Log

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, they really 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.

Tourist Thing

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.

Museums, Smithsonian

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 library.

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.

Subway

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.

Arlington

It's 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 party.

The Big Bike

It's 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.

Misc Places

There 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 the lookout.

Leaving

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 are here.

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...

 

Our freedom to express, to believe as we wish, and to vote in meaningful elections is bought with the blood of those who barely enjoyed them  Lots of too-young people belie these neatly lined rows at Arlington National Cemetery.

In a way, the neatness devalues the gruesome deaths experienced by many of them.

Those of us living right now are among the luckiest humans of all time, maybe relative to the future, too...we don't know what that holds.


2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!