from the 1939 New York World’s Fair
(Fun Fact: Walt Disney first debuted attractions that would later become the initial attractions for Disneyland at the 1964 World’s Fair!)

I’m not sure which is creepier – that this place even existed, or that so many people worked to do what they did here.

Life > Candy Land

a little reminder of our Carnival Cruise from last year!

Quite glad I didn’t grow up during that era – I’d have made a horrible seaman!

I was really amazed at how many full-sized trains and cars and whatnots they had in the transportation exhibit.

Apparently Mickey’s bosses weren’t behaving…

Ice Cream Break!!!

The budget’s 2,000 pages thick?! No wonder we’re thirteen trillion dollars in debt!

This hasn’t changed, despite the beliefs of some

I remember Rock the Vote! Do they still do that? Admittedly that was back when MTV still rocked…

more creepy civil war paraphenalia

No wonder they haven’t caught him yet – they didn’t even spell his name right on the wanted poster!

And we’re outside again…

So our original plan after touring the monuments was going to be spread out between the various branches of the Smithsonian along the mall – namely, the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum, and (the one I was looking forward to the most) the Air & Space Museum.

Needless to say, after probably about four straight hours within a single building, our plan had been revised to: see the American History Museum, come back later for everything else!

Where to Start, Where to Start?
I think pure awe is probably the best way to describe it – I never would’ve imagined each individual museum being so huge, maybe partly because admission is free and partly just how everything is laid out inside. I mean, the area doesn’t seem that big when you’re just walking around the hallways and four floors doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but when you get back into the actual exhibits, they seemed to go on forever! I constantly caught myself saying as we walked into another room – “Ooh – they have science stuff here, too? And stuff about transporation? And inventions? And pop culture?!

The place just seemed to go on and on, and although I know that war plays a big part of our history (not to mention unfortunately our present), it was cool to see so many other aspects of our nation’s history in addition to the somewhat grusome stuff.

Sometimes Americans Were Kinda Jerks
One theme that I honestly and frankly couldn’t get over as we toured the various war exhibits was that not for nothing, but our country has a lot of really dark times in its past! There was definitely no sugar coating (which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong), but to see all of the racism of the civil war or the evils of World War II spelled out in front of me was really an eye-opener. I know that we were at war, but I sat and watched a couple of different videos about the bombs that we dropped on Japan and it’s really some devastating stuff.

Granted, it was interesting, and also a bit scary, to see some of the wartime propaganda from those days talking about rationing and ways that you could help support the troops, and it definitely made me glad that our wartime efforts today are a little different than they were before. And I know that a lot of it just has to do with my own perspectives about how we shouldn’t even be in the current wars that we’re in … it may not be well received to “support the troops, but not the war” like I do today, but it’s very clear that protestors back in those days were treated a little differently than just being called unpatriotic.

Definitely one of those parts of history that was important to learn about, but still happy to get to move on to brighter days!

History – More Than Just Us Blowing Things Up
Fortunately, although the war exhibits were quite big (they were a big part of our history, for better and for worse), there were also tons of other non-war-related exhibits, and one of my favorites, albeit somewhat small, was the wing dedicated to pop culture. I think it’ll be pretty obvious as to why…

More to come…
While I couldn’t possibly write about everything that we saw in the few hours that we wandered the halls of the Smithsonian, I think my next post is going to be a photo post with more highlights so I don’t feel like I’m leaving anything out.

You know, just to prove that there’s more to American history than war and Kermit the Frog… 😉

There’s No Way Like the Subway
I’ll admit that riding the subway was something that I was both curious and a bit nervous about – nervous, again for the same big city, what if we get mugged or something perspective, and curious I think more so just because of all of the architecture that is needed for something like the subway to exist. The whole thing reminded me of something out of Men in Black – walking underground into this gigantic tube, which was kind of creepy until an actual train showed up. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen subway tunnels in a lot of post-apocalyptic movies and stuff … parts of it were kinda cool, but I was still awfully happy to see the sunlight again when we had traveled the couple of miles from the station down the street from our hotel down to the actual National Mall itself!

A LONG Walk Down the National Mall
Seriously, I don’t remember the mall being that long the last time I was in DC, and granted, I was something like six years-old, but if anything, you’d think that I’d recall it even more on account of having tiny legs at the time! Maybe I relied more on the Mom and Dad – CARRY ME! mode of transportation more that time … who knows?

Anyways, despite being incredibly long and my being horribly out of shape, this was a nice walk that probably took up a couple hours of our day. We basically ended up walking from the subway station at the Smithsonian all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, passing the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial on the way. Even though I’m not at all much of a history buff, it was pretty cool to see some of the most historic landmarks that our country is known for, and the combination of a small breeze and a distinct lack of huge mobs of people just made this is really nice way to spend the first part of our day…

Paying Respect Where Respect Is Due
Granted, we didn’t walk over to the other two war memorials – I think one was closed off and we were getting tired by the time the other would’ve come up – but we did spend some time wandering around the WWII memorial because it’s directly between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and it was kind of neat to see everything that went into the site, taking notice of the details like representation for all of the states, the stars (below) representing those who died in the war, and so forth.

