Part 1 of a ?-Part Series: To Break Ground in the Sky
Greetings, travelers. It is I, the Guest Blogger. I have returned to incrediblememories in response to a very courteous request from my Blogette (wife), who mingled her very courteous request with a very courteous and totally pressure-free prompting about how her weekly post is due tomorrow and she doesn’t have anything written yet.
So, let’s talk about taking a trip to our nation’s capital. I realize in our current cultural and political climate setting foot inside the Washington, D.C. beltway may sound as enjoyable as undergoing root canal surgery performed by an angry chimpanzee. However, that may actually be the best reason to visit. The current climate thing, I mean, not the chimp. There are chimps in D.C., in the National Zoo. I’ve seen them. But to my knowledge they’re not allowed to practice amateur dentistry. Not on first-time visitors, anyway.
No, I mean if we are to believe the mainstream media or (God help us) Twitter and Facebook, our country is terribly divided. Maybe. But regardless, this wide spread perception is precisely why one should visit the capital, specifically the National Mall. For those unfamiliar with it, the Mall is a large section of land just south of the White House in downtown Washington, D.C. It stretches from just past the Capitol Building on the East side to the Lincoln Memorial at the edge of the Potomac, then across the river to Arlington National Cemetery. Other than the locations already mentioned, this large swath of land is home to the U.S. Smithsonian Institution and various memorials.
The Smithsonian itself isn’t a singular thing. It’s the largest series of museums, galleries, and research organizations in the world, all free of charge to the public. The Smithsonian can pull this off because it’s funded by federal appropriations along with private trust fund assets blah blah blah boring financial stuff blah blah who the heck cares. You don’t pay to go into the Smithsonian museums. They’re free, all the time. Win.
For today, we’re just going to focus on the Air & Space Museum because 1) I’m very familiar with it, so the research requirements are light, 2) I’m too lazy to write about all 19 parts of the Smithsonian at once, and 3) there is no way you’d read about all 19 at once anyway.
In planning a trip to the Air & Space Museum, you’ll first want to consider how to get there. If you’re staying in downtown D.C., you may be within walking distance. Pedestrians are a staple of D.C. life, so you’ll enjoy a cozy walk with many other tourists, would-be bureaucrats, Congressional staffers, food truck vendors, and homeless people.
I’m kidding, of course. Congressional staffers are never allowed outside as sunlight is fatal to them.
If you’re not within walking distance, you’ll face the classic Do I Drive or Do I Metro dilemma. Washington only has one empty parking space and it’s under construction, unfortunately. So, parking on the Mall can be a challenge. Thankfully, D.C. has a pretty decent metro system, simply called The Metro. There are multiple stations around the city and just about any metro line will stop off at the Mall at some point, so that’s a viable option.
Before riding you must get a Metro SmarTrip card by offering your debit card as a token sacrifice to one of the many imposing ticketing kiosks at any Metro station.
If it deems you worthy, you’ll receive a SmarTrip card in return and you are on your way.
The Air & Space Museum is one of the easiest buildings to find on the Mall because it’s somewhat centrally located and is pretty distinctive.
Inside you’ll find an incredibly impressive collection of exhibits, artifacts and memorabilia commemorating America’s...well, Air and Space exploits.
At first glance, the museum appears to have on display every single rocket NASA ever fired.
That’s just one shot of them. There are many more.
As you explore, you’ll find rooms and sections dedicated to different eras of flight, specific missions, like the moon landings, scaled down mock-ups of an aircraft carrier hangar deck and bridge, as well as at least one example of pretty much every kind of flying machine ever conceived.
There is a room dedicated to the Wright Brothers and the birth of manned flight. I highly recommend it. Few moments can be said to have truly altered history’s course. A couple of bicycle engineers on a beach in Kittyhawk, N.C. are responsible for one of them.
In addition to the one pictured here, the museum also has the Wright Brothers plane Amy Adams and Ben Stiller somehow piloted out of the building in Night At The Museum 2, but I didn’t take a picture of it.
There are several rooms dedicated to aviation during WWI and WWII, which are incredibly poignant, humbling and tremendously informative. There is also an ode to more modern military aviation trends.
A personal favorite of mine, though, is the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit. Those worthy gentlemen receive an entire room honoring their impressive and groundbreaking accomplishments. One of the highlights is the below placard describing their commanding officer, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
Lt Gen Davis believed being an American was indeed a privilege, but one that must be earned.
There is more than I can possibly mention here. Much, much more.
No other nation broke ground in the sky like this one did. Lindbergh’s plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, is on display. He crossed the Atlantic in this thing, in the dark, and it didn’t even have a windshield. I’m not kidding. Look.
You really should see this place. Everyone should see this place. Not being satisfied with mere earth, a few driven, borderline insane people decided to try for the stars. We haven’t gotten quite that far yet, but man, where we have gotten to is pretty spectacular.
I hope you find your way there soon.
Next time: The National Gallery of Art! Really!
Photo credit: all photos are either my own or are public images put out by the Smithsonian. If you believe a photo featured here is from another source, please let the Blogette know, and after delivering a thorough tongue-lashing to me, she will take it down.