By now you’ve probably already read parts 1 and 2, so, I won’t waste time on a recap. If you are just finding this story now though, the links below will get you caught up!

Part 1

Part 2

Day 3: Storming the Capital

The first two days had taken their toll on Shawn’s energy level, so we slept in a bit to try and help him regain some strength. In light of that, we decided to skip our early morning appointment to tour the Capitol Building. We were at least able to get pretty close the building later on anyway.

Once we were awake and ready to go it was time for a quick ride on a very clean subway. A few stops later we got off at the National Mall - under construction to put down a new turf - to visit the Smithsonian National Natural History Museum. This would be the first of many stops today, and probably the longest name of any place we visited in the entire trip.

The main entrance of the museum brings you directly to a huge domed atrium with banners and signs to guide you to where you want to go.

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Pictured: Natural History Museum.

Pictured: Natural History Museum main atrium.

We decided the first exhibit to visit would be about ocean life. This place is home to a preserved giant squid, great white shark jawbones, and huge sea turtle shells. It also has models of sea exploration tools and mini subs as well as a few tropical fish tanks. Over your head throughout the room are the skeletons, or at least the spines, of whales and even the skull of a Narwhal - which I had always assumed was a mythical creature!

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Pictured: Giant Squid

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Pictured: Dory.

Pictured: Narwhal skull.

After this we went upstairs to the Geology department. The beginning of the Geological collection is a huge array of meteorites: large, small, whole, sliced. This section was actually the reason for our visit to the museum. In order to explain why, we have to go back in time 23 years (insert harpsichord flashback music here).

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Once upon a time (1992) in a land far, far away (Bakersfield, VT), the several boys that comprised our cub scout troop were gathered at Shawn’s house for an evening of camping and starting fires (safely, of course!). While we were all outside a flash of light appeared in the sky and zoomed overhead with a beautiful and colorful trail of disintegrating minerals. It was low enough to the ground that you could hear it sizzle as it flew by. It took us a little while to decide it wasn’t a missile, but that, as low as it was, it must have landed not far beyond the horizon. Having never seen anything like it, and feeling pretty sure the odds were low we’d see anything like it again, everyone talked about that for a long time after it happened. In the weeks that followed my mom and I dug through lots of newspapers and finally learned that it had landed in New York after crushing the trunk of a car. End flashback.

The recent Perseid meteor shower and a sleepless night led me to stare at my phone and see if I could still find any information about the old meteor. Not only did I find it, I also learned that a large chunk of that very meteor was on display in Washington, D.C. I decided to add it to a list, but left it as a surprise for Shawn.

Finally, after looking through several display cases, we managed to find it! 23 years Shawn and I both happened to be outside, in the same place at the same time in the exact moment this very meteorite passed very closely overhead! Here we are, 23 years later, looking at the meteor again. It’s hard to imagine this little piece of rock made so much commotion.

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Pictured: Peekskill Meteor.

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Pictured: As it landed, it went through the trunk of this poor car. That must’ve been a fun call to the insurance company.

When we finished reminiscing, we moved on to the gigantic collection of rocks, clay formations and gemstones. All different kinds of gold, pearls of many sizes and a tower of aquamarine were on display. There were even glow in the dark rocks that look very unassuming in the light, pillar shaped rocks, and some radioactive rocks. The Hope Diamond sits on display, spinning slowly inside a probably well guarded box. There was even a quartz sphere which weighs in at about a quarter of a million carats. Placards tell you exactly what each one is and in most cases, where it came from. There were several examples of minerals like Schist and Phyllite that came from Vermont. From Rutland were very smooth and rounded clay formations that had hardened like concrete.

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Pictured: Glow in the dark rocks.

Pictured: Clay concretions from the Rutland, VT area.

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Pictured: Sphere of quartz, 242,000 carats - cut and polished in 1923-24

Pictured: The Hope Diamond

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The gemstone collection leads you to the insect display, which included some very weird leaf bugs. After a quick trip through the dinosaur display we decided lunch was in order. The museum has a cafeteria serving a whole bunch of different foods. Fortunately, admission to the museum is free - because our “meal” came out to $28!

Pictured: Leaf Bug

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Pictured: Roar. Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Pictured: All of this was ours for a mere $28!

Our adventure thus far had taught us a thing or two about Tourism 101 and methods used to separate us from our money. There was one strategy in particular that come up many times on this journey. Exit through the gift shop.

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Once we made it back out on the street we found that we were about a block from the J. Edgar Hoover building. Having watched lots and lots of investigation shows growing up, we decided we would walk up to it and get a picture next to F.B.I. headquarters.

Pictured: J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building.

