Back to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

When Sally and I visited the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio last November, we didn’t have time to visit the hangar where the presidential planes are kept. It isn’t connected to the rest of the museum, but is actually on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. We visited again with Nate and Karen and went to that hangar first. We had to show a government-issued I.D. and take a ten-minute bus ride to get there.

Our timing was good. They are building an additional hangar onto the museum to display these planes. The one on the base was closing three days after our visit so the planes could be transferred.

Sacred Cow

The Douglas VC-54C Skymaster was the first plane built for a President. It was officially called The Flying White House, but was referred to as the Sacred Cow. Franklin Roosevelt used it to get to Yalta in 1945. Truman also used it extensively, and it was on board this plane that he signed the legislation that created the Air Force.

For some reason, I didn’t get a close-up of this plane from the outside. It’s the silver one in the left background of this pan.


We were allowed on board. There was a narrow walkway between panels of plexiglass to keep us away from the furniture, which made photography almost impossible.


Boeing VC-137C SAM Two-Six-Thousand

This plane was used for 36 years, beginning in 1962. It flew eight sitting presidents, beginning with Kennedy.


It was on this plane that Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office after Kennedy’s assassination.


That same area looks like this now.


It also flew Nixon to China and Nixon, Ford and Carter to the funeral of Anwar Sadat. Queen Elizabeth flew on it in 1983.

Lockheed VC-140B JetStars


This plane was called “Air Force One” when Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan, although, due to its size, Johnson referred to it as “Air Force One Half.”

Douglas VC-118 The Independence



Used by Truman from 1947 to 1953, including his historic flight to Wake Island to discuss the Korean War with MacArthur.


Lockheed VC-121E Columbine III

Didn’t get a good picture of this one either. I took the pan at the top of the post from the stairs outside the cockpit, and some of the plane can be seen at the far left.

It served as Eisenhower’s official plane for most of his years in office.


In the same building was the Research and Development Gallery. We were only given 50 minutes to view both hangars and by the time I got to this one, I had to hurry. I was also less focused on these because my interest is in planes with direct ties to history.

McDonnell XF-85 Goblin

This plane was designed to be a “parasite” which was stored in the bomb bay of B36 Bombers. If enemy planes were sighted, it would be released and then later return to hook on to the large plane. It had no landing gear, but it did have skids for emergency landings. It was tested, but never flew from a B36 or saw any action.


XH-26 Jet Jeep

Designed to be carried on a trailer and, when needed, carry one man and use Jeep fuel. It was never used because it made too much noise.


Avro Canada VZ-9AV Avrocar

I now believe people when they say they’ve seen flying saucers (although I still don’t believe in aliens visiting earth).


Initially designed by Canada, but the United States took over when it proved too expensive. It was designed to be a supersonic fighter/bomber with vertical take-off and landing capability. It was never put into production because it was unstable more than three feet off the ground.

Northrop Tacit Blue

Built to test stealth technology.


XB-70 Valkyrie (top)

Two of these were built to test supersonic (mach 3) high-altitude bombers. This one flew many times from 1964-1969. The other one crashed. It kinda cracked me up to read that the skin is made from “stainless-steel honeycomb sandwich panels.”

Northrop-McDonnell Douglas YF-23A Black Widow II (bottom)

Built as a fighter to counter Soviet advances. Two companies built competing planes. This one was not chosen.


Ryan X-13 Vertijet

Built to test vertical take offs and landings. It was flown successfully several times in 1957.


On the bus ride, and again in the hangar, we were told to watch for the aliens in the windows. I looked, but didn’t see them until I asked one of the guides. She pointed way up in a corner to this.


As proud as they were, I was expecting something a bit more exciting.

We spent the afternoon touring the rest of the museum, but I covered that pretty extensively on our last visit, so I won’t repeat any of it here. We also paid $8 each to see a 3D movie called Fighter Pilot in the theater with the largest screen in Ohio. It was 50 minutes long, about an Air Force training exercise. I thought it was spectacularly boring. Much of it was obviously shot in front of a blue screen. This surprised me since everything else in the museum is fascinating.

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Fair Oaks Farms

We’ve driven past this place many times and seen the enormous cows and corncobs and chairs that serve as advertisements along I-65. We invited Nate and Karen along and met them there at 9:30 on a Saturday morning.

