US Road Trip 2017, Day 7.

Day 2 of Washington DC was … wait for it …. awesome! 

Got out of bed without the phone alarm again. Used a bottle of Mountain Dew for breakfast, and had a nice quick walk around the hotel grounds. 

I was picked up by Beth, my tour guide and driver (She’s gonna kill me when she reads this.) and headed out to the Smithsonian. 

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, is located at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, in Chantilly, Virginia. It is located in a section of the Duelles Airport, and consists of the Boeing Aviation Hanger and the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger. 

The hours are 10:00 to 5:30pm daily, except Christmas. Admission is FREE. Yes, I said free. But, parking is 15.00 dollars, or free after 4:00pm. 

The museum is …. chocker-block full of aircraft, expiremental aircraft, rockets, spacecraft, and other related items, to the point that it’s almost overwhelming. It’s full to the point that things are hard to get pictures of. The host of items on display would fill several normal museums. Its good that they give out maps. 

The upside is that things in the museum are very well labeled. The staff is also knowledgeable and friendly. The museum gives free tours of the hanger floors, pretty much on the half hour. The tour guides also don’t seem to be offended if you stop and listen in for a couple minutes and then move on. 

Where the museum has almost every conceivable rocket and airplane you would ever want to look at, it does have a couple of stand out pieces.  The freshly restored Enola Gay, B29 Superfortress is piece number one. The bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb is stationed in the middle of the hanger floor, on the left wing of the hanger. The plane is in amazing condition. The restoration work (which I have heard was the most extensive restoration that the Smithsonian has done) is fantastic. It is surrounded by numerous other aircraft, which makes it hard to get a picture of, but it is easily viewable.

The second standout piece would be an SR-71, Blackbird. The Blackbird is located in the middle of the museum and is the centerpiece for the hanger floor. It is in outstanding condition, and is easily photographed. 

Directly behind the Blackbird, and the centerpiece of the Space Hanger is the Space Shuttle Discovery. The Space Shuttle has an appearance where they appeared to give it less preparation before display, leaving it with a used-in-Space feel to it. The look is very genuine and somehow draws you to it, emotionally. Once again, there is enough stuff in the Space Hanger where it is a little hard to photograph just the Space Shuttle, but it is super easy to view. You can literally walk underneath it around its tail. You feel closer to the Shuttle than you do other pieces on display. 

Where those are the must-see pieces, this is much more. A Russian Mig-21 holds one end of the jet fighter display wing, while a X35 Joint Strike Fighter holds the other end. Beyond the Enola Gay is the Concorde. In its shadow is the Red Bull Stratos Capsule. And the list goes on and on. You could go every day for a week and not see everything there is to see.

After a second go around and a big stop at the gift shop, it was out the door and back into traffic. The drive from the hotel in Bethesda and the Air and Space Museum at the Duelles Airport is about half of an hour. That’s if traffic isn’t too heavy. If there is a lot of congestion, the drive time can increase greatly. 

There was a little crash time. Ended up watching the Real Madrid v Manchester United match on ESPN. Then, out for dinner at Chop’t with Beth. After dinner … Shark Week. 

See you tomorrow!

Yours truly, standing in front of the SR-71 Blackbird. 

The Space Shuttle Discovery. Taken from the second floor observation deck. 

The B-29 Super Fortress, Enola Gay. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 6.

The first day of exploring D.C. Was great! 

I got up without the alarm clock dragging me forth. In other words, I slept in. Hahahaha A long stand in the shower and a shave later I was emotionally ready to tackle the day. 

The Marriott Suites that I am staying at has a free shuttle to the Metro. It’s super convenient. 

The Section of the Red Line that I am on is under weekend construction, so once we were at the Metro station  we had to take a shuttle down the line a couple stations to get back on active track.  Sounds crazy, but it was super easy! The Metro had loads of people out answering questions as well. 

So, it was the Red Line in to the American University stop, and then the 30-series bus south about 1 1/2 miles to the National Cathedral.  The National Cathedral is absolutely amazing. It is a cut stone monument to the abilities of people with vision. And, it is an absolutely beautiful building.

I ended up having a great conversation about the state of the world with my new friend Andy. Andy has worked at the Cathedral for 18 years, and possessed a kin insight into the state of man. I’m continually reminded that the world is full of amazing people. In our conversation regarding the Cathedral and its place in the ranks of the great churches Andy summed it up as “It is the equal of any Cathedral in Europe, except for its age.” I tend to agree with Andy! It really is like no other Cathedral I have seen in America. It is worth the tour. 

