President Bush yesterday learned what it was like to commute to work on the Beltway. Attempting to show that he understands the need to save the taxpayers' money, he elected to return to town from his weekend at Camp David by car, rather than taking his usual 25-minute helicopter flight. With the president riding in a tan four-door recreational truck instead of the stretch limousine, and even with the help of a police escort, the 75-mile trip took more than 1 1/2 hours. The presidential motorcade had the usual problems with highway construction and other commuting hazards. As to whether the president's gesture saved any money, it was noted that his helicopter, on standby at Camp David, flew back to Washington empty.

Out and About

It's baby No. 2 for actress Lynda Carter and First American Bank President Robert Altman. A daughter, named Jessica Carter Altman, weighing 6 pounds 11 1/2 ounces, was born Sunday night at Columbia Hospital for Women. Altman said yesterday that Carter has been offered a new movie role and expects to be ready for filming in about three months. The couple have another child, Jamie Clifford, 2 1/2 ...

FBI Director William Sessions and his wife, Alice, will be spending a lot of time watching the San Francisco Ballet at the Kennedy Center this week. In fact, Alice Sessions plans to be there for at least four performances because their 20-year-old daughter, Sara, dances with the company. Friday she will be dancing the part of the Lilac Fairy in "Sleeping Beauty," on this the 100th anniversary year of the ballet's premiere in St. Petersburg, Russia ...

Milestone: Yesterday was Jesse Jackson's 49th birthday. On Sunday some 200 of his friends surprised him with a birthday party at La Tomate restaurant on Connecticut Avenue. There was a large cake with a Capitol dome on the top in reference to his candidacy for shadow senator from the District ...

The annual Victory Awards next Monday at the Kennedy Center will honor entertainers Patty Duke and Ben Vereen, who have battled emotional disorders and substance abuse; Gallaudet College President I. King Jordan, the school's first deaf president; polio survivor Brian May; and Jane Rosenbrock, who has epilepsy. Among the presenters and hosts for the black-tie evening will be actors Stacy Keach and Marlee Matlin and singers Loretta Lynn and Peter Yarrow ...

There will be a book party and reading at Politics and Prose bookstore for "An Unfinished Life," the new book of poems by Princeton, N.J., Mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund, but the author won't be there. Sigmund, the daughter of retiring Rep. Lindy Boggs, is gravely ill with cancer. Her poems will be read there Thursday evening by her sister, National Public Radio's Cokie Roberts, writer Phyllis Theroux and Marvelous Market bread maker Mark Furstenberg ...

It was a quiet day at the Giant grocery in Potomac yesterday afternoon, except that customers couldn't help noticing the tall, beautiful woman accompanied by a security detail. It was Jordan's Queen Noor in black stirrup pants, a pink sweater and a black headband. With two of her children and a nanny, she bought $47 worth of candy and cookies, stocking up for the long trip home ...