Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Research + Family Field Trip = Psycho Squirrels FTW

The Helper Monkey was offered a week's vacation from work. He jumped at the chance to chill for a week at home, and decided we needed to play a little home-town tourist. I also needed to do a final bit of research for the novel I just finished editing (again), and wanted to make sure my memories of a few DC locales was accurate. It wouldn't do to screw up references to the National Archives or the National Gallery of Art! So we took the Metro downtown yesterday and had a Grand Outing.

For the most part we had gorgeous weather. Needless to say, we're sore from walking. Here's our itinerary (and a good excuse to use a lot of pictures):

Metro to Union Station.

Walk across the Capitol Grounds, check out the Grotto (and get a drink at the water fountain).

Dodge the Crazy Ranting Guy on First Street by detouring a block out of our way.

Hike to the National Museum of the American Indian. It was our first visit there, despite having walked past it a dozen or more times. Helper Monkey had been wanting to go since it opened. His Great Grandmother (about whom we know almost nothing) was a full-blooded Cherokee, and he's part Mohawk on his father's side. It was a wonderful experience for him to share that part of her heritage with Lulu.

In the gift shop, we found these adorable little skeletons. We had a lot of fun in gift shops.

 We ate lunch in the Mitsitam Cafe at the American Indian museum. May I say, FABULOUS FOOD! We had buffalo chili. Yum.

After lunch, we decided to take care of my business, and head over to the National Archives. We took a last minute detour through the National Gallery to look at the DaVinci and some of the Dutch Masters. I particularly liked this tiny detail in one of the paintings:

In case you can't tell from the picture, it's the inside of a building (a church?) and depicts a gray dog raising its hind leg against a pillar. Those crazy Dutch Masters!

We crossed the street to the Archives, but weren't allowed in. They were experiencing a power outage, of all things! After seeing National Treasure, I suspected someone was actually trying to steal the Declaration of Independence. My conspiracy theories and I had some time to kill, so we went over to the Sculpture Garden to make sure I didn't mess up any of the details in my book. And no, I got everything right.

For anyone who has read Running Down The Dragon, these pictures are for you:

The Gate where Thalia parks at the end is on the left behind the silver cars. The building on the right is the Archives.
headless zombie statues. Imagine what they'd look like in the dark, illuminated only by police car lights.

The Fountain.

Me, with the Rabbit version of the Thinker.
By the time we got back to the Archives, they were letting folks in again. Out of all the metal detectors and security guards we had to walk through yesterday, the hardest to get through was at the Archives. And the guards weren't very polite. Just saying. Unfortunately, they don't allow photography inside, but it was just about the most interesting exhibit we saw. Absolutely fascinating.

After the Archives, Lulu expressed an interest in visiting the American History museum (she loves the Star Spangled Banner and Abe Lincoln's hat). While on the way there, we walked past the Natural History museum, and detoured inside because Helper Monkey hadn't been there since the animal halls were updated. I had him take a picture of me with the Okapi. It's a strange yet adorable animal. It's the closest living relative of the giraffe. I call it Sexy Pants.

Me and Sexy Pants
We also got to touch a piece of Mars!

We resisted imitating the Curiosity Rover and shooting this rock with lasers. Pew Pew!

After the animals (and a visit to the Hope Diamond), we finally arrived at the Star Spangled Banner. We saw Lincoln's hat. Unfortunately, the Ruby Slippers were not in their usual display hall, which was being renovated. We saw a lot of other interesting things. And then headed outside for the long walk down to the Vietnam Memorial. It was warm and sunny all morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Of course, the moment we stepped outside for the outdoor portion of our day, it began POURING RAIN. We huddled under a tree. It proved to be an ineffective canopy.

The rain let up, so we walked past the Washington Monument, at which point it began pouring again. By the time we arrived at the WWII memorial, we were soaked. We kept going, and passed this bizarre sight: A squirrel wrestling with a tree branch.

The squirrel was also being watched by a duck. Duck just stood there staring, until he saw us watching him, at which point he HEADED STRAIGHT FOR US! Gah! We ran for it. I don't want to mess with crazy ducks. Crazy squirrels, sure, but ducks? No thank you.

Then we had a long walk back to the Farragut West metro station. We would have had an easier trip home if we could have managed the additional couple of blocks to the Farragut North station, but we were about to drop dead by that point.

If you managed to get all the way through this post, you'll realize that there wasn't much to the whole day. It was a lot of fun, with a couple hours of research thrown in. The moral of the story is that I get to write off the whole trip as a business expense, because I took some photos, confirmed some plot lines as being plausible, and made sure the climactic scenes of the story worked as I wrote them. It was absolutely necessary for me to check, and the only way to get information about the inside of the National Archives is to actually go there.

I also got a few ideas for an upcoming contest related to RDTD. Oh, and a great idea for a logo that I should have designed a long time ago for the characters who work for the shifter division of the U.S. Government. Wheee!

So, have any of you managed to get a fun day out with the family and accomplish this much research all at the same time?


  1. Bwahaha! I do so love the sculpture garden. :) Glad you had a good time in the District, and got to meet our crazy domesticated (kind of) squirrels.

    1. We don't live far, but we only get downtown a few times a year. I'm always amazed by how unafraid the wildlife is. That one squirrel, though...He was still wrestling the branch when we walked away.

      I'm also amazed there aren't even more reports of pedestrians being hit on the local news. I swear I saw someone run a red light at every single intersection between Union Station and the Lincoln Memorial.


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