We decided, since we were there, that we’d pay for the whole package — The Dairy Adventure and the Pig Adventure, which, for the two of us, cost $54.


We wandered about a kids play area and rode a cow merry-go-round. When it was time for our tour, we climbed on a cow-painted bus and rode about half a mile through fields like this.


The bus drove us past a lot filled with bales of hay and along several long barns while a recorded message gave us exciting facts about collecting manure and milk production.


We drove past a row of calves in small cages — I forget why.


And through one of the barns where we saw a lot of cows.


The bus driver then pulled through a garage door and instructed us to exit the bus and climb a stairway.


We stood on a sloped walkway and looked through a window at a bunch of cows being milked on a turn table.


We were told that cows are creatures of habit and once they are brought into this barn, enter the turn table stalls on their own when they are ready to be milked. Eight minutes later, they have had their utters cleaned, a milking machine attached and are milked. When they get around to the start, they are supposed to back off on their own and head back to their barn. As we watched, about one in ten went around for a second loop. The guy explained that they aren’t milked a second time — it must be cheaper to let them go around twice than to have someone stationed to make them leave.



We then got back on the bus and rode back to the starting point — and that was the Dairy Adventure.

The light on the birthing barn was green, which mean a calf was being born. We rushed over and sat in the bleachers to see this.




The process, already underway when we arrived, lasted about five more minutes. As soon as the calf came out, the cow started licking it.


It was almost standing when we left 20 minutes later.


There were two stalls.


Another cow was laying down in the other stall, giving birth to her own calf with little fuss. She did point her nose toward the ceiling and give a bellow right at the end, but that was all.



This one was lacking some of the motherly instinct. She had to be prodded to stand up and then shown her calf before she started licking. And her licking was a good deal more vigorous — at times she almost flipped the calf over.

It was time for our Pig Adventure. We had another 20-minute wait in a pig-themed playground.


We then boarded another bus and drove to a building not far from the cow barn. We were told this one would take us an hour to view. We were in and out in 20 minutes. While there, we saw … pigs.




The highlight, such as it was, was a guy artificially inseminating sows while a couple boars stood in front of them to get them in the mood.



We then had to wait for our bus while being jostled by a troop of Boy Scouts.

The interesting parts — the cow milking, the cow births and the pig inseminating — took us perhaps 40 minutes of the five hours we were there. We spent much more time waiting around and riding around on buses. It certainly wasn’t worth $54.

The whole thing was highly industrialized — rather surprising in light of the popularity of organic, free-range foods. But the place is popular. When we left, it was packed. We had a fair lunch in the cafe and some awful pastries in the bakery.

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Frazier History Museum

I was waiting at the door when this museum opened, and for the two+ hours I was there, I don’t think there were any other visitors.


The top floor had an exhibit on Lewis and Clark that was long on information but lean on artifacts. The middle floor, the main collection of the museum, featured weapons as part of American history. It included guns and other arms that belonged to famous people.



A 1906 Teddy bear in the middle of the display of Teddy Roosevelt’s guns.


Shooting gallery targets from the late 1800s.



Gear believed to have belonged to Geronimo.



A cavalry scout coat from the 1870s. The Indian scout who wore it added the bead work.






Kentucky long rifles.


Powder horns.



The first floor had a few more displays of weapons.



Seventeenth century Japanese Samurai armor.


A powder horn from 1761, carved by a soldier during the French and Indian War.



And there were a lot of displays of toy soldiers around the museum, most of which had no explanation.



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I headed to Louisville to work in the Awana booth at the D6 Conference. I rode down with Zac Timm in a rental truck. We stopped at Mug ‘n’ Bun in Indianapolis for lunch and shared an excellent lunch with a couple dozen yellowjackets in the picnic area outside.

We arrived at the Galt House around 5:00 and checked in. I had an executive suite all to myself — it was larger than our first apartment.


I was on the tenth floor, facing west along the Ohio River — which would have been more exciting if the other tower of the hotel hadn’t been in the way.



We ate dinner at Patrick O’Shea’s near the hotel. I ordered the O’Shea’s 1958 Dublin sandwich — turkey, pepper jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo on a hoagie. I was still full from lunch, but it was so good I ate the entire thing.

