Griggs Family RV Trip – Day 16

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Our last full day in the Washington D.C. area brought on one more day at Dogtopia for Tiger and one more museum for us to enjoy. After a pancake breakfast – the girls’ favorite – we headed out to enjoy the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. With only one museum to work through, we took our time, but we all agreed our minds were mush from all the information we’d been taking in the past two weeks. This trip has been like a crash course in American History for all of us, which has been incredible, but pretty exhausting.

We started our time in the museum checking out the invention area, particularly the work of Thomas Edison and the light bulb. To understand the life’s work of Edison and the consequences of his success is fascinating when you consider that prior to his success, humans had very little control of light. With the exception of a candle, a campfire or a hand torch, once the sun set, the day was pretty much over. People went to bed earlier, slept longer, and had a much slower life, as simple tasks of churning butter took a lot of manual work. After Edison created the light bulb, which spurred the progress of distributing electricity, the life of the average person changed dramatically. With increasing control of light and the use of motors, people stayed up later and found easier ways of getting work done. It was fascinating to see the girls amazed by the fact that something we take for granted every day – the ability to flip a switch and have light – didn’t exist 150 years ago.

Naomi jumping in front of a steam locomotive

After seeing some of the largest electromagnetic generators ever created, we transitioned to discover the history of transportation in America, which started with the horse & buggy. As someone in the transportation industry, I especially appreciated all of the work that has been done to advance the ability to travel and move goods & people. At the very beginning of the exhibit was a steam-powered locomotive, a classic farm tractor and a Werner Enterprises tractor trailer truck, three of my favorite vehicles.

It was interesting to see what was created based on what was available, and to understand that the first cars produced were electric, not combustion engines. It was the convenience of creating and distributing fuel for long travel that allowed the combustion engine cars to win out. And now we are moving back towards more electric vehicles now that the technology provides for the storage and distribution of electricity for the purpose of charging batteries mid-trip.

One of the first RV trailers manufactured, which was often used as a tiny home in the 1950s.

Our favorite part of the exhibit was seeing the first RV trailers, which were actually used as small houses more than vacation vehicles. It wasn’t uncommon for a family of five to live in a 15’x7′ home, especially as housing became expensive in the mid-1900s. As RV owners, we all couldn’t believe how small these trailers were and how a family could live in a vehicle that small for a long time.

Wood paneling highlighted Chrysler mini-vans in the early 1990s as a sign of luxury.

And then we all enjoyed a laugh seeing the classic 90s minivan that had wood paneling on the side of it. Who’s idea was it to put wood on the side of a steel car? The look on the girls faces when they saw that was worth the price of admission. We also saw the first car to travel across the United States from coast to coast, which must have been a crazy trip, with limited roads, filling stations and replacement parts as needed. And then we saw the original trolley cars that filled the city streets as electricity became more available.

Naomi giving her first Presidential speech

After the transportation exhibits, we went upstairs to see the display of American presidents and all things presidential. The girls have really taken an interest in presidential history and the process of governance. Naomi decided to get up in front of the podium to make a speech, and the girls absolutely loved the display of Inauguration ball gowns by many of the former First Ladies. They kept saying, “Did you see Michelle Obama’s dress?” “Yeah, but did you see Melania Trump’s dress?”

After picking up Tiger from Dogtopia, we headed back to the RV, started picking up camp, took a few showers, and then relaxed watching the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Trials being held in our hometown, St. Louis, Mo. The girls were bummed when they found out the trials were being held so close to home. Tammy & I knew about it, but we didn’t mention it to the girls because they may not have gotten into the RV to leave for this trip had we told them! The girls love watching Simone Biles, and seeing the new gymnasts nail routines was a lot of fun for this gymnastics-loving family.

We also concluded that Pohick Bay Regional Park was a fabulous place to call home for a week and a half, and we were all sad to say goodbye. If you’re ever in DC and looking for a great place to camp, be sure to stay at Pohick Bay.

A classic Waterloo Boy farm tractor.
First car to travel across the country from coast to coast.
Naomi trying to get a ticket for one of the trolly cars of the early 1900s that filled urban streets.
Interstate highways and tractor trailers changed the way goods were transported throughout the country.

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