Kentucky Bus Riders On The Road To History

Large convoys of buses are en route to Washington, D.C., for Tuesday's presidential inauguration. One group left Louisville, Ky., before sunrise Monday and will arrive in time to see Barack Obama take the oath of office.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We don't know exactly how many people are coming to Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration. We do know that a whole bunch of them are getting onto a bus with NPR's Ina Jaffe. And Ina, where you?

INA JAFFE: I am in Louisville, Kentucky, Steve. And we have four buses here. And people are just boarding right now. And we are outside of the Expressions of You Coffee House & Gallery in the African-American community here in Louisville. And there are some very, very excited people here. They started out having some prayers and some inspirational talks from local pastors and radio personalities. And they're all dressed in their Obama stuff, Obama buttons, Obama shirts. One woman had Obama carved into her hairdo. And they're ready to go.

INSKEEP: Can you give us an idea who organized this trip? And what kinds of people are going?

JAFFE: Well, I would say most of the crowd is African-American, but not entirely. And the man who organized it is the owner of the Expressions of You Coffee House, and his name is James Linton. And he says that this whole project started with his 10-year-old daughter, and he told that story. And let's listen to it now.

Mr. JAMES LINTON (Owner, Expressions of You Coffee House & Gallery): My daughter is Armarni(ph) Linton, and she comes down the steps and says, dad, I want to go to the presidential inauguration. So two days later, she comes and goes, dad, I've invited the cheerleaders and the dance team. And I said, well, we can't get them all in dad's car. I'm going to have to make some arrangements to get everybody there. We started calling around and finding out about some buses. By that time, my mother calls me and says we've got 40 family members who want to go. So, I said, OK. I'm going to need more than one or two buses. And now we're going to the inauguration, we're very excited. We're going to be riding into history. And we can't wait to get there. I've been packed for two weeks.

INSKEEP: When you said they won't all fit in my car. Maybe that could be the theme of all the travel in the next couple of days, Ina Jaffe.

JAFFE: Well, there were some activities planned for this trip. They were going to visit some important historical sites in Washington, D.C. They were going to have a big party when they got to Baltimore, which is where they're going to stay overnight before they go into town for the inauguration. And there was just such a logistical nightmare, with all the people coming in and all the buses that are going to be there, that basically, everything's been canceled. It's up early into the buses and into Washington, D.C., for the inauguration and that's it, then its home.

INSKEEP: Oh, you mean they don't even have a spot in Baltimore, which is 35 miles outside of Washington, D.C., by the way. They couldn't even get a hotel that close?

JAFFE: Well, they thought this would be the simplest thing. They originally thought they could take the train into town, and they found out that that was going to be really hard because the trains are going to be so crowded. So now, they're taking the bus.

INSKEEP: Ina, I've had a look at the National Mall, where the inauguration will take place, and people with tickets would at least be able to see Barack Obama, although from some distance. Do these folks have tickets?

JAFFE: No, they do not have tickets. They will be on the Mall, watching on the Jumbotrons.

INSKEEP: Meaning that they could be a mile away, they could be two miles away, looking at these giant-screen televisions.

JAFFE: They will be in the presence of history, as far as they're concerned. I don't think it bothers them at all.

INSKEEP: Wow. And do they have any celebration planned other than being on the Mall on that cold day, and listening to the words from a distance, and looking at the giant screens?

JAFFE: Well, I don't think they realize how cold it's going to be when they stand out on the Mall for hours yet. But right now, they seem to have their happiness and joy and goodwill to keep them warm.

INSKEEP: Well, maybe just…

JAFFE: Because it is snowing here in Louisville.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Maybe just the sheer number of people will keep them warm. Are they prepared? I mean, are they dressed well for the cold?

JAFFE: Yeah, yeah, you know, it gets cold here in Louisville, Kentucky, apparently. It is, as I said, snowing now, looks like a paperweight. And we have to get on the bus now. So, we're the last ones on, and they're going to leave without us if we don't go.

INSKEEP: Well Ina, enjoy the ride.

JAFFE: Thank you very much, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Ina Jaffe in Louisville, Kentucky. This is NPR News.

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