I don’t take time to walk the gardens, which were extensive, but there is time for that another day. I did pause in the Shepards Chapel and say a prayer for the health of my parents. It is something I do at every church I visit. The fact that the Shepards chapel is located in the crypt made me laugh. 

The Cathedral actually has 3 chapels in the crypt. The first one I’ve seen like this. I chose the Shepards Chapel because it was small and quiet. It seemed the most comforting. 

From the Cathedral, it was back to the bus stop. I jumped back on the 30-series bus, 31N I think, and headed for the National Mall. Not knowing where I was going, I jumped off to consult a map. No map at the bus stop, but a good BBQ place across the street. So, it was lunch in Georgetown. The BBQ joint was called Old Glory. Good food and decent prices. The place was also an old building, which was cool. 

Moving on again, it was back on the bus. Wrong bus, but basically the right direction. Instead of the Mall, I ended up on the backside of the White House. I also ended up under blackening skies. By the time I made my way down to the Washington Momument there were great big rain drops fallling from the sky. Big, cold, rain drops falling from the sky. I took a picture from across the street and headed it for the Metro.

Of course, by the time I made it back to the hotel I had stopped raining. It was okay, I was done anyway. TIRED!!

I got woken up from the nap I didn’t know I was taking by a dinner text. My friend/tour guide, Beth, pushed back dinner due to the pounding rain. Yup, more rain!

Dinner was decided in the car. I got to pick, so Thai food. We went to a place called Tara Thai, in Bethesda. The food was good and had a good staff. The atmosphere was new and trendy, and reminded me more of a sea food restaurant. But, it was tasty Thai food!

After dinner festivities included a short walk to Barnes and Noble. Things I learned at B&N:

You can buy a detective field kit.

Image released 5 volumes of Sunstone. None of which I possess (YET)!

You can write a children’s book that contains less than 2 paragraphs of words ….. and get published. 

You can print a magazine about Anything!!

After that, it was back to the awesome hotel to chill. Bed coming soon tonight. 

Live. See. Enjoy. 

My chariot to the Metro station.

The decent into Metro. 

The National Cathedral.

The space window. It holds a piece of moon rock brought back from Apollo. 

The Washington Monument. You can’t see the HUGE raindrops falling, but they were. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 5.

Today was another one of those Point A to Point B days. I wanted to get from Pigeon Forge up to Bethesda, MD at a reasonable time. The hotel had limited amounts of oversized vehicle parking, and the truck won’t fit in the hotel’s parking garage. Also, the D.C. Traffic can be BAD! 

The drive into the city area wasn’t bad at all. I love driving through the mountains, so the run up through Virginia was excellent. There was a haze for most of the day, but it didn’t ruin the views. 

The traffic didn’t turn horrible until about the Centerville area. From that point in to I-495 and then north up to Democracy Boulevard was much more stop than go. I mean ugh! 

The hotel, the Marriot Suites, which is awesome, ended up having a parking spot for the truck. Yeah! And I’m full chil for a couple hours before exploring.

This is also the first multi-day stop. I’m going to spend a couple days exploring the Washington DC area, and seeing what there is to see. I imagine I will also be making a list of things I want to see next time I’m here. I usually always assume I’m going back to a city. That way I don’t try and shove too much in to too small a time window. Enjoy what you’re seeing, and see the rest later. That’s my Motto! 

I’ve lined up a good looking tour guide for part of it, so it should be fun! Speaking of tour guides, I just got back from dinner, and then a wild frozen yogurt trip, with my good friend Beth and her two girls. It was a great time! Lesson learned: toppings and sauces are not the same thing and need to be negotiated separately! 

Driving in the Virginia mountains. Cruisin. 

The Potomac River. Really thought there’d be more water. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 4.

Today started with procrastination. I mild desire to stay in bed saw me out the door an hour later than planned. And, on the road a half-hour later than planned.

Once again, the day started at the Waffle House. Bacon, eggs, and coffee was followed by a trip to the gas station. Sadly, the gas station was over capacity, so I moved on down the road. 

At the north end of Anniston, curiosity got the better of me. I decided to take a small side trip into old FT McClellan and have a look-see. I kind of bumbled my way around old post for a bit. I could locate the starships over in the old training area easily, and didn’t have time to get really lost. I was in and old of the old Sumerall Gate off Route 21. 

Moving north again, I made my way up through AL, into north GA, and into TN. Running through the mountains was NICE! It was damned good to find some elevations change, for a change. Texas has nothing resembling mountains! I let the V8 in the truck howl it’s way up one hill after another …. until I got about halfway between Chattanooga and Knoxville. Here traffic came to a screeching halt and we all sat in our vehicles. 

