Life

D.C. Trip – Day Five (Final Day)

Need to catch up?

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four

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Day Five – Wednesday

Did you breathe a sigh of relief when you read the title of this post? Go on now, you can admit it, you’re getting tired of hearing about our trip, right? 😀

I apologize if this has been boring for some of you, but considering I blog to journal my life, and our vacations are a big part of our lives (because we’re homebodies, for the most part, and when we get out, it’s a big deal to us), I, of course, have to chronicle our adventures and record my thoughts about said adventures.

That and if I don’t write it down? I’ll forget it in like two weeks. *sigh* I WISH I were kidding.

We had done so much by this time that we were sort of at a loss as to what to do next. I had mentioned something about the National Geographic Society’s Explorers Hall (NGSEH) being fun because the book described it as such:

It’s like walking through a couple of National Geographic TV specials. Located on the first floor of the National Geographic Society’s headquarters, this small collection of exhibits showcases weather, geography, astronomy, biology, exploration, and space era castles under siege, to imaginary monsters and manipulated photographs.

Doesn’t that sound like something a couple of teenage boys MIGHT be interested in, if only for an hour?

Uh, no. Either the person who wrote this review was on crack and IMAGINED all of these cool things, or the NGSEH changed their exhibit because when we got there? It was the entire history of China.

Now, nothing against China, or it’s history, but we weren’t expecting to see huge photographs of cute little China children or read about the history of trade relations with China. We were expecting … well, I’m not sure what we were expecting, but it wasn’t what we saw.

Oh sure, the model ships were cool to look at …

National Geographic Museum

… but other than that? Snoozeville.

To top it off, this exhibit was on the ground floor of the NGSEH headquarters, which meant, it was swarming with business people … trying to go about their, er, business, and here we were, in the middle of them all, smelling like warm flesh, gritty from sweat and dressed comfortably (i.e. like tourists, i.e. sloppy and without one thought to fashion).

Can we say … AWKWARD? I couldn’t WAIT to get out of there. I felt so embarrassed and totally out of place trying to be a tourist and navigate myself through the sea of suits. I think we might have stayed for 20 minutes, tops. We zipped right out of there and back onto the streets faster than it takes you to fast forward through a National Geographic special (oh come on, you KNOW you do it).

We found ourselves back on the streets of D.C., in the business district, with nary another tourist in sight. I’m telling you, it was weird and we all felt pretty uncomfortable. And we were getting that snooty once over that people give each other whenever they are feeling superior to one another.

It was close to lunch by this time so we thought we would grab a bite to eat. We went to Potbelly. This was a new place to us, we had never even heard of the franchise before laying eyes on it, but we went in, ordered some sandwiches (which were DELICIOUS, btw. I had a tuna sandwich on toasted wheat bread – doesn’t that just make your mouth water??), and sat down to eat our meal. About ten minutes later, the whole place was crawling with suits. And our table was near the door, which meant we were literally surrounded by D.C. business people.

*sigh* I’ve never felt more self-conscious in all my life.

We quickly finished our meal and headed back to the Metro station. We hopped on, transferred lines, and hopped back off at the Archives Station (we really were becoming pros at the whole Metro system).

FINALLY. We were back in the land of tourists and I began to relax once more. We walked to the National Archives and got in line. The line wasn’t too bad when we got into it, but as per usual, the line increased about ten-fold shortly after we arrived. (This ALWAYS happens to us – we arrive someplace, it’s not that crowded and then *BAM*, suddenly the place is packed! It’s like, “Oh look! The M family has arrived! And they are so cool! We MUST do what they are doing so their coolness will rub off on us!” Seriously folks, it’s kind of creepy how everywhere we go, it gets busy. I’m sure it’s a coincidence, or is it ….? Sort of like how every time we go to a new restaurant, and we like it and we SAY we like it, it goes out of business three months later. Weird.)

So, we’re in line at the National Archives and we’re about to see the Declaration of Independence. The Archives hadn’t been on my list of must sees and I don’t really know why. I guess I was thinking the boys wouldn’t really be all that interested in seeing actual documents of our nation’s history …

Oh, how wrong I was.

I think the Archives ranked right up there with the Air & Space Museum – well, maybe not QUITE that successful, but it was definitely a top five contender.

We were herded into the building, shuffled through security and then we headed straight for the Rotunda. And I’m so glad we did, because shortly after we arrived and got into line, the place filled up and it was wall-to-wall people. (See what I mean?)

Flash photography wasn’t allowed in the Archives, so we didn’t really get any clear shots of the place …

Rotunda

… but that’s okay, because the actual Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were so faded that really, the only thing on the actual documents were various scribbles and line indentations. I was very disappointed, and a bit alarmed, that the documents had deteriorated so much. But apparently, some years back, officials began noticing that the documents were aging and changing much faster than they were projected to. The casings the documents were housed in were faulty and was allowing air to reach the documents. They reconfigured the casing and moved the documents, but not before it had done substantial damage.

The original Declaration, now exhibited in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in Washington, DC, has faded badly—largely because of poor preservation techniques during the 19th century. Today, this priceless document is maintained under the most exacting archival conditions possible.

It was both sad and exciting to see the documents our nation has been built upon. I think seeing these documents really made an impact on the boys and suddenly, they were recalling all of those boring history classes and how all of that history that was pounded into their heads did indeed happen and I think they felt humbled by the realization.

