Spaceflight, Costco, Teddy Roosevelt

Amtrak Adventure 22/31 (about October 21st, 2021)

Yesterday, after a morning of work, we visited our first Smithsonian: the Air & Space Museum! There’s an impressive collection there of, well, air and space things… moon landers, space stations, ICBMs, airplanes, a Wright Flyer replica, a Hubble replica, and so on and on and on. (So much… and yet most sections were closed for renovations!)

While taking it all in, two main takeaways emerged:

  1. Most space-related stuff is much bigger than we ever pictured mentally.

  2. We didn’t budget nearly enough time in DC to give anything justice; the currently-open portions museum alone would take two days to fully soak everything in (the whole thing might take a week).

Exploring the museum wore out our reading comprehension muscles for the day, and we were getting kind of hungry, so we decided to head out and find something to eat.

We strolled outside to a “Refreshments” stand on the National Mall—then took one look at the menu prices and immediately balked. $15 for a burger? $8 for a PB&J? $4.50 for a fruit cup? What is this, Amtrak?!

So instead we did the rational thing, and spend $20 to on subway cards to ride across the Potomac to Arlington, VA… and the nearest Costco. It’s near the “Pentagon City Fashion Centre,” a very strange set of words that describe a mall near a very extensive and nice set of housing developments near the Pentagon.

The thing about Costco food is that it’s basically free—the prices haven’t increased since the 1980s (or so the Internet tells me). We bought $12 of food and absolutely stuffed ourselves… it had been a long day of not eating on the train, so there was stomach space to cram full of greasy bread. And we did.

After that, we wanted to watch the sunset from some nature-filled place. Looking at the map, we saw an island in the Potomac, and it was named after Teddy Roosevelt… why not go there?

So we went back into the subway… but had to sit around for 30 minutes, because some train had gotten stuck in a tunnel, and they had to throttle their capacity. Oh well—we had missed the sunset, but still made it to the island in the end.

After crossing a bridge to it, it was pitch black out. I pulled out my flashlight, which was enough to see a few yards ahead, but Mattea didn’t want to go in far. There was a map sign just at the end of the bridge, so we decided to get at least that far.

And the map showed that the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Plaza was only a quarter of a mile away! Channeling our inner Roosevelt, we forged ahead along the night-darkened path until the trees cleared and a giant statue loomed out of the shadows.

Yup, that was it! The plaza—usually filled, but drained of water for the fall—was surrounded by some ~15 foot tall marble slabs, engraved with some of Roosevelt’s quotes. If one of us shone the phone at them at a shallow angle, the other could read them.

So we went slab to slab, looking carefully for his famous “Man in the Arena” quote. But it wasn’t there! Quite an atrocity, in my opinion; here’s the full quote, an absolute masterpiece, published here instead of any that we found there out of spite:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

And then we retreated across the bridge, back to civilization. Instead of taking the subway—which would have been an hour—we decided to take a car home… only to have our Uber driver miss three turns on the way and run 25 minutes late to pick us up! We eventually gave up and requested a new one; he showed up promptly, but missed a crucial exit, which added 6 miles to the route. We ended up getting back to the Airbnb about in about an hour anyways—the long, stressful, expensive way.