I hoped on google maps and off the interstate. Taking the two lane south and then east back to my destination of Pigeon Forge, TN. 

Why would I be headed to Dollywood you ask? Good question. Answer: I wasn’t. I was headed to someplace much more obscure. The Outdoor Gravity Park. Obscure being the right word, as the place is well hidden. Nevertheless, I prevailed!

Upon seeing the hill, I had a slight bit of hesitation. My back isn’t a 20-year back anymore. But, I didn’t drive all this way for nothing, so I got out of the truck and walked to the observation deck. Shortly after arriving, a father and his son decended, and I was fully game!

As near as I can tell from the internet, the Outdoor Gravity Park is the only place in the USA where you can Zorb. They call it OGO, but it’s Zorbing. And, IT WAS MOST AWESOME !!!! (Yes I have video.)

After the Zorbing, still wearing wet clothes, I headed out to find the hotel. Tonight’s stay of choice is again a Super 8 Motel. This one at least a full star above yesterday’s choice. 

After dumping some bags, I went in search of an ATM and food. A large buffet worked good for providing a huge plate of meat. Food! Glorious Food! 

I spent a little time trying to view my video on my laptop, but I seem to have developed a problem with my windows media player driver. Once I get home again I’ll have to fix that. Until then, it can sit on the USB drive. LOL!

Early night tonight. More driving tomorrow. Good night all.

Started the day at the Waffle House!

Welcome to the peach state. 

Not a great picture, but traffic stopped as far as the eye could see.

Pigeon Forge is a well hidden tourist trap. I mean Orlando in the mountains.  The traffic on the main drag is awful. 

The hill at Outdoor Gravity Park. Zorbing is awesome! 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 3. 

Today was pretty much a point A to point B type of day. I had a lot of miles to make to get to my next point of interest, so I spent the day behind the windshield. 

The drive across Louisiana on I-10 was excellent. I’ve never driven that stretch of road, nor across the bayou like that, so it was extra cool. The elevated section of roadway in the Henderson Swamp area was very picture perfect for what I had envisioned the bayou to be like. Open water section with trees hiding river inlets. Live Oaks with hanging moss staggered here and there. And, it was all very green. Definitely happy I went hat way!

Turning north into Mississippi, the interstate was all something I’d seen before. An endless undulating trench of asphalt base and conifer green wall, only broken by random sections of field or small towns. This lasted until I was into Alabama, so I put my head down and went. 

Both I-59 and I-20 in Alabama are under construction, so I spent most of my time looking out for speed limit changes and State Troopers. Nevertheless, I made it into my destination of Oxford, AL unharmed. 

Realizing sometime into my journey that I didn’t actually have to cross a time zone, I decided on a small detour. I pulled an off ramp in Tuscaloosa, and took a trip to the home of SEC football. The University of Alabama is a magnificent campus, all the damned road construction not withstanding. I was looking for the giant A, so I could get a picture, but I was unable to find it. Oh well, next time. 

The night will be spent at the Super 8 Motel. It is not the nicest or newest hotel in the Oxford area, but it will do for one night. 

The reason I pulled up in Oxford, was so I might get together with two old army buddies. One a d friend from the days of barracks living, and the other my First Sargent. It’s been some time since I crossed their paths, and catching up was over due. Dinner was a wonderful mix of conversation and stories. It was an excellent idea!! 

Peace Out, from Alabama. 

Henderson Swamp, Louisiana.

The elevated roadway going across the bayou. 

The Mississippi – Alabama line. I-20. 

Dinner with old friends! 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 2

Today started as all great days on the road tend to, at the Waffle House! Do love a nice greasy Waffle House breakfast. It’s how I can tell I’m below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Once it got rolling, I was off to tour NASA Johnson Space Center. I got there directly behind a huge group of little kids. It’s the way of such things. As for NASA, I enjoyed it quite well. The staff are extremely helpful. This way helpful today with the looming bad weather. I was able to get out on the tram tour to the training complex before the thunder and lightning shit it all down. We did have to skip the rocket garden due to the lightning. That was fine with me, I have been to Kennedy Space Center a couple times already. I know what the rockets look like.

Having toured all the tours and watched all the films I wanted to watch, I was off. …. to the gift shop. Can’t leave without a shirt! That, would be wrong.

Back on the road, I was headed east. The trip up through the coast and towards Beaumont was very nice. The whole stretch of road was road I e never driven before and I enjoyed it very well. The whole way was quite green. I’m not sure what I was thinking it would be like, but it was very green. Even the area around Baytown that was obvious oil town USA was green and the water was blue. All the waterways encountered on the drive looked in good health. There seemed to be very little evidence of the coastline pollution the news channels are always going on about encountered during my driving. It seems the oil companies are doing good environmental works, even if no one wants to admit it.

