As she does for all Redskins' home games, Joy MacDonald is flying in for the kickoff. From Florida. Where she lives.
Joe Junkin and seven friends from Southern Maryland will cruise to the stadium in a 14-seat white stretch limousine with a wet bar, two television sets and four ice chests.
As thousands of football fans climb into their cars or hop aboard trains for today's 4 p.m. game against the Carolina Panthers at Redskins Stadium, MacDonald and Junkin are among those with more creative transportation plans.
"I just love the Redskins," said MacDonald, 58, whose devotion to the team was cemented during her childhood in Arlington and has not dimmed in the 31 years she has lived in Fort Lauderdale. "I'm so high as soon as I get here. I miss the big trees, I miss the cool weather, I just love to be here."
MacDonald, a tax accountant, flies nearly free to all the Redskins games because her daughter is a flight attendant for United Airlines. But even if she had to pay full fare, MacDonald says, she would still fly to every home game.
"I work with a lot of elderly people, older women who wait until they retire to enjoy life and then don't get a chance," said MacDonald, who has turned one bedroom in her Florida home into a Redskins shrine. "I don't want my life to be that way. This is my thing, this makes me happy."
Junkin's happiness is a white stretch limousine that carries him and seven friends from Solomons Island up country back roads to the stadium in Landover. The men call themselves the Monks, after former Redskins receiver Art Monk, and they dress the part in specially made burgundy-and-gold monastic robes. They've been hiring limousines for 11 years.
Redskins officials, who spent the past two weeks overhauling their parking and access plans, say fans like the Monks will have an easier time getting to and from the game.
"If the customers have considered and read the communications that have been put out for them and if the customers follow the new guidelines, everything should work well," said Steve Baldacci, a senior vice president in the Bethesda-based marketing firm of new Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder.
Since the 80,000-seat stadium opened two years ago, traffic backups and parking delays have been a staple at most home games. But the problems reached a crisis level during the season opener two weeks ago as some 30,000 cars tried to squeeze into about 22,000 parking spaces outside the stadium. Some irate fans spent half the game circling the area, looking for parking and lobbing insults at Snyder.
This week, as Coach Norv Turner drilled his players on the field, Baldacci retrained a little more than 200 parking attendants in the nuances of the new system. They sat in classrooms, they role-played in the parking lot, and they toured the entrances and new perimeter road to understand the complete parking picture at the stadium, Baldacci said.
The key element of the new plan is the removal of cash parking from the stadium. From now on, drivers without parking permits will proceed directly to US Airways Arena, about a mile east of the stadium, where they will pay $15 to park and then catch one of up to 100 free shuttle buses to and from the stadium. The buses will run four hours before the game until two hours after it. Traffic patterns have been redesigned so that each parking lot has a designated entry road.
Snyder will drive himself to the game, Baldacci said. He usually arrives three to four hours before kickoff and spends time socializing with his family, friends and guests, Baldacci said.
MacDonald, the fan from Fort Lauderdale, planned to catch a 7:05 a.m. flight from Miami International Airport that is scheduled to arrive at National Airport by 9:30 a.m. At the airport, MacDonald will change into her "game-day clothes"--burgundy Redskins shorts and a gold top--and leave her street clothes in a rented locker. She will take the Metro Blue Line to the Orange Line to Cheverly station, then she will board Metro shuttle buses to the stadium, where she will settle into her club seat.
After the game, MacDonald plans to take Metro to Alexandria, where she will spend the night at the Holiday Inn before heading back to Florida on Monday morning.
It is a 2,000-mile round-trip that stuns strangers but has become a happy routine to MacDonald. "This is the one thing I enjoy doing," she said. "This and pole vaulting."
Yes, pole vaulting. She is the senior Olympic record holder.