Early Monday morning, as the late summer sun peeked over the forested Delaware horizon, My trusty adventuring companion (and eldest son Kevin.... my Philippe Cousteau) loaded up our Honda adventuremobile and headed to the environs of our Nations Capitol. Little did we know at the time, that the unforgiving gods of Adventure had some shenanigans planned for us.
First, the great mystery of 495, the beltway triangle. After making fantastic time, we hit traffic about 10 miles north of the 95/495 split. We did about 5 mph for ever, even when we got on the belt way...then.... for no apparent reason... traffic vanished. We werent by a exit, there was no accident, it just went from fender to fender, barely moving to 55mph in 10 feet...WTF!
Notes for foreigners in regards to 495.... Turn indicators are only used during the holiday season to add to the festive atmosphere. The guy in the Audi IS more important then you and IS allowed to drive like a full fledge Jackwagon and there is no reason why the guy is doing 45 mph.... he just is and you should deal with it because he is about to drop down to 25mph in the middle lane of a major interstate because his god demands it.
Note to the Government of whomever....That toll road to Dulles, loved it, as I was the only one on it...but....Coin baskets??? I spent a hour try to explain them to my son and frankly I expected to see Sonny’s bullet riddle car parked by the toll booth to 28.
Our first stop was the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy center, in one word, Incredible. The layout, the Facility, the exhibits themselves are all fantastic. I was let down that I wasnt able to jump the rail and sit in the Sparrowhawk and play for hours, but I’ll look past that. They have that darn german Dornier with the propeller in the front and back, I built a model of that as a kid and fell back in love with it this Monday. All the rare German planes were fantastic. In the refurbishing area I think they are going to start working on a Helldiver and what could be a Japanese fighter. The P-40.... A plane I have been liking since the flying tigers special on the Military channel...is totally lathered in pure unrefined cool. There was a huge plus for us...a Mcdonalds... it made Kevin a happy camper. I could have spent all day there but we had a train to catch...literally.
We headed to 66 then to the Vienna Metro station, you know, if your nice to those guards, they are nice right back to you, as he advised us since we were going to make multiple transfers we should get passes and even hit the buttons for us...and they worked great as we headed boldly and without fear, towards the National Zoo.
The National Zoo is certainly unencumbered by such things such as animals, As noted by my son, most of the exhibits seemed to be empty. We did see the Panda’s, Guerillas, a single elephant a single lion and a single Tiger. The small mammal house had some cool critters and the reptile house was appropriately creepy but all and all not the best zoo my son has visited. I did note the the natural flow of the zoo seemed to take you to the bottom of a hill then said “thats it....have fun climbing back up the hill to go home” as sort of a bad joke.
Note: I will say that Connecticut Ave was kind of cool.
After the zoo we headed back to Vienna and searched for a Hotel, we soon pulled into the Fairfax Econo-lodge which wasnt to bad....providing you don’t like to take showers, as it seems when they refinished the bathroom they neglected to put in any device to activate the shower head. Our dinner was a disappointment (outback) and we were both asleep by 9:00 PM.
Early morning, we headed back to the Metro station....
Note for non-metroids: You can’t use passes until after 9:30, so if you want to get into the city early buy a one way card as well.
.... And headed into our favorite Station, Smithsonian. It was early but luckly the Castle opens at 8:30. We went in and viewed some small exhibits, Kevin got a great picture of Franco Harris’s Helmet and we went to grab a bite at the little cafe they have and can I say we had the best doughnut in the world, that thing was fricking god like, the smithsonian should have a Museum of Doughnuts with that one as the cornerstone exhibit, Im not joking...that was a great doughnut.
(Once again I will say, if you treat the guards and police politely, they are really nice guys, Kevin wanted to know what one of the buildings was so we politely asked a guard out front and he was very nice “Its the department of Justice, also called the Robert F. Kennedy building”)
The Spy Museum was our first real stop, a Totally awesome place. Kevin is to young to do the one Spy experience thing they have so I have never seen that but would love to go back and give it a try. We had been before but it was wall to wall people it was perfect today and everything Kevin wanted to do, he could.
