I am an impulsive traveler. It’s actually caused me problems in relationships. Even when I have somewhere to be, I am frequently convincing myself that I have time for side trips, and go looking for side trips to take.
So, while I was at a rest area in Ohio, I saw a poster for the National Air Force Museum. It claimed to be the oldest and largest such museum in the world, and it was (more or less) on the route I was planning to take. I wouldn’t get there until around noon, perhaps a bit after lunch, but that was fine. A couple of hours off the bike to look around, and then another hundred miles before finding somewhere to camp.
Ah, the best laid plans.
I knew I was in trouble when I came around a corner and found a huge building, no less than 4 large hangers with an atrium and connecting structures. This was not going to be a quick stop.
The good news is that it was free to enter. The bad news is that didn’t seem to like Blue coming in. I mean, this wasn’t the first time he’d been denied entry somewhere, but it had been a while.
One other thing I was trying on this trip was a DSLR. I’d found an old Nikon D70 on craigslist for cheap, just to see if I would use a “real” camera, if I had one along with. Turns out I will, but it’s a bit more fiddly than my iPhone.
It’s hard to describe the museum. I’ve been to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, and there is a huge geek-out level there because of all the actual items on display. This isn’t a mock up of the X-1, this is the actual X-1 that Chuck Yeager flew when he first broke the sound barrier.
There wasn’t as much of that at this museum, but isn’t the same thing as saying it wasn’t there at all. And it was huge. I mean, really, really huge. I could have spent a whole day just in the World War I hanger, reading all the history on the displays.
Oh, and this museum wasn’t about the history of flight, it was about the history of the Air Force, which just happened to be in charge of most of the flying. Also the nuclear missiles. There was a section on the missiles but I didn’t get that far. It’s really hard to describe how large the museum is, is here’s a picture.
That’s a B-29 Superfortress. It’s a really, really big plane. I know there are larger planes out there, but work with me. It was sitting inside one of the hangers, and it wasn’t taking up most of the space. It wasn’t, in fact, taking up much space at all.
Oh, and this B-29 is Bockscar, which dropped the nuclear bomb Fat Man on Nagasaki at the end of WWII. So, there is some geeking here as well.
Now, some other pictures.
So about the cups. If you don’t know about the Doolittle raid on Japan, you can read about it here. When the airmen who flew the raid got together after the war (On Doolittle’s birthday), they decided to start a tradition. They had cups made, one for each with their names on them. Each year, whoever was left would gather and drink a toast. When one died, their cup was inverted. When the last two were left, they met one last time, and then donated the cups to the museum. The signage wasn’t clear on whether they still met. I hope they do.
The fact that there are only two left – if there are even that many anymore – reminded me how the generation that fought in WWII is almost gone. My father was RAF then, and I guess it won’t be much longer before there are no living reminders.
By the time I reached the modern areas, I was feeling the pressure of time. I didn’t want to stay in Dayton, and didn’t know how far I had to go to reach camping. Then, on the Facebook, a friend noted where I was and mentioned he lived in the area. An offer for dinner and a room developed, and I accepted. I like staying with people while I travel, but I’m actually something of a introvert and it’s hard to agree sometimes.
I don’t have any pictures of the evening I spent with Brent Miller and his lovely spouse, but it was a enjoyable evening and it was nice to sleep in a real bed and have a real shower. I wish I had more time, but I still wanted to get the Virginia.