Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Finale of the Exciting Adventures of Flat Tucker!

Our flights from Washington DC to Chicago and back to Omaha were smooth and we actually got in 20 minutes early!



I think Flat Tucker really enjoyed his visit to our nation's Capital and hopefully he learned a lot of new stuff! I know Joey and I did! Thank you again Tucker from Ms. Sanders' 2nd grade class in Ochelata, Oklahoma, for letting Flat Tucker join us on our journey! We had so much fun sharing the sights and sounds of Washington DC with him!

Flat Tucker watching the action on the streets of DC from the hotel window
 (first window to the right of the blue flag)

Flat Tucker will be packing up for his journey through the US Postal Service to return back to Tucker in Oklahoma on Monday! Watch for him in the mail Tucker he has lots and lots of brochures and memorabilia from all the places he's been to show you!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 7 of the Exciting Adventures of Flat Tucker!

Got all packed up and checked out of the hotel this morning. Took our last subway ride on the Metro to a bus stop where we caught a bus to Dulles airport. This was our first time exiting at the Rosslyn Metro stop and I about had a heart attack when I boarded the escalator to go up. I am afraid of heights and I have never seen such a monster! It got to a point where I knew I better not look back at Joey because I'd probably pass out! According to Wikipedia it is the 3rd longest continuous spanned escalator in the world!
Photo from Wikipedia

We made it to Dulles airport in Virginia with the plan to check the luggage and take the shuttle to the Air and Space museum nearby. Problem is we found out you are not allowed to check luggage more than four hours before a flight! So we schlepped all our luggage along to the Air and Space Museum which thankfully had lockers large enough to hold a suitcase!

The Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum was really great. It is very large so it can hold all the aircraft that the main location on the National Mall cannot hold, like Space Shuttle Discovery! I was just in awe of standing right next to an actual real life Space Shuttle! I just love the Space Shuttle and I was able to see the last launch ever of Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011. It was a dream of mine so to see a shuttle up close was really, really cool!








We also saw some Navy Tomcat jets like you see in the movie Top Gun.



Joey was excited to see the SR-71 Blackbird which is one of the fastest fighter jets of the Air Force.



The airplane called, The Enola Gay, is also housed here. This airplane holds historical significance as being the plane that dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, that helped end World War II but caused great devastation and suffering to the people of Japan.



This museum was really cool to visit even if it was a bit inconvenient to get here and drag our luggage!

We're back at the airport now and sitting at the gate awaiting our flight.  Right now everything looks to be running on time so we should be sleeping in our beds in Omaha tonight. I hate the vacation to end but it's always nice to be back sleeping in your own bed!



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 6 of the Exciting Adventures of Flat Tucker!

Today was a very significant day. First, we started at the National Archives for a guided tour. In this building you get to see the original Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, in addition to many other very important documents. There is no photography allowed in this building to help preserve the integrity of the documents so no photos were taken here.

It was very interesting to see these original documents and to see how they are displayed. They are displayed in a very beautiful, ornate room called the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. This room is kept cool and dimly lit to help keep the parchment paper of the documents safe. There are two armed guards who stand on either side of The Constitution at all times to ensure its safety. The documents are lowered into an underground sealed vault every night to protect against any unforeseen disaster.





After lunch we took the subway across the Potomac River to Virginia to the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Department of Defense. Before we toured the building we walked through the memorial that has been built in honor of the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.



The memorial is very peaceful. It is set up as a series of benches that are marked for each victim with a reflecting pool underneath that reflects their name. It is organized from the oldest victim born in 1930, to the youngest, born in 1998.

Flat Tucker near one of the memorial benches with the reflecting pool underneath.

After visiting the memorial we went through heavy security to enter the Pentagon itself. The security was similar to going through the airport but they also had to swab the fronts and back of our hands to check for explosives residue. After being cleared we entered the waiting area and were allowed to take a picture at the lectern. After that we had to turn all cell phone completely OFF. No photographs, videotaping, nothing! The military doesn't mess around!



