Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 10: Colorado ~ Glenwood Canyon Resort & Campground

We camped for two nights at Glenwood Canyon Resort. We arrived on Tuesday evening just after 6 pm to learn that the riverside camp sites (i.e., the individual camp sites) had just filled. There were group sites available, however, and the woman informed us that some of the individual sites would become available the next day if we wanted to move.

We scoped out the place a bit before making our choice. The “group” sites are a little cheaper ($28 instead of $34). The group sites themselves are actually designed for individual tents, but the grills and firepits are shared (if you wish to use them). They’re not very private, as they’re all lined up next to each other along a fence, but we managed to find one that had foliage on two sides, so we had a little extra privacy.

We drove down to the riverside camp sites to check them out, and found that these had basically no privacy whatsoever. The sites’ “back yard” is beautiful – the Colorado River rushing by with the mountain on the other side – but it really didn’t seem worth the hassle of moving. Plus, when we tried to turn around at the end of the line of campsites, we got stuck in the sand in the boat ramp. It was a scary moment, trying to figure out how to back up without either ending up in the river or gunning it into the rocks on the side of the ramp. Fortunately we figured it out, and returned to the group camp site to pitch our tent and have an early dinner.

When we checked in, we were given coupons to the new “No Name Bar & Grill” there at the resort. As this is the main Wi-Fi hot spot, it seemed like a good idea to get our “buy 2 get 1 free” drinks while accessing the internet. Unfortunately there were no power outlets, so Dave – with his old MacBook’s limited battery life – had to endure “America’s Got Talent” on the bar’s TV while I posted some blog posts and researched some upcoming travel options. At least he got a chance to see UMd’s Gymkana perform.

This is not a particularly peaceful campground. We were quite close to the bathhouse (featuring showers, flushing toilets, and sinks, in addition to a laundry facility) – which was really convenient, but also the site of some hubbub.

When we were getting ready for bed the first night, there was a minor drama involving a boy named Keenan. His mom, her friend, and Keenan’s younger brother were all calling his name and looking for him. He hadn’t been missing for long (actually, Dave and I had seen him about 10-15 minutes before as we fed our laptops some electricity in the laundry room), but his mom was very concerned that he wasn’t responding to their calls. Fortunately it wasn’t long before she figured out that he was hiding in the ladies’ room, for reasons that were unclear. We tried to avert our ears as she gave him a lengthy talking-to about how it’s important to come out from hiding when your mother is frantically calling you.

The second night was even more pathetic. As we were getting ready for bed, there were three people with wine glasses standing at the corner of the bathhouse building (not 40 feet from our tent), loudly discussing whatever topics came to their heads. A bit later, one of the men from that group returned to his campsite, which happened to be the site just on the other side of the trees from our site. He drunk-dialed a friend in Hawaii, and then called another friend in Grand Junction to ask if he could crash at his place for the weekend, “because I’m coming to see my son for the first time in a year”. In the morning, he was on the phone again, calling a guy who was putting him to work building a patio or some such thing. He seemed like a guy really down on his luck… it was pretty depressing to listen to.

Thank goodness Dave brought several sets of earplugs.

Other than the human drama, the campground is decent. The ground was less uncomfortable to sleep on than expected, and it never got as cold as I thought it would be.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 10: Colorado ~ Aspen

I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to visit Aspen, but since it was on our way, we decided to stop there and walk around for about an hour.

It is exactly what I expected: numerous upscale shops interspersed with mountain gear stores such as Marmot and North Face. There is also a variety of eateries, from McDonalds, to snack shops (chocolate, coffee, ice cream), bars, and restaurants. It is a little too chichi for my comfort, but it was a fun place to walk around for a little bit. And I have to admit that they do make an effort to make it accessible to everyone – the buses are free, there’s a nice park in the middle of the downtown area, and the public bathrooms are among the nicest I’ve ever seen. There was also a nice string quartet playing classical and pops selections not far from the McDonald’s.

Ski mountain at Aspen in summertimeWe walked to the base of the mountain to get a sense of it. I can appreciate how convenient it is to ski right off the mountain and be one block away from all the restaurants and shops. A Starbucks is opportunistically located less than 100 feet from the bottom of the lift.

During the summer, they do offer gondola rides for $25 a pop, which was a little more than we were interested in paying (not to mention that we had only paid for an hour of parking).

