Inauguration Pilgrimage

A bus trip from Oakland, Calif., to Washington, D.C. for Tuesday's inauguration is scheduled to take three days for the 54 travelers who signed up to join a trip organized by a local restaurant.

From Raleigh, N.C., a bike journey for Matt Huffman, Darryl Jones and Matt Watts – three friends riding to the inauguration to encourage people to be environmentally conscious – will take even longer.

On wheels and on wings, by land and by sea, an estimated millions of people are making an American pilgrimage this weekend, to see President-elect Barack Obama become president.

Tickets? Eh, who needs them? A place to stay? They'll figure that out when they get there.

"We're famous for living in campsites and budget rate motels," said Joe Eggleston of Ft. Worth, Texas.

Joe Eggleston and Jennifer Perez have no tickets and no hotel reservations, but they do have enough gas money for a 20-plus hour ride from Fort Worth, Texas to College Park, Md. -- where they plan to rough it for three days in a campground.

For Jennifer, not coming was not an option.

"I feel a personal connection to his story. The way he was brought up and the background that he has," said Perez. "It hit home being mixed-race and being raised by a single parent. That is how I grew up and I can identify with that."

Jeff Branch, an Obama campaign staffer, lives in Tallahassee, Fla. He began his journey north to the capital first by heading south, to pick up Obama campaign volunteers Joe Lombard and Carol Hogan.

"I don't care if Joe and Carol lived in Miami, which is 10 hours from Tallahassee; I wanted to be in the car with them. Joe and Carol, like most of our volunteers, just gave us so much of their time, energy, and resources."

This inauguration is a dream come true for Lombard who, as a 30-year-old New York City Police officer, was sent to Washington, D.C. in August 1963 to serve in Martin Luther King's security detail as the civil rights leader delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"When you heard his 'I Have a Dream' speech..." said Lombard, "and now to come to this point and see President Obama in a few days, it's just unbelievable. I never thought I was going to see it -- never in my lifetime."

Lombard has a wellspring of emotions, built up over a lifetime, that he expects to surface.

"I think I'm a tough guy, but I don't know. I might faint," said Lombard. "There's going to be a lot going through my mind. I'm going go back to 1963. I'm probably going to reflect on my life and its going to be a lot just to see him put his hand on the Bible, become the 44th president of the United States of America."

On their 13-hour drive up I-95, through the southern states that have seen so much racial conflict, the pilgrims will have a chance to reflect on the struggles of the past.

"I wanted to be in the car to witness and to be with them especially," said Branch. "They grew up during the '30s and during the '60s. We didn't experience that firsthand, direct racism and the racial tension in this country."

Despite the bitter taste of racial injustice, Lombard and Hogan are hopeful for the future.

"The country has really changed," said Lombard. "It's not all the way yet, but its getting there. And I'm just proud to be here for this moment."

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