We just got back from almost two weeks in Hawaii and we already want to go back. It was great hanging out with family, going to the beach, eating lots of wonderful food and playing tourist. We were there for Grandma’s birthday and started out the week going out to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate. The kids loved hanging out with Jordan and the three of them spent lots of time chasing the hundreds of lizards that thrive in Grandpa’s back yard. Dan got Jordan and Miles to play this new card game he got called Munchkin and ended up playing almost every night before bed time. There were trips to the beach, hiking, sightseeing, the Bishop Museum, the state Farm Fair and lots of shopping and eating. We spent one morning visiting the spot at Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery where Jeanine spread Mom’s ashes. It’s a beautiful spot with a great view that she would have loved and visiting it made us all miss her again. We spent our last day going over old pictures and then going to a fantastic buffet, full of foods that are hard to find at home. We can’t wait until our next visit. Scroll down for two albums full of more pictures.
Dan won free admission to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos at a raffle at the school science fair so we decided to make a quick getaway to use it during Memorial Day weekend. We stayed the night at the SFO airport Embassy Suites and went the museum the next day. Our room had a perfect view of the runways at SFO and I brought my scanner so we could hear the controllers talk to the planes. The hotel is right on the water and gave us a different perspective on the bay. The Hiller museum is located at the Hiller helicopter factory and there was lots of helicopter displays in addition to those showing off the history of aviation in the Bay Area. We also watched some of the traffic at tiny San Carlos Airport where the museum is located. Very busy airport for being so small.
I went up to our new control tower today and was impressed. Oakland currently has two towers because the airport is so big you can’t see all the runways. The new tower is much taller which allows us to see the whole field and will eliminate the need for the other two. Everything is modern, there is covered parking, and there will even be electric vehicle chargers powered by solar panels. I really was impressed by the views of the airport, the surrounding areas, and the San Francisco Bay.
On Saturday we went back to the zoo because it was walking distance from our hotel and the kids liked it and it was free. Sunday, we went to the International Spy Museum, fun but a bit dark in subject matter (we missed the much lauded American Holocaust Museum for that very reason). They didn’t allow pictures so we don’t have any. After that we went to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art which Dan really wanted to see because of the Art of Video Game exhibit. On Monday we went to the National Archives to see the original Declaration of Independence and Constitution. It’s in a dark room and the ink is so faded you can’t really read it, but we can say we were there and saw it. No pictures there either. After that we stopped by our second Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, this one on the National Mall, and saw the Wright Flyer and lots of other exhibits. From there it was the Museum of the American Indian. On Tuesday we spent the morning exploring the little bit of Rock Creek National Park that winds past our hotel. Very pretty and wilderness-y in the heart of a very metropolitan city. Then we went to pool, packed for our trip home, and went on a trolly tour of the city which let us get close to some of the monuments and gave us a last look at the city during the evening when everything is bright with floodlights. Some awesome views.
We got up way early yesterday morning to get tickets to see the Bureau of Printing and Engraving tour of them making money. Luckily the line for tickets was shorter than advertised, maybe because it was forecast to be another 100-plus degree day. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the tour which is a shame because it was one of our favorite parts of the vacation. Seeing all that money whizzing by on conveyor belts before its cut up and sent out to banks is awesome. After that we went to the Smithsonian American History museum. I have always heard that the Smithsonian was America’s attic and this museum really lives up to that. There is lots of…well, everything there. In fact we saw so many glimpses into other parts of our vacation it kind of felt like a rerun. But there was enough stuff there to keep us interested for the whole day. So much so that we were dragging by the time we got back to the hotel. The kids wanted to go swimming but there were thunderstorms and lightning and we didn’t think lightning and wet kids were a good mix. We ended up eating McDonalds in our room and going to sleep relatively early.
We have been in the Washington DC area a week and have been on the go the whole time. The very first day after checking into our hotel, we headed to the White House for our scheduled tour. The security to get in was even more strict than to ride the plane here. Once inside though, we were excited to be there. The furnishings were beautiful and the building really felt like a part of history. We then checked out the Smithsonian and visited the Natural History Museum where we saw dioramas, dinosaurs, mummies, and (ugh) bugs. After that it was dinner at Chipotle which wasn’t very good and definitely not the quality we were used to from ours at home. On the way to Chipotle, we waited with lots of other people along a shut down intersection and watched President Obama’s motorcade speed past our hotel on his way home.