We stopped in to the Paradise Bakery for gelato-style ice cream. This made Dave extremely happy, especially since I had made him eat peanut butter & jelly for lunch.

Unfortunately we headed out of Aspen just after 5 pm, giving us the opportunity to experience rush hour traffic from Aspen to I-70. Who puts HOV lanes on the right side of the highway??

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 10: Colorado ~ Scenic drives

We eschewed the interstates today in favor of scenic state route and U.S. highway driving.

Our route took us up CO-17 up to US-285, following the Sangre de Cristo mountains and San Luis Creek. We drove across relatively flat grasslands but were flanked by mountains to the east and west.

Kayaker in SalidaWe took a detour into Salida, which is a mecca for kayakers who want to enjoy the Arkansas River. It is the heart of Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, which is a long, thin state recreation area that follows the river. It’s also a really cute community. If I ever learn to really kayak, I’ll have to come back here.

From there, we followed the Arkansas River north to Leadville. On the way, we passed several fourteen-thousand-foot peaks, including the Collegiate Peaks (so named because they include such peaks as Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, and Mt. Princeton).

We didn’t really have any purpose for being in Leadville, so we ultimately headed east of town for a picnic lunch at Turquoise Lake.

Dave and Jenn at Independence PassThen came the exciting part of the drive. We headed west on CO-82, passing the highest peak in Colorado, Mt. Elbert. Standing at 14,440, Elbert is the second-highest point in the lower 48 states. (The highest is Mt. Whitney in the Sierras in California, standing at 14,505.) The drive up was just beautiful – following a river valley and winding up the mountains. After a steep climb, we arrived at Independence Pass, at an elevation of 12,093 feet. We stopped and took some photos, admired the view (there was still a bit of snow up there), and breathed in the chilly, thin air.

The way down was a little more harrowing. The road was incredibly narrow at points, and was very winding. It was pretty – following the Roaring Fork River, but the driver doesn’t have much opportunity to admire the view because all focus must be on avoiding collisions with other cars or with the side of the mountain.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 9: Colorado ~ Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National ParkIt was already starting to get warm as we ate our breakfast, admired the hawks circling the lake, and broke camp.

We drove northwest to I-24 and then north, crossing the border from New Mexico into Colorado. We made a couple of stops – first, at a KMart in Raton, NM to buy me some sweatpants (after I realized the next couple of nights would be cold camping), and then in Trinidad, CO to get ice and a few other things at Safeway.

From there it was just a couple more hours to Great Sand Dunes National Park. On our way, we drove past Mt. Blanca, the first “fourteener” we passed, standing at 14,345 feet. (It’s surprising how that doesn’t seem that tall when you’re driving on a road that is already higher than 8,000 feet.)

Great Sand Dunes National Park entranceThe Great Sand Dunes are a unique feature, and the tallest sand dunes in North America. The natural forces that created the sand dunes are well explained elsewhere. What I will add is that it’s impressive how large they are, and how much real estate they occupy at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. What is also impressive is how many different types of ecosystem there are to enjoy in this park – from alpine peaks and lakes to desert and grassland, and everything in between.

We got a nice spot in the busy campground, pitched our tent, and had lunch as we decided what activities to do in our half day in the park.

Our first stop was the visitor center. It had a 20-minute video that emphasized how the different systems interact with, and interdepend on, each other. It included some beautiful footage of the park in different seasons (noting that few visit the park in the winter), which made us wish that we were there during a wetter time of year. It seems Medano Creek is a pretty fun place to play when there’s water, but it was bone dry when we were there.

Zapata CreekNext we decided to hike to Zapata Falls. Ten miles south of the entrance to the national park is a 3-mile gravel road up the mountain, where there is an overlook (great view of the dunes), restroom, parking area, and trailhead. The trail, while steep, is fairly moderate and short (about 1/2 mile). It was busy but not crowded.

At the top of the trail is a creek. We then had to wade up the VERY cold water, perhaps 150 feet around a couple of bends, until the falls came into view. While not the most impressive or beautiful falls we’ve ever seen, they were pretty cool, especially the way they’ve been carving out the rock for untold numbers of years.

