Alone on his 49th birthday, President Barack Obama fled the empty White House mansion and headed for a more intimate celebration with longtime friends in his Chicago hometown.
Obama has been living a bachelor's life for the past several days with first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha visiting Spain and daughter Malia spending the month away at an undisclosed camp.
Before leaving Washington on Wednesday afternoon with the family dog, Bo, Obama got a couple of presents he didn't have to unwrap and which the White House described as being the highlight of his day: telephone calls from the women in his life.
Mrs. Obama and Sasha phoned in their happy birthday wishes, followed by a lunchtime call from Malia.
"Needless to say ... both those calls were the highlights of his day," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters who traveled with Obama aboard Air Force One.
Obama's Secret Service detail got him a present, though Gibbs would describe it only as "heartfelt."
As the presidential motorcade pulled closer to his house in Hyde Park, neighbors lined the street to welcome him home with waves and signs, including "Happy 49th Birthday President Barack Obama" and "Happy Birthday Mr. President."
Obama's birthday — though a year short of the milestone 5-0 — also was viewed in this election year as a prime fundraising opportunity for Democrats, who fear losing their hold on both houses of Congress come November.