The visitor to Washington D.C.’s best chance of seeing the President of the United States is when he travels by car to some event in Washington. This is not a common occurrence, but it does happen several times a year. There some chance of seeing the President pass by in the Presidential limousine, but you have to be ready for it because the President drives around town at 40-50 mph and never stops. Once you have seen the traffic in Washington, D.C., you will wonder how that can be, and how that comes about is perhaps the most interesting part of seeing a Presidential drive-by. What I’ll tell you here is how to spot the pending approach of the President or Vice President or a visiting Head of State in time to be ready to see the passage.
The prologue to the President’s passing is the signal that the President is coming. It unfolds like this. Like clock work, police cars arrive in the middle of every intersection on the President’s route. A car load of cops get out and stand in the middle of all the cross street. All the traffic lights in every direction turn red at the same time, and poof! The street is suddenly empty.
A wedge shaped formation of motorcycle cops, a dozen or more, with lights flashing roar down the deserted street, and just behind them comes the Presidential party, first 1-2 SUVs of Secret Service Agents, then the two big black Presidential limos, with the President usually in the second, followed up by several more SUVs of Secret Service, assistants, and the press. The parade appears in a flash, and in flash it is gone. The cops get back in their cop cars, drive off, the traffic lights go back to changing from red to green, and the street again becomes traffic clogged. Sic transit gloria.
The Vice President and visiting heads of state travel in a smaller version of this, figure only three motorcycle cops, two SUVs, and one limo. The car carrying a visiting head of state will almost always fly a small national flag on the front fender. The President’s car flies a small American flag on one front fender and a small blue flag with the Great Seal of the United States of America on the other.
Like I said, the chances of seeing a Presidential passage are slim, but it is fascinating to see it unfold if you get lucky, so keep an eye out for the signs of the Prologue.