Washington DC – June 2018 – Museum of American History

Our final stop was the Museum of American History, also known as America’s attic. There is so much to see starting with – Children’s TV icons…

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A shirtless George Washington?

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A tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

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Early computers.

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Early money.

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Commercial advertising standards.

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Batman’s ride.

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A collection of model ships.

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Washington DC streetcar.

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In the transportation hall they had a couple of displays of life in the 1950s.

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And a feature of the growth of the suburbs.

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Julia Child’s kitchen.

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And her awards.

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Early telegraph.

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The random eagle.

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A section about Latino’s in America included this cool Statue of Liberty only featuring a Latino woman holding tomatoes.

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There was a section about democracy in America, including a stunning presentation on voting in America, and how often people have tried to control who can vote so they can stay in power – it sadly continues to this day.

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Presidential election tchotchkes.

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A 1940s voting machine.

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A collection of protest signs.

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Another room housed mechanical items – an early sweeper.

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Finally in the presidential section was a collection of street signs named after presidents. The Museum of American History is a sensory overload – in my opinion it is second to Air & Space for museums in DC.

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Washington DC – June 2018 – Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is the most visited Natural History Museum in the world. With over 1.5 million square feet of space and 126 million specimens it is the authoritative view on natural history.

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The Hall of Mammals has an extensive collection.

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A map of the world has the population ‘clock’ that constantly updates.

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The Hall of Human Origins has a collection of sculptures of humans over time.

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The Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals has a number of impressive pieces.

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Finally we toured the Ocean Hall.

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Washington DC – June 2018 – Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum opened in downtown DC in 1946. Today it houses some of the most important aircraft and spacecraft in history.

One of the first artifacts we saw was the first satellite, Telstar.

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A recent addition is the actual model from the Star Trek TV series.

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Apollo 11 capsule

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Saturn 5 engine.

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A collection of space rockets.

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The original Wright flyer.

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Military aircraft.

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There is a nice ‘Pioneers of Aviation’ section.

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Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis.

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A tribute to Amelia Earhart.

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The plan that first flew across Antarctica. This museum is truly one of the best in the world for aircraft.

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Washington DC – June 2018 – Library of Congress

Since the beginning of the U.S. government there has been a Library of Congress. Starting in Philadelphia, then New York, it came to DC in 1800. The current main building was constructed in the 1890s.

When you enter the building you are greeted by a two story Great Hall.

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As with many grand buildings constructed during this period the ceiling is impressive as well.

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There are numerous sculptures throughout.

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The upper level is lined with stately columns.

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While from the upper level you get a clear view of the zodiac symbols in the main level’s floor.

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Additional stylish ceilings and artwork.

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The map room.

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The mosaic in the lower levels floor.

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The building is easily one of the most impressive in DC.

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The Reading Room viewed from above.

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We were so impressed with this room that we went through a process to apply for, and receive, a library card – only to find out that on the reading room floor itself photography is strictly prohibited!

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So we went down the hallways and continued on our way.

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Washington DC – June 2018 – Views of the City

A day and a half in DC gave the opportunity to visit numerous museums (later posts) as well as check out the town. This post are randoms views of the city.

Starting with an unusual view of the Washington Monument down the tracks.

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Stores near Eastern Market

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The Eastern Market interior. I was surprised how small it was.

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A lone runner going past the capital. The reason there are no people around is the visitor center is underneath, and the police keep everyone off the steps.

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The aforementioned police.

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For those who read this blog that are not from America – nearly every 8th grader (13-14 year olds) make a field trip to Washington DC. They always have matching shirts so their chaperones can keep track of them.

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Apparently DC ducks don’t fly, so they have a ramp to get into the reflecting pool.

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The view down the Mall

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A well protected fountain

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The famed Watergate Hotel/Apartment Complex.

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And finally a ride on the Metro.

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Washington & Baltimore – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 3

We woke up in our top floor room to a great sunrise with a view of the Capital.

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Sunday morning started out by getting the car back from the valet, and running around the mall area with the car, since there was no traffic. After finding a spot near the Lincoln Memorial, we walked over to check out the monument, and the view down the mall.

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On our way back to the car we had a nice walk along the Potomac River.

