Command Module

It’s nice to collect whole sets of things. It completes the series, finishes the story. A long term aim of mine is to bag all the Wainwrights in the Lake District. It’s going to take a while as I live in the exact opposite corner of the country and it pretty much takes a day to get there. I’m trying to complete Gran Turismo Sport but I don’t think I’ll ever do it or if I do it will be after they bring out the edition for the PS5 [which I’ll buy obviously].

A recent trip to the Science Museum in London to meet up with the Fulham 5 meant another chance to see one of the Apollo Command Modules. There are twelve command modules around the world [USA + London]. I’ve seen three of them and I doubt I’ll ever get to see more than another two or three of them but it’s worth a try to see them all.

I’ve seen the Apollo 11 Command Module in Washington DC. The Apollo 10 Command Module in London and the Apollo 14 Module at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. I reckon there’s a chance I’ll see a couple more of them.

Apollo 14 Command Module
Apollo 14 Command Module

Above is the interior of the Apollo 14 Command Module. Just enough space for three humans to survive take off and re-entry. This conical cocoon sat atop the supply and Service Module that kept the astronauts alive. There was also the Lunar Module which they docked with in Earth orbit before performing a burn to take them out of the large gravity well.

If you think there’s not a lot of room in the CM then I suggest you go and take a look at one of the Soyuz capsules. They are much smaller and contain the same number of people. Those pesky Russians sure know how to make hard-working dependable technology!

USA Pictures

Finally got some prints from my DC trip at Easter. Had my panoramas printed, only the lovely things obviously.
Here’re the X-15 and SR-71 in the dining room:


Here’s the orbiter Discovery next to my Cylon guardian:


And finally the Capitol sitting on the other side of my Cylon:


DC Day Six

My last day in Washington DC! I knew I’d be leaving for the airport at around 19:30 so I had all day and plenty more to see. Another sunny day in DC and slightly warmer than the last week or so.
Got up, had coffee and then prepared for another run. I hadn’t seen the World War II memorial so far and that was my destination for today.

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On the run I saw a coast guard helo. My helicopter total for the trip was as follows:

  • Black Hawk
  • Marine One
  • Coastguard
  • Park Service UH-1

Back to Georgetown and time to get ready for a busy day. I had lunch organised at midday and so I wandered in to town at about 11. I was planning to get the metro from Foggy Bottom and go two stops to McPherson Square but I had plenty of time and so kept going on foot. I got to 14th and Eye just on time and walked a little further to The Hamilton bar for lunch.

View of the Capitol

After a Hamilton burger for lunch I walked towards the Newseum. I hadn’t quite decided whether to go there or the National Museum of American History. I happened to wander past the FBI Headquarters building and didn’t blag my way in to that place. I figured if I wanted to see inside I could try and get arrested somewhere, although that would probably not be worth the effort. I like my body cavities as they are!
I saw a sign indicating Ford’s Theatre and so I walked to see that. There were many many school children waiting outside. I understand, it’s the place of assassination.
I decided that the Newseum would wait and so I walked to the Museum of American History. Half of the museum was shut for the year to be refurbished which was a shame. I saw the original flag that inspired the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner and some pieces of American History. Again, much like the Natural History Museum, I have a feeling that we do museums far better than the Americans and it all seemed a little “not quite the nation’s museum” even though it was.
I headed for the National Aquarium close to the White House and waited in line to be searched and pay my entry fee of USD10. I’m glad it was only a small amount of money as the Aquarium was pretty rubbish. The London Aquarium is far superior. Apparently there is a branch of this aquarium in Baltimore and I would hope that one is much better. Maybe another trip.
It was time to start wandering back to GT. I was feeling a touch peckish and thirsty and I wanted more coffee so I found a bar on M street in GT. Mr Smith’s saloon fed me coffee, buffalo chicken sandwich and a Goose Island beer.