I think it’s cool that this trip fell just before Independence Day – I’m confident this 4th of July won’t just be about shooting off fireworks for the boys, but about celebrating our country’s freedom and taking pride in our country and all the benefits it offers its citizens.

I couldn’t have planned this better if I tried. *grin*

I think the vaults made the most impact on GD. He found it fascinating that so much information about so many people and events were housed in the archives. We ran into a particular exhibit that had questions people commonly ask about whether they are in the archives or not. One such question was, “I wrote a letter to the president when I was in the fifth grade. Am I in the archives?” The answer was yes. All letters to the president are kept and recorded.

GD did indeed write a letter to the president when he was in grade school, so it was likely that his letter was in the vaults somewhere. (I’m sure the president never saw his letter, but still, it was cool to think the government had it stored somewhere). We spent about an hour in the archives, and would have actually stayed longer, but we had tickets to pick up at the International Spy Museum. (ISM)

The ISM was meant to be the grand finale of our trip and it didn’t disappoint us. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the place, other than this ticket stub

International Spy Museum

because they didn’t allow photography.

We arrived at the ISM hot and tired. I had meant to make a stop back at our hotel so I could drop off the heavy book bag that I had been carting around all trip so I wouldn’t have to carry it through the museum with me, but alas, we ran out of time. By the time we collapsed in the ISM, our legs were killing us and the last thing we wanted to do was walk another three hours (the projected time it took to get through the ISM doing both the self-guided tour and the Operation Spy mission, which I had signed us up for).

I have to admit, I was getting pretty cranky. So, the hubs, being the wonderful man he is, left us at the ISM to search for someplace to buy Gatorade, something that would rejuvenate us for this last tour. He found something two blocks away and had to sprint back to us because it was time to go on our tour and he hadn’t made it back. I felt so bad for him because the man HAD to be exhausted and yet here he was, running when what he needed to do was rest. This man of mine – he loves me. 🙂

We went up the stairs and was met by an ISM “spy.” He gave us our first mission; find a way into the spy headquarters. We were greeted by a blank wall. Somewhere on that wall was a way in. There were 11 of us in our group. So, all 11 of us began searching the wall, running our hands over it, trying to locate a hidden mechanism. None of us found it, and the spy had to let us in. It was really funny and that set the tone for the rest of the “mission.”

For the next 45 minutes, we were on a mission. We had to locate a vital piece of some sort of weaponry that, of course, would be disastrous in the wrong hands. We met with our correspondent, who may or may not have been a double agent, and we had to ask her questions via video, search a room for clues, “scan” anything we found suspicious and even rode in the back of a truck (complete with movement as if we were really being whisked away) for our getaway.

I won’t give any specifics away in case you want to go to the ISM, but suffice it to say, it’s worth the money, folks. We had a blast! And you couldn’t help but get into the spirit of things and feel apprehension and excitement about finding clues and trying to solve the mystery.

After our mission was over, we were led into the self-guided part of the museum where we spent another hour just walking through and trying out hands-on experiments and tests and looking at all sorts of spy equipment that have been used, and discovered, in our history. Though we were all pretty tired by the time it was over, it was well worth the wait and we had an absolute ball at the International Spy Museum. (I HIGHLY recommend making a stop there if you’re ever in D.C. The kids will LOVE it).

We finally made it back to our hotel at dusk, warmed up some rolled tacos in our oven and relaxed the rest of the evening.

We checked out of our hotel the next morning, drove by the Pentagon on our way to the airport and spent three hours hanging out at the airport because our flight was delayed one hour due to weather in St. Louis. Our plane finally arrived. We flew back to St. Louis (the flight was so quiet – no small kids or disruptive passengers – it was actually pretty nice to just relax and read), caught our smaller plane back to Springfield in good time and made it back to our hometown by 8:30 p.m. (We had to disembark via steps outside the plane when we got back to Springfield because we were the last flight for the day and most everyone had gone home. Talk about culture shock from big airports like D.C. and St. Louis! We’re so insignificant our airport can’t be bothered with little things like STAFFING. *grin* That’s okay, I really do love our small-town mentality).

Final Thoughts

Our trip to Washington D.C. was a huge success. I think the kids really enjoyed themselves and now have a newfound respect for our country and its history. I think it will be interesting to see how they respond to their history classes this next school year – if it will hold new meaning for them and if they will appreciate (and pay closer attention) to what they learn.

Washington D.C. is a great place to take teenagers. There is a lot of interesting things to see and I think teenagers are old enough to really appreciate the significance of what they are seeing and learning. They are also old enough to handle the IMMENSE amount of walking required for a vacation like this. This was one of our most physically challenging vacations because even though the public transportation system is top-notch and easy to navigate, you still have to walk quite a few blocks anywhere you need to go. And of course, there’s the added walking element when you tour the actual museums.

D.C. is beautiful and interesting and I’m so glad I was able to talk the hubs into going (he wasn’t exactly sure there would be enough for us to do there – *SNORT*). Now, if I can only talk him into a Disney vacation next year …

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I can’t promise I won’t mention D.C. in future posts, but I can promise, I won’t talk your ear off about it in future posts. 😀

Organic Pizza? Yum!

One last thing: I have a slideshow of our trip available, if you’re interested.

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