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Returning to the car we wanted to see the FDR Memorial but found all the streets to it were closed, a recurring theme downtown. Instead we drove to Georgetown where the homes were old but well-kept and stately with upscale shops in the business district.

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From there, we drove until we reached the White House encountering more closed streets for a cancer benefit marathon made it difficult to find parking. I realized that parking is a premium in this city and there seemed to be very few parking garages, so we made our way to Capital Hill where we found an open spot to park on First Street near Louisiana Avenue and walked the four blocks to the Newseum.

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The Newseum is dedicated to communication, journalism, radio, TV, and the internet from America’s historic start until today. Our self-guided tour began with a ride up a glass elevator to an open observation deck that provided a great view of Pennsylvania Avenue, the U.S. Capitol, and the Smithsonian as we moved along reading the historical timeline of communication and journalism that stretched the length of the open deck.

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Upon reentering the building 800 front pages of different newspapers of major cities from around the world hung on the wall. This was a clear picture of how the same news is viewed from around the world by different cultures on the same day and what constitutes as headlines news for different areas.

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Situated near the elevator on the ground floor were slabs of concrete from the original Berlin Wall. The eight 12-foot tall slabs erected side by side were painted with graffiti of slogans as “You Are Power” and “Step by Step” from the West Berlin side of the Wall. A three-story East German guard tower that loomed near Checkpoint Charlie — Berlin’s best-known East-West crossing stood behind the Berlin Wall slabs.

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One of the most interesting exhibits at the Newseum was “Inside Today’s FBI.”  The FBI exhibit explored how the FBI fights crime in the age of global terrorism and cybercrime with news stories and dozens of artifacts. We got to see the work of the FBI and how they detected and solved crimes.

Real evidence of actual cases such as: The handcuffs and fingerprints of the Boston Marathon bombers; the Unabomber’s cabin filled with items of the Unabomber; and bomb materials used for a failed car bomb at Time’s Square. Engine parts and landing gear from United Airlines Flight 175 that crashed into the World Trade Center South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as, materials of terrorism from the Atlanta Olympic Centennial Park and Oklahoma City, and shoes worn by shoe bomber Richard Reid in an attempt to blow up an American Airlines flight in December 2001 were shown.

We also saw the confiscated terrorist’s machine gun from a thwarted attempt to blow up the U.S. Capitol in 2012 and an abandoned car filled with explosives found at Dulles airport on 9/11.

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Another room encased 400 front pages from newspapers and magazines stacked atop each other and slid out for viewing as part of the largest exhibit of the museum. The News History Gallery boasts a timeline of news stories from the 1400’s to the present time. I was able to view newspaper headlines from the 1700’s.

The archive held sport championships, news of war and other historical noted events. Videos of current TV programs ran clips of Stephen Colbert, skits from Laugh-In and Saturday Night Live in relation to modern modes of communications within this gallery. The News History Gallery confronted war reporting, sensationalism, media credibility and objectivity. I thought that the volume of early material was really impressive.

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The 9/11 Gallery had the upper section of the 360-foot antenna mast that toppled from the World Trade Center’s North Tower when the building collapsed. The antenna served most of New York City’s television stations. The antenna was mangled and twisted within its metal frame. Next to the antenna was a wall with an inscription “Peace be with you, You live on in love” Julie. As I read this inscription, voices of survivors and their families telling their personal stories of the tragedy from that day were heard.  On September 11, 2001, the lives of 2,749 people were lost. These first person accounts of that day were heartbreaking.

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A fun factoid at the Newseum stated that 20% of Americans can name all five Simpson characters but less than 10% of Americans can name all five freedoms of the 1st Amendment. The five freedoms of the First Amendment are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assembly, freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and a free press.

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As we moved down the multi-level building exploring the exhibits level by level, we came upon the Journalists Memorial Gallery. The soaring, two-story glass memorial bears the names of reporters, editors, photographers, and broadcasters who lost their lives reporting the news.

The gallery also featured photographs of hundreds of the journalists whose names are etched on the memorial’s glass panels. Each year, the Newseum selects a representative group of journalists whose names are added to the memorial and whose deaths illustrate the dangers faced by journalists around the world. I looked up at the soaring wall of photos and felt so much grief knowing that these people died due to conflict of others misunderstandings.

