Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wilderness Forever exhibit at National Museum of Natural History

Date of Visit: September 5, 2014

This was the exhibit we came to the museum to see today; and if we were not looking for it, we easily could of missed it because there is just a little sign pointing to it being down the hall past the gem gift shop.

"Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America's Wild Places" features photos of American wilderness areas taken by professionals, amateurs, and students. The exhibit honors the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

Besides the photos, there are also interactive screens to learn more about the wilderness areas in the United States. Our favorite part, though, was the movie that gave some history on the Wilderness Act and those behind it.

Destination Info:

National Museum of Natural History
10th St and Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC

Accessibility Note: The accessible entrance to the museum is on the Constitution Avenue side of the building. The Smithsonian Metro is usually recommended for the museum; but we find Federal Triangle (Blue, Orange, Silver) and Archives (Yellow, Green) more convenient since the elevator exit for Smithsonian is on opposite side of the National Mall.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Alexandria War of 1812 Bicentennial Signature Event at Waterfront Park

Date of Visit: August 31, 2014

The Alexandria War of 1812 Bicentennial Signature Event commemorated the surrender of Alexandria in 1814. It does seem kind of funny to "celebrate" the surrender, but they did save the much more historic city of Alexandria from having a similar fate as the relatively new city of Washington, D.C. that had just been burned by the British (and some intentionally by the Americans).

Today was like the first hot and humid day this summer, so we did not stay long. However, we did enjoy the booths and collecting some brochures for things we want to see as we further explore our new hometown. Mik also picked out a new book to read and add to his military history collection.

The event was held at the Waterfront Park. Most of the activities were in the grass area, which is raised up from the path that goes around the park. We found a way on to it through the tree area by the shipbuilder's statue; but Mik was glad he chose to use his manual chair today, as this route was mostly blocked by the kids activity tables and it was just easier to go down the curb when we were leaving.

Destination Info:

Waterfront Park
1A Prince Street
Alexandria, VA

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Titan Missile Museum

Date of Visit: May 3, 2014

Despite living in Tucson for almost 20 years the Titan Missile Museum was one of the few places neither Mik or I had been to before.  Considering Mik's fascination with military history it is rather surprising we never even thought about visiting before.

We arrived a few minutes after the noon tour began and decided to join it and miss a few minutes of the movie rather than wait for the next tour at 1 p.m.  The movie is interesting about the history of the silo and launch center, but I don't feel we missed out on anything since you get some plus more info while touring the silo and the tour guides seem to be quite capable of fielding questions.

After the movie ended, the tour heads outside to go down to the launch center.  Before heading down we stopped to hear them sound the siren, which was not a regular thing.  It is very loud, but surprisingly Mik didn't freak out too much, although that was mainly because they gave a clear warning that it was happening.

There are 55 steps down to the entrance of the control center and for those that cannot do stairs they use what originally was more for freight use.  When going up and down the tour guide made sure we knew when the bell was going to sound for the closing and opening above the elevator shaft. The sound was really nothing after the siren, but still Mik can be sensitive to sound and really appreciated having warning.

The rest of the tour is all on the same level and involves going through the blast doors, doing a simulated launch in the control center, and going over to see the Titan II Missile in the silo.  We found the tour to be interesting.  The only part Mik did not really like was the bumpy metal ground in the hallway down to the missile silo, but his comment was just that he was glad he did not have that flooring in his house.

Back up top the tour ends, but you can then wander around up top before heading back out through the museum building.  Mik did not want to spend too much time wandering around in that he did not want us to stop in read every sign, which I agreed was unnecessary with the tour giving all that info already.  Walking over to the top of the silo and going up the platform they have built over it to allow you to look down at the missile was worthwhile.

Destination Info:
Titan Missile Museum
1580 W Duval Mine Rd
Sahuarita, Arizona

Friday, April 25, 2014

Swope's Cars of Yesteryear Museum

Date of Visit: April 24, 2014

Mik loves car museums, so when I spotted a sign for one in Kentucky on the way to Chicago he was disappointed I had not woken him up to ask if he wanted to stop.  To be fair, he had already said no to my several other suggestions (Country Music Hall of Fame, Railroad museums and Bass Pro Shop) including getting in trouble for waking him up to ask.  We had already planned to hit the Lane Auto Museum in Nashville on the way home, since it was not open on the day we were driving to Chicago, hence why we did not stop on the way, but we first ended up making sure we found the one in Kentucky.

The Swopes Cars of Yesteryear Museum features cars from the 1910s to 1970s.  Mik enjoyed rolling through the showroom layout.  It is mostly just the cars, but each has a good story about it and/or the model on the sign by it.  There is also some other things on display on behind the cars, but it is too tight for a wheelchair to be able to roll between the cars to get back to most of it.  Not that Mik cared, though, as he mostly liked just looking at the cars.

With all the road work related traffic on I-65 we did not make it to the Nashville one, but we were glad we found this one to check out and Nashville is an easy day trip from Huntsville, so hopefully we will get around to going there sometime soon.

Destination Info:
Swope's Cars of Yesteryear Museum
1100 North Dixie Ave
Elizabethtown, KY 42701

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Date of Visit: April 2014

Having gone to school in D.C. a semester, living in Arlington for almost a year, and Mom traveling to D.C. for work frequently, we have been to the Reagan Airport with Mik almost yearly over the past decade.  Until this trip, though, we had always flown American for our D.C. trips.  Now that we live in Huntsville we would have had to fly to Dallas to get to D.C. on American and that was much more expensive than taking the direct flight on U.S. Airways, which at least now also gets us American miles so seems a win-win.