I was in my room by 9:00. I’d been watching the TV show Alphas and had one last episode to go. I watched on my iPad as I walked back and forth the length of my suite. By the time the 40-minute episode was over, I’d done a mile and a half.

On Tuesday, I grabbed a quick breakfast at the Galt House, then wandered down Main Street to the Frazier History Museum (next post). I stopped along the way to watch a tow boat pushing barges up the river.






I met Zac for lunch at a mediocre sandwich shop. At 1:00 we were allowed to pull our truck into the dock and start unloading the booth. Zac had hired some workers from the Fern company that was organizing the conference. They did unload about half the truck, but most of the time they stood around and watched Zac and me work. Lisa, Bethany and Missy showed up in time to help with the final bits.

The conference started Wednesday evening and lasted until Friday afternoon. Our booth was in the hallway. We didn’t get a lot of traffic, but most of the people who did stop by were genuinely interested.


On Thursday morning, several of us ate at Atlantic No. 5, which specializes in coffee and biscuits.



On Thursday night, 15 of us ate at Manny and Merle, which is supposed to have the best fried chicken in Louisville. They also had bacon on a stick.


I don’t like fried chicken, so I had a cheeseburger. It tasted pretty good, but when we got back to work the booth for the final session of the day, I started feeling sick to my stomach. I went back to my room about an hour before the booth closed, but we had plenty of people there to cover it in my absence.

I felt fine in the morning, but when lunch rolled around, I wanted something safe and ungreasy, so I ate at Panera with Chris and Donna.

We weren’t scheduled to load our truck until later in the day … But we saw an opportunity while the final session was going on. We quick pulled the truck in the dock and all of us pitched in and got the booth down in about half an hour. I was drenched with sweat when I piled into the truck and Zac and I took off for home. We stopped in Lafayette at Chick-fil-A and shortly thereafter ran into a thunderstorm that lasted most of the rest of the way home.


We dropped the truck at headquarters. Zac gave me a ride home. I got there around 10:00.

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American Sign Museum

The American Sign Museum is located in an old parachute factory in the Camp Washington neighborhood of Cincinnati.


Signs, in various stages of decay, line the parking lot.





We arrived at 1:30, which gave us a half hour to wander about before the guided tour began.


The museum is divided into six main areas. The first is filled with different letter and styles used in signs over the years.



Another room featured pre-lighted sign designs. These particular Burma-Shave signs were used as floorboards in the attic of the company owner.




Throughout the museum there were sign painter kits and samples. Here are two of the samples that salesman would show to a potential customer.


Big Boy statues change based on franchise and age. This older model has a slingshot on the back pocket and hasn’t, like some of the recent ones, been slimmed down. Others have checkered overalls and black or brown hair.


The signs on the left in the video below were all manufactured in the 1910s and 1920s.


The earliest electric signs were lit with light bulbs. I’m holding one of the glass inserts that gives the Kelly Springfield its color and points of light. That’s our guide on the left.


We found out that the different colors of neon signs are created with different gases. In other words, not all neon signs use neon. Neon gives off an orange light, hydrogen a red light, helium a yellow light and mercury a blue light. Green is created by using yellow glass with mercury gas.


The candy sign on the upper left is stained glass. The Ford sign is a very early neon sign, from the 1930s.





The Crosley sign has bits of broken glass in the tube that interrupted the electrical current and created the random flash effect.



Neon was largely replaced with back-lit plastic signs. At first, these were rectangle or square, but then vacuum forming began being used to create shapes.


Two examples of vacuum forming molds are on the wall. The “O” was used in a Kroger sign.


The Coke bottle was used at this restaurant, among other places.




The crates on the right are neon sign shipping packages. The Sputnik-shaped sign was displayed above a strip mall in Anaheim, California from 1962 until the mid-1990s when it was removed in an effort to clean up the “blight” around Disneyland.




The largest area in the museum was designed to show signs in their normal context.



The globe with the cars is from an Earl Scheib auto painting franchise in Compton, California. It sat next to the L.A. Freeway for years, and comes complete with a bullet hole.