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We ate lunch at the Newseum cafe when we reached the ground level then left to see the Spy Museum. The Spy Museum was very crowded and so we passed on it thinking that we would not have enough time to go through it and make it on time to the restaurant in Baltimore to meet our friends for dinner.

We left Washington D.C. on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and once again got stuck in traffic. After an hour we arrived in Baltimore, we went to Federal Hill and hiked up the steep grassy slope to the park with great views of the Inner Harbor and the city of Baltimore.

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The camera lens let us zoom in on a submarine, a tall ship, yacht, and Navy warships at the Inner Harbor. The harbor was also filled with many personal yachts. The city looked renovated from when we last visited here with new commercial businesses, townhouses, and condos.

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Leaving the park , we drove the streets discovering new sights as we tried to get to Camden Yards, the baseball stadium. This proved to be frustrating as we were unable to get to the stadium because we got stuck in traffic again from the release of fans from the Steelers/Ravens football game that just ended. Every way we tried to maneuver resulted in a traffic jam.

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We gave up seeing anything else downtown so we went to Barracudas Restaurant, a classic neighborhood restaurant near Fort McHenry to meet our friends for dinner. Our dinners were tasty and the time passed quickly with an easy flow of conversation.

We left Baltimore for Annapolis where we reserved a hotel room at the Springhill Suites, arriving fairly late in the evening.

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Washington, DC – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 2

Our morning in Cumberland started out a crisp 34oF. The day would find us eventually in Washington, DC, but with a few stops on the way, starting with a drive along the Potomac River south from Cumberland, until we reached the Paw Paw Tunnel. This  3,118-foot long canal tunnel is located on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal located near Paw Paw, West Virginia.

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The tunnel was built to bypass the Paw Paw Bends, a 6-mile stretch of the Potomac River containing five horseshoe-shaped bends. The town, the bends, and the tunnel take their name from the pawpaw trees that grow abundantly along nearby ridges.

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Building the tunnel was underestimated as to the difficulty of the job by the construction company.  The tunnel project created financial problems and nearly bankrupted the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company. The lengthy construction and high cost forced the company to end canal construction at Cumberland, Maryland, in 1850, rather than continue to Pittsburgh as originally planned.

The tunnel was used by canal boats until the C&O closed in 1924.  The tunnel was badly deteriorated until the National Park Service made major repairs to the tunnel, including replacing fallen bricks, filling cavities along the towpath, stabilizing rock slides, and repairing the facade.  Today the Paw Paw Tunnel is part of the C & O Towpath which is part of a major bike trail connecting Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

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We hiked the half-mile path from the parking lot through the woods to reach the tunnel sheathed in fog.  The colorful autumn leaves brightened the surroundings as we entered into the tunnel feeling a cool breeze within it.   As we walked on the bumpy dirt towpath where mules once pulled canal boats on this trail, the tunnel turned darker the farther we hiked.  Our flashlights and the railing helped to guide our way to the other end of the tunnel.

After reaching the end, we turned around to walk back through the tunnel again.  We did not climb the steep and strenuous looking two-mile long Tunnel Hill Trail over top the mountain to see where the tunnel builders lived during construction but I enjoyed our short trek into the tunnel to see a bit of history and engineering marvel.

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The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM)’s annex at Washington Dulles International Airport.  The 760,000-square-foot facility was made possible by a $65 million gift to the Smithsonian Institution by Steven F. Udvar-Házy, an immigrant from Hungary and co-founder of an aircraft leasing corporation.  The main building, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C, had always contained more artifacts than could be displayed, and most of the collection had been stored, unavailable to visitors.

The exhibition areas at the Udvar-Hazy facility have two large hangars, the Boeing Aviation Hangar and the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar.  The museum is connected by a taxiway to the Washington Dulles International Airport.  The observation tower at the museum provided a view of landing operations at the airport for us to see some large jets land while we were there.

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Entering the lobby of the museum offers a visitor a direct view of the space shuttle at center stage.  It was like walking through a timeline with so many historic aircrafts in one building.

