What It's Really Like Traveling With POTUS

By CBS News producer Kia Baskerville.

Traveling with the President of the United States is very exhausting and glamorous only to those who think so. But it's cool if you like long plane rides, choppers, motorcades, waiting – a lot of waiting – and running.

It may sound like I am whining, but it is an honor reserved for a select few.

President Bush is in the second of six full days of visiting five Latin American countries. The White House Press Corps took off from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Thursday night. After a 9.5 hour flight we landed in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I have to admit I don't usually sleep on planes, but the flight was as smooth as butter. So I enjoyed the six hours of rest, knowing there wouldn't be another leg as long for the rest of our trip.

Having only traveled to Brazil one other time with POTUS (President of the United States), I had never been to Sao Paulo, the third largest city in the world approximately 18.5 million inhabitants. From the plane, I was simply in awe. There are a few sporadic sky scrapers and many, many, many low-level buildings practically on top of each other – for miles and miles.

The temperature was around 85 degrees and humidity around 200 percent (at least it felt so), but our stay in Sao Paulo was brief.

On the hour-long bus ride to the hotel/workspace from the airport, our view consisted of skyscrapers, a disturbingly dirty river and incredible poverty-stricken neighborhoods. I felt guilty for traveling in an escorted motorcade before I even started working.

The president began his day with a Consulate Greeting, took a tour of an alternative fuels distribution center that turns products such as castor oil, soy, sunflower, cotton, and sugar cane in to fuel.

Read more about President Bush's Latin America trip
Photos of the president's trip
Mr. Bush also had a working lunch with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva. We of course had a "working" lunch in our hotel filing space, the World Trade Center Hotel (Sao Paulo city center). Yes, it was catered by the hotel and yes, it was rather tasty: pasta, fried cheese balls, salad, hamburger patties, etc. (It's difficult to remember what we eat from day to day because you eat constantly on these trips. There is never a lack of food between the plane and hotel workspaces).

Next, POTUS attended a bi-lateral meeting with the president of Brazil and had a joint news conference with him where they discussed trade and energy. President Bush ended his trip to Brazil by touring and enjoying song and dance at a local community center for children with the First Lady.

Meanwhile a few of us in the press corps spent time amongst the 40 or so protestors outside of President Bush's hotel. Aside from witnessing a flag burning, people chanting in Portuguese "Go Home Bush" the protest, at least I the one I attended, was relatively tame.

I thought I had seen it all with the flag burning – but as we left the city heading back for the airport our trip was taken to another level thanks to the Sao Paulo police escorts.

We get police escorts in most foreign countries to and from airports. It honestly helps keep us up with the president and his schedule.

Anyway, our bus ride was an adventure to say the least. With five heavily loaded buses and at least seven bike police, we weaved our way out of the city center with a fury. It was like a scene out of the Dukes of Hazzard: police ahead clearing lanes every step of the way, cruising on sidewalks sometimes just to get cars to pull over. Our bus driver must have gone to some kind of defensive driving school because coming within inches of cars on the highways without actually hitting them while weaving in and out of traffic was a task many could not have handled.

Now, of course, the egregious stares from local pedestrians and drivers as we whizzed by were not exactly comforting. Mainly they were all wondering who we were, in particular with our obnoxious VIP signs in lights on the front of the bus. I thought to myself, "We may want to get out of town even a little faster."

Here's a shout out to the Sao Paulo police – nice work!

Happily sipping on a glass of champagne and watching the hilariously amusing "Night at the Museum," the two hour flight to Montevideo, Uruguay was very enjoyable. Getting to sleep around 2am for the second night in a row, not so much, but it comes with the territory.

Montevideo is simply beautiful! Waking up to a view of the Rio de la Plata and locals walking their beloved pets on the trail next to the river – I was in heaven. At least from my hotel room window the sights were inviting.

Very few times do we actually get out and have some fun (or exercise for that matter), but, with President Bush only having one main event here in Uruguay, I enjoyed a brisk walk myself by the river before work. A little shopping at one of the local open air markets also helped bring me to life.

So, as President Bush traveled to President Vasquez's ranch to have lunch and hold a news conference, I had some freedom for once. Maybe a little dinner by the river is in order now before we trek out in the middle of the night to catch our next flight.

Next stop Bogota, Colombia where no U.S. president has traveled since 1982. Mr. Bush will meet with President Alvaro Uribe to demonstrate U.S. support for Colombia, highlight positive security and economic developments that have taken place there and discuss the mutual commitment to the U.S. Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.

And the White House Press Corps will indeed enjoy another hotel file/workspace. With expected protests, we probably will not be venturing far from the hotel – except to maybe actually cover those who do not like our president or our presence.
Kia Baskerville
  • James Klatell

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