Having acclimated slightly to the freezing cold water, we waded down the creek just a bit. It was really too cold to get completely wet (a shame, since we had purposely changed into our bathing suits, hoping to use the water to cool down from the heat in the desert below), but I did soak my shirt and put it on before we hiked back down to our car. It was completely dry by the time we got to the bottom.

When we got back to our camp site, we had an early dinner, and then headed out to the dunes right around sunset.

Great Sand DunesThe temperature of the sand gets up to about 140 degrees, so it’s not really pleasant to hike them during the day. Once the sun starts to go behind the mountains, though, the surface starts to cool down.

As soon as we began walking on the sand, we realized it would be easier to walk barefoot. We followed the example of others and ditched our shoes at the trailhead, and set across the sand.

Hiking on the Dunes at DuskIf you’ve ever walked on a wide, sandy beach, you can get a sense of what the initial part of our hike was like. For several hundred yards, the ground is flat. The sand is not very fine, and has quite a few pebbles and rocks in it. The part that is *not* like walking on the beach is that there is no water to firm it up, so every step entails another step-and-a-half to continue moving on.

After that, we finally got to the dunes. Just like any set of hills, the near dunes are shorter, and they continue to get taller and taller. According to the Park Service, it takes about 75 minutes to get to the tallest peak. We didn’t feel like we had the energy for that, so we made it to the top of the third dune in, and sat there for a while.

Sand dunes under the starsDave took a bunch of cool night photos of the dunes while I made a sand angel. We enjoyed the stars, the incredibly bright moon, and the surreal landscape. We even saw a couple of shooting stars. (This time of year is the Perseid meteor shower, which wasn’t as spectacular this year because of the bright moon, but it was still possible to see a few.) It became extremely windy, and we realized that it wasn’t really pleasant to sit on top of a sand dune in the wind, so we headed back down.

This place is so cool. It’s really out of the way, but it was totally worth the trip.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 8: New Mexico ~ Clayton Lake State Park

Clayton LakeWe had pored over our AAA Campbooks and Tourbooks, trying to figure out what our destination should be for this evening. We were aiming for the general area where Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico all meet. We didn’t want to try to make it all the way to Great Sand Dunes National Park, as it would be dark by the time we got there.

Some online searching turned up a great find: Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico. We hadn’t expected to go to NM during this trip, but this turned out to be the perfect distance and really a nice spot.

Clayton Lake State Park is a bit north of Clayton, NM. The 12 mile drive winds across relatively flat grassland, and then suddenly you arrive at a butte that overlooks the lake, and the road dead-ends into the campground. The lake is actually a medium-sized reservoir created by a damming Seneca Creek. The campground skirts the south side of the lake. The sites aren’t particularly private, but most of the folks there were day-use folks rather than campers, so we found a nice spot underneath a juniper and pitched our tent.

Dinosaur Tracks at Clayton Lake State ParkThe biggest attraction of Clayton Lake State Park – other than the lake and associated fishing and wildlife – is the dinosaur tracks. At sunset, Dave and I hiked the mile or so from our campground over to the site of the dinosaur tracks. They were made millions of years ago when dinosaurs walked through the mud, which was covered up and preserved until the dam was created. Now, the state park system has built boardwalks around the tracks so visitors can see them up close without wrecking them. I thought they were pretty interesting.

Sunset over Clayton LakeThe rest of the evening was quiet and uneventful. The campground was very quiet, and the stars were beautiful. The weather was perfect, other than a bit of wind, so we slept without the fly on our tent. As we were going to sleep, there must have been a critter dining in the tree above us, because our tent was pelted with juniper berries for a while.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 8: OKC to NM via Amarillo

It was at this stage in our trip that we left urban settings behind, and headed into the great wide West.

Rest stop BBQ grill in TexasFrom Oklahoma City, we traveled west on I-40 and found ourselves in Texas yet again. About 30 miles into Texas (in approximately Alanreed) we stopped at a fairly elaborate rest area with an overlook to the vast grasslands to the north of it. There were also displays explaining the history of the area and some information about the nearby energy production industry (oil; windmills). It also featured picnic areas with Texas-shaped grills.

We stopped for a late lunch in Amarillo. At the suggestion of a billboard, I got a sudden craving for Mexican food, and Dave managed to find a pretty tasty, authentic place called El Tejavan. I got tacos de carne asada, and Dave got burritos. It was basically a mid-afternoon dinner for us.