What I did not realize until I checked in the day before the trip was they only fly little planes between Huntsville and pretty much everywhere on U.S. Airways and American (only to/from Dallas uses big planes, but even then not every flight).  Mik absolutely hates the little planes and as much as he also hates Southwest he preferred that over the American Eagle flight between Tucson and LA.  We even tried to fly through Alaska to get home from Hawaii a few years back to avoid LA and were quite annoyed that they then changed our flights to go through LA shortly before our trip.

Mik's problem is the aisle chairs do not work well on the little planes, but since they are hard to avoid living in Huntsville Mik has gotten used to having to just sit in bulkhead.  Landing at Reagan and hearing the flight attendant say a shuttle was meeting the plane put him right back at hating little planes.  It was mostly the unexpected experience of suddenly hearing about stairs and him not being able to see that a ramp was waiting to be brought up to the plane, but it was also about him hating buses.

Mom was waiting in the terminal for us having not been able to get home the day before and travel with us as usual and her reply to me telling her Mik was freaking out about a shuttle bus was something like yeah they usually do that here.  That made Mik even more annoyed because he totally could have been mentally prepared.

Despite the shuttle bus, overall the experience at Reagan Airport was actually very good.  For one, their aisle chair is the more common one than the one in Huntsville and it actually fits in the aisle.  Mik also likes that there is a companion bathroom located right inside security in each terminal (or at least the two of three we have been in and assume the other is identical since those two are).  The little corral for those needing to pre-board was slightly annoying in that it was crowded, but it did serve a good purpose in that they were very helpful in making sure those that needed help got it including informing us that our flight was moved to boarding upstairs at the actual terminal and offering to help going there.

Destination Info:

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
2401 Smith Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22202

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Huntsville International Airport

Date of Visit: April 3, 2014

This was Mik's third or fourth time flying out of Huntsville in the year and a half since we knew we were relocating here and have lived here, but it was the first time we really spent time in the terminal because we arrived hours earlier than normal since Dad had to drop us off on his way to work.  It quickly has gone from being one of our favorite airports to our least favorite.
First off, the first time we arrived in Hunstville and rode the elevator from the gate level to the security entrance/exit level we were impressed.  In fact, it is Mik's second favorite elevator with the only better one being the Warning Walls Will Move ones you go on for the accessible route to go on Indiana Jones at Disneyland.  After our experience this past week, though, the airport has annoyed him to the point he feels he cannot even call it his second favorite elevator, although he cannot name any specific elevator to replace it on the list of only two favorite elevators, so it's now in last while still actually being second.

What made our opinion of the Huntsville Airport go to the worst airport experience ever is the fact that there is not a companion bathroom in the terminal.  Now that doesn't seem like a totally horrible thing, but when we returned from our D23 Expo trip in August I know I took him to a companion restroom outside security before exiting to where Dad was waiting in the pick up area (very nice set up by the way!).  It is inconvenient that they totally have one in the airport, but it would have required going through security again, which is a bigger hassle for someone in a wheelchair than most others.  We did not have time to go through that and I went into the women's room to go myself and found that they also do not even have handicap stalls big enough to fit a wheelchair and a companion.  In fact, they seem like they may not even big enough for someone in a wheelchair that does not need a companion to help them.

Thus, as much as we love the one elevator. We now totally hate the airport.  It also does not help that the other elevator from the security level to the pick up/drop off/baggage claim level is barely big enough when two of us travel with Mik.  Additionally, the aisle chairs are not that great including not even fitting to be next to the bulkhead row in the little planes, which is mostly what at least American and US Airways fly to/from Huntsville (we mainly have flown the larger American planes to DFW, so didn't even realize the aisle chair issue until this trip to DC).  Sure, even the nicest aisle chairs do not work well on the small planes, which is why Mik hates flying them, but at least those fit in the aisle and it is the turning to get on/off that is an issue.

Bottom line is Mik was glad to not realize the airport was so bad until this trip because this trip was our first condo hunting trip to DC.  The whole little plane experience even lead to Mom joke maybe we should just rent a place now and not go home, but more on that in another post because that is more about the D.C. airport.

Destination Info:
Huntsville International Airport
1000 Glenn Hearn Blvd
Huntsville, AL 35824

Monday, March 10, 2014

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2014

Date of Visit: March 8, 2014

Last year was the first time we got to go to the Flower & Garden Festival and we spent days exploring it, getting all the stamps in the passport, and trying different food offerings.  This year we only had one full day at the parks, so we mainly focused on trying foods we did not try last time whether they were new or we just did not get to them.

My favorite new thing we tried was the lemon scones at the Buttercup Cottage in the United Kingdom Pavilion.

At the Fleur de Lys in the France Pavilion, Mom and I tried the gnocchi with vegetables and mushrooms.  Mik tried the duck confit, which ended up being his favorite thing he tried.

While we did not get much time to take in all the different garden areas, we made sure to show Mom the Bonsai Collection because last year Mik got totally inspired by it.  Dad even bought him a bonsai growing kit and books.  A year later and Mik has not started his bonsai, but he is still planning to.  We just have not finished getting settled in from the move last year and are going to move again this year, so he does not want to start until he knows he will be able to make a real effort at training it.

While enjoying the Bonsai Collection, he also tried out the Hanami Sushi from the Hanami booth in the Japan Pavilion.

The final thing Mik tried was the lemon cheesecake from the Primavera Kitchen in the Italy Pavilion. He did not really like it because it tasted more like plain cheesecake and he expected it to be more fruity.

We finished our day at the festival with my favorite from last year - the Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade from the Pineapple Promenade.

Destination Info:

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Lake Buena Vista, FL