So... the next day (December 27th), we decided that we were going to go to the National Air & Space Museum.
The logistics of the trip would have been the same, except that this time, Olivia announced the she wanted to ride the train. The train, in this case, is the Washington metropolitan area "Metro" system. I know that many people refer to Metrorail as the "subway" but, since so much of it is above ground, I have never been able to do that.
Anyway, not only did Olivia want to ride the Metrorail, she wanted to change trains at least once (my kid is nothing if not decisive). So, we drove to Pentagon City Mall, which is directly across from... you guessed it, the Pentagon, and had a quick bite to eat from McDonald's for our breakfast (oh, stop groaning, we eat there so rarely as to make no difference).
After eating, we boarded the yellow line train, that took us to L'Enfant Plaza, where we were going to have to change trains. But, before getting to L'Enfant plaza, we had to Cross the Potomac River, which means, since there is no tunnel across the river's floor (on this line), we came above ground and crossed the river via the bridge. What a view! Although we were only above ground for perhaps a minute, Olivia was very excited by seeing so much. From our vantage point, you could see Arlington cemetery, The Kennedy Center, The Pentagon, the HQ of the U.S. Marshal's service, Fort Leslie J. McNair, Th National Cathedral, The Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson memorial(AKA "the big cheeseburger), the tidal basin, and the Washington monument. Before I could show her everything, we were underground again.
We made it to L'Enfant plaza changed trains to the Orange line, and we got off at the Smithsonian station. The truth of the matter is that we could have walked for for the same amount of time from L'Enfant Plaza as we did from Smithsonian... but I guess it was more fun for her, so what the heck, right?
As we walked we took what I thought was a pretty good picture in front of the main Smithsonian building, commonly referred to as "The Castle".
Now, I have to tell you that although the Air & Space museum is my favorite amongst all of the museums in the Smithsonian system, I haven't been there in several years, despite the fact that I drive past at least once a week. I can imagine that some of you might be shocked by this considering that many of you know my true level of geekdom and since James T. Kirk was my male role-model while I was growing up.
Immediately after this photo was taken, Olivia asked me how much further we had to walk, but we were just about there.
Once we arrived at the museum, I proceeded to start lecturing Olivia about the Mercury and Gemini programs. Then I stopped (about 30 seconds in) because her eyes were already glazing over. I did my best to just tell her about the "pretty planes" that she asked me about. I was kind of bummed out about sharing the history of the M2-F2 "lifting body" on display:
Those of you old enough... especially the men, will remember this aircraft from the opening segment of the "Six Million Dollar Man" show (circa 1973). Actual footage from a crash of this aircraft (May 10, 1967) was used for the TV show... remember? (Cue voice over) "Steve Austin.... a man barely alive. We can rebuild him, we have the technology"... but I digress.
So, we walked through the museum and Olivia kept asking me: "What are those rockets, daddy?" I found myself in a bad position... I didn't want to tell her that so many of the prominently displayed rockets were either intermediate range, or inter-continental ballistic missiles. I told her that they were weapons and immediately changed the subject (I committed right then to write to the Director of the museum to protest the numbers of nuclear weapons delivery systems present in the museum... I'll post the letter soon).
We walked through the various displays and the interactive exhibits, which she enjoyed immensely! We even spent some time looking at video film from the first lunar landing. Olivia was amazed (as I am, still) that people could go all the way to the moon "in that", meaning the tiny capsule that made the landing. It took a while explain how that huge Saturn 5 rocket pretty much had to "throw" the capsule at the moon.
We spent a couple of hours at the museum, but to tell you the truth, Olivia's favorite part was the gift shop. She was bound and determined to get something for herself (she had her own money to spend) and found (at great length) a stuffed bear to take home.
She wanted to take some more pictures before we left so we took this one near one of the aircraft galleries.
Once again, it was time to take the Metro to get the car, and a certain 8 year old was very excited about it. On the way to the train station, we walked along the National Mall instead of the street-side of the museum. Olivia ran on the grass while I did my best to lumber along and keep up. While we waited for our first train, she thanked me for taking her to to the museum and on the train, and then she told me I was the best dad in the world. That's my girl!
We had lunch in the Pentagon City food court
and then headed for home.
We had a great time, and I have to tell you that two days of mini-adventures was very meaningful to me. I want Olivia to always remember that her father meant more to her than just being the guy who drove the car and was around the house.... sometimes.
The next day was supposed to be our trip to the National Zoo, but you already know how that turned out... we'll have to reschedule that for early spring, I think.