Day 24: Moon Germs

The Space Shuttle Enterprise. Photo: Jenny Williams

(This post is for July 13, 2011.)

We only had the Air & Space Museum Annex on the docket today, the one out by Dulles Airport. I left the day scheduled so lightly to build in some flexibility to our DC schedule, in case there was anything else we wanted to add in. It turned out the stuff I wanted to do was to catch up on everything I couldn’t finish the day before (writing-wise). So the morning was spent writing up the previous day’s adventures. These things take much more time than you’d think.

The AIr & Space Museum Annex. Photo: Jenny Williams

Then in the afternoon, we met my cousin Anne out at the Air & Space Museum Annex/Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. This annex wasn’t built when I lived here, so I was excited to see it. I knew it housed the Space Shuttle Enterprise, a Concorde, and countless other planes and aerial things. I was also excited to see Anne, since I hadn’t seen her since my wedding, almost 14 years ago.

Though we didn’t go at a fast pace, we still got through the main part of the museum in about an hour and a half. It’s housed in a giant hanger and has planes, large and small, and many other things hung from the ceiling, with smaller memorabilia in display cabinets, and non-flight-capable-but-large items on the floor. Since I’m not a plane-obsessed gal, I thought it was pretty neat and definitely worth going, but not somewhere for which I’d do a repeat visit too often. I was especially excited to see the Space Shuttle, but since you couldn’t go in it, the experience was merely gaping at the exterior.

A Big Plane. Photo: Jenny Williams

I was very excited to see a real-life Space Shuttle in person. It was about the size I thought it would be, but I was surprised by how fake it looked. It almost looked like a television mock up, and some of the parts even looked inflatable. It was weird.

We also saw the Airstream trailer that the astronauts who landed on the moon were quarantined in for several days. The powers that be were too worried that they might carry “moon germs”. There were also many small signal and relay satellites and space probes (no, they aren’t disco balls).

The Hanger. Photo: Jenny Williams

Anne’s adorable older child was nap-deprived, so when we finished the stuff out in the open of the hanger, they decided to leave. My kids and I continued on and took the elevator to the Observation Tower. It was 160 feet up and gave a 360 degree view of the area, including Dulles Airport. You could watch planes land, and we also watched the storm brewing in the distance. There were plenty of spectacular lightning strikes. We walked all around, checking out the views. You could see forests, mountains in the distance, and plenty of airport-related things. We also read information about airport ground markings. (Soon after we were done there, it seems they evacuated the tower because of the storm. I was glad to have gotten finished with it first.)

The Airstream Quarantine Unit. Photo: Jenny Williams

We then went down one floor to an exhibit on air traffic control. I read all the displays because for some reason this topic fascinates me. Maybe because it’s like a puzzle, trying to get all the planes in line, and up, down, and around the air safely. I’d hate to have that job, though, since one small thing going wrong could cost people their lives. I can’t take that kind of pressure. But I can see how it would be perfect for people who thrive on stress and the adrenaline rush of getting everyone safely on their way.

The exhibit taught the basics of how air traffic control works, the symbols used, right of way issues, airplane separations, phonetic alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie), and how they only use the digits zero through nine. They will say “three-zero” instead of “thirty”, for example.

Satellites and Space Probes. Photo: Jenny Williams

Last stop, of course, was the gift shop. They had many neat plane and space things, along with the first Geek Dad book! They also had Star Wars Mad Libs. I had never seen those!

We got home at a reasonable hour, after missing my turn (street names change around here quite a bit, and following directions in reverse doesn’t always work – it’s a good thing I used to live here and could find my way around), and I spent the rest of the afternoon working on the stuff I needed to do last night but still didn’t finish this morning. Then we had a fantastic brinner of pancakes and bacon (thanks, Alice!), and the rest of the evening was spent having a great discussion with my dear friend Jeff, whom I have known since I was 15 (that’s 23 years to those doing the math). We reminisced about high school, talking about people we knew, what they were up to now, going through an old yearbook and talking about our friends, the people we are still in touch with, the people we wish we were still in touch with, what teachers we loved and hated, and who we had absolutely no memory of. It was great.

The Concorde. Photo: Jenny Williams

That’s one thing I’m learning about myself and my interests on this trip. Sure, the sites are really interesting, educational, and fantastic to see or participate in. Especially with the kids. But the parts that inspire and move me the most are the real connections with my friends and family that I’ve experienced. Having time together when there is no set agenda, just sitting and chatting. Or doing something together which is totally beside the point, just to have something to do while you are talking. I’m so lucky to have these people. And I found them all in a variety of ways. Some are new friends, some have been in my life a long time. I know I keep talking about this, but it does bear repeating. Great conversations are one of the many themes and common threads throughout this trip.

A neat plane that looked like a car (the propeller was in the rear). Photo: Jenny Williams

Drove: Around town.

State: Virginia.

Weather: Warm and muggy, then some rain.

Kids: Not too bad.

Best Parts of the Day: Talking with one of my oldest and most interesting friends in the world. Seeing the Space Shuttle and the Concorde.

Worst Part of the Day: Feeling so behind with my email and writing.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 8.

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About Jenny Bristol

Jenny Bristol is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.
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