Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 3 of 7: Flying with Dinosaurs

Kitty Hawk!

The original Wright Brothers flyer dangles overhead with Wright brother simulacrum feigning giddiness.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth. We took a handful of photos using ye olde 35mm film when we weren’t busy corralling and entertaining the boy.

After quote-unquote “lunch” on Day Three we headed a few blocks east to visit our first Smithsonian museum. Handy trivia: any show or movie that tells you an artifact or MacGuffin is “in the Smithsonian” is fudging their verisimilitude. The Smithsonian Institute comprises nineteen museums, many but not all of which are in DC. If someone tries faking their Smithsonian familiarity like that, ask them “WHICH ONE?” and tap your foot impatiently till they either answer with credibility or embarrass themselves by answering, “Uhhhhh, the really big one.”

First in line was the National Air and Space Museum, a must for fans of space, planes, or space planes. My son, age 8, was sold on anything related to spaceflight, but iffy on the more grounded aircraft. That afternoon, we were also grateful they featured something even better than flight-worthy inventions and innovations: their gift shop had snacks.

astronaut ice cream!

Compared to lunch, freeze-dried ice cream was manna. Dry, chalky, scrumptious manna.

The planes were also cool, I suppose. And science demos, much like our own Children’s Museum back home in Indianapolis. A few were different but nonetheless educational and, more importantly, fun. Remember, this was still summer vacation.

Spirit of St. Louis!

Charles Lindbergh’s own Spirit of St. Louis. A few weeks ago, fans of NBC’s dying sci-fi series Timeless got to watch a CG replica get blown out of the sky.


Other planes of varying levels of fame are likewise suspended from the lobby ceiling. This was years before I began bringing a pen and notepad along on our trips, so I can only verify these shapes were indeed planes.

Earth's core!

Bullseye at the Center of the Earth.


Anne auditioning to become America’s Next Top Amelia Earhart.

Baseballs and Air Hose!

Using these hanging baseballs and car vacuum, we can demonstrate air pressure principles or MacGyver ourselves a deadly cannon.

bicycle wheel!

Indy’s Children’s Museum has the old bicycle-wheel reverse-centrifuge trick too, but it’s nifty no matter where you are.

By the time we finished the Air and Space Museum, the boy was dying. He wasn’t used to so much walking — many blocks’ worth by my count. We sat outside and rested for a while, but I insisted on visiting one last museum before calling it a day. He was not happy. A few tears were shed. It took no small amount of persuading. I don’t recall resorting to bribery, because we’d already eaten all our bargaining chips. Finally, after all the minutes we could give him to recuperate in the cloudy summer afternoon, we walked north to the other side of the National Mall for one last stop: the National Museum of Natural History.

Once inside the door, he saw the one museum exhibit even more magical than space travel: DINOSAUR FOSSILS. My once-fretting son transformed before our eyes into an excitable speeding bullet aimed directly at authentic dinosaur parts, fatigue and the rest of the day forgotten in a blink.


When my son was 4 he called all triceratops “three-horns”, inspired by repeated viewings of The Land Before Time and too many of its inferior sequels.

angry kitty fossil!

Angry dead prehistoric kitty is very angry.

crouching fossil!

He could tell you what kind of dinosaur this was without reading the placard. Thanks to Jurassic Park and its merchandise, at age 4 he could also pronounce “pachycephalosaurus” and would’ve known this isn’t one of those.


Not actually our own photo, but a postcard we bought from the gift shop with a 1992 copyright on the back. Happy 25th birthday, souvenir!

blocks mural!

Random mural where we could show off the worst fashions ever. I defy you to find other bloggers brave enough to release a pic this candid and eye-damaging into the wild.


The Natural History Museum also showed off a vast gemstone collection, including this famous bauble whose name I’ve forgotten, but one of you jewelry fans might recognize.

Right around the gemstone exhibit is we began to get bored and succumb to exhaustion. We trudged back to the subway station, headed a few blocks north, and returned to the hotel. While Anne and I died in our respective beds, the boy watched cartoons and amused himself with his action figures as if nothing were wrong and we hadn’t all just spent the entire day exercising. Hours later we worked up just enough energy to go fetch another Subway supper. Repetitive, but better than lunch.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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