Midwest Road Trip 2019

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  • #1
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It’s time for another tiki tour!

If you saw last summer’s trip, you may recall that it was anchored by a stamp show and a railfans’ show the same weekend in Ohio.

This year the railfans’ show is still in Ohio, but the stamp show is in Omaha, Nebraska. However, they’re on consecutive weekends, so I can still do them both!

So now I’m on my way to Omaha.

I started out today with the southernmost bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Something I don’t remember seeing here before is bilingual signs in English and Cherokee.

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Then I drove through the Great Smoky Mountains Park, stopping for the view at Clingman’s Dome.

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  • #2
jtbell
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“Please Don’t _______ the Bears!”

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Tonight I’m near Nashville. Tomorrow I continue towards St. Louis.
 
  • #3
davenn
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awesome
As with last time, I am looking forward to the coming collection of road trip photos :smile:


Dave
 
  • #4
jtbell
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Day 2

Today I visited Metropolis, Illinois, a small town on the Ohio River that bills itself as the “Hometown of Superman”. A statue of him is next to the county courthouse. The Super Museum has the largest collection anywhere of Superman memorabilia, movie props, etc. The local newspaper is even named the “Planet”. (Can you guess why it’s not the “Daily Planet”?)

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Day 2 (continued)

After visiting Metropolis yesterday, I crossed back into Kentucky and reached the Mississippi River at Wickliffe, just below where it joins the Ohio at Cairo IL. You might just barely be able to make out in the distance, the bridge that crosses the Ohio at Cairo, above the white pickup truck. Just left of it is where the Mississippi comes in.

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The map below doesn’t show this clearly, but if you look at e.g. Google Maps, you’ll see that the Ohio and the lower Mississippi are actually the same continuous river, with the upper Mississippi being a “mere” tributary!

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I crossed over that bridge to Cairo, where there’s a park with an observation platform right at the confluence. Unfortunately the road into the park was closed, probably because of recent flooding. It looked fairly dry, so I started walking down it. I quickly gave that up, because it was very hot and humid, and because I started seeing dead fish lying in the road.

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The town of Cairo was once a pretty important and busy place, but now it’s almost an empty shell.

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  • #6
jtbell
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Day 3

I spent last night in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, about an hour’s drive south of St. Louis, then most of today in and around there.

It was founded around 1735 by French Canadians. The town had to move a few miles after a flood in 1785, and the oldest buildings date from around then.

These two are French-style houses from about 1785-90.

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I tried to visit the nearby village of Kaskaskia, Illinois, which was originally on the east side of the Mississippi River. A flood in the 1880s rerouted the river so the town is now west of it, along with a chunk of Illinois. You can reach it by land only from Missouri, crossing a stagnant bayou where the river used to be.

That patch of land is low-lying farmland, part of which is now underwater after this spring’s floods.

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Shortly after that picture... oops!

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Using my GPS, I tried a couple of other nearby roads. No go. I never did make it to Kaskaskia. Maybe next trip...
 
  • #7
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Day 3 (continued)

Just outside St. Louis I stopped at the Mastodon State Historic Site, where many prehistoric fossils were excavated.

The visitors center has a diorama with a mastodon skeleton...

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...and a reconstructed Harlan’s ground sloth.

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  • #8
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Day 4

Today I went into streetcar-fan mode, spending the afternoon in the Delmar Loop area of St. Louis. A new heritage-streetcar line opened there last year.

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Tomorrow I’ll be on the road again, to Iowa.
 
  • #9
Dr Transport
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eat at Blueberry Hill on the loop...Chuck Berry played there monthly until he passed away.
 
  • #10
jtbell
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eat at Blueberry Hill on the loop...Chuck Berry played there monthly until he passed away.
Too late... but I remember walking past the place.

Day 5

First stop was in Hannibal, Missouri to see the most famous fence in American literature.

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Hannibal has done well with Mark Twain tourism, and looks prosperous, at least downtown.

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They do seem to be trying to branch out into other areas, though:

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Nothing fancy for lunch today. Just a couple of hot dogs / sausages and coffee from a truck-stop convenience store, and an apple from home, while sitting in the car.

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  • #11
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Day 5 (continued)

My next stop will perhaps be more famous in about 300 years than it is today. ;-)

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It took me a few minutes and some walking back and forth to figure out that the site is behind the yellow hair salon.

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The sign on the fence seems to point down the street, but it really means up the stairs that I’m standing on.
 
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  • #12
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Day 5 (continued)

My third stop for the day was in Eldon, Iowa, at this house.

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Does it look familiar? Maybe if we put a couple of people in front:

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Yes, it’s the house that appears in Grant Wood’s 1930 painting “American Gothic”. It now has a visitor center that’s bigger than the house itself, with exhibits about Wood, the painting, the people in it (his sister and his dentist, who never met until after the painting became famous), and of course the house and its owners.

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You can walk right up to the house and all around the outside. Did you know the back has a cathedral window just like the one in front?

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  • #13
davenn
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The local newspaper is even named the “Planet”. (Can you guess why it’s not the “Daily Planet”?)


probably because it is only printed weekly or monthly ?
 
  • #14
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@jtbell:
This is Hilarious!
IMHO.
 
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  • #16
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Day 5 (conclusion, finally)

I spent the night in Pella, which plays up its Dutch heritage. Windmills, Dutch bakeries, and a couple of blocks of Dutch-style buildings lining a miniature canal.

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  • #17
jtbell
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Day