Much refreshed it was now cupcake time. There are two shops in Georgetown that feature in their own TV shows on some small time channels. I though it might be worth buying a cake from there however, the queue was around the block and I don’t like cupcakes enough to wait that long. Instead I had a muffin and coffee from Saxbys.
Packing my suitcase in Winfield Lane was methodical and calming and then I played some guitar hero Metallica while I waited for Rich to come home from work. The journey to the airport was uneventful and the flight home was boring. I tried to sleep but don’t think I managed it.


It was great to see my boys and spend the next few days with them in the UK.

DC Day Five

On this sunny day spent in the capital city of the United States Of America I had an appointment with a Segway tour company. I had to walk to Foggy Bottom. I could have ridden in a cab or bus but the weather was nice although blowy and walking means you see so much more. It’s also free! I arrived about an hour early and so I went to a coffee shop, ordered a ciabatta sandwich which came with crisps and drank a caramel macchiato coffee. The coffee was lovely and might become my standard although I am reminded of a former colleague’s t-shirt that said “Latte means you’ve paid too much for your coffee”.
I proceeded to the Segway Tour offices and signed all the relevant disclaimers and bought some water to take on my tour. We had some instruction from Rory, the female tour guide, and although I was quite happy once on the Segway I wasn’t very good at getting on and off. I needed a little extra help to do that, although I didn’t care. Better that than falling on my arse! Once everyone was ready we visited the following buildings and monuments:

  • Vice-President’s Ceremonial Office Building
  • First Division Monument
  • White House – South Lawn
  • The Washington Monument
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  • FDR Memorial (saw Marine One fly over while here!)
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Korean War Memorial
  • Vietnam War Memorial

All of these were stunning and beautiful buildings or monuments. It was well worth the money to experience the Segway and see these sights. Really good value.

Segway Tour

After the tour I needed some food and also wanted to see the White House a little closer so I walked to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and took some pictures of the front of the White House or the North Face. It’s quite small in comparison to the other buildings in the area but much bigger than Number 10 Downing St. Although really the comparison should be made with the official residence of our Head of State which is Buckingham Palace. I could see the West Wing and plenty of people milling in and out of security. I didn’t think it worth the risk to blag my way in. There was a sniper on the roof!
I bought a hotdog from a street vendor and headed to the National Museum of Natural History. It was, again, a lovely building but I think I may have been spoilt in the UK with our museums. I didn’t think the museum anything special although I guess it is probably the best of its kind in the USA. Science and natural history are definitely the way to go people. The museum was ok. Lots of families there again as it was spring break.
I wandered back home and met Kate at around 4. Sorted out my photo uploads and then waited for Mr O to return so we could get to the baseball game.
I had bought some tickets for the baseball as we were hoping to meet some friends there, as it happened we didn’t managed to speak to each other but it was really well worth going to the Nats ballpark. We arrived just as the game was starting after trying to find a left turn way into the parking and having whistles blown at us and lots of waving hands but no instructions about an alternative route. I found that just a little rude! It turns out that baseball is a lot like cricket. Not a lot happens in quite a long time. The Americans just sit and eat and drink and occasionally cheer. Pretty similar to cricket. It’s a game full of statistics (like cricket) and involves trying to hit a ball thrown at around 90 mph. We should import cricket and regain our colonial rule! I saw someone reach 1st, 2nd and 3rd base. Also saw a home run by a Nats pitcher, Gio Gonzalez. The Nats won the game against the Miami Marlins by 3 to 0. We drove home and just went to bed. It had been quite a busy day.

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DC Day Four

Tuesday morning in DC and I decide to run to the Pentagon. Now, I’m in the top left bit of Georgetown and so this was going to be a biggy. I headed straight down 35st NW and over the Key Bridge. From there I had to find a footpath by the Potomac and that took a little while. Once down by the river I had a short diversion onto T. Roosevelt Island to see his memorial and then carried on my way to the Pentagon. I got reasonably close and was impressed with its great size. I also could see the Air Force memorial in the distance but decided if I ran there I probably wouldn’t make it back to Winfield Lane so passed on that one. I ran over a bridge to the Lincoln Memorial again and then headed home. A lovely chilly morning and a really enjoyable run.