One side of the McDonald’s sign has been restored to its original appearance while the other was left to show what it looked like when it was replaced. The “15c” was replaced with an arch and the number of hamburgers sold changed dramatically. It’s from Huntsville, Alabama, where it was in use from 1963 to 2008.



The museum can be rented for weddings or other functions. The back room contains the sides of two barns with original signs painted on them.



And a wall of sings from local businesses, including the Wagon Wheel, where Pete Rose met his first wife (or something like that) and the first Chevy dealer in Cincinnati.


The place was visually stunning. The tour was informative. If they get the funding to repair the other half of the building, the museum will double in size. This was one of the coolest museums I’ve ever visited.

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A Ghost Story (of sorts)

Looking for somewhere to spend a getaway weekend, we made reservations at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio. The hotel was opened in 1803 and moved into its current building about 10 years later. It’s generally recognized to be the oldest continually operating business in Ohio.



It’s so old, they have actual keys.


The hotel has been a popular stop for famous people, including several Presidents. The rooms are named for those who have spent a night there.


We chose the Harriet Beecher Stowe room because it seemed the nicest of the few we could afford. A week before our visit, I saw on the Internet that that particular room is haunted. Yea, whatever.

There is no elevator. As we were schlepping our luggage up to the fourth floor, we passed a woman who worked there. She greeted us, and then said, “Watch out for ghosts.”


Our room was located right at the top of the stairs.


As we entered, I noticed a picture hanging crookedly on the far wall. I walked over and straightened it. Sally thought I hadn’t gotten it quite right, so she made another slight adjustment.




It was early in the afternoon, so we spent a couple hours visiting the shops of downtown Lebanon.

When we got back, we noticed the room across from ours. It was labeled Sarah’s Room and was set up like a museum. We wandered over and were reading the sign when a woman walked past and said, in a mysterious voice, “They have no idea how the fingerprints got on the inside of the window.” I was about to tell her, but she walked off and disappeared into a room down the hall.


A plaque beneath the window told the story of Sarah Stubbs. Her grandfather owned the Golden Lamb, and Sarah moved here when she was five and lived in the room now called the Harriet Beecher Stowe room — the room we were staying in. At some point, she was moved to the smaller room across the hall, and she didn’t like it. The chair and nightstand in the room were hers.

Sarah lived in the hotel for many years, then got married and moved away. She died at the age of 79 in 1957. But some people believe that she returns to the hotel as a ghost and expresses her displeasure at having to switch rooms by tilting pictures and leaving fingerprints on the window.

Let’s pretend, for the moment, that the story is true. Sarah lived 59 more years but, when she died, was so upset that she had to move into a smaller room as a child, that she returns to the scene and haunts it. It sounded to us like she was a spoiled brat who needed to be spanked, and if she had shown up in her ghostly form, I would have told her so.


There were display cases filled with lamb figurines in several places around the hotel.


And this cool box in the lobby.

We headed down to The Blackhorse Tavern, one of the dining rooms on site. Our package included a meal with appetizer, two entrees and two desserts. Sally had salmon, with sorbet. I had prime rib, with cheesecake. It was very tasty. It was also the second most expensive meal I’ve ever paid for.

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After we ate, we wandered out onto the veranda and watched a huge swarm of Chimney Swifts spiraling into a nearby chimney.

It was late on an overcast evening, but you can get an idea of the swifts in this video.


I went back out and took these photos the next morning.



We went to bed with no thoughts of ghosts and had a reasonably comfortable night in a bed that was narrower and harder than we’re used to.

We ate breakfast in the front room of The Blackhorse Tavern, part of the original building built in 1815. I had pancakes that were incredible — by far the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant.

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The window visible on the top floor was our bathroom. The window on the back wall was our bedroom.



Oh yea, about the ghost. Remember how we straightened the tilted picture when we’d first entered the room? When we got up the next morning, it was still straight.

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Meadow Vole

I spotted this guy running in tiny circles in the grass along a road. I suspect there was something wrong with him. At best, he was lost and desperate to find his hole. As I approached with my iPhone, he froze and I was able to put my phone inches from his head and take this shot. You can see my phone and arm reflected in his eye.


