Today was the beginning of our new schedule, at least the new schedule I have laid out in my mind. The children seem open to it, so we’ll try it out for awhile, and see how it works.
It was our first Monday. I’m calling Mondays “Magical Adventure Mondays” or “Movement Mondays” or some other funny alliterative phrase we’ll come up with later.
This first visit I picked, and we went to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). As you’ll read, the day had some wrinkles, and some curve balls, but it was a great beginning to our new “school year” of adventures.
We left the house around 9:30 a.m. This allows us to get to the parking garage at the Metro station we use, just at the 10 a.m. time, which is when the reserved spots open up to general use.
We got into the city around 10:30, which was the exact time to arrive at BEP as they took in their last group of people for the 10:45 a.m. tour. We, of course, weren’t in that group of people.
We moseyed our way over to the Washington Monument, sat on a bench to visit and people watch, then decided ice cream was a necessity.
The street vendors who are all over D.C. have apparently not heard of Square for payment yet, so being cash-less as always, we had to find somewhere to purchase ice cream with plastic.
A very helpful ice cream vendor directed us to the Department of Agriculture cafeteria. Now we know that the publicly available cafe there is in “Wing 2” (called Door 2 by the rest of the world.) We had a nice snack in there, and pretended we were government employees.
It didn’t make much of an impression on the children, I suspect, but I was struck by the inside of the building. Though massive and imposing on the outside, the inside reminded me so much of the Jasper County Courthouse in Newton, Iowa, in which I spent many hours. The long hallways lined with door after door after door, behind which hid all sorts of magical places; in my mind, anyway.
The kids and I did talk about the beauty and age of the building. The were fascinated most by the swinging “saloon-style” doors on the bathroom stalls. If you need a clean bathroom in D.C., the Dpt. of Ag. can accomodate!
We made our way back to the Bureau to get in line for our turn at a tour. We were in line for about 45 minutes, getting in for the 1:15 p.m. tour. Except for the Buster taking a little tumble and scraping knee and elbow, the kids passed the time by finding sticks and tying pieces of long grass into bunches. It was such a beautiful day, just being outside, soaking in the sun, was a joy.
Once we made it to the front of the line, we wandered through the gallery which has many displays showing some of the equipment and telling the history of the Bureau. Some interesting tidbits: Abraham Lincoln set up the first Bureau. It had 6 employees; 2 men and 4 women. The Bureau is printing money 24 hours a day, 95% of which are “notes” to replace bills that have become too beaten up to remain in commission. U.S. bills are 20% linen, 80% cotton.
After the self-guided part of the tour, the entire group sits down for a 15 minute video showing the process and telling about how long it takes to design the new notes (The big faces, as we like to think of them.) Two years were needed to create the update on the Ben Franklin, I believe.
Then, after the video, you go up and into the gallery viewing area to see the actual notes being printed. Another interesting bit; each bill cures for 6 days in special coolers that are kept at 78 degrees.
Finally, we wandered through the gift shop. (Much like Disney, the tour dumps out in the gift shop.) The children enjoyed looking at the pens filled with shredded bills and the over-sized pennies.
Then the tromp back to the Metro.
There was still one unexpected adventure waiting for us.
Thanks to Zachy’s rather temperamental tummy, we learned how to access the public, yet locked and hidden, restroom at two different Metro stops. Buds and I had a laugh when I told him about the Metro employee who informed me that a bathroom was available for emergencies.
“Is this an emergency?” he asked.
Give me about 30 seconds, and you’ll see how much of an emergency it is, you doofus.
Luckily, The Buster’s pinched face, and my emphatic, “YES!” made him scurry us over to the locked door. And he did wave to us in a friendly way as we thanked him and pushed through the secret Metro entrance to get back on our train.
It was a lovely day, filled with unexpected treasures. I like that we are learning some of the hidden parts of D.C.