The next day was National Zoo day which is walking distance from our hotel. The highlight was pandas but there were lots of other unique animals too. The walk wasn’t long but it was a bit tiring so we just had an expensive room service meal at the hotel after spending some time in the pool.
The next day, we rented a car and visited the the National Cathedral which is an impressive gothic church with whimsical gargoyles carved along its edifices. We specifically went to look for the Darth Vader gargoyle that was put up as part of a kid’s contest in the 80′s. Could only see it with the zoom on the camera. I was surprised to learn that while the church is Roman Catholic, it is also used by the American Episcopal community too, with their bishop’s headquarters just next door. After a quick stop at the Iwo Jima US Marine Memorial we headed to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles airport which is about 25 miles east of D.C. It is a very large hangar with lots of historic aircraft and space craft including the actual Enola Gay and recently arrived space shuttle Discovery. For dinner we visited Georgetown and ate at a strangely decorated Thunder Burger, where the kids sat on couches and I had a very delicious hamburger/pulled pork sandwich.
The next day we took the car and headed some 150 miles south to Williamsburg. We stopped for a while intending to spend the day but the prices were very steep. Without paying any admission we were able to walk through town and get a bit of the history but didn’t get to go in the buildings or listen to the lectures of the tradespeople. But after walking though, it looked a bit boring so we didn’t mind. That afternoon we went to a maritime museum in Newport News, saw the recently salvaged turret from the ironclad Monitor, and the kids saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Dan said it looks a lot like the Pacific. That night we had a great dinner at Bonefish Grill, a chain that we first tried on a Denver vacation a few years ago, and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express for the night. It was an awesome way to spend Father’s Day with my family. (They gave me my presents before I left, fitted ball caps for both the A’s and Dodgers.) The next day it was Busch Gardens amusement park, the drive home and dinner at a restaurant across from the Omni, Open City, which in my opinion is the best restaurant of the trip so far.
We had the rental car for one last day and used it to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore. It’s one of the best aquariums I’ve been to, and we had lots of fun. It’s on par with the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we regularly have a membership. It has a very tall tank that the exhibits wind around, before you walk down through the center. Theres a gigantic glass structure with Australian wildlife in it that shouldn’t be missed. It was there that we watched trigger fish shoot live crickets off a branch that one of the workers held over the tank. There also have some dolphins which seemed happy enough despite being in an indoor tank with no real fresh air. Baltimore just had a Sail-abration, to commemorate bicentennial of the harbor’s role in the war of 1812 so there were some tall ships still there when we got there and we got to watch Mexico’s navy training ship leave. Really a sight to see with seamen manning the rails and standing on the crossbars across the sails. For dinner we tried a sushi place near our hotel. Dan stuck with gyoza but did eat some edamame.
Today we went to the Newseum. We weren’t expecting much and thought the kids would be a bit bored, but we spent the whole day there and didn’t even realize how fast time was flying. There’s lots of emphasis on how important journalism is to society and history, maybe too much, but I of course didn’t mind since I was a reporter before I became an air traffic controller. Lots of interactive stuff for the kids to do including games and a chance to be a reporter. For dinner we had some take out chinese from a restaurant close to the hotel. Lots of good food. Too much actually. Its really really hot here now. It wasn’t for must of the time up til now but it got close to if not over 100 degrees today, so because we didn’t want to be out there in direct sunlight, we went to the pool after dinner. Tomorrow its our appointment to tour the US Capitol building with our Representative Jerry McNerney.
Sunday, I got to ride in a zeppelin and it was awesome. Airship Ventures does, among other things, tours around the Bay Area and departs from Oakland Airport, so I get to talk to the pilots when I’m working. Well, they had an extra seat and I got picked to ride in it on Sunday. A great deal since they normally charge $500 a person and while I think it might be worth it, I would never have paid. I got to spend a lot of time talking to the pilot and taking pictures. It felt a lot more like an elevator with a cool view than an airplane or helicopter. We flew over Oakland and San Francisco and back. Zeppelins are different than blimps in that they are rigid with air inside. A blimp is just a big ballon. This zeppelin is named Eureka and is the largest in the world. The pilot says they spend a few months every year doing tours out of Long Beach so I’ll have to look for them down there. They also fly passengers from the Bay Area to Long Beach but the fare is $1500-2000 and takes over eight hours. I put most of the pictures I took here.