roadtriptohistory/

Road Trip to History: The Mountains

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

Darkness sets in as we approach the turnpike, leaving Ohio and crossing into Pennsylvania. We're up in the mountains now, and it's too dark to see the most beautiful part of the journey, the spiraling, upward climb through wooded peaks. The Frazier family has broken out the sandwiches, bread, cold cuts, mayo.....Pamela was prepared. But OK, so if I have to watch Hunger Games again, I may have to jump off this bus. It was just a bit too much the first time I saw it. Cell battery officially dead. What, they don't last 12 hours when you're phoning, tweeting, blogging....Who knew?

Road Trip to History: Somewhere Over Ohio

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

One of the women on the bus has led us in prayer, asking blessings for we travelers, for the journey, for Obama.

Six hours, one bootleg video and a Tyler Perry marathon later, we're stopping for lunch somewhere in Ohio. Burger King & Sbarro are the order of the day. Not good. No reception through the cornfields. Tweeting and blogging getting difficult! My legs are cramping. O.k. So who was it that said road trips are fun?!? Liars! But the Frazier family is happy, the four grandchildren happily munching on junk food, and Pamela working her I-Pad in between snoozing.

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Road Trip to History: Ready to Roll

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

We all arrive at Christ Universal Temple's parking lot between 8-8:30 a.m., where two buses awaited. We load up. I brought too much stuff, I think to myself. Pamela Frazier, 62, has saved me a seat. Semaja Frazier and Brian Jackson, both 12, settle into the Beltway Charter bus as it prepared to leave from 119th & Loomis. Asia Wright, 15, and McKinley Wright, 14, are tired but excited. Pamela is just ready to roll. Whereever there's a bus and money to be made, the vendors are there. Awaiting us in the parking lot: $5 inauguration t-shirts out of the trunk of a car. We pull off at 9:15 a.m. for the 12-hour ride.

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