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President Obama rides -- and walks -- to the White House

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk down a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., during Monday's inaugural parade.

 


President Barack Obama walked the walk Monday, hopping out of his limousine to hoof it down Pennsylvania Ave. with the first lady during the inaugural parade, to the delight of crowds who waited hours in the cold for a chance to see history in the remaking.

His second-in-command stole at least part of the show, though.

The Obamas didn’t press much flesh, waving and smiling from a presidential distance. But Vice President Joe Biden worked the crowd like he was stopping by the county fair, racing from one side of the road to the other to shake hands and hug kids.


When NBC’s Al Roker shouted out a question, asking Obama how the day was going, he got an answer: “It’s going great!” Biden did him one better, dashing over to pump Roker’s hand.

The voluble veep gesticulated wildly at spectators, whipping them into even more of a frenzy – quite a feat considering the ear-splitting cheers that followed the president and Michelle Obama as they made their way from the Capitol to the White House.

They began the journey – one that presidents have made since Thomas Jefferson – in a black Cadillac that left from the foot of the Capitol.

Cries of “O-bama! O-bama!” swept down the avenue in waves as the limo made its slow crawl along the street, its flags fluttering in the wind, Secret Service agents walking briskly on the flanks.

Crowds were substantially smaller than four years ago; no official estimate was given out, but half a million people used the Metro to get to the route.

Still, they stood five-deep or more, bundled against the 40-degree weather, holding cameras over barricades for a picture of the first couple looking out the limo’s tinted windows.

“It was beautiful,” Tara Lucas, 38, an administrative assistant from Pearland, Texas, told the Associated Press. “All I saw was a face in a window and it was remarkable.”

“You felt the love,” added her friend, Connie Griffin, 41.

About halfway down the route, the presidential vehicle stopped, the doors opened and the Obamas got out. Hand in hand, they walked for more than a block, following the blue line that is painted on the asphalt every four years.

Then they got back in the limo, only to emerge again closer to the White House. Michelle Obama blew kisses at the stands. Her husband, a smile plastered across his face, gave his constituents the thumbs up, every gesture greeted with more applause.

People in Obama hats and buttons – and at least one woman in an Obama beach blanket -- yelled to them from the sidelines. Wide-eyed children danced and flung their hands out, hoping for a chance to touch the newly sworn commander-in-chief.

People had flocked to the route before sunrise to ensure a good view of the president and the pageantry -- from a red-coated fife-and-drum marching, to kids on 6-foot unicycles who joined floats from across the country, to NASA’s famous mohawk-topped flight controller Bobak Ferdowski on a float with a model of the Mars Curiosity rover.

Some were showing their support for Obama, others just enjoying the spectacle and symbolism.

Vicki Lyons, 51, of Lakewood, Colo., told the AP she was "mostly Republican," but attending the inauguration was "like standing in the middle of history."

"No matter who the president is, everybody needs to do this at least once," she said.

Moments after speaking with President Obama, NBC's Al Roker gets an impromptu handshake from Vice President Biden along the inaugural parade route.

 

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