We spent the day at the Smithsonian museums today. We took a quick walk through the castle before moving on to Air and Space. The girls were impressed by the size of the rockets, and showed polite interest as I explained the lunar landings, the Apollo-Soyuz coupling, and the Viking Mars lander. We looked inside Skylab, learned that the surface temperature of Venus is 900 degrees Fahrenheit, the Spirit of Saint Louis completed its trans-Atlantic flight in 30 hours, and that the first balloon trip around the world reached speeds over 150 miles per hour. We skipped past most of the military exhibits, and only glossed over the displays on telescopes and deep space exploration; but we still spent quite a lot of time here.
Next we stopped by the National Archives, as I hoped to show the kids the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The line was too long, and the wind too blustery, so we moved on to Natural History. The girls really enjoyed looking at the fossils, and the taxidermy displays, though they quickly lost interest as their tummies started growling. We saw maybe 1⁄5 of everything Natural History has to offer before calling it a day.
Of particular disappointment to all of us was the absence of Uncle Beasley. As a young boy, my parents read to me The Enormous Egg before we went to D.C. for the first time. On the lawn outside of the Natural History museum was a large statue of a Triceratops, on which kids could climb. This triceratops was named Uncle Beasley. Sliding down Uncle Beasley’s tail was always one of the highlights of any trip to D.C.
I read The Enormous Egg to the twins some years ago, and have been telling them about my experiences with Uncle Beasley ever since. We were all really hoping to see the famous triceratops. Last I knew, the statue had been moved indoors and climbing had long been forbidden. Alas, he’s been decommissioned (or moved to the zoo, according to one report). All that’s available for viewing are triceratops skeletons, or the large skull outside at the Constitution Ave. entrance. Needless to say we were all extremely disappointed: the kids because the hype of my story didn’t meet reality, and me because a favorite childhood memory will forever be just that, a memory.
Update: I checked with the information desk at the zoo, and they confirmed that the old Uncle Beasley statue is indeed on their premises, but it is unfortunately not open for public viewing. I seriously considered offering a bribe just to be able to take a single photo, but ultimately opted against this. Explaining the concept of bribery, or why I chose to engage in it, was not something I wanted to do on this vacation.