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Upon my return and shower in Georgetown it was apparent that we were running slightly late for our scheduled Capitol tour time of 11:40. A cab was hailed and we arrived to join the queues [line] at the Capitol Visitors Centre. A quick search and metal detector later and we were in the line for our pre-booked tour passes. Some “locals” weren’t too happy about a foreigner having been able to book a tour but I didn’t care, the website allowed me to do it. To be honest I had just bought some of their currency and was spending my foreign money everywhere, they couldn’t have been more lucky!
The Capitol building is lovely, stunning, beautiful and massive. It’s also a long way from the Lincoln Memorial. In fact everywhere in DC is a long way from everywhere. I’m quite jealous of a country that has so much space. The tour took us into the rotunda and then the former house of representatives. The Brits might have got the blame for burning down the building in 1814 which in all fairness is fair as we did! Just a wonderful space.
Through the tunnel to the Library of Congress and WOW. Perhaps one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen in a long time. Such wonder. I loved the quotations around the main hall. My favourite being:

Science shall inform books and not books science.

Funny how the religious right are trying to gain control of the laws of the country where God is absolutely NOT mentioned in the Constitution.
Folloing this we walked to the National Air and Space Museum on The Mall. It was nice to see the X-15-1 on display along with the Apollo XI Command Module. That and an F-104 just about made my day. The problem with the museum was how busy it was. Spring break in the USA sure brought the tourists out. I could only manage two hours and then needed to get out!
We caught a cab to Georgetown and I bought an Up by Jawbone iPhone thing to moniter how much I move. Then we walked back to Winfield Lane.
Tonight’s dinner was fajitas and Rich and I rounded a lovely day off playing Metallica Guitar Hero.

The Rotunda - Capitol Building

DC Day Three

On the evening of my first day in DC Rich and I worked out a plan of action. This would allow Kate to organise food and other such sundries. Monday, Day Three, is a trip along the Skyline Drive of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Luray Caverns.
We set off after rush hour so we weren’t delayed on the way. There were some signs along the freeway informing us that our speed was being monitored by aircraft. I find this somewhat interesting. I’m not sure it’s possible. The only thing I can think they do is track vehicles for a set distance and then radio ahead for a patrol car to interdict. I doubt they can track a vehicle and get a good identification of the vehicle at the same time. One would require distance flying and the other close flying. Doesn’t matter, I’m not going to find out.
For this trip I decided to wear an evolution t-shirt [although it does have man evolving into Tim Minchin]. It wasn’t deliberate, and essentially probably an accident heading out into the Virginia countryside wearing a pro-evolution shirt. I also removed my Atheist pin, no sense in pushing the locals.
The weather was a bit dull and overcast. But this did not detract from the views along the road. We could see a reasonable distance and also saw plenty of Turkey Vultures flying the thermals and updrafts. Lunch was a most excellent picnic organised by Kate at Elkwallow picnic site. The toilet there was a rather spectacular hole in the ground surrounded by a prefabricated building – real countryside! Lunch was a lovely chicken roll and crisps followed by coffee in china cups. You don’t get much better than that!
From Elkwallow we followed the road to pass through the 600 foot Mary’s Rock Tunnel and then turned around to head to Luray and the caverns.
These caverns were spectacular. The tour was really well organised and everywhere was accessible (this is for Americans though), our guide was knowledgeable and delivered well. Some of the sights were really impressive. Just the time it takes for stalactites and stalagmites to grow was awe inspiring. The biggest cavern had a mechanical organ that played a hymn. The notes were created using hammers to hit certain stalactites and the vibrations picked up using a solenoid and then amplified. The sound was a wonderfully natural calm sound, not like my usual musical tastes!
Our return to DC took about an hour and a half with some reasonable traffic on the freeway.
That night we ate at Ruth’s Chris Steak House out at Tysons Corner. It was a nice meal and the dessert, chocolate explosion, was particularly worth it. Such a wonderful day.

