The what? I’ll explain.
I’ve struggled to figure out how to break down our busy, busy one-week trip to Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania last week. A lot happened in a week. A lot. And well, I’m not known for my brevity when it comes to recaps.
I thought about doing one big photo dump from our 4 days in DC but then I thought, “Well, that’s boring.” And whenever I find myself in these crises of writing confidence, I just remember the No. 1 reason I keep going at this ole blog — to help ME remember the memory-worthy events in life.
Guess what that means for you? Many DC/PA recaps! You’re welcome!
So, without further ado, here’s day 1:
We flew up to DC early Saturday morning. E. of course had her favorite traveling companion with her. How have I failed so miserably?
Thankfully the flight was uneventful and we landed at Reagan National (I can’t believe after all these years, they’ve broken me. It was still just National when I moved to DC and I swore I’d never adopt the “Reagan.” I have) just before 11 a.m.
DadJovi’s friend picked us up at the airport since we were staying with him, his wife and their 1-year-old daughter for the first couple nights.
On our way to his house in Arlington, we did a quick drive around DadJovi’s old ‘hood, including a stop by the apartment the two of them shared all through law school. Sadly for the residents of the complex, it hasn’t improved much since they lived there nearly 15 years ago. It’s amazing how much Arlington, particularly the Clarendon and Ballston areas, have changed. I barely recognized some streets.
We spent the first couple hours relaxing at their really lovely home and getting to know the baby. I also couldn’t wait to get my toes into some REAL grass, not this St. Augustine scratchy crap they pass off as grass in Florida.
After a great backyard BBQ lunch, we left our friend’s wife and baby at home for naptime and set off to explore something new-to-us: the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
Don’t worry. I’ve been there and I’ll never remember that name either. Just do what I do and call it the Air and Space Museum near Dulles. That’s easier to say.
Who was Steven F. Udvar-Hazy anyway? Apparently he was a Hungarian-born something or other who gave $66 BILLION to the Smithsonian. Yeah, I’d say that comes with naming rights.
Well, his contribution was well-used. The place is spectacular.
It’s a big hangar filled with every type of flying aircraft conceivable.
It even has a few celebrities in its collection.
Why yes, that is the space shuttle Discovery. Stunning, isn’t she?
During the shuttle days, I was lucky enough to cover several launches and landings for my old gig at a local TV station. I stood on the press mound as several shuttles, including Discovery, blasted into space. Those were some of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. Even with that experience, I was not prepared for how amazing it’d be to stand just underneath Discovery.
And it made me a little scared for every astronaut who ever traveled to space aboard her. Those white panels do not inspire a lot of confidence when you’re less than 10 feet from them. Honestly? It looks like the shuttle is covered in diapers. They look so flimsy and banged up, yet they still did their job.
Science is so rad.
Baby got back.
E. was moderately interested, especially when I told her she’d been to a shuttle launch as a baby and we’d watched several from our front yard (they really upped the frequency of launches in the final couple years). I’ll also never forget the time a shuttle sonic boom woke up a newborn E., who I had desperately fought to get to sleep, at a required attendance dinner party for DadJovi’s company. So many shuttle memories.
And now a really cool new one.
There were a lot of cool other spacy thing (totally a phrase) in the shuttle hanger, including models of rockets and deep-space probes (TWSS). But someone couldn’t be torn away from a very cool interactive feature: a Discovery simulator.
It actually was really cool. Kids took turns taking a seat in the pilot’s and commander’s seats, and using the joysticks, they bring the shuttle in for a landing at Kennedy Space Center. The screen in front of them is an actual video of landing on the runway and they have to use the controls to bring the shuttle in at the proper angles, pitches and other science stuff I don’t understand. E., on the other hand, LOVED it. Good.
After we tore her away from that, we also found another cool hands-on exhibit — an exact replica of an astronaut suit.
The guide explained all the various layers of the suit to us, and I learned something really cool. Notice in the suit above how all the numbers and letters are backwards? How do you think they read them? With the mirrors on the gloves (see the first picture). That’s because they can’t move their head up and down in the helmet so they needed to find a way for them to still control the various instruments on their suit, so they came up with the palm mirrors and backwards writing.
Again, science is so rad.
After leaving the shuttle wing, we headed towards the World War II section, which featured American, Japanese and German planes. You look at these planes and you just wonder how anyone survived the war. Incredible.
One of the coolest — and most terrifying — features of the museum is its catwalks that allow you to get eye-level to some planes and look down on others. E. loved it … and it kept my heart racing the entire time we were on it. When did I become so afraid of heights?
We also caught our first glimpse of the museum’s other big star from above. Can you name this plane?
Here’s a clue: its cargo forever changed the world.
If your history is a bit rusty, the Enola Gay is the B-29 bomber that dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over Hiroshima in 1945.
Crazy, huh? We stood there, a bit speechless for awhile, thinking about that history-changing event. Well, the three adults did. E had skipped off somewhere else to look for more Star Wars memorabilia.
We could have spent hours there but it had been a long day already (we had to leave the house at 6 a.m.) and we had a surprise birthday party to get to for DadJovi’s friend! I’m so glad everyone told us we HAD to go to Udvar-Hazy, even if I will never remember its actual name.
And like all Smithsonian Museums, admission is free! For this one, though, you need to pay $15 per car for parking. Totally worth it. If you’re planning on visiting Washington, definitely make the hike if possible out to the Dulles area. I know we’ll be returning on our next trip.
Have you ever been to the Udvar-Hazy Center (and if that was your name, would you have insisted they use it or picked a different name??)? Did you ever see a shuttle launch or landing?