As we headed out of Amarillo, we noticed a bunch of graffiti’d cars just off the side of the interstate, and people stopping to get out and walk amongst them. We couldn’t resist. We stopped for gas and then headed backwards to check it out.

Cadillac RanchWhen I first saw it, I thought of it as “Carhenge”. A quick Google search afterward explained that this is Cadillac Ranch, an interactive art installation owned by an eccentric local businessman.

What is most surreal about it is that people bring spray cans to leave their own mark on the cars – even though this will be soon covered up by more layers of paint. It’s quite possible that the paint layers on these cars is now thicker than the original metal body.

The heat drove us back into our air-conditioned car, and we headed west. We soon left the interstate and headed north on two-lane highways that took us into northeastern New Mexico.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 7: Oklahoma ~ Oklahoma City National Memorial

Survivor Wall at OKC National MemorialOn April 19, 1995, an extremist named Timothy McVeigh drove a rented Ryder truck full of explosives and parked it next to a federal building in the heart of Oklahoma City. The blast destroyed the building and took the lives of 168 people, including 19 very young children.

Standing at the site today is a phenomenally moving and appropriate memorial. Nearby, on what is now a continuous site, is the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, in a building that had housed the Oklahoma Journal Record, which was damaged in the blast but remained intact (unlike some of the other surrounding buildings).

The Journal Record BuildingThis museum is exceedingly well designed, and is a moving and informative experience. The museum does a good job of balancing a few different aspects of the story. One is to stress that the day of the bombing started out as a lovely spring day, just a normal day for those in and around the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Another is to tell the individual human stories of those who died and of the survivors and rescuers who lived through the initial moments and ensuing days, weeks, and months following the tragedy. And finally, it gives information about Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols, the investigation that tracked them down, and the judicial process that determined their final fates.

The exhibits do an amazing job of conveying the calm at 9:01 am before the bombing, and the chaos that ensued at 9:02 am and following. This is accomplished through audio, video, fragments of building and personal belongings found in the rubble, and also through the layout and design of the exhibit. It is an immersive experience.

OKC Memorial Eastern Time Gate and ReflectionOne thing I was quite impressed by – both with the museum’s exhibits and also regarding the actual event – was that the investigation as to the cause and the culprit began immediately as law enforcement entered the crime scene, which was just moments after the blast. It was a contrast to the JFK assassination – the site of which we had just visited the day before – in which the evidence-gathering process and the investigation of the assassin was, frankly, bungled from beginning to end. The first responders to the Oklahoma City bombing were such incredible professionals that they had evidence – and leads to the assassin – within literally minutes after the bombing occurred.

There are a lot of displays, videos, etc to see and experience in this museum, so we were there for nearly 3 hours.

One of the most moving parts of the museum is the Gallery of Honor, a room in which all 168 of the deceased are honored with a 1’x1′ glass display, depicting each one’s name, photo, and a few personal items. The small children who died are displayed set off from the adults, and those displays are particularly poignant. The space provides a good opportunity to pause to reflect on the individual lives lost – most of whom were public servants – and mourn if the spirit so moves. (There is a box of tissues provided for the purpose.)

Memorial SiteUpon exiting the museum, we walked around the memorial itself, which incorporates key symbolic features to memorialize the lost and encourage the living. The 168 chairs placed where the footprint of the building would have been are lovely and touching. The Survivor Tree is a wonderful symbol of the resilience of life, and a reminder of the possibilities of the human spirit to overcome tragedy. The Gates of Time with the Reflecting Pool in the middle are large, silent witnesses to how life was forever changed that day.

The Survivor TreeWe had the opportunity to listen to a Ranger Talk, providing more information about the symbols featured in the memorial. It was well worth it, and recommended to any who visit.

As the talk was getting started, a storm front was starting to roll in, with lightning in the background. The wind whipped through our little group as we gathered around the Survivor Tree to listen to the park ranger. There was just time to walk around the memorial one more quick time and take some more photos, before the rain started to come down. The sky opened up and poured just as we were driving away.

OKC National Memorial at nightWe went back after dinner and took photos at night. Like many of the memorials we love so much in Washington DC, the Oklahoma City National Memorial is very striking at night. We were glad we came back for it.