The tour itself as conducted by two military personnel, a women from the US Army and a man from the US Navy. They were both wearing their dress uniforms and were very impressive and disciplined. They were extremely knowledgeable and knew the answers to every question anyone on the tour asked. The most impressive thing was they conducted the entire tour walking backwards, even stepping on and off the escalators and turning corners! They knew their stuff!

The tour covered about a mile and a half of walking through the building, but that is really only a small portion. There are over 17 miles of corridors in the Pentagon. It contains it's own mini-mall within for the over 23,000 people that work there! You can fit 118 White Houses inside the Pentagon! It is absolutely HUGE!

We were taken into the section that was hit by the plane on September 11, 2001. Inside there is a small memorial chapel in honor of the people who perished that day. To walk through a sacred place of such an event of history was quite an experience.

Overall out of everything we've done this week I believe the Pentagon tour has been my favorite. I was so impressed by the military personnel who conducted our tours and to walk through the halls of history was very moving.

After our tour we went to a nearby mall and ate at a California Pizza Kitchen for dinner. This used to be a favorite restaurant of ours in Omaha, but sadly it closed. We try and eat there whenever we find ourselves near one!

Flat Tucker rides the Metro Subway!
Back at the hotel tonight to get our suitcases packed up and check-in for our Southwest flight tomorrow night. We are taking the bus out to the Dulles airport tomorrow morning to drop our luggage and then take a shuttle to the other Air & Space Museum near that airport for the afternoon before we fly out. The highlight there will be Space Shuttle Discovery! If you have read any of my past blog posts back in 2011 I am a HUGE space shuttle fan and was almost at the last launch of Endeavour and did make it for the very last space shuttle launch EVER of Atlantis on July 8, 2011. I'm pretty excited to see a shuttle up close!



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 5 of the Exciting Adventures of Flat Tucker!

So happy to wake up to a bright sunny morning today! The rain yesterday did bring in a cold front so it was significantly colder today with wind chills in the 30's, brrr, but at least it was dry and we had the sun to warm us up!

First, we walked over to the White House to view the south side and to go to the Visitor's Center. We were able to watch a video that gave a tour of the entire White House and explained the history and significance of the different rooms and furnishings.

On the south side of the White House

Next, we walked over to the Newseum. This museum shows American history through the yes of the news. There were newspapers from the 1500's! We saw the headlines of most of the major events from the last few centuries as well as newscasts of major news events of the past century. There were some interesting exhibits on the Berlin Wall, the major cases from the FBI files, and a very moving exhibit from 9/11 showing not just news, but actual artifacts recovered from the scenes as well. It was a very interesting museum.

The antenna from atop one of the World Trade Center towers. The wall behind shows the front pages of newspapers from around the world with the 9/11 headlines.

Flat Tucker in front of Oklahoma's front page headlines from today!

After touring the Newseum we took the subway out to Arlington National Cemetery and took a tram tour. The tour stopped at the grave site of the Kennedy family where President John F. Kennedy is buried along with his wife, and two children. This grave site contains an eternal flame, a flame that was lit by his wife at his funeral and remains lighted at all times. It is hooked to a special gas line to ensure it stays lit even in rain and bad weather. President Kennedy's brothers Senator Robert Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy are buried nearby as well.

President John F. Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy grave site at Arlington National Cemetery
Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We also visited the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which honors soldiers lost at war from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. This tomb is guarded 24/7 by the "Old Guard" unit of the Army and the guard is changed every 30 minutes to hour based on the time of year in a changing of the guard ceremony. This is a very cool and honorable ceremony to witness. The crowd is eerily silent and respectful and the dedication and precision of the servicemen is very admirable.




The changing of the guard ceremony
We made our way back to the subway to take us back to the hotel after touring the cemetery. Picked up a pizza on the way in and settled in to rest up for our last full day. Going to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and tour the Pentagon tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 4 of the Exciting Adventures of Flat Tucker!

