D.C. roadtrip update: C.A. Johnson class of '53 arrives in Maryland

After arriving in Greenbelt, Md., the group unloads in the parking lot of the Marriott Greenbelt Hotel.
After arriving in Greenbelt, Md., the group unloads in the parking lot of the Marriott Greenbelt Hotel. The State

Evening update from the road

Updated 7:44 p.m. (with addition of photos) The final stretch of the trip C.A. Johnson's Class of '53 took to the Washington, D.C. area went as smoothly as earlier stages.

There were two more stops before the riders group made it to their hotel rooms in Greenbelt, Md.

The first was a refueling stop just south of Richmond, Virginia. Riders were suprised - and pleased - that the weather as they got off the bus wasn't as cold as they anticipated.

With the bus being refueled, passengers used the opportunithy to buy treats at the convenience store and talk.

Back on the road, none of the expected traffic delays from Richmond north to the D.C.-area materialized.

There were, however, several signs that the bus wasn't the only vehicle taking Obama backers to the inaugural.

Other buses and cars heading in the same direction had Obama stickers. One small car had 'Obama or Bust" painted on its passenger side window. It was plastered with Obama stickers.

The final stop before the group reached its hotel was at a women's clothing shop owned by Delores Clark Washington's younger sister, Mantalene Clark Hemphill.

In addition to her inventory of clothes, she had stocked a wide array of Obama paraphernalia - caps, magnets, mouse pads, calenders, t-shirts, aprons, posters. Pretty much anything that could bear Obama's likeness does - and is for sale at Hemphill's shop, located in Camp Springs, Maryland.

I might get rid of all the clothes," Hemphill said, as the bus riders piled into her store. "I might just turn it into all Obama."

Judging from the reaction of the bus riders, that might not be a bad idea. They bought hundreds of dollars worth of items and boarded the bus for the brief drive to the hotel, a long day of snoozing, smiles and anticipation just about complete.

Midday update from the road

Smooth sailing. The C.A. Johnson Class of '53 bus rolled through the darkness into a weak light Sunday morning.

At 7:22 a.m., the bus turned from Interstate 20 to Interstate 95. A few heads popped up as riders noted the slow down and then the acceleration. Sleep came to most again.

By 7:54 a.m., the bus hit South of the Border and moved into North Carolina.

Schoolgirls in the back of the bus, the daughters and granddaughters of adults on the trip, found ways to keep themselves busy. One girl listened to an MP3 player. Another, Olania Washington, Delores Clark Washington's granddaughter, had traveled from Atlanta to go with her grandmother to Washington.

Between catnaps, Olania Washington studied from a thick World History textbook.

Asked why she wanted come on this trip, her answer was simple: "To see the first black president. My mom wanted me to bring a video camera and tape it, but we can't bring it in there. She couldn't go. She has to work."

At 8:30 a.m., the bus reached Fayetteville, where two more passengers, Charlie and Morris Blunt, got on board. Friends of Delores Washington, they joined the group just as it filed off the bus to eat breakfast at a local Shoney's.

The inside of the restaurant could easily have been mistaken for a mini-Obama convention. Riders from two buses from Garner's Ferry, both heading to Washington for the inauguration, had chosen Shoney's as their breakfast spot, too.

The mass of people waited patiently in the long buffet line. Conversations were about family and friends - and Obama.

C.A. Johnson's bus got rolling again at 10 a.m. About two hours later, Delores Washington passed out a map of the Capital Mall, which showed the areas where inaugural visitors should stand.

"I don't know where our tickets are," she said.

It hardly seemed to matter. The map was another confirmation, another reminder of where this bus is headed and why it is going there.

There was a stretch of rain, but it soon stopped. Some riders watched "Mad Money" on DVD. Others, like Jocelyn Clarkson and Saundra Blocker-Carr, joined in conversation.

"They asked me why I needed this time off," Clarkson said of her employer. "This was in May. I wrote down, 'Obama's inauguration.' I'm sure that brought a laugh. But they're not laughing now."

With that, Clarkson herself laughed.

Blocker-Carr said she's going on the trip in honor of her parents and others of that generation.

"It was very hard for them," she said. "I'm going to see the president, a black president. I'm excited."

Early Report from the Road

The sun had not yet risen when members of C.A. Johnson High School's class of 1953 boarded a bus on Brookmont Lane in northeast Richland, bound for Washington, D.C. and Barack Obama's inauguration.

There are more than 40 people on board, actual members of the Class of '53, and their children, grandchildren, friends and other relatives. Some drove from Atlanta or Orlando to be on this trip. A few wear Obama t-shirts or hats.

In the pre-dawn dark, there is a quiet order. Everyone was to arrive at 6 a.m. By 6:01 a.m., Delores Clark Washington, who planned the trip with help from her recently deceased cousin and friend, Lillian Martin, is checking a roll sheet.

"I think I've got everybody," Washington said, as passengers settle into their seats. "First of all, I want to offer a prayer. This is such a blessing to have friends and family together."

Washington then led a brief prayer, thanking God at one point "for the ones who are here, even though we can't see them."

There are other housekeeping items, handled by the bus driver, Naomi Jackson Moody, who has driven the Class of '53 to such locations as Detroit and Toronto "and places in between."

"Does everybody have their medicine?" Moody asked. "Let me know now so I can get it from the bottom of the bus. Everybody alright? Everybody straight? Alright. Have a good time"

A short while later, at 6:20 a.m., the bus pulls off into the darkness, quickly getting on to Interstate 20.

The bus is quiet, except for two sets of televisions, which are tuned to CNN. There, it's wall-to-wall coverage of the upcoming inauguration.

It doesn't take long before most on the bus are snoozing.