Great quote from the wall that surrounds the Survivor Tree patio: “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated. Our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”

Although Oklahoma City is out of the way for almost everyone we know, I would highly recommend a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial. It was an afternoon/evening well spent. The combination of the MLK Jr. assassination site (on Wednesday), the JFK assassination site (on Friday), and the Oklahoma City bombing site (on Saturday) wasn’t intentional – who plans a week of “violent extremism” tourism? But it was worthy of reflection.

When will the violence end?

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 6: Texas ~ The Ballpark at Arlington

The Ballpark at ArlingtonAs one of my life goals is to see a home game for every team in Major League Baseball, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to see a Texas Rangers game while in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area.

The Ballpark at Arlington has a cozy, intimate feel to it. Rangers fans are really good baseball fans – they all stayed through the entire ballgame (take that, California fans), and all the people around us seemed to be really paying attention to the game (unlike my fellow Orioles fans). I will say that the people around us were yelling at the umpire for every ball/strike call that went against the Rangers… pretty sure the fans’ passion was overcoming their accuracy.

It was really hot (104 degrees at game time) and we were both really tired, but fortunately it turned out to be a really good game. There was a lot of action early on. It slowed down right about the time we went looking for food – fajita salad for Dave and a hot dog & sweet potato fries for me. It became very exciting at the end – the Rangers had been trailing by two for a few innings and we figured it would be over in the bottom of the ninth. But then they suddenly tied it up, and the game went for two more innings. The home team won in the 11th pretty much on baserunning skill alone. We’re not Rangers fans, but it was a fun way to end the game.

The Best Fireworks in TexasAfterward there was a fireworks show, billed as “The Best Fireworks in Texas”. It was a pretty good fireworks show, but if it’s the best one in Texas, I have underestimated the reputation that Texas has for overt displays of patriotism.

Things I expected:
– A large Nolan Ryan statue
– BBQ and tex-mex food
– Lots of country music

Things I didn’t expect:
– “Deep in the Heart of Texas” group sing in the middle of the 5th (they still did “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th)
– “Friends in Low Places” played on the organ
– Live dot races and random dancing pioneer characters

When walking back to our car, we couldn’t help but gape at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium just across the way, which for some reason was all lit up. A testament to what football fans can achieve if they put their mind to it.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 6: Texas ~ JFK assassination site

Texas Book Depository and Dealey Plaza as seen from overpassEver since junior high, when I learned about the JFK assassination in social studies class with Mr. Mazzoni, I’ve been wanting to visit Dealey Plaza and the Texas Book Depository. Today I finally had the opportunity.

The former Texas Book Depository is now a county building used for other purposes, but the 6th and 7th floors house the “Sixth Floor Museum“, dedicated to the Kennedy assassination.

Visitors enter through an add-on to the building, purchase tickets, receive audio tour equipment, then take the elevator up to the 6th floor.

Texas Book DepositoryI wasn’t that impressed with the museum design. The audio tour goes too fast for the exhibits. The layout is confusing, so it’s not intuitive to know what direction the tour will go next, even when the audio tour is giving directions.

The information was really good, though. It starts with some information about the John and Jackie Kennedy, the campaign, and the administration. Then it goes into the details of what happened at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. There is a lot of detail, and there are quite a few opportunities to pause to watch videos.

The best aspects of the display are 3D. The corner of the 6th floor is set up as a reproduction of what the “snipers nest” might have looked like, where the assassin sat, aimed his weapon, and shot at the president. It is a helpful way to see what angle the gun might have been pointed, compared with the streets below.

Also very interesting was a scale model of the neighborhood that the FBI put together during the investigation. It included several models of cars, and strings from the 6th floor window down to those cars, to indicate what the bullets’ paths might have been.

The really good thing about the exhibit is that it didn’t dodge the controversy. (Contrast to Graceland, which barely discussed Elvis’ death, much less the conspiracy theories.) There were a number of panels and audio tour discussions about the problems with the investigation, the various commissions, and the different conspiracy theories regarding the assassin(s).

One thing is clear: It was a very sloppy investigation. It’s no wonder that the public has been wondering about the truth of the details ever since 1963 – the public record kept changing from Day One. It doesn’t help that the alleged “sole gunman” was killed just days afterward.