For full disclosure, the section of I-10 from Beaumont to the Louisiana border was a roller coaster of intersecting and diverging sections of highway, pretty much all of it under construction, that kept you completely awake. I mean UGH! 

Coming into Wallisville, I spotted the  Wallisville Wild Bird Rookery out of the corner of my eye. Dropping onto the next off ramp, I backtracked back down the frontage road to the USACE sign and pulled in. The marshy area was pretty, with lots of swamp grasses, moss covered trees, and the like. There was a medium sized white bird (stork or some such bird) out in the middle of the open area. He looked pleased with himself, so I left him be. 

Moving on with my eastward march, I continued to Louisiana. Being hungry, I decided to stop for the day in Lake Charles, LA. Lake Charles is a town based around the oil industry and the refineries are everywhere to see. Contractor pickup trucks are also parked everywhere you look. It’s a working town. 

On the way into Lake Charles, I spotted a sign for the Golden Nugget casino. I figured, why not stop. Walked in, double my money, walked out before I could change my mind. Yup. It took all of 40 minutes. 

Dinner was at a restaurant called Steamboat Bill’s. it was pointed out to me by the hotel desk lady. She said that everyone said good things about it. I too will say good things about it. The Cajun fish plate was good, as was the atmosphere of the place. And, the staff was very friendly. 

The hotel for the night is the Best Western Bayuo Inn and Suites. It is on Route 171, north side of I-10. Price was right, and the room is excellent! 

That’s about it for Day 2. I’m having a good time. You should get out and go as well. 

Everybody loves Waffle House.

A life sized Space Shuttle, on a life sized airplane. 

The real Apollo 17 capsule. 

The USACE Trinity River Waterbird Rookery. Taken from the observation platform. 

It was a nice enough casino. Had a pretty good sized gaming floor. 


US road trip 2017, Day 1

I’ve been hanging out for a while now, in between projects. So, in an effort to take some of my own advice, I’m going on a road trip. I figured that I’d take a little time and go see some places I’ve never seen. I would mix those with some places I haven’t been in a while. Should be a good couple weeks.

As with everything I do, the day started with procrastination. Drank a bunch of coffee and tried to find my motivation. I finally did find it about a half a pot in, so I was off. 

The trip started with a drive through the East Texas countryside. I headed south east out of Salado, through Cameron, and on to Houston. The day was hot. Blue sky and puffy white clouds made for a great drive. Small little towns, lots of crop fields, and cows. 

My original destination was going to be the Fine Arts Museum in Houston. I made a couple of wrong turns along the way. There is currently a pile of road construction around Houston. Google maps however, got me were I was headed. Fortunately, theee is a parking garage attached to the Fine Arts Museum at will fit my four wheel drive truck. UN-fortunately, the museum is closed on Mondays. I probably should have read all that stuff on the webpage. 

Oh well, about a three block walk from the garage is the Natural History Museum. It was cool. It was FULL of kids! I mean full! I think they must do summer camps for kids or something. Nevertheless, it was worth the walk.

The breakdown of the Texas countryside and its wildlife was well put together. The hall of paleontology was also worth while. They have lots of dinosaurs, and the hall is well laid out, chronologically. 

On the third floor is the Ancient Equiptian section. It’s not expansive, but it is well laid out and interesting. 

Getting from parking, back onto the interstate is easy. I hit mid-city traffic at the start of afternoon rush hour. The traffic headed south was stop and go, at best. Once I got to the outer edge of the city (route 610) traffic loosened up and smoothed out.

I drove to League City, and pulled up for a late lunch. I remembered from Facebook that the Tilted Kilt opened a new restaurant in League City, so it seemed like the place to stop. The new Kilt was definitely new. It was crazy clean and there was staff everywhere. 

On the way down to Houston the truck developed a shake, so I pulled it into an NTB across the street so they could check the balance on the tires. 40.00$ later, and all four tires rebalanced, things are mechanically good. And, I continue on.

My room for the night is at the Candlewood Suites, in League City. I booked it on The price was right, and I like the way the way the website works. 

Good night all. Go on, get out there!

The East Texas countryside. Somewhere around Holland, Texas.

The world’s largest snail shell, second floor of the museum.

Allosaurus skeleton, Hall of Palentology. 

What I like to call, reflection of a T-Rex. 

Sarcophagus of a man, Hall of Ancient Egypt. The third floor. 
More to come.