I have a slogan all ready for Karen O’Donnell in case she runs for office in 2016: She’s going places. The 58-year-old picked up Express on the Friday before Obama’s second inauguration and read “Haul of Presidents,” our list of nearly 50 locations honoring the nation’s commanders in chief. We promised a prize for anyone who took photos at all of the sites.
O’Donnell liked the challenge but decided to forge her own path to victory. One that didn’t involve driving.
“I’ve improved on your suggestions a bit,” she noted when she emailed her Flickr set just one month after the swearing-in. Getting to the Lyndon Johnson Memorial Grove, for instance, seemed to require a car. So she nixed a few spots, swapped others around and added a few new ones (including Ronald Reagan National Airport).
The changes made sense for transit-riding Express readers — as well as O’Donnell, who’s lived in Washington since 1983 and been car-free for the past 15 years.
“I wasn’t when I first got here. I’ve weaned myself off,” says O’Donnell, who’s found that she can launch almost any adventure from the Benning Road Metro stop near her apartment. “Some people think that the older you are, the more you want to be in a car. But the older I get, the more fun I have without one.”
When visitors come to town, she likes to organize a rendezvous at a Metro stop to teach them how to use the system and to demonstrate how far a farecard can take them. She’s walked from the Rosslyn station to Teddy Roosevelt Island, taken the bus to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and hopped on the Circulator to get to Barracks Row.
“Some people, the only time they take Metro is when they’re going to and from work,” O’Donnell says. “They’re in such a rut. They only know two stations.”
O’Donnell has popped out of various stops just to explore what’s nearby (which is one of the reasons she’s looking forward to the opening of the Silver Line). Over the next few months, she’ll be seeking out cherry blossoms beyond the Tidal Basin and touring embassy open houses through Cultural Tourism DC’s Passport DC program.
Not having to worry about maneuvering in city traffic or finding a place to park means that whenever O’Donnell finds out about an event, she can head over there on a whim. Or, she can read about a photo scavenger hunt in Express and knock it out in about the same amount of time that William Henry Harrison spent as POTUS.