On the 7th floor was a spacious exhibit space, but a tiny exhibit in the corner. Apparently this is a rotating exhibit, and the current subject was Jack Ruby, who killed Lee Harvey Oswald. It was somewhat interesting. We were actually glad it wasn’t a whole lot of information, because we were pretty tapped out from all the info that we’d learned on the 6th floor.

The 7th floor does offer an opportunity to see the street from the corner of the building in which the sniper would have sat (which is not an option on the 6th floor, as the sniper’s nest reproduction there is behind glass walls). It made it easier to try to picture what might have occurred.

View from the Grassy KnollAfter we were done with the inside tour, we signed up for the outdoor cell phone tour (for $2.50). This is a great way to walk around Dealey Plaza and learn additional details about specific sites in and around the plaza. (There are also random self-appointed docents standing around the plaza just waiting to be helpful… not sure how much they would want as a gratuity.) It was awfully hot, though, so we tried to stick to the shade as much as possible, or sit in one place for a few “stops” instead of walking around. it was totally worth doing, though.

JFK MemorialThe walking tour included the JFK memorial built a couple of blocks away, a giant hollow concrete cube. Very 60s modernist.

Cross Country Trip

Cross-Country Trip V, Day 6: Texas ~ Bureau of Engraving & Printing, Fort Worth

“What to do in Dallas?” we asked ourselves. We were really at a loss, as we Googled. Fortunately I hit upon the idea of searching for things to do in Fort Worth as well, and discovered that the Bureau of Engraving & Printing‘s Western Division is in Fort Worth, one of two locations in the United States where U.S. currency is printed. On many occasions, we had considered touring the facility in Washington DC and never bothered to take the time. (The tour of the DC facility has a reputation for being difficult to get into – you have to arrive first thing in the morning to get tickets.) This seemed like a good opportunity, and a good way to spend our morning in Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Of course, this metropolitan area has astonishing sprawl, so it took a good hour through morning traffic to get there. Once we parked, we had to figure out what wouldn’t be allowed inside, and leave those items in our car. (Note: All electronic devices, including iPods.) We went through a security checkpoint, then boarded a shuttle bus to take us to the main visitor’s center and the production center.

Fortunately, we arrived just as a tour was about to start, so the greeter handed us red tour stickers and we joined the group.

The tour is along a series of elevated hallways, which look down on the production floor. It’s a bird’s-eye view of the printing and engraving process, from the first printing of color onto the sheets (which are actually a cotton-linen blend, and not paper) through to the cutting and bundling of individual notes. While the process is pretty fascinating, the tour was surprisingly generic and not that interesting. The tour guide seemed to be striving to use her most generic tour guide voice, and gave a scripted explanation of the process without peppering her talk with much in the way of interesting anecdotes.

When the tour was over, she encouraged those who had joined the tour late (which included us, as we found out) to take 15 minutes to watch the “informative video”. (She used this phrase twice in one sentence, which I found impressive.)

The video was indeed informative, and Dave commented afterward that the tour might have made more sense if we had seen the video first. I’m not sure that it told us anything that we didn’t gather from the tour, but it certainly gave a little more personal perspective on the process, through interviews with employees.

It was also very patriotic and rah-rah, we love our jobs and we’re proud of our product, which was entertaining.

After seeing the video, we wandered through the exhibits for a while. There were a lot of interactive features that explained the various features of the currency. It was pretty interesting to learn the details of the anti-counterfeit features, in particular, especially the stories of the designers who created the new designs. There were a lot of videos of employees explaining their aspects of the design or production process. Overall, it was a pretty good exhibit, though something seemed to be missing that we couldn’t quite identify. We were expecting just a little bit more, though we’re not sure what that “more” would have been.

Dave had always been fascinated by the possibility of buying a sheet of money, so we stopped by the gift shop before we headed out. Sadly, we did not purchase any money. Dave commented, “I’m really disappointed about how much they charge for a sheet of money.” Especially since it’s not actually money, and can’t be spent, since it hasn’t been monetized by the Federal Reserve. Dave was willing to pay around $30 for a sheet of 16 $1 notes. However, since the price for what they had in stock was well over $100, we walked out empty-handed. “Ridiculous,” Dave said.

We had to console ourselves with lunch at Whataburger. I watched the birds outside seek tiny scraps of shade. It was so hot they were panting! I’ve never seen birds pant before…