Summer of Travel 2014: Washington DC
Aug 28, 2014 New York City
I've been here before but never for long enough to really matter.
Washington DC is Museamania gone wild. It's also a big deal
in worldwide politics which makes the whole experience that much cooler,
and why strolling the national mall while residents throw baseballs, frisbees, eat on the grass and generally enjoy life,
seem a bit incongruous. Aren't they all supposed to be trying to improve
our lives? Maybe, but these folks seem oblivious
to all that and are just enjoy life. I'll bet that, like most humans,
just want the best for themselves and their loved ones.
Tim & I visited DC one winter several years ago but it in
winter--you remember that treachery: cold weather. Just walking around
hurt and required a
spacesuit. Summertime is soooo much nicer.
The closest campground to D.C. is also the nicest one we've ever
visited: Cherry Hill Park. I complained to the office that "you guys are spending WAY too
much money on this place." It was clean, classy and well amenatied (<-
new word), including a
restaurant/snack shot with hard ice cream . We were
both impressed. It's staffed 'til 9pm more or less. We got the "more " one day
after stepping off the bus right at closing time and they stayed open to
serve us. Sadly, on another day, we arrived a few minutes early and they
were all locked down. I guess that makes us about even.
The Smithsonian Museum is amazing, especially the "Human Origins" display
and in particular for those who like to see *how* we know
what we know in addition to what we know. In some cases the actual specimens are displayed and
always with what bones were found and what was filled in.
We visited on two different days just to break it up since Tim and I
are generally only good for about 4 hours walking around in any museum,
even one this good.
Another fun stop was the Postal Museum next to Union Station. Given
that this was just after we had sent off the Airspace video for
replication and the Post office had lost one envelope and broke the disk
in the other, we were curious. Given the enormous mission they have,
delivering to nearly every address, it's a cool history.
Library of Congress
Besides playing tourist, I had a mission: visit the Library of
Congress to see if I could actually read the PPG Bible there.
The first day we bounded through the main building's Grant Atrium to
see the process for reading a book here. Not surprisingly, you don't just trot in and start perusing
the shelves. There's a
process. It involves long halls, security, nearly dormant government employees and
thankfully short lines. You must be a "researcher" to get a library card
and that's exactly what we were doing: researching the process of
getting a library card and reading a book in the world's largest
The atrium, by the way, is off the charts impressive--one of the most ornate, marbly, statued, cool looking
building interiors I've ever experienced. You don't just see this
place--you become immersed. A lot of
1890 dollars changed dollars over this place. If the government is going to give
money to people why not at least give it to people who are willing to
build something for the masses. A LOT of craftsmen hours line its walls!
Day 4 was the day to be researchers. After asking directions in the
main hall, we went to the nearly-as-ornate Jefferson building--2nd of
three that constitutes what we call the Library of Congress. After
passing another set of metal detectors, we gave up our backpacks and
made our way to the appropriate room where a stoic pair of ladies too
our pictures and eventually gave us our library cards. Then over to the
Library's 3rd and slightly more sublime, Madison building to finally see
about a book. We got a password to the system and requested the Powered Paragliding
Bible. Then, lo and behold, a bit over an hour later they came back with it
and it was ours to peruse. One copy is stored on site and the other is stored
elsewhere. Pretty cool. Both copies are physically stored--they're not
microfiche or electronic, either.
They even put a hardcover binding on it. Whoda thunk it. Nearly every
normal sized book in there has a reddish hard cover with high contrast
gold leaf looking labels, presumably to make finding titles easier. It's
a requirement for publishers to send two copies of each title as part of
Mandatory Deposit. You own the copyright with or without this
process but sending things to the copyright office, which is part of the
Library, helps if there's ever any dispute.
There were a lot of finger markings that we figure were from the
binding process. I doubt anyone needed to go looking for it at the
Library of Congress, but it's there.