From there we made our way on foot back to the National Mall and headed west to the Washington Monument. Since the tickets for access had been sold out, we settled for getting up close and personal with it. It stands remarkably high and I’m guessing the view from its windows is awesome.

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Pictured: Washington Monument.

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Pictured: Washington Monument.

Between the Monument and the Lincoln Memorial sits a WWII memorial site. This site has a beautiful fountain along with a backdrop covered in about 4k stars. Each star represents 100 American lives lost during the war. It’s hard to imagine the scale of 400,000 people losing their lives in just a few years. I mean, I’m not sure I’ve even seen that many people over the course of a few years. State labelled pillars make up the outside edge of the site.

Pictured: WWII Memorial.

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Pictured: WWII Memorial. Each star represents 100 lives lost during the war.

Heading west from there takes you past a reflecting pool to the base of the Lincoln Memorial. Climbing the stairs to see his statue also gives you a great view of the places we’d seen so far. Inside the memorial the infamous “four score” speech is carved into the marble wall and Lincoln’s statue stands tall, keeping watch over Washington D.C. Surprisingly, even though there were many people around, it was remarkably quiet.

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Pictured: the Lincoln Memorial

Pictured: Mr. Lincoln himself.

We walked slowly by the black marble of the Vietnam memorial as well as the infamous White House, attempting to take in as much of our nation’s capitol, it’s government buildings, and museums as we could squeeze into today.

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Pictured: The names on the Vietnam Memorial.

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Pictured: The White House. This could be Donald Trump’s new house! I bet it would be a downsize.

A quick subway ride from the nearest station brought us east again so we could get to the Library of Congress. The entrance to the Library is unbelievable. The colors, the pillars, and the paintings stand tall and beautiful above a floor covered with intricately designed mosaic tiles. The work that went into putting those designs together and laying them out, must have taken ages. I am one of the most patient people around, and I would have given up in the first few hours. There is a glassed in room that gives you a view into the actual library, but, access to the books didn’t look as simple. However, there are two very large wings that each hold exhibits. The first holds a large collection of old and rare books along with early printing techniques. In this wing we also learned the origins of the terms upper and lower case. Early printing presses used essentially a stamp for each letter of each article for the entire publication. These stamps were stored in cases, and one case sat above the other. The upper case held the capital letters and the lower case held the normal letters. See, it’s that simple, if a little boring. The other wing held early printed maps and navigational tools. On display here is also the Gutenberg Bible - the first printed text - and an old glass flute. As always, exit through the gift shop.

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Pictured: Main atrium of the Library of Congress.

Pictured: The actual library.

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Pictured: The Gutenberg Bible.

We crossed the street to get to the visitor center of the Capitol Building, the most interesting part of which consists of a group of diagrams that portray the progression and growth of Washington D.C. over time. Unfortunately it was getting late in the day so we weren’t able to access the actual building, although the Rotunda is under construction and we wouldn’t have been able to see that portion of the building anyway.

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Pictured: The Capitol Building.

Even though the day was starting to wind down and we had covered about 8mi on foot, we decided since we were already in the area that we would squeeze one last stop in before retiring for the night. The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum became our final stop for the day. Much of the museum seemed to be geared toward a younger crowd and houses a good collection of real and model aircraft, missiles, and rockets. Probably the most interesting room, for Shawn and I at least, was the WWII displays. There are officers uniforms for many of the countries involved along with medals and about every size bullet used in the fight. More exciting, though, is the collection of airplanes. A P-51 Mustang and a Spitfire sit below a hanging Mitsubishi Zero and a Messerschmidt. All of these planes are great looking with their fighter place stance and side exhaust. They look like they would be a blast to fly - during peacetime at least.

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Pictured: Mitsubishi P-Zero.

Pictured: Rolls Royce jet engine.

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Pictured: One of the large rooms with some planes in it.

Once we were back at the hotel we determined that since we had walked close enough to 10 miles throughout the day, we should have a big dinner to compensate! The hotel’s restaurant served up a great melt-in-your-mouth steak and potatoes for me and a delicious salmon atop a white sauce for Shawn.

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Pictured: Bill’s dinner: Herb marinated Angus flat iron steak with fingerling potatoes, sauteed garlic rapini, blue cheese butter and a burgundy demi glace.

Pictured: Shawn’s dinner: Salmon Mignon, russet potato and leek broth, truffled cucumber slaw, ancho chili oil.

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Finally it was time to head back to the room and relax. A couple of folks who were following my nightly Facebook updates recommended that we should stop by one more place before we left the city. Since we went to the Air and Space museum earlier instead of the following morning as planned, we added this new stop in its place. Find out where that was in part 4!

Click here for Day 3’s photos.

Part 4

Part 5