We woke up to Day 4 of Flat Tucker's DC Adventure to some very different weather. Lots and lots of rain! Fortunately we did not have a lot of outdoor activities on our agenda!

After breakfast at the hotel we took the subway to the Holocaust Museum. There are no photos allowed in this museum. This museum is a very interesting, yet disturbing museum. You learn and see a great deal about the Holocaust, the persecution of the Jewish people from Nazi Germany from 1933-1945. To comprehend this history and to see it visually can be disturbing and very sobering. It is important to learn about this history though, because as people we need to learn from it so as not to repeat it.

After leaving the museum we trekked in the rain, which seemed fitting after that subject matter, over to the Air and Space Museum. The mood here was much more upbeat.

This museum is very large and full of planes and space artifacts. We got to touch a moon rock, saw the Command Modules from John Glenn's first orbit of the Earth and Apollo 11's flight to the moon. We also saw a model of the Lunar Module that Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin used to land on the moon.

Apollo 11 Command Capsule
Apollo 11 Lunar Module





From space to the very first flight we saw the plane of the Wright Brothers. It was amazing in the fact that they must have been crazy to have the guts to actually ride on such a thing! You'd certainly think looking at this plane that one or both of the brothers surely ended up dying in a plane crash or some other risky accident, but Wilbur died at the age of 45 of Typhoid Fever and Orville at the age of 76 of a heart attack.

The Wright Brothers Plane
After touring the museum we stopped in the gift shop to purchase some space ice cream and headed back outside to more rain and to find the temperature had dropped significantly! Thankfully the subway was only a couple blocks away!

Took the subway over near the White House to have a nice dinner at a restaurant, The Old Ebbitt Grill, that boasts it is "The Oldest Saloon in Washington"! It was established in 1856! It was a neat place. There were animal heads over the bar, one was a walrus, that are said to have been bagged by Teddy Roosevelt! I had delicious crab cakes and Joey had "the Good Burger" which he said lived up to its name! We may even try going back again before we leave DC!

Even though we were in the restaurant for quite awhile the rain was still holding strong outside so we made a mad dash the few blocks back to the hotel to warm up for the night! Thank goodness Flat Tucker is laminated!  Weather forecast says it will be cooler for the rest of our stay, but supposed to be dry! I hope the weather forecaster is correct!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 3 of the Exciting Adventures of Flat Tucker!

Up very early today. We wanted to make sure we had no subway mishaps so that we would arrive at Senator Johann's office at 8:40 as expected for our guided tour of the Capitol. Thankfully all transportation issues went smoothly and we arrived before they even unlocked the doors!

Felt like we were back in Nebraska once we walked through the doors of the Senator's office with all the Nebraska Cornhusker memorabilia everywhere! He even had a football signed by coach Bo Pelini on his fireplace mantel.

In the Senator's office we met our guide, Jacob. I have emailed often with Jacob over the past few months to set up all our tours and he was really friendly. He is from Springfield, NE, which is not far from our home in Gretna, both of which are basically suburbs of Omaha, so we had a lot in common.

Jacob took us to the basement of the Senator's office building where we found a mini-subway that transports senators underground into the Capitol building. We were able to ride over that way. It was really interesting. Jacob explained they do this for convenience, but mostly for the security of the Senators. The other Congressional office buildings are connected to the Capitol Building in a similar manner for the same reasons.

Once in the Capitol we watched a short film explaining how the building was built and the significance it has to the history of our nation. After the film Jacob walked us through and pointed out the architecture, artwork, and shared many interesting facts. One interesting point he showed us was a spot where a crypt was built that was designed for George Washington's body to be placed as the Father of our Nation. It is in the center of the Capitol Building and it also marks the exact center of Washington DC. Due to the will that George Washington left behind and the feelings of the Washington family President Washington's body was never placed in the crypt. It remained where it was buried at Mt. Vernon, Washington's home. The crypt in the Capitol remains empty.

