Sunday, November 6, 2016

Washington DC

November 1-2, 2016
College Park, MD (Washington DC)

One of the perks of staying at Cherry Hill is access to public transportation to DC. There is a bus stop at the park that goes to the metro station, but it takes 20 minutes and means you have to "catch it" in both directions. Instead, we drive 4 minutes to the station where there is a large parking garage and we can park all day for $5 on our own schedule. 

The park office sells metro passes which are good for the garage, the metro, and the buses. They make it very easy to navigate the system. A couple maps and we're on our way Tuesday morning.

Our older train in the morning still has the announcements from the train operator and he is delightful! Wonderful when someone loves their job.
We have no plan to try and see everything. Today we'll walk part of the Mall, take the bus to the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Memorial, and see the American History Museum

Such a powerful place
For me, this is the spot that says "Washington DC".
Vietnam War Memorial

Students, veterans, family and friends
Many poignant moments along the Wall.
Nick Schroeder, an older sibling of our classmates. 
Soon to have a new boss.
The American History Museum was my choice and I am very disappointed. It is not the amazing place I remember from my 1989 visit. I don't remember specific exhibits, but I do remember the feel of what I saw. That is missing in all the upgraded areas. Still, there are interesting things to see.

The first Inaugural gown of all First Ladies since Mary Todd Lincoln are on display here. Will be interesting to see how they display Bill's tux :-)
A new exhibit on innovation and invention through the decades since the 1800s
Defined by community, the exhibit includes 1950's cardiac innovations in Medical Alley, MN; the 1970's birth of hip-hop in the Bronx; and advances in clean-energy in current Fort Collins, CO
The Numismatic Collection chronicles the global history of exchange and its role in American Culture. Included are the never circulated $100,000 bill, and the discontinued $1000 bill. 
The huge impact of plastic money, and how quickly it "took over" the exchange process. 
A small, unique exhibit on how fantasy influenced science.
From the center of the earth, to the depths of the ocean, to the surface of the moon, authors took us there in our imagination long before we touched them.
With 36 years in the industry, Bill enjoys the Lighting a Revolution exhibit on the history of electric motors and the light bulb. Advances are so fast, there is nothing here on LEDs.

Looking more like what I remember, the large transportation exhibit boggles the mind. How did they get the train, and the bus, and the subway car, and the big rig in there? 

John Bull locomotive, 1831
Silversides bus, built by GMC in 1947, an icon of the American highway.
We loved this 1937 Silver Dome trailer. The wood interior is beautiful, but impossible to photograph through the glass.
Nelson Jackson and Sewell Crocker drove from California to New York in 1903. The lack of roads and bridges meant mud, wash-outs and numerous breakdowns. Still looks like fun!
We don't see everything, but we're ready to head back by 4 o'clock. Not realizing there had been a major renovation of the museum I wasn't prepared for the changes. I'll check out the next museum before our visit.

Cleaner and more comfortable, but lacks the personality of our morning ride.

Tessa likes the smoother ride of the new train, only lifting her head when the doors open at each stop.
Checking the Museum of Natural History website I see it has been updated as well. The first thing I notice is the absence of the wonderful mammal and history of man dioramas. We still want to see it, it's a must-do for us, no matter the changes. For sure we want to see one of the 3-D movies, they all sound great.

Wednesday I decide we should change trains and go to a different station this time. Because we have to use the elevator with Tessa, we find this decision "challenging" as the signage is not clear. All the metro workers are very helpful, and one stops the short escalator for us rather than sending us back to the missed elevator. Living in Tessa's world is a good place :-)

Underground in "metro-world"
An escalator for everybody else, a stairway for us. 
Natural History Museum
The very recognizable rotunda.
Life in One Cubic Foot is fascinating.

From Biocubes along a reef where over 100 species connect, giving scientists the opportunity to study how each contributes to that eco-system. These are magnified 5X.

Especially wonderful is the school program where students find a spot in nature (sometimes a vacant lot in the city) to place their open cube. They then collect and study all they find. Finally they return everything to the same location. The little film and the quotes from the participating kids show a great opportunity.

Turtle Ocean is a display made from plastic trash found on ocean beaches. A sad reality around the world.

The IMAX theater is a beautiful new facility attached to the back of the museum. We see Jean-Michel Cousteau's Secret Ocean in 3-D, and it is outstanding. Really outstanding! What a gift to see such unique beauty right in front of our nose.

We enjoy the huge exhibit of skeletons from the poison-dart frog to the killer whale. The collection is very well done. Many of the skeletons look similar, while some are so unique they are easier to identify. Few animals look like a giraffe or a stork.

Easy to see the head of the walrus and the feet of the seal 

This Rough-Skinned Newt is tiny, yet every piece of his skeleton is in place.

The tiny, curved bones on the snakes - wow!
The fossils and dinosaurs are disappointing. Especially after the huge collection at the small museum in Thermopolis, Wyoming that we enjoyed so much in July. 

By far, my favorite exhibit is the new Origins of Man. I could have spent a whole day or more here. Not only skeletons and artifacts, but beautiful bronze statues and interactive "caves" and smart organization of the scientific facts of our beginnings.

