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The inauguration didn’t so much lock down federal Washington today as it did devour it. Starting at around I Street NW, the security perimeter around the parade route had had idling MetroBuses and National Guard HumVees at almost every corner to block traffic. (Between 7th and 9th streets, there was another perimeter farther north, keeping the area around the Convention Center clear before tonight’s inaugural balls.)

By 10:30 a.m., there was a line backed up about half a block at 12th and F to get into the parade route. The parade wasn’t scheduled to begin until 2:30 p.m., or end until about three hours after that, which means the people I saw heading into the security perimeter were planning to sit in the cold for quite a while (or deal with security again if they left to warm up, get some food, or find a bathroom).

Odd signs popped up all over, too, like the one above (“Parade Route” one way, “White House” the other).

North of downtown, though, today was just a pleasant, quiet, mostly traffic-free Martin Luther King Day holiday. There was a line to get into Ben’s Next Door on U Street NW, but you could stroll right in to the original Ben’s (the one, after all, where Barack Obama actually dined) and get a half-smoke before settling in to watch Obama’s speech from the warmth of your couch.

By the time I rode my bike back up near the Georgia Avenue Metro station (passing a bunch of MetroBuses toting American flags in honor of the inauguration), the streets uptown were still empty. And on TV, the big celebration on the Mall almost looked like it was happening in another city altogether.

Photos by Mike Madden