Statue inside the Capitol replicating the one on the top of the dome.


Jacob also walked us around the outside of the Capitol Building grounds and showed us the different carvings in the building and explained their meaning. He also showed us where the president stands for the Inauguration. Jacob was able to attend the Inauguration of President Obama in 2013 but he said he was so far away he could barely see him! He said it was neat to be in attendance though!
The front of the Capitol Building

The back of the Capitol Building facing the National Mall. The Presidential Inauguration takes place at the top of the stairs under the center of the dome.





Finally, we returned inside and we were able to sit for a short bit inside the Gallery of the House of Representatives. This is where the House of Representatives meets to debate and vote on the laws that they set. Congress is in recess right now for the Easter holiday so there weren't any members of Congress present, but if it were a regular working day we would have been able to watch them debate and discuss the present bills that are up for debate. We were not able to take any pictures during this section because photos are not allowed. They actually take all electronic devices from you; cameras, phones, etc. and lock them up before you can go in!

After saying thank you and goodbye to Jacob we headed over to take a look at the Supreme Court building. The Supreme Court is also on break so we just walked through the building a bit.



Next, we went to the Library of Congress building which was a very impressive building. The entire ceiling is painted and the design inside is very intricate and ornate. It is very, very beautiful! The visit here was neat for me because the US Copyright Office is housed here and I just recently received my final certificates for the registrations for the copyrights of the novel units that I have written. It was cool to know that my work was housed in this beautiful building and has a place in history here!



We grabbed some lunch and took a subway ride to the International Spy Museum for the afternoon. Saw some really cool things there and learned all about spies and how they operate from communication, disguise, weapons, all kinds of cool stuff! There was a big James Bond exhibit and Flat Tucker was able to get a picture with James Bonds' Aston Martin decked out spy car!



We finished our day at a nearby pizza place called District of Pi (pi as in 3.14). It was really good! Picked up some dessert on the walk back to the hotel and are resting up for another big day tomorrow with the Holocaust Museum and the Air and Space Museum on the agenda!



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 2 of the Exciting Adventures of Flat Tucker!

Day 2 was a beautiful spring day. Sunny with highs in the 80's with a slight breeze. The weather was so warm I had to break out the shorts! A little scary after this long winter. My legs are whiter than the White House and I was worried I would blind everyone in Washington DC with my pale legs! I risked it anyway because the weather couldn't have been more perfect for what we had planned first, walking the Tidal Basin to view the Cherry Blossoms!


The sight was as beautiful and walking right under the thick canopy of pink flowers is as neat as it has been described in all the research I did. Also found in the thick canopy of flowers was the thick crowds of people! Again, from my research I knew it would be very, very crowded, but the crowds started to wear on our nerves a little! Handy tips when walking in crowds: Walk on the right, don't stop in the middle of the walkway to take a picture, text, read email, or anything else that will distract you from paying attention to what you are doing! If you are going to get in the way then step off the path! Flat Tucker didn't seem as bothered by it as Joey and me, but he was being carried in my purse! He did really enjoy the fragrant cherry blossom blooms!


Along the Tidal Basin we stopped at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.





















We also stopped at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Flat Tucker got a picture there and it turns out it appeared he was almost eaten by FDR's dog, Fala!

We left the Tidal Basin and headed over to the Reflecting Pool area in front of the Lincoln Memorial to see the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial and the World War II Memorial.


Flat Tucker stopped for a photo at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial at a spot where a child had left a memento thanking the service people for their sacrifices.

At the World War II Memorial Flat Tucker stopped for a picture at the pillar for his home state of Oklahoma!