We're becoming reasonably versed in various American Subway and bus
systems. Subways in particular are remarkably efficient, tunneling as
they do below congestion and traffic lights, whizzing on more direct
routes to their destinations.
Busses, too, have become easier.
In DC you merely touch a special card on the reader's G spot and it either
beeps to pass or growls with disapproval, sending
you to the chamber (a guy behind the bar-windowed booth). Thankfully we
only heard the growl once before we learned you must pay before you exit
as well as pay when entering. That makes sense so it knows how much to
charge based on your trip length.
sobering to think of how many people don't get to live this amazing life
because they sacrificed it all in service to their country. Arlington's
beauty conceals a horrible reality of grizzly death.
Humans are capable of so much greatness but susceptible to so much
horror. If only we could reduce the influences of social constructs that
divide us. I didn't want to come here on my own but Tim did and I'm glad
we came. It's good to be reminded of what's at stake and what freedom costs.
I hear so much about how bad our government is, and there ARE certainly
problems, but we have an enormous amount to be thankful for and there's
no guarantee that this relative stability will continue.
The left/right political polarization is almost scary. One thing I've
noticed is that the moment you couch an argument in sides, rational
discussion becomes all but impossible. I wish there were a rationality
The Big Bike
amazing what can be uncovered by engaging strangers. You do risk being
told to buzz off but that's a chance I'm usually willing to take. So you buzz off. As it happens, that's very
rare and I'm rewarded instead with a fascinating story. Such was the
case with Bicycle guy. Tim & I were were walking towards dinner when
this guy on his ginormous bike rode by. Immediately I wondered two
things: 1) why? and 2) what do you do at traffic lights? Luck was on our
side and we saw him duck into a book store. I dragged Tim in, we found
the rider, and I asked him. Hunter turned out to be a helicopter pilot
who flew from ships. Go figure. He was very willing to answer my
questions and even offered me to try it. "Sure!" I said. We went out, he
gave me a couple pointers and I took off.
It wasn't gonna happen. I could tell that, even if I did succeed, it
would be marginal and that wasn't something I wanted to be on a busy
street in downtown DC. Plus I didn't want to mess up his creation. It
was a lot harder than it looked. I should have known from my lack of
success with a tall unicycle.
The trip was grand and Washington stood out. There's plenty more to
go back for.
were a number of interesting but less common sites that we visited. One
was the FBI where we went in to watch torture sessions in progress, our
only advance purchase item since they need to vette which tourists get
to see them. Just kidding--no tours here.
But we did visit the "Crime and Punishment" museum which was part of
the "Big D Bus" ticket. THAT was surprisingly good. There must have 3
floors of exhibits, well presented and explained. It reminds us how
horrendous humans can treat each other. Damn that's some nasty stuff.
"Drawn and Quartered", for example, was actually a thing. Some of this
stuff was done in the name of various supernatural worries, too.
Remember these things are cultural-- these people were intrinsically no
different than you or I, but their in-group allowed it.
It reminds me of how these ISIS murderers are able to behave so
barbarically--their group condones the behavior. We're never very far
from being barbaric, oppressive sons of beehives and must always be on
DC was the last place planned so, when we pointed the Enterprise
South, it was to go all the way home. Getting home was super cool
because the house looks so incredible both inside and out. Sadly,
there's STILL work being done so we're living in the Enterprise for
another two weeks but at least we're home and all our aviation goodies
This trip was an absolute blast -- more fun than I expected. I'm not
sure whether working so intently on the Airspace video detracted a lot
but there were large parts of the travel that completely escape me. But,
in one way, that also meant some of the boring drives went by as if
using a time machine. I worked back here on the computer through even
the worst roads served up cash-starved communities. There were times, of
course, where I'd be crying "make it stop!" as I vainly tried to finesse
some intricate animation.
As much fun as the trip was, it's good to be home! Starting tomorrow
I go back to a normal airline routine of 3 on 4 off but I'm actually
looking forward to it. Now, how do those throttles move again...