The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

After our meal at the food truck, we took off for our next destination, which happened to be the reason Lauren wanted to visit D.C.: The Air and Space Museum! We didn’t have very far to walk to get to it from the Holocaust Museum. As we entered, we were nervous about Mitchell’s Swiss Army knife (yes, this is the third post about Monday, March 6, so we still had the knife). Terry thought he would see if the museum allowed it. As soon as Terry emptied his pockets at security, a stout looking guard came over and told Terry, “Follow me.” Terry hadn’t even gotten his things from the x-ray belt! The guard led him to the door, opened it, and said, “Get out. We don’t allow any of that in here.” Fortunately, Terry was able to stash it outside somewhere and re-enter. I was holding his cell phone, keys, and billfold, hoping he could get back inside. It was at that moment that I felt a tinge of hatred for our nation’s capital. It might have also been the extreme fatigue setting in, too.

There was no coat check at this museum, which meant we were stuck carrying them because it was warm inside. Lauren instantly honed in on a tour that was about to start which took you through the highlights of the museum. She and Mitchell went on that tour while Terry, Leslie, Laci, Matt and I went on our own “Basham style tour”, meaning, we just went to the places that interested us, and we went quickly. This was not the favorite museum for the younger ones and *cough cough*me*cough cough*. I visited this museum when I was 18, and that was enough. I am not a math or science person, and this museum is all about math and science. They have engines hanging from the ceiling. Engines. That is about as interesting to me as if they had a display of paint drying. But Lauren loved it, so we found things to love, too. Here are a few photos of our day:

I really did love seeing the actual Spirit of St. Louis, the plane in which Charles Lindbergh flew the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic. This was here when I was a teenager, so it felt like seeing an old friend.

Still taking turns taking pics! Here is Terry with this famous aircraft. They also had several of the Lindbergh’s things, such as clothing and flight instruments, etc.

We enjoyed seeing the display area about Amelia Earhart. They had several of her personal artifacts.

There was a neat section about Jimmy Doolittle, who not only served our country valiantly in World War II, but he competed in races, and won, in his early career.  I didn’t know airplane races even existed. Pretty interesting.

This little hideaway was in the Jimmy Doolittle area.

Matthew loved the Space Shuttle we got to walk through. Here he is standing next to an astronaut as he is working. This was a very small exhibit, and nothing was hands-on, so that made it less exciting.

I just liked this huge hot air balloon.

Laci is inserting herself into a serious conversation about navigation.

They have an old airplane from the 60’s that you can walk through. The cabin was huge and the seats were padded and comfy, with lots of legroom! It’s amazing people used have such luxury when flying coach. And just look at a typical meal you could enjoy on a long flight! Thos were the days. *sigh*

As we were leaving, I got this photo of Lauren and Mitchell with a display of one the ladies featured in the movie Hidden Figures, which Lauren saw and loved.

Lauren happily reported that the tour of the museum was amazing. Mitchell was mildly entertained. Lauren enjoyed hearing the little-known facts about all sorts of flying machinery. In fact, she decided to forego visiting the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History with us a few days later so she could go back alone to the Air and Space Museum. I think she would go yet again if she had the chance. I was disappointed that the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first Atomic bomb, is no longer featured at this particular museum. It’s now at one located in Chantilly, Virginia. I enjoyed seeing that when I came as a teenager and wanted to show the kids.

Terry took the three youngest kids on a three-minute flight simulator machine that let the kids do the driving. It even flipped upside down! They got to “shoot” at enemy targets and steer their “plane”. I could hear their squeals of delight ten feet away. It was definitely the highlight for them. It only lasted three minutes, but they thought it had to have been ten minutes.

We were able to retrieve Mitchell’s knife, for the last time that day, and begin the two mile walk back to the car. We had had a very fun and eventful first day in D.C.

Next up: the White House! *insert excited shriek here*

See you soon!

