My best friend, Patty “Casey” Sutcliffe, and her family live near Washingington, D.C. I’ve been visiting them since they moved to Virginia few years ago during a long weekend in November. I had the intent of staying at the ‘hotel Sutcliffe’ while visiting the Smithsonian Museum. On my first attempt in 2006, I was intercepted on the subway by Ed Hahn, MIT Class of 1990, who had a spare ticket to a pro football game. So that year, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Redskins-Cowboys game at RFK Stadium! In 2007, we decided to take a family outing to the Shenandoah Valley instead. But this year, I arrived Thursday night, which allowed me to take advantage of many things on a working Friday.
Firstly, Patty and Dave are very conscious of their carbon footprint. So, they discovered something called the Slug Line. It’s basically a highly organized hitchhiking cooperative. You simply show up at a designated park and ride and bum rides to where ever you are going. People are always driving near where you want to go, so why not take someone with you? This is totally free. Sometimes you drive, and sometimes you ride. It all seems to work itself out. Since Patty works downtown, there is always someone driving near enough to her office. But wait, if not, then she gets dropped off near a subway station and can take that. And if that fails, then she can get dropped off near a public biking service called Smart Bike. With a flick of a pre-paid card, you can take a special bike off the special docking station and ride it to another docking station. I managed to do everything but the subway this trip. Oh yeah, then there is simply walking!
Since we wanted to hang out after work on Friday, we decided to slug our way into D.C. with my own car. We picked up a man who worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs, who is presently stationed in D.C., but scheduled to move to Japan. Since we had three people in the car, we got to use the H.O.V. lanes, for High Occupancy Vehicles. Not only is there far less traffic in the HOV lanes, the speed limit is higher. I could not believe how we sailed right into D.C. during the morning rush hour, leaving so many cars stuck on the other lanes of the same highways, just waiting and wasting gas.
I dropped off our passenger, and parked the car where Patty works at the German Historical Institute. I put a few things in Patty’s office, got some directions, and walked from there to the Mall, where the Smithsonian is. I took my first picture right outside her office building, since I thought the leaves were pretty:
The walk took a long time, and along the way, I passed by the headquarters of the National Geographic Society:
Then, I got a long range view of the capitol building, looking down Massachusetts Avenue:
Finally, I arrived at the Air and Space Museum! I’ve been wanting to see this place for a very long time. I took many, many pictures and studied in person many air- and spacecraft that I’ve only read about since I was a boy. I won’t bother to post them all here, except for some exceptions. In the main entrance, are some of the most famous craft of all: The black North American X-15(first plane to fly into space and to fly hypersonically, above Mach 4), the orange Bell X-1(first plane to break the sound barrier, Mach 1), the SpaceShipOne(first private plane to repeat the feat of the X-15 at much less cost and weight, although not flying as fast) and the Ryan Spirit of St Louis(first plane to fly the Atlantic in one hop).
It was a real and rare pleasure to spend hours in such a museum all by myself. I was able to spend as long as I wanted at each display that interested me. And sometimes, I just stared or reflected. Some of mankind’s accomplishments are truly impressive, some are horrific. There were displays of aircraft from WWI and WWII, and artifacts from the space race. There is an actual Soviet(as opposed to Russian) SS-20 intercontinental ballistic missle, standing right next to its US counterpart, the Pershing II. Together, they could bring the destructive power of four thermonuclear warheads to their destinations. Well, there is much more to say, but I will end this installment for today.