Next, we left the National Mall to go to Ford's Theater, which is where President Abraham Lincoln went on April 14, 1865 to watch a play and was shot by John Wilkes Booth. President Lincoln was taken to a boarding house across the street from the theater and died the next morning, April 15, 1865. The theater is still a working theater with a museum in the basement and another museum across the street in the Peterson House, the house where he died.

Right above Flat Tucker is the Presidential Box Seats where President Lincoln, his wife, and two guests sat when John Wilkes Booth came in from behind and shot him. John Wilkes Booth then jumped over the balcony onto the stage to escape. He caught his foot on the picture of George Washington which caused him to land badly and he broke his leg. He still managed to get away but was found and killed 12 days later.

The gun that John Wilkes Booth used to shoot President Lincoln.


We walked many miles today so we ended our evening at the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner next to Ford's Theater and then headed back to the hotel for rest and recovery. Flat Tucker has us all tuckered out! We need to get up early and be at Nebraska's Senator Johann's office in the U.S Capitol building by 8:30 tomorrow for our tour!






The Exciting Adventures of Flat Tucker!

I was so excited when I saw a post in the seller forums on Teacher Pay Teachers from Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie's Danielle Sanders asking for volunteers to participate in her class Flat Stanley project. My father had taken Flat Joey, Flat Ally, and Flat Sam on vacations with him for all three of my kids when they were in first grade and had such fun, so with an upcoming Washington DC trip on my agenda I jumped at the chance to sign up!

A couple weeks ago Flat Tucker arrived at my house in Omaha. I prepared Flat Tucker for his upcoming travels by laminating to keep him fresh and dry! Don't want him looking shabby in the nation's capital!

The trip to DC is for my 8th grade son, Joey, and myself. Joey is studying American History this year in school so I decided to take him on a mother/son field trip! Mix some learning in with some bonding! Honestly I love to travel so I'll do just about anything to come up with an excuse to take a trip! At first Joey was a little apprehensive about bringing Flat Tucker along on our vacation because that might not be so "cool" for a teenager you know! I convinced him it would be fun and I promised I wouldn't tag the pictures on Facebook!

Today the big day finally arrived. We were up and ready for the airport at 5 AM! The flight from Omaha to Ronald Reagan National Airport with a stop in St. Louis went smoothly and we even arrived a little early!

Got our luggage and found the Metro for Flat Tucker's first subway ride! Headed for the Hilton Garden Inn only blocks from the White House!

After getting settled we walked over to check out the White House. Joey and I have been here before, exactly 14 years ago. Joey was only 4 months old so he doesn't remember a thing! His impression of the White House was the same as mine was the first time; it's much smaller than you expect it to be, but cool nonetheless! Flat Tucker was pretty impressed too!



Some cute college girls offered to take our picture when they saw the Flat Stanley project! Joey decided it wasn't so uncool when it attracted cute college girls!

It was a beautiful day so we walked from the White House to the Smithsonian's American History Museum. There were saw Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, Miss Piggy, many things that belonged to different presidents and first ladies, and much, much more. The picture of Flat Tucker and Miss Piggy didn't turn out well due to the dim lighting.

After touring the museum we had our first mishap! The subway station we planned to use was closed so we had to take another and in the confusion we got on the train going the wrong direction! Fortunately we weren't on a time crunch and had time to get off and re-board going the right direction! Needless to say we got a good lesson on subway riding and got to experience lots of it!

After finally arriving at Union Station we ate a quick dinner and then found the spot to board our trolley for the Monuments by Moonlight tour with our driver, Mr. History! Mr. History knew it all! He even knew trivia about the states that everyone was from on the tour! We drove by the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court Building, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Monument, Arlington Cemetery, the White House, and we stopped and got out at the Iwo Jima Memorial, the MLK Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.



The tour got over about 11, even though that was only 10 Omaha time we were all pretty tired so we took the subway (no wrong way this time!) and headed back to the hotel. Need to get rested to walk around the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms tomorrow, the Ford's Theater, and maybe a bit of the Air and Space Museum!