Next Up: the Smithsonian National Museum of American History … which definitely is going to need its own post!

Worst. Driving. Almost.
I really had no idea what to expect driving into Washington D.C., but having already experienced not fun driving in Toronto, I wasn’t taking any chances! Fortunately, we didn’t really have far to drive and the time was mid-afternoon, so we probably hit the best conditions that were going to be possible. We employed the stay in one lane and hope it’s the right one policy and followed that all the way into the city, which still got crazy at times because some routes were just randomly closed without more than a mile’s notice. The worst was actually probably the surface streets trying to find our hotel … needless to say, I was just happy to finally see that we were there…

Sometimes Fancy = Awkward
I’m just going to be frank – this was probably my least favorite hotel during our entire trip, even though it was among the most expensive. My problem was that it just felt really fancy and trendy and unlike, say, the upscale hotel that we stayed at overlooking the Falls, I just felt extraordinarily out of place here. Something as simple as getting ice just felt really awkward because I had to call down to the front desk and ask that they send some up … maybe it was the tipping, because I had to go out of my way to get extra cash and even then didn’t know what to tip.

We tried cooling down in the pool up on the roof, except it was the kind of place where more people lounged around smoking cigars by the pool than actually going in it. We ultimately retreated back to the room to just kick back with dinner and a movie when we realized that the pool would be closing soon because it turned into a rooftop club in the evening hours! Yeah … out of place is one way to describe it…

A Double-Whammy Night In
Room service and a pay-per-view movie had proven to be a fun relaxant before, however I suppose ultimately it just wasn’t in the cards for us that evening in this strange and fancy, new town. I don’t even remember the name of the dish I had, except that it was the noodle thing that you see below and it was both overpriced and under-flavored. I do recall the name of the movie, mainly because it was fucking horrible – all I’ll say is that the people who made Get Him to the Greek should be ashamed for making such a shitty spin-off of such a great flick like Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Maybe it was time to just get some sleep and try again the next day!

Proceeding Onward…
Once our shopping bags contained enough chocolate and peanut butter and other miscellaneous goodies to launch a small family into a collective sugar high that would soar for days, our next mission was to find that family … more specifically, Sara’s brother’s family in West Virginia. We arrived by the dark of night to a quiet and peaceful house … little did we know that the scene would be much different when the kids woke up the following morning…

Ok, So It Wasn’t Really That Bad…
We actually had a perfectly enjoyable day when sunlight broke over the horizon. I got to sleep in, which is always a plus whether I’m on vacation or not, we got to spend a little time just for adults with Sara’s brother and his wife before their kids got home from school, and then we finished out the day with everyone just hanging around, playing games and having fun. We spent a considerable amount of time playing around with Wii Sports Resort, an act which would ultimately lead us to seek the game out for ourselves upon returning home, and I got in a little LEGO Star Wars time – both virtual on the Wii and actual building – which I know my nephew had really been looking forward to because he’s a man after my own heart.

It was one of those down home, family days where you get to just relax and enjoy everyone else’s company, which is important.

As Quickly As We Came…
The downside was that the next day we pretty much had to hit the road again just as quickly as it felt like we had arrived. The trip was starting to come to a close, but not before a couple of days being all touristy around the Capital. The last time I had been, I was probably about six years old and almost got hit by a taxi, so that was the experience that we were looking to beat…

Don’t these just look like fun guys to be around?!

If it wasn’t for the $40 price tag, I probably would’ve bought this…

If you listen closely, you can hear angels singing in between bites of peanut butter cups…

Sara got a little excited, but I told her that we actually have to get pregnant first.

The correct phrase that you’re looking for is “Yum!!!”

It’s not every day that a guy gets to meet his idol!
(and my sunburn almost matches his wrapper…)

Hershey’s Chocolate World
An entire world filled with chocolate – can the human mind even comprehend such a wonderful place?!

I have nearly non-existant memories of coming here as a kid – I was probably about six years old, so I basically remember whatever scenes the postcard souvenirs that I held onto depicted for me … there was a lot of chocolate, some singing animals were involved, and that’s about the extent of it. Still, just the mere concept of this place sounds incredible, so I knew that we had to go there! Apparently there’s also a nearby amusement park which features lots of crazy rides for me to get sick on, which didn’t end up mattering anyways because of travel times, but at least we got to the important one…

A Factory Tour with Singing Cows
Despite being one of those attractions that’s supposed to captivate the entire audience with its fun story about how Hersheys makes bajillions of pounds of chocolate every year, I think my reaction to this ride was probably pretty much the same as it was over twenty years ago … “Where’s the candy? When do we get to see the candy?! I want candy!!!”

