For our final day in Washington DC, we took things easy. Thanks to the good folks at the Holiday Inn Capitol, we had a late checkout time of 2 PM, which let us enjoy the morning before heading off to the airport.
After a big travel-day breakfast, we took a leisurely stroll to the United States Botanic Garden (USBG). The USBG was actually the brainchild of George Washington, and has been operating since 1820. I'm not sure when they added the giant bronze insects:
The first exhibit, which we toured before entering the main building, was the rose garden. When we visited the Rose Test Garden in Portland over Spring Break, we missed out on the roses blooming. We were able to make up for it on this trip. Marissa busied herself taking photographs of seemingly every single flower in the place.
The USBG had an excellent exhibit on the various crops and spices from around the world. For example, I enjoyed seeing and smelling the individual spices that go into a classic Indian curry. We also got to see things like pineapples and artichokes growing on their actual plants. It's pretty cool to see where these familiar foods come from.
The main attraction is a massive indoor greenhouse featuring a series of habitats, ranging from rainforest to desert, and including a "Jurassic Park" of plants that date back more than 150 million years. Here are Jason and Marissa crossing a log bridge in the rainforest:
We finished our tour of the USBG by visiting the corpse flower (titan arum). Unfortunately (or fortunately), it wasn't blooming--it supposedly smells like rotting flesh--but we did get this photo, which gives you some sense of its incredible size (it is the largest flower in the world):
Since the flower has bloomed yet, you might still be able to catch it live on Ustream.
After a brief stop at the National Museum of the American Indian to catch a performance, we headed back to the hotel to pack and cabbed it to the airport.
It was there that our adventure really began. Thanks to the thunderstorms covering much of the country, our flight to Nashville was delayed, which meant we'd miss our connection to Los Angeles. Not wanting to spend a night in the Nashville airport, we got booked on an alternate route through Chicago. Total projected delay: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Things started to look up when our flight to O'Hare actually left and arrived early. Unfortunately, they were unable to book us seats on the flight right away; about 5 minutes before boarding, we got seats at the back of the plane. Nonetheless, we were just happy to be headed back.
Once we got on the final plane of the trip, we settled in, started taxiing out to the runway...and then came to a dead stop. As it turned out, a tornado warning had forced the air traffic controllers responsible for our route to evacuate their facility. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for about an hour, waiting for air traffic control to come back on line.
By the time we landed in Los Angeles after a very turbulent flight, it was about 11:45 PM Los Angeles time, or 2:45 AM Washington time. We had been delayed for a total of three hours. Not a great ending to the vacation, but given all our adventures, it was just a small bump.