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

We made it into D.C. on Monday, March 6, for our first full day of exploring. Today I am sharing about a place that is important to every single American, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where they make money…literally.

To visit this interesting locale, you must have a scheduled tour, no “walk -ins”. To plan your visit, contact your U.S. Representative’s or Senator’s office. You must have your photo I.D., along with your confirmation number, and like in every single place in D.C., you must be prepared to be searched. This includes x-ray machines for bags (or they will hand search your purse or bag), belts off, pockets emptied, arms out, and security guards examining your pupils for dilation. Okay, I exaggerate, but only slightly.

Our tour was the first one of the day. We arrived in plenty of time, too much time, actually. It was freezing cold. We parked near the Jefferson Memorial because it was free (and empty), but that meant we had a 1.5-mile trek to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. After waiting for 40 minutes in the wind, we were ready to hug the neck of the man who opened the door for us. The warm air was so inviting, that I didn’t even mind being searched…until they said, “Wait a minute, we’re not ready yet, go back outside.” The sheer heartbreak of it all! I hate to even recall it!

Leslie, waving to commuters to keep warm while we waited outside.

We finally got in, for real, and got searched. Right before entering, Mitchell realized he had his pocket knife with him. This is a major no-no in our nation’s capital. Washington D.C. has the least freedom in the “land of the free”. Terry stashed it outside and hoped to be able to retrieve it when we left. There’s always a little excitement when you travel with the Bashams!

We spent a few glorious minutes getting warm in a long hallway. It had various displays about the history of our currency. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this would the highlight of the tour.

The tour lasted about thirty minutes. One word comes to mind: underwhelming. We walked along corridors that had windows looking down into the area where bills were printed. A very attractive lady with a distinct speaking manner talked into a microphone, sharing information as we made our way through. She pointed out the unique security features in our money, most of which we already knew about. The tour ended at the machine where all the finished money is supposed to be spinning around a carousel and being wrapped, but we saw a whopping nothing. That part of the factory was down for an equipment upgrade. TV screens were playing footage of what normally happens in that area, but our TV was blank. Bummer.

We were told up front that no photography or videography was allowed. I was able to get a few photos outside and in the gift shop.

The gift shop area had a height chart, only it was “How Tall Are You In Money?” Here we are:

Terry got some playful criticism for wearing this old jacket – it does look rough! There is a story behind it. We were having very mild weather in Oklahoma, but we knew it could be cold out east, so we took jackets. Terry rarely wears a heavy coat, even in cold weather, so he only has light windbreakers. As we were leaving for our trip, he packed a windbreaker, but he thought he might need something heavier, so he grabbed this work coat that was in our garage and tossed it in the trunk. It turned out he was glad he had brought it because the temps were frigid those first days of our journey. This is Carhartt jacket that his Pa used to wear, so it has sentimental value. I’m used to seeing him in it and thought nothing of it. He did get some stares though, and some comments on social media about it, so I thought I’d explain. I think he will be getting a better one by next winter! The chart says he is about $1.6 million high. He joked and said, “I’m glad I wore my good coat so I’d look like a million bucks!” 😉

Mitchell is worth the most, even though he’s only 14!

The kids had been saving money for souvenirs for many months in preparation for this vacation. They were thrilled to find some very unique money souvenirs in the gift shop. I was able to get the coolest magnet I’ve ever seen: an iridescent $100 bill!

Was this tour worth getting up at 5:30 on the first day of vacation, walking over a mile in traffic, and waiting 40 minutes in the cold? No, but if you can go later in the day, or in the summer, or both, I think your take on it will much better than mine.

After this tour, we wanted to visit the Holocaust Museum which was next door. However, they didn’t open until 10:00. This was discouraging because the time was only 9:15! We hated the thought of waiting in the cold again. Thankfully, a little cafe was nearby and it was open. We enjoyed an expensive snack before going to the next stop.

Oh! and, in case you’re wondering, we did retrieve Mitchell’s pocket knife.

Next week, we will visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I hope you will join me!