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Wildflower Woods

In 1913, Gene Stratton-Porter moved from the cabin in Geneva, Indiana to the shores of Sylvan Lake near Rome City. She designed another cabin, similar to the Limberlost cabin, but larger. She only lived here for five years. She was becoming more famous — every day, people would wander about the grounds and look in the windows — and she wanted more privacy. She also wanted to produce movies based on some of her books, so she moved to California. Again, her husband Charles stayed behind but visited when he could.

We arrived shortly after 1:00 to find the visitor center locked and nobody around. A sign said tours were given on the hour, so we stuck around. We found a bench near the house on the shore of Sylvan Lake and relaxed.

When it got close to 2:00, we wandered back to the visitor center and met another couple and our guide. The tour gave us a lot of the same information we’d gotten in the morning. The house looked similar to the Limberlost cabin in many ways, which makes sense since Gene designed them both herself. She added a lot of clever designs that made living there more practical — a doorway from a bedroom closet into a bathroom so a person wouldn’t have to walk through four rooms to get to the facilities, an ice box with inside and outside doors so the ice man wouldn’t have to walk through the kitchen.









The stones in the fireplace supposedly make pictures — a butterfly in the center and a Revolutionary War soldier on the right.


Our guide, on the right







Gene’s dark room




When Gene moved to California, she lived in a house on Catalina Island (top) and then had the house in the lower photo built (which gives an indication of just how successful she’d become). But she never lived in that house. Just a week before she was planning on moving, her chauffeur pulled out in front of a street car, and Gene was killed.


Fairly recently, in the 1990s, I think, the Gene and her daughter Jennette were re-interred in a grave along the path leading to the house. The statue, with part of the right arm missing, was donated after it was broken and replaced on another grave.


We liked this house better because of the setting, the size and the paneling (cherry), but the Gene lived in the first one longer and it probably gives a better insight into her as a person. Either one is interesting. I probably wouldn’t recommend visiting both unless you’re a bit fan.

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Cindy’s Diner

This tiny, 15-seat diner in Fort Wayne was built in 1952. It has changed names and locations several times since then, but has remained an operating restaurant throughout. We arrived during the lunch hour and were fortunate to find stools next to each other. There were two local lawyers on one side of us, talking about personal injury lawsuits, and a steady string of construction workers on the other side, over from the site across the street. We were packed in pretty tightly. The food was good, not exceptional. Sally wasn’t crazy about the close quarters, but I enjoyed it because it gave me a very authentic look at the lunch counter experience of 60 years ago.










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I’ve read two of Gene Stratton-Porter’s novels, A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles. The setting for both was the Limberlost Swamp in east-central Indiana.

Gene was a novelist, naturalist, photographer and artist. She married George Porter, a businessman who lived in Geneva, Indiana. Gene designed their home, which was completed in 1895. The couple lived here until 1913 when the swamp was drained for farming. At that point, Gene moved about 75 miles north to Rome City and built a house on Sylvan Lake. George stayed in Geneva, near his businesses, but visited Gene and their daughter Jeannette on weekends. The house was loaned out to local schoolteachers for several years before being made into a museum.

The house was featured in a couple of the novels, as was Gene herself, as the “Bird Woman.” We had a private tour by a guy whose chief occupation is naturalist in the restored swamp area.




There was a tree service cutting down dead ash trees on the day of our visit. Some of the trees were there when the Porters owned the house.



The carriage house



The library, where Gene wrote. Most of the furnishings were period pieces but there were some original pieces in the house.



Our guide and a photo of the fireplace he’s standing in front of. The mounted Golden Eagle in the photo is the one in the case.


The music room. The painting in the corner is an original by Gene.



The guest bedroom. the moths and butterflies are original. The drawing on the wall is Jennette, as drawn by Gene.


The downstairs bathroom, which Gene used as a darkroom


The dining room. The paneling is oak.



The atrium, which was mentioned on one of the novels.


We also saw the upstairs rooms, but they aren’t restored or furnished. We visited, not because we’re huge fans of Stratton-Porter — Sally hasn’t read any of her books — but because we like seeing how people lived in the past. Because her novels have gone out of vogue, Stratton-Porter isn’t well known these days. But for 20 years or so at the beginning of the 20th century, she was very popular and famous. J.K. Rowling, author the Harry Potter series, lists her as one of her favorite writers. But apart from all that, this was just a comfortable, practical, attractive house.

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