After the Spy museum we headed to the Smithsonian American History Museum. A great place with a great Military exhibit, though I will say I am shocked by how brief the WWI section is... but hey, most people think numbered world wars began at 2. Kevin really didnt enjoy this museum as much as he had the last time we were there but was a good sport. We decided to head over to the Air and Space Museum so we headed out the front doors to the mall.....thats when the Earthquake hit.
The Earthquake...(BTW Great weather for it)
We had just crossed the street to the mall proper and were crossing under the trees, there was a smash of glass and Kevin said “Dad that lamp just broke” I turned to see one of the Brown lamps that line the mall swaying back and forth with part of its glass dome broken on the ground. I remember thinking “What the _____! is this the haunted lamp post of DC?” as we hadn't noticed anything else and we started across the mall.
We began to notice that all the people from the Smithsonians were beginning to assemble on the mall but didnt make any connection, I got a voice message but couldn't get anything but a busy signal, the woman on a bench by us with her kids had Verizon and she couldn't get anything either. Then somebody who was on the interwebs with there smart phone said, we had a earthquake.... as soon as he said that sirens began to be heard in all directions, Fire trucks and police cars were actually passing each other going in opposite directions.
All of the Museums had been emptied onto the mall by now and there was a mass of people. A helicopter was circling down by the washington monument at one point very close to the ground. We could see lots of emergency lights up by the capitol and sat down in the shade in front of the Air Space Museums.
We had some chats with some other tourists, including a family from Germany as we waited. Kevin seemed a little worried but we talked and he was soon himself. We soon saw people heading into Air and space so we decided to head in and to our surprise, we were allowed in. I should have taken the worried guy in a tool belt looking up at the planes hanging from the ceiling as a sign but we covered the WWI, and Aircraft carrier exhibits and headed around to finish the 2nd floor, as we did a guard said “2nd floor is closed...everyone goes to the first floor” so we obeyed and went to the escalator, as we descended the intercom blared “The Museum is closed...please exit the Museum”.
We asked a guard if they were going to be reopening today and he said no so Kevin and I decided to start our way home....or as it shall be called... “The Exodus”
We walked down towards the Smithsonian Station but it was Closed, or was supposed to be but people were forcing their way down the up escalator. So Kevin and I politely asked a park Ranger where we should go....these people must not deal with respectful people to often in the day because once more a expression of disgust turned into a helpful demeanor as she not only explained that we should “head up the orange line out of the City Center”, she gave us a map to help us.
We didnt have to go to far as we soon reached Federal Triangle and it was open, though it looked like the lifeboat deck on the titanic as many of the buildings had sent people home early. Kevin and I made our way down and he suggested that we should wait a couple of trains to let the people clear out...so we did.
Note too the guy in the Boy Scouts of America hat: If you ever bump into a person like that again and dont say excuse me, I’ll shove that hat down your fricking throat, I dont mind you being a total ass, but dont do it in a BSA hat. ( it wasnt us but the nice old woman we were talking to)
The platform did clear off... that is until people up the track realized they had a better chance of getting on a train if they came down to our station. We were reminded every 5 minutes that the Orange line had been damaged and that was only operating with one track up by new Carrolton and that the trains were only going about 15mph.
After a patent wait we managed to get on a train, we had to stand but we were on one and with some Old Metro hands who filled us in on this and that. At every stop, dozens of people would literally just try to cram themselves in, in their defense more sardines did get in the can but they just pushed people around. on guy got on and it was like he was the only person in the world as he didnt just grab the bar that Kevin and I were holding, but laid his whole sweaty arm against....over Our ( and several other peoples) hands and just didnt care. Apparently one Driver actually had people clear her train because they werent listening to her about people forcing their way on.
We started our trip home at about 3:15 and got to our Truck on the roof of the Vienna Parking garage at about 6:30. Our trip home down 66 to 495N then to 95N was surprisingly traffic free and we got home about 9:00PM
All and all it was a fun, eventful and exciting 2 days....what the heck am I supposed to do to top it?