Luray Caverns

Washington DC Panoramas

I’ve finally become really grateful for the iPhone 5. Not only does it have the storage space I require but the panorama photo option is excellent. Hence, this page of some of the panoramas I took on my DC trip [are you bored of this yet? I’ve got 21 years of “when I was in America” to make up for].

This is the river Potomac from Georgetown Harbour to the Key Bridge.
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This is the National Air and Space Museum – the Udvar-Hazy Extension.
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Space Shuttle (orbiter really) Discovery
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Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
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Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument
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Skyline Drive View
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Theodore Roosevelt
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The Capitol
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The White House, West Wing and Government Building
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Nats versus the Marlins
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Ford’s Theatre
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DC Day Two

The second communication in a series of not many giving you the highlights of my trip to DC during the Easter break 2013.

This being the USA and me being a big eater of food, I decided to bring my running stuff, just in case I wanted to go for a jog. As it happens DC is a wonderful place to run and I might one day start a business doing jogging tours [not going to happen!].
On the sunday morning I woke up early and so went for a jog. The plan was to head through the woods down to the Potomac and then turn left and see where I would end up after about 2.5 to 3 miles. I jogged past the Watergate hotel and could then see the Lincoln Memorial, so I just decided to get there and attempt to run back. If I run more than 10k my body starts to break so I was a little worried about the distance I was going. It was well worth the effort and time.

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After showering and breakfast, Rich and I headed to Nasa Goddard, aware it was Easter Sunday but according to the website they should be open. The weather was not brilliant but it was nice to be chatting and seeing more of the city. The car park at Goddard seemed rather empty and so it proved that the place was shut. Bugger. So we headed to Arlington.

Arlington Cemetery is one of those places that are fascinating to visit but leave you feeling bad about humanity and what we do to each other. We saw JFK’s grave and also the Lee house on the hill. The Pentagon was just peeking through the mist and rain now and then it it is HUGE. A reasonable walk took us to the United States Marine Corps Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the size of that is breath-taking. Just incredibly large. All of the places we saw are huge. I think everyone feels so comfortable with Washington DC because they have seen it on TV and film that they don’t realise just how much space and how big everything is. That and I come from quite a small island just off Europe which has no space and small twisty roads even in the cities.

We drove back home via Safeway and Barnes and Noble, where I bought my postcards and then we had lasagne for dinner. The evening was filled with Guitar Hero and Rock Band playing. Nice to have someone to share a game with. We mostly played Metallica guitar hero.


DC Day One

This and the following communications will be a brief summary of my time in Washington, District of Columbia, USA. I won’t go into excrutiating detail, except possibly for the aircraft [come-on, I’m an aircraft geek].
I flew out from Heathrow, T5, on the 17:30 British Airways flight to Dulles it was a Boeing 777. I got bumped up to Premium Economy class which was nice and then did a seat swap so a family could sit together, this saved me and my new neighbour hours next to babies. The flight was wonderful [it says earlier I’m an aircraft geek] and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Upon arrival at Dulles, Rich was there to pick me up and question me about the flight. We drove home to Georgetown and had some rum and coke. Ended up sleeping at about 5am my time but did well and woke the next day feeling good.
After breakfast we drove past many sights to pick up Mazza and son from Union Station and from there we went the the Udvar-Hazy Extension to the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space Flight.
The extenstion part of the museum is absolutely, really excellent, so much space and so many aircraft of all types. The highlights:

  • SR-71A Blackbird
  • Orbiter Discovery
  • The Enola Gay [I know!]
  • F-14 Tomcat
  • A-6 Intruder
  • The second ever Pitts Special

After lunch and more geekdom we eventually drove back to Winfield Lane and had some drinks before taking Mazza and son to the railway station. We drove past more of the sights which will all be mentioned later in further communications. Dinner that first proper night in DC was a curry at the Taj of India in Georgetown, what else would three Brits end up eating?