In addition to the space shuttle, other crafts on display were: The Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; the Gemini VII space capsule; the SR-71 Blackbird Reconnaissance aircraft; the Air France Concorde; the Gossamer Albatross, which was the first man-powered aircraft to fly across the English Channel; the special-effects miniature of the “Mothership” used in the filming of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer piloted by Steve Fossett for the first solo nonstop and nonrefueled circumnavigation of Earth; and a piece of fabric from the Hindenburg disaster.

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We also saw gliders, satellites, military and commercial planes, flying platforms, missiles, boat planes, and farm duster crop planes.  A mobile NASA quarantine facility for the astronauts return was there.

The catwalk elevated us to a perch overlooking the planes and crafts on the floor and a view at eye-level of the aircrafts hovering from the ceiling.  We were able to peer inside the small suspended crafts to see the controls and sometimes personal items of the pilots in the congested airspace of the hangar.  There was a plethora of aircraft and spacecrafts to see but clearly the surprise of the initial look into the hangar to see the space shuttle and the close up of its tiles and many components is most impressive.

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Gravelly Point Park near National Airport was our next stop.  The park at the edge of the airport runway was filled with people enjoying the nice weather.  A maintenance crew was replacing bulbs in the landing lights as we looked on.  We stood at the edge beyond the landing lights while jets flew a hundred feet directly above us roaring noisily. The park also provided a good spot for us to photograph the D.C. buildings from across the river.

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We made our way to the Embassy Suites downtown, receiving an upgrade to the top floor.  It was a nice walk from the hotel to the National Building Museum.  The museum is all about building and construction obviously and so showcased different aspects of this theme.

The museum had paper models of famous castles and other famous buildings and homes.  There was a display of dollhouses.  Another room presented a technique of building tall structures and high rises from wood instead of steel.  The technique is a new trend of incorporating renewable resources in modern construction.  Stumps of wood and panels of engineered wood filled the room for us to learn how wood could be as strong as steel, lessens the impact on the environment, and reduces waste.   Miniature wooden models of multi-leveled structures were displayed for us to see examples of the early projects.

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The National Building Museum itself was very interesting with colossal 75-foot Corinthian columns reaching to the vaulted arches above in the great hall.  Outside a frieze depicting a parade of Civil War military units 3 feet high wrapped the building.  President Grover Cleveland hosted his inaugural ball in this building in 1885; since then this building has been the grand space for Washington’s social and political functions.

The design of the building was inspired by two Roman palaces, the Palazzo Farnese, and the church of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs in Rome built by Michelangelo in the mid-sixteenth century.  Arched windows and arched niches reached fifteen stories high from floor to ceiling with a row of 234 white busts of men representing the building trades held in niches in the center court.

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Our view from the second story looking down into the great hall offered a geometric pattern similar to the Spirograph art that I made when I was a kid.  The table arrangement below was for an event and resembled colorful gears with cogs from high above.  The tables dressed in bright blue tablecloths and blue chairs against a terra cotta floor with stemware, silverware, and napkins had such an interesting look that I sent the photo out as the picture of the day asking his followers to guess what the photo was other than the blue shaped pattern.  The view from our elevated position did not easily reveal its true image.

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From the National Building Museum, we walked to the National Mall to see the Washington Monument, the midpoint between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol.  I was so stunned to see the unsightly overabundance of food trucks catering to the tourist that lined the street perimeter of the National Mall.  We opted to go to SEI Restaurant with a modern Asian cuisine and sushi bar.  The menu featured small plates for us to try California rolls, kimchi fried egg rice bowl, Kobe beef roll and short ribs.

We resumed our walk to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for a quick tour before the hockey game we planned to attend.  The art was inspiring to see objects made of bottle caps, buttons, mixed media and other uncommon materials.

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The Verizon Center is the home of the Washington Capitals, a rival of the Pittsburgh Penguins, although on this day they were playing the Florida Panthers . We sat in the upper level among loud drunks to watch the hockey game, obnoxious enough you would’ve thought we were in Philadelphia. We left after the end of the second period and ambled in to a sports bar on 8th street for a bite to eat, and watch the Ohio State football game. Ohio State destroyed Nebraska 62-3, completing a really good day.

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