New York & D.C. Travelogue April 2002
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Sunday, April 14th, 2002

ON Sunday, I woke up hungover & watched a bunch of basketball on television. Woo!

Around 2pm I wandered out of my room and made it over to one of the Smithsonian Museums, the Museum of American History. Awesome displays assaulted me from every angle. One of the first displays I noticed was the demonstration of different material strengths (see photo).

Iron Bar 83,400 pounds of tension
Copper Bar 119,000 pounds of tension
Steel I Beam 242,000 pounds of compression
Steel Pipe 206,500 pounds of compression
Laminated Yellow Pine 73,500 pounds of compression

I learned that common wavy design for glass bricks was designed in 1938. I learned that in 1868, there were bicycle rinks built indoors for the velocipede. I learned that high-wheeled bicycles were a sort of eXtreme sport of their time.

I read about how the advent of mass production had a marked impact on the price of bicycles. A bike made in 1890 was about $130, but by 1898 it was down to $35.

They had many examples of early bicycle design. It was great. They could make a killing on ebay with that stuff!

Next I checked out the electricity displays. The frictional electrostatic machine was for producing electricity and the leyden jar was for storing it. I learned about how in 1878, the gas and electric companies began competing against each other for the home-lighting market in cities, and about how this competition lasted about 30 years before electricity took over completely. Edison was even quoted as saying, "if you want to succeed, get some enemies".

Another display that caught my attention was the diorama showing Enrique Fermi and George While controlling the reaction at the world's first atomic pile CP-1. I had to really pay attention to understand how that worked, but I think I got it.

About this time, the museum was closing, which kind of made me worry. I had only covered one half of one floor of one museum. I was behind. I'd estimate that Washington has 30 museum floors, so I quickly realized the error of getting out of bed so late.

Luckily, there was plenty of sunlight, so I walked to the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.

The Wall of the Vietnam Veteran's memorial is inscribed with 58,226 names of American Citizens that died or are missing in action in Vietnam. That's about the same number of people that live in Pensacola, Florida. It is stunning, amazing, sad. The names on the wall are in order according to Date of Death. To make location of names easier, there is a 763 page book that tells you where individual names are.

I took a glance and found Gerald C. Hunsbarger III, a 19 year-old, Greg Nolan Bass, a 25 year-old, James Allen Belveal, 22, and Philip Mark Bennett, aged 20 years at the time of his death. These four were from Sacramento.

I also looked up Cockerham & found one. John Willie Cockerham Jr., a 20-year old from Tennessee. His name is on panel 19W, line 119. No relation.

It was getting dark, so I started home, picking up my first Burger King Veggie burger to eat in my room. Not bad! I promised myself that I would wake up early on Monday and catch more museum-time.

I noticed my new watch, from the streets of New York City, was turning my wrist black.

Structural Failure Display at American Museum

An automatic pin-making machine

Crowd and Smithsonian Museum number 6

Outside the Lincoln Memorial

I've got a lot of photos of myself in here.

Korean War memorial

The Index of names on the Vietnam Memorial

John W Cockerham Jr.

The River Horse at George Washington U.

Monday April 15, 2002

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. It was the museum in Washington that everyone had raved about back home, and here I was.

It had everything spacey I could dream up. Rockets, Spacecraft, Moon buggies and Spacesuits. It was almost too much space stuff. Going into space is so rare that when something goes into space, it pretty much becomes a museum piece.

In the main lobby, I immediately saw the Spirit of St. Louis, Kitty Hawk, the XS-1, Breitling Orbiter 3, Spacelab, a full-size model of Eagle One & one of the Viking Explorers. I took a bunch of photos and touched the little triangular moon-rock they have on display. I actually learned quite a bit.

A 6-minute voyage in a fighter-jet flight simulator was $15, so I decided to try it. The ride could roll 360 and do loops. It was pretty fun. Two girls in the simulator next to mine were screaming their heads off to the delight of all. Their jet-cabin was rolling and pitching beautifully.

I was inspired by the story of the Moon-buggy fender-repair job, and laughed at the giant space machete that was standard equipment on early moonshots.

