We decided to take the Metro from Vienna to the city. It cost $16.50 to get 3 passes that would cover all of us for unlimited rides for the day after 9:30am. The 8-year-old needed a pass, the 4-year-old and the 1-year-old were free. We could have also purchased a one-way fare for $2 each.
First we had to find a metro station. It was pouring down rain, so Mom dropped me and the kids off at the station and went to park the car. She came back after several minutes and we got the passes. The metro runs every 10 minutes or so, so we didn't have to worry about missing one train, there would be another along in a few minutes.
We got on the train a few minutes after 9:30, so rush hour was over. There were lots of seats and we had no problem bringing the umbrella-style stroller with us. We got off at the Smithsonian Stop which was just across the street from the American History Museum, so that was great.
On the way back, things were a bit more interesting. It was still pouring down rain, and in fact, hurricane Ernesto was responsible. So, there was high wind as well as rain. We left downtown about 5:30pm. Rush hour was starting to wind down. The train was more full than it had been in the morning, but it was still not too packed. There were a few people standing, and a couple of people very kindly offered us there seats, seeing that we were there with small children. We had to be more careful to keep the stroller out of the way, that sort of thing.
We were going along fine, picking up more people at each stop. A few got off, more got on, typical heading home behaviour. We were about 2 stops away from where we needed to get off the train (which was the 2nd last stop), when the train slowed and stopped even though we weren't in a station. The conductor announced that there was another train in front of us and we had to wait for it to go.
A few minutes later we started to go again, and then when we got to the station, some people got off. The train did not start to move again. We waited and waited. After a few more minutes, the conductor came back on the speaker to tell us that there was a tree lying across the rails up the line, and that we would all need to get off the train at this stop and get on another train.
OK, so we all got off the train. We waited on the platform for a few minutes and then another train arrived. People got off of it. It waited, finally we were told to get on that train, so we did. Luckily the passengers on this train were nice too, and they let us have seats. We were on our way again.
At the next stop, the train stops at the station, and again, we're all told to get off the train, but this time, because a bus is going to take us to the next stop, because of the tree. So, once again, we get off the train. At this station, everyone is confused. We went up an elevator, down an elevator, and around in circles it seems to find out what was going on. No one seemed to know, not the passengers, not the staff.
Eventually, we discover we are to go to the other platform (for the inbound trains) and wait there for the next train to take us where we needed to go. So we do. In the meantime, some nice people suggest a restaurant for dinner. We got on the train and off we went again.
We finally got back to the station we started from around 8:00pm. It took us over 2 hours to get back when the trip there took less that 1/2 hour. You'd think we were done, but no, we still had to retrieve the car. Mom went back to get the car (it was still pouring down rain and even windier). After about 20 minutes she returned without the car. It turns out that the parking lot requires payment using a smartcard. This is a metro fare card that is also used at park and ride lots. The lot charge was $3.50, but we needed to buy a card for a minimum of $10, which included $5 of usable fare money and a $5 deposit. If we'd realized this earlier, we would have gotten that type of card and save a bunch of money.
Anyway, she had to go back to get the car and get back to pick us up. Remembering it is still pouring down rain thanks to Ernesto, we were trying to keep the children as dry as possible. The drop-off area was a zoo, there were tons of people getting picked up and dropped off in the rain.
I'm sure that without Ernesto to foul things up, the metro would have been great. The kids loved it, but hated the waiting and especially the being cold and hungry parts of the trip. We kept explaining to them that this was what made it an adventure. Someday they'll look back at their trip to DC and I'm sure the day the subway was messed up will be something they remember long after they forget the hotels and restaurants.