Day four took us on a couple of government tours. We left the hotel at 7:20 am and headed down to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (we're getting pretty good at using the Metro, though we have our moments as you'll read below). Security was noticeably heavier today as the commuter rush got back underway. There were cops in large numbers at all of the Metro stations, and even in the areas surrounding the stations. We got off at the Smithsonian stop and walked a couple of long blocks over to the Bureau.
A word of advice to any future travelers to D.C. - if you want to do this tour, schedule it through your congressman - don't stand in line to get tickets. It's not worth waiting for hours to get in. The entire tour took only 40 minutes or so, and during the tour you basically stand on catwalks overlooking the printing presses. You do get to see a lot of money in raw form, but the tour was somewhat underwhelming.
As we were leaving the Bureau building, we saw Marine One launching out of the White House taking the President to a speech in Quantico, VA. As the first helicopter zipped by at low level and high speed, two other helicopters lifted off from a spot near the Lincoln Memorial and joined up. According to one of yesterday's tram drivers, the President's helicopters always travel with Marine Two and Three, Two being identical in appearance to One, and Three in normal gray Marine colors. Two and Three stand by in a holding position until One takes off and then they join up.
A few months ago I saw the President's helicopter in San Diego as it was headed to Camp Pendleton for a speech there. His copter was flying by itself on that trip.
Since the tour finished pretty early, we decided to take the Metro back to the hotel for awhile (none of the museums were open yet) and we made a rookie mistake and got on the wrong train. Fortunately, after ending up a couple of stops in the wrong direction, we jumped off, crossed the platform and hopped on the next train going the right direction. They come through so often it really wasn't much of a problem.
Today was much warmer and more humid than any previous day on the trip, so it felt good to get back in the air conditioning for awhile. Things are supposed to get a lot more humid in the next few days as the remnants of Hurricane David will be wafting this way, and there will be a chance of thunderstorms through Saturday. That could make the theme park visit a little dicey.
After about a 40 minute break at the hotel, we walked back to the Metro station and rode down to the Capitol.
Our tour of the Capitol started in Congressman Gary Miller's office in the Longworth House Office Building. We met up with two other families from Mission Viejo and were led on our tour by McKenzie, an intern in the Congressman's office. The hour long tour took us through several sections on the House side of the building (including a quick pass by Tom DeLay's office which was heavily guarded) and then on the Capitol rotunda and statuary hall.
McKenzie did a nice job of leading the tour and giving us a lot of the Capitol's history. We appreciate the work she did, and the work Lucia did in putting together these two tours, and tomorrow's White House visit.
After leaving Capitol hill we headed down to the National Air and Space Museum, my personal favorite. We had lunch in their large foodcourt and after a much needed rest, enjoyed touring the museum. HolyCoast son enjoyed the space stuff, including this moon suit:
This museum is the most popular museum in the world, and they have quite a collection of historic aircraft, both at the Mall location, and their new location out by Dulles airport. We'll be visiting there on Saturday.
After leaving the Air and Space Museum, we walked down the Mall and stopped at the Sackler and Freer Galleries which is hosting a collection of Asian art that Mrs. HolyCoast wanted to see. The galleries are right next to the Smithsonian Castle. There is a beautiful garden in back of the castle, and Mrs. HolyCoast wanted a picture on the castle grounds.
During our travels today, we passed numerous massive government buildings housing various Federal agencies. Mrs. HolyCoast had a good question - what in the world do all these people do all day? I wish I knew, and if I had the authority, I'd cut all the agencies in half just for a start and see if they could still do the same job with half the staff. I bet they could.
Our poor feet, ankles and legs finally cried "uncle" after the Sackler and Freer Galleries and we called it an early day (at 4:15 pm). We have another early start tomorrow, and have to be at the White House at 7:15 am for our tour. Due to the security requirements, we can basically bring only the clothes on our back. No purses, bags, cameras, liquids of any kind, or just about anything else are allowed through the gate. We'll leave the hotel at around 6:30 for the walk to the visitors entrance.
After seeing the real thing, we're planning to visit the White House Visitor's Center across the street, and then stop by the Renwick Gallery which is where most of the stuff from the National Art Museum is currently housed (the Art Museum is undergoing renovation). After that, we'll see if there's anything else we want to do since tomorrow will be our last full day in D.C.
We'll see you again tomorrow.