The US astro-food supply was characterized as fruit, M&Ms and Pepsi, while the Soviet Cosmonaughts display featured liver and borscht. That display had acidic smell of nationalism.

I didn't expect to see the "Spirit of Texas", the first helicopter flown around the world in 1982. The 'copter stopped 56 times to refuel, so I wasn't too impressed. The one cool thing about that flight was that they landed on the container ship S.S. President McKinley while it was at sea. That is a pretty cool trick.

One other thing I wanted to mention was the Navy Planes display, featuring a photo of one fighter pilot with six fingers up. He had just landed after shooting down 6 planes in 8 minutes during WW2. Six planes in eight minutes!

They had a great hands-on display area where they tried to illustrate how the shape of a wing creates lift. It is a pretty hard concept to illustrate well. They also had a very enjoyable infra-red camera and display that displayed a colorful spectrum of heat coming off of my face and hands. Some people had better insulation than others.

After about four hours in Air and Space, I visited the Hirshhorn museum next door. This was more the type of museum I was used to, an art museum. They had a huge display of H C Westermann sculpture and paintings. I liked his stuff. they had a couple of Dalis there too. I got yelled at for taking photos.
The Hirshhorn kept me occupied for about 90 minutes, then I headed over to the Museum of Natural History. This is a pretty damn good museum. Hundreds of animal skeletons, gems and mineral displays, Dinosaur skeletons, fossils, and the best insect display I've ever seen. They had glass terrariums chock-full of big, exotic insects. Not one or two hiding in the corner under the food-bowl, hundreds crawling all over themselves. It was like insectland next to the stadium after the big game was over. I fought off the creeps. I suggest bringing a few rubber insects along if you ever go, you could easily get someone to scream or faint if you had a giant spider on your shoulder in there.

I learned about these South American crabs that climb around in trees, and I discovered that I have very little interest in gems and minerals.

I spent about an hour and a half inside the Natural History Museum when they started announcing the closing. All the Smithsonian museums have pretty much the same hours, so this was my signal to head outdoors and check out some more monuments and landmarks. Unfortunately the battery in my camera was dying, so I had to be very careful about what saving those electrons for vital photos.

I took the Metro over to the United States capitol building and walked around it. In the Metro Station, and on the way to the capitol, piles of discarded signs and banners littered the streets. There had been a pro-Israel demonstration earlier that afternoon and the place was wrecked. I overheard another tourist asking a security guard, "what the hell happened here? Are they going to get away with this?" The security guard replied that groups that demonstrated in front of the Capitol had to secure a bond first, so any cleanup or damage would be covered. I wonder how much that costs. To be fair, there were only a few small garbage cans within a mile of the capitol, so I can almost understand why so much got left behind. There were thousands of water bottles, it was how I imagine an outdoor concert looks after the show. In any case, I scored a "I'm going to Israel" t-shirt and a small Israeli flag from the debris.

Oh yeah, the capitol building was nice too. My legs were very, very tired from all the museum action, so I slowly made my way back to the Metro and my hotel room.

At the room I had a message waiting from Froggy 99.9 in North Dakota. They were worried that my site was offline and were reminding me that I was scheduled for a telephone interview the next morning. Luckily cockeyed was back online, so I was able to call them and give them the good news.

Later that night, after a little recharging, I traveled out to the Iwa Jima memorial. Even though it was late, busloads of students and tourists were arriving and shooting photos. It was huge. The large American flag at the top of the pole was a bit undersized in comparison to the size of the figures.

Kitty Hawk at the Air & Space Museum

Vulcan Gatling gun for ship-defense.

Gossamer Condor Human-powered vehicle

Here Men from the planet earth
first set foot upon the moon.
July 1969.
They came in peace for all mankind.

Viking Lunar Module

Russian space knife

Infra-red display.
That is my face with the black nose & camera.

Detail from H C Westermann sculpture

This skeleton display does NOT sing and dance
when you push the button.

with elephant jawbone

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Read my other travelogues: Turkey & Bulgaria 2001 |Minneapolis 2001 | Burning Man 2001 | Europe 1999 | Costa Rica 2000

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