Lucy greets us. She is the 3.2 million year old human skeleton found in Ethiopia. She and her species walked upright and lived in trees. Her story is very cool.
You can interact with some of the inhabitants.

She is so powerful.
Each of five caves invite you to touch artifacts, ask questions, make conclusions. 

A wonderful section on symbols

including a display of lovely Goddess artifacts.
The glass displays lack the originality of the dioramas for the Mammals area.

The room is beautiful, but the animals outside of their habitats make them look more like home decor.
We both enjoy the huge gem and mineral area. The famous Hope Diamond is lovely, but no more so than many of the other pieces. The natural specimens are the most fascinating, and the variety is staggering. I've never heard of 80% of them.

67 carat champagne colored diamond

Four foot tall sandstone concretions 

Mesolyte with fluoropophyllite

Actinolite - looks like steel wool

Gypsum with fluorite inclusions. Isn't nature amazing?
Slabs of very colorful chalcedony quartz
Wonder if wulfenite tastes like butterscotch?
It's fun to see displays here of things and places we've seen in our travels. It reminds us how blessed we are to live this life.

We were in Bisbee, Arizona last winter.

The best examples of columnar rocks are Devil's Postpile in the Eastern Sierras and Bear Lodge in the Black Hills. We enjoyed our visit to both.
I knew we couldn't get into the new African American Museum, they are sold out through February. I wanted to see the Native American Museum, but am not up to three days on concrete. We'll see it and some of the others when we come back. 

Just being on the sidewalks, the sights are wonderful

including century old statues surrounded by commuters waiting for the bus.

This beautiful building makes a great landmark to find our metro station across the street.

Feeling like Maxwell Smart, we take this elevator in the middle of the sidewalk.
Even with our few disappointments, we're not sorry we came to the Capital. There's so much to see and do that it's overwhelming, and I'm glad we agreed in advance to just pick a few for this visit. 

We still have a couple days, and I hear there are a couple NFL stadiums nearby. Let's go see them!


  1. It has been years since we've been in either of those museums. Lots of changes for sure! I'm glad the gem and minerals are still there. I've loved that sections since I was little and made my first visit. I should probably go back one day now with all our hiking and rock finds. I'm sure I would find it even better. There is just so much to see. You did a nice job sampling:) I never thought about how tough it would be to get into the new African American Museum...makes since! Glad Tessa enjoy her train rides:)

    1. I wondered if the updates were made since you'd been - definitely a different place now. Yes, the rocks are still very awesome! Tessa was a trooper for all of it :-)

  2. The first time I went to DC was when Jessica moved there in 2008. Since then I've visited the area a few more times. It never gets old going to the monuments and museums.

    1. I think I'd have to live there to ever see it all!

  3. Loved the stroll thru the museums but hey, no photo of the Hope Diamond for your BFF???

    1. Sorry :-( I did take a pic, but it didn't come out very well - the lighting is weird.

  4. Great post Jodee. We were so overwhelmed when we visited the museum. So much to see and read...
    I agree that just walking the streets is a huge thrill taking in all the sights. The size alone of the Lincoln Memorial was breathtaking. Yep, so much. I would like to visit again someday!

    1. I agree about the size of Lincoln - and it looks exactly like it did before. Definitely worth another visit!

  5. What an amazing year you've had! You've just about seen it all and done it all in a very short time. We love walking around there. It's a place filled with sights no matter how many times you've visited.

  6. I think the last time I visited those museums was back in the late 80's, too! We're definitely due for a return trip—sounds like Cherry Hill is the perfect place to stay. I always love when we can catch public transportation into a big city. So fun that you were seeing things in the museums that you've seen in your traveling life. I often think we're on one big field trip. :-)

    1. I'd love to see what you think of the changes. A field trip is exactly right :-)

  7. Glad you liked Cherry Hill. We always stay at Greenbelt which is also walking distance to the metro but boondocking and 35' limit. Having lived in Virginia all of my adult life, I have visited the magnificent Smithsonian many times and wonder how they do it. It must cost a fortune. I also wonder how you did it to remember all the names of all the things your great pictures showed. Very wise to limit yourself to only a couple of museums and to spend the entire day in each. We went for week-ends and did the same thing. I really enjoyed your great pictures of all the updates. We've only been once in the past 6 years. Maybe we'll do an overnight in Greenbelt again if we have to spend time in Virginia. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. I wondered too! They are putting a new exhibit in the American History Museum that will completed in Sept 2018 - can you imagine how elaborate it will be with all that time to put it together?? Sponsors pay for the builds, but the maintenance and utilities and staff all add up. Have to appreciate the free admittance! I have to take a photo of the names of complicated things like the minerals or I'd never remember those :-)

  8. Never been so would love to spend time in these museums, with days off in between.

    1. You would love it I think. The lack of reasonably priced places to stay put a damper on lengthy stays for us, but I agree that taking a day in between would be the best way to enjoy more.

  9. We visited DC in '09 with friends, sadly all of our, and their, pictures disappeared off of our computers. Your pictures bring back great memories of a week spent in DC.

    1. Glad to share!! I'm always worried my photos are going to disappear :-(((