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Day 22 - Visiting the Smithsonian

I woke up when the train just stopped in Petersburg, Virginia. Unfortunately the train was still close to two hours delayed. I fell asleep again and woke up the next time at the station stop in Richmond, VA. I got slowly up, still having plenty of time until the delayed arrival in Washington D.C. I went to the launch car in order to get some breakfast and to charge my phone batteries. While having breakfast I enjoyed the beautiful landscape of Virginia. The lakes were very similar to those one can find in Finland, especially in my region. Once back at my seat I had a very nice chat with the person sitting next to me who was traveling from Florida to Connecticut in order to visit his family. We had a lively conversation on our experiences with delayed trains. Finally close to Alexandria, VA it seemed as if we had made up some time and we were supposed to arrive to Washington D.C. only one hour delayed. But then just right before pulling into Alexandria we were hold up again. Although the stop in Alexandria was short and the ride into Washington Union Station didn’t take long we arrived about one and a half hours late at 8.45 am instead of 7.07 am. I didn’t mind the delay a lot because I could skip the rush hour in Washington D.C. and Union Station was just slowing down significantly while I was still waiting for my bags at the claiming area. I first thought about storing the bag in the station and picking it up later when going to the hostel but $25 storing fee per day was for my taste a bit overpriced. Instead I kept the trolley with me during the day, it wasn’t that heavy anyhow. Leaving it at the hostel would have taken a lot of time away so I made my way straight to the metro and got a ticket. Once I had my ticket it was just 8 minutes until peak hour tariffs ended at the metro. In Washington D.C. there are two price systems for peak hours and off-peak hours. The off-peak tickets are about 30% cheaper. As ticket prices also depend on distance and I was planning to go quite far it was worth waiting the 8 minutes in order to save some money. I used the time to have a short walk around Union Station, a really beautiful building. This was my second time in Washington D.C. so I had been there before. However, spending time at Union Station is always nice. Finally at 9.31 am I entered the metro and got on a red line train to Metro Center. There I switched to the silver line and drove all the way to the final stop. The journey took almost an hour. From the final stop I transferred to the Connector bus line 983 that provided service straight to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum located right next to Washington Dulles International Airport. I has just missed a 983 bus but there was another one running 20 minutes later and soon I was on board line 983. The ride took about 40 minutes and the bus called also at the airport. I always wanted to see the airport terminal as it was designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen in 1964. By that time it was a revolutionary building. Indeed I perceived the building as very impressive and also timeless. Without knowing I would have never guessed that the terminal had been designed in the early 1960s. After we had passed by the airport the bus finally turned towards the museum that was located south of the airport. I was lucky, after safety screening I could store my bags for free at the museum instead of paying $25 at the Union Station. I started with the exhibition right away. I had heard and read so much about the museum that I knew exactly what I wanted to see, I only had to find out where the things were located. The museum really featured many outstanding objects that had written history in aeronautics and space flight. Just to mention a few, the museum had on display the Space Shuttle Discovery, Air France’s first Concorde, Boeing’s first 707 and the B-29 bomber “Enola Gay” which had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and written history by ending WWII. These were just a few among a long list of interesting things to see at the Smithsonian. Finally I also had the chance to visit the control tower that provided great views over the entire Washington Dulles International Airport. I took some pictures of landing and taking-off airplanes. After browsing the museum’s shop I headed back to the lockers just to realize that I had lost my locker key. I couldn’t believe it, I have never ever in my life lost anything important such as a key. After checking my pockets several times I had to turn to the help desk which refereed me to the museum’s security. The supervisor had to be called and also came soon with a spare key. He was very friendly and opened the locker for me. I felt so sorry that I had lost the key but it must have been somewhere in the museum and I was sure that someone would sooner or later find the key and return it hopefully. Relieved I left the museum, it was almost 5 pm. I had been quite long in the museum as I had arrived around 11.30 am. Luckily I hadn’t to wait too long until a bus 983 came. The ride back took almost an hour due to rush hour traffic. By 6 pm I finally reached the metro station. After topping up my ticket, this time I had to pay the peak hour fare, I got on the silver line back to Washington D.C. I went all the way back until Metro Center where I transferred to the red line. After one stop I switched to the yellow line at Gallery station for another two stops. Then I finally arrived at the stop closest to my hostel. The hostel was only a 3 minutes’ walk from the station, luckily because it began to rain when I left the metro station. I just got into the hostel before it became really strong. After I had checked in I had to go outside again because my room was located in another building but only 20 meters away. The rain was quite strong but I made it without getting really wet. After settling in I went quickly to the supermarket around the corner to get some food for the night and for breakfast. This time I had my umbrella at hand which was convenient. While having dinner in the kitchen I met some of the other guys staying at the hostel. I had a nice chat with two guys from California that were both living not too far from me which was kind of funny. We had an interesting conversation on climate change and changing weather patterns that we had observed during our lifetimes. I didn’t stay up for too long as I had not slept that much the night before on the train.  

National Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport

FedEx aircraft Dassault Falcon 20

Air France Concorde

U.S. Air Force Lockheed Constellation

Boeing's first 707 prototype

Space Shuttle Discovery

B-29 bomber "Enola Gay"

Close up of Space Shuttle Discovery

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