Why we went to see the cherry blossoms

Many years ago, when I was an intern in Washington DC, I spent a lovely early April afternoon gawking at the cherry trees. These gorgeous white (and pink) puffs ring the Tidal Basin by the Jefferson monument, with an extra grove near the Washington monument. They bloom thick for a few days. Then with spring wind and rains, they go.

My husband and I had casually talked about taking a day trip to see them. Over the past month, he’d been sending me links to a cherry blossom tracker showing when the predicted peak would be. We’d thought about going the weekend of April 6-7, but then the peak got revised to April 1. So, with the day relatively open on March 31, we elected to jump on it despite the high winds and cooler temperatures (about 50 much of the day) and go.

I say relatively open, because we didn’t have a relaxed time frame. I elected to skip church, but my husband had to be on a 7 p.m. flight from PHL. We bustled everyone out the door at 9 a.m. for the 2.5 hour drive. (Originally the GPS said close to 3 hours…but that’s because my husband put in the wrong location. Fortunately, we figured this out about 30 minutes outside DC.)

We parked in a garage near the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. This is when we discovered that the 9-year-old had not brought his coat. This turned into a major source of whining through the day because, well, it was cold, and this child has zero ability to suffer in silence. (Eventually my husband gave him his fleece, and he just swam in it.)

We spent a little over an hour at the museum, seeing the Spirit of St. Louis, historic balloons, and space ships. The kids liked the interactive exhibits, and my 9-year-old and 7-year-old particularly enjoyed wind tunnel testing paper airplanes they made. Then we walked the mile (in the driving wind) to the cherry blossoms.

I don’t think I have words to describe how beautiful these trees were in full bloom. Picture snowballs of flowers. Little dollops of cream against a pure blue sky. We marveled walking under them, even as the gale-force wind made walking challenging. I just tuned out the 9-year-old’s whining and snapped as many photos as I could, trying to savor this scene that was starting the process of disappearing even as we were in it, the petals already starting to jar loose.

Then we hiked back to the car. We got in by a few minutes after 3. Waze took us far away from I-95, which was apparently a nightmare. We zoomed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (an adventure during a wind advisory!) and Kent Island before reuniting with I-95 by Wilmington. The brilliance of Waze is that even with a gas stop and bathroom stop we got to PHL at 5:45, which may be the earliest my husband has ever been for a 7:00 domestic flight.

It was a lot of driving: probably close to 6 hours in the car by the time we were done. It was a lot of walking: 12,000 steps on my counter, which means the kids with their little legs did more. Not always happily. (My husband had the 4-year-old on his shoulders for big chunks of the time.) We crammed those 12,000 steps into the three hours we were in DC — not much time for so much travel.

And yet, looking back on the trip, I’m not lamenting the hours in the car, the cold wind, or the whining kids. I am thinking of those cotton candy trees, which I saw in their fleeting moment of spectacular beauty. It’s always easier not to do things, but then — what am I saving my energy for?

In other news: I have been a guest on a number of amazing podcasts that I hope you will check out. I was on The Art of Manliness talking about Off the Clock, which was also the main topic covered in Peter Bregman’s podcast. It turns out that when you publish two books in a year you wind up with publicity overlap! I was on Jen Glantz’s You’re Not Getting Any Younger talking about Juliet’s School of Possibilities and I returned to the Stacking Benjamins podcast to talk Juliet too.

And in the meantime, thank you for checking out the Before Breakfast podcast! It has consistently been in the top 100 of iTunes (often in the top 50!) so that has been thrilling.

12 thoughts on “Why we went to see the cherry blossoms

  1. “zero ability to suffer in silence” – love it. I can’t suffer in silence, either!
    I’m going to have to put the cherry tree bloom in DC on my “before I die” list. I am also in Philly suburbs, so it wouldn’t be too difficult to make the trip… I just have to remember this happens early in April!

    1. @Natasha – some days I suffer in silence better than others! And go ahead and mark your calendar NOW for next year. Put a note the last two weekends of March and first weekend in April and probably one of those dates will work. You can put a calendar note for early March to check the peak prediction calendars, so you can start planning your weekend day trip. That’s really all you have to do! Don’t try to remember. None of us can remember stuff like this.

  2. “It’s always easier not to do things, but then — what am I saving my energy for?”

    YES. I live in Northern Virginia, and i woke up early this morning so that I could walk along (and photograph!) the Tidal Basin before heading into the office. It required some planning (and a 5:00am alarm!) to make it happen, but it so worth it! Glad you were able to see the blossoms… they are particularly beautiful this year!

    1. @Sara- so glad you got to see the blossoms too! Yes, very beautiful. Worth a little bother 🙂

  3. My husband and I just moved to DC in January so this is my first experience of the cherry blossoms. They’re so much more magical than I expected them to be! I can’t stop thinking about them. It makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have the words to describe how lovely they are 🙂 I’m glad you were able to come enjoy them!

  4. This is precisely why we loaded our kids on a plane to Prague on Christmas Day 2017. Work was incredibly busy, and taking kids to chilly Eastern Europe in the winter wasn’t easy, but choosing the bigger life was exciting. And now we have amazing family memories! Next up: spring break in Croatia!

  5. this is a great reminder to do fun things even when they seem like a hassle or not worth the effort! cherry blossoms (and other flowering trees) are such a spectacle to behold. we did family photos in them last year and the shots are just lovely.
    up here in southern ontario, we are still probably at least a month away from blossom season but it is nice to have that to look forward to! lilacs and magnolias too! spring really is worth the winter suffering 😉

  6. For a European this is so interesting to read. I don’t know many central Europeans (Scandinavians are different) who would consider 2,5 hours one way a day trip. We are spoiled!

    “It’s always easier not to do things, but then — what am I saving my energy for?” This is a very, very good sentence. I should put that up somewhere in my house!

  7. I’m on Spring Break with my teens along the Gulf and it’s been that mix of whining and delightful. This post encapsulates so much of vacationing with kids, or maybe life with kids in general, haha! I agree with the others on how great this sentence is, ” It’s always easier not to do things, but then — what am I saving my energy for?”

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Such a great question for me to ask when I’m tempted to say, “Oh, I’m too tired. I don’t want to go”–“What am I saving my energy for? Thanks for the kick in the pants! Also, love the Before Breakfast podcast.

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