I mean, not that these cows weren’t plenty informative, but when the gift shop next door boasts chocolate as far as the eye can see, you’ve basically got yourself a fool’s errand actually trying to “educate” anyone with that kind of pressure looming. Sorry, ladies…

Frankly, I had such a blast here that I think I’m going to have to do a separate post explicitly of the fun and yummy stuff that we were tempted to buy while perusing the multiple gift shops inside the bigger gift shop! Needless to say, more was purchased than just the wonderful candy-themed fudge that you see below.

Make Your Own Candy Bar
Our last stop before returning back to the open road was a quick tour that offered what seemed like a pretty neat opportunity for us to have a stab at designing our very own candy bars, from flavors of chocolate to fillings to even the outside packaging. And this more or less was pretty sweet, except for three or four short exceptions that followed us pretty much through the entire process…

You see, Hersheys is very direct with their instructions that only people who buy tickets may go through the tour, which makes sense, seeing as said ticket pays for the candy bar that you’re making and the whole point of the tour is to make money. They don’t make any money off of people who just want to walk through without actually buying a bar for themselves – fair enough.

Well, fair for them; not fair for people like us who have to tolerate unsupervised kids who are screwing around the entire time because their parents sent them in by themselves so that they wouldn’t have to pay an extra $14 for themselves. I hate to say it, but it really took away from our own experience because he had kids knocking into us, cutting ahead of people, pushing buttons that they shouldn’t, and generally just doing things that the whole concept of parental supervision is intended to address! Worse yet, the employees themselves didn’t really know how to react, so they pretty much just let them do whatever in hopes that they’d move along to the next station and become the next person’s problem soon…

Anyways, the tour was fun and we did our best to tune out the little hellraisers in front of us, but by the time we had our personalized candy bars in hand, we were certainly happy to be out the door and back on the road! Our next stop was Sara’s brother’s house, and with a huge bag full of candy to get his kids all hopped up on sugar, we knew that he’d be looking forward to our arrival with bells on!

Floating Down the Hudson
This was something that I was onboard with 110% when Sara’s Dad first suggested it – he’s always excited to take people out on the boat that he and his son bought together, and it sounded like it could be just a really relaxing day … and it was. No driving, no wondering if we were going to get someplace before they actually closed – just an afternoon to kick back, relax, and basically just let my mind wander as I took in the scenery around us…

The Big City
Of course, another cool perk of this trip, at least for me, is that the plan was to go down the Hudson River all the way to Lower Manhattan, see the Statue of Liberty, then loop back up. This sounded very cool to me because I love checking out all of the tall buildings and whatnot, but I have no desire to actually drive around New York City myself and would probably just end up getting us killed and/or mugged in the process. I’ve only been to the city once, a couple of years back when I first met Sara’s parents, so even though we were going to have to pass on the brand-new Pop-Tarts World that just opened in Times Square, this was still pretty rad.

Just left of center is the Chrysler building in this photo.

another view of skyscrapers beyond our wake

Some random bridge – not sure if this was the George Washington Bridge or not because there are a lot of bridges that cross this river!

A freaking aircraft carrier in dock, alongside a Carnival Cruise Ship!

A Close-Up with Lady Liberty
Well, closer, anyways!

The last time we were here the best we could manage to see the Statue was a foggy view from Battery Park (I think?), so to be able to actually float right up within a few hundred feet was pretty cool. Granted, the water got a little choppy out there which made me somewhat nervous because the boat wasn’t that big, but I’m still glad that we made the trip.

Of course, when we finally got back to the marina that we had left earlier that morning, we found all good things coming to an end as apparently some really important part of the boat trailer had mysteriously broken. This resulted in us waiting around with the boat still in the water for an hour or two while Sara’s Dad and brother went hunting for replacement parts. Fortunately, Sara’s brother is an engineering genius and we were finally able to get the boat back out of the water so that we could go home.

Below, you can see in this final picture, me “helping” to load the boat back on the trailer…

(believe it or not, there’s still almost half of this trip left to write about – time to get a’moving if we want to be done before Christmas!)

Take Me Home, Country Roads
So back on the road with sweet cream in our rearview mirror, we made our way down through New England towards Sara’s parents’ house in New York. Thankfully, the country roads proved to be much more friendly to traverse during the daylight hours … plus, we found the freeway and basically just took that the entire way … so we finally got the opportunity to just sit back, take in the mountain scenery that we’re severely lacking down south, and get completely engulfed in the odd book that Sara had picked out for us to listen to during the drive…

Funny Road Signs, Part Deux
Of course, once we got into some of the more populated areas, it became clear that the phenomenon of goofy road signs is most certainly not limited to the I-75 North-South corridor…

Home is Where There’s Cake Waiting for You
With traveling taking up the remainder of our day after our magical ice cream tour, we didn’t end up pulling into our destination until that evening, but as one might expect when they live far away to only see family once or twice a year, Sara’s parents (and her brother) seemed pretty excited to see us nonetheless.

I, on the other hand, was pretty excited to see this…

If I had known that traveling around the country could score me multiple birthday cakes for my big day, I’d have hit the road a long time ago!

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