This is the first installment of our weekend trip to Washington D.C. It’s actually the first of three trips that I will make to D.C. this year.

We went with our good friends Mat & Carol. Mat, who is an avid collector of almost averything (cat whiskers, crunched pennies, matchbox cars, old tools … you name it, he collects it), had never been to the Smithsonian museums before. Two years ago, we all decided to make the trip together, but it took that long for us to actually book the plane tickets and hotel. Believe it or not, we did it on about $300 a person, not including food.

Here is Mat, in his triumphant glee at finally arriving at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

It was actually kind of ironic, because we had really talked up two museums, the Museum of American History and the Arts & Industry Building of the Smithsonian Castle. Guess which two museums were closed?

But, there’s no shortage of museums in D.C. and we managed to exhaust ourselves pretty good with the rest of them.

Even though I had been to D.C. the most recently, I was surprised to find several exhibits had changed quite a bit. I hadn’t walked through the Dinosaurs/Hall of Paleobiology exhibit in quite a while, and it is quite good. In particular, I liked this guy… I can’t remember his name, but I know it begins with an E.

Joel’s favorite was this prehistoric creature, which he liked because it looked like a pudgy turtle that might have eaten one too many donut.

Actually, Joel really liked the large turtle and tortoise skeletons, which we found in several places in the museum. Isn’t it weird that it looks like Joel is standing in front of an aquarium scene?

I don’t think I’ve been to the Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals since I was in High School. I was surprised to see that a lot of it is now designed to make you feel like you are peering into the alcoves of a cave. It is complete with dripping noises … like the water dripping from stalagtites. Now, I should say that I was a caving guide for a couple summers at a Girl Scout camp, and I don’t recall ever hearing dripping noises, but the noise soundtrack for the exhibit did add to the effect. It was really a neat exhibit.

And who could resist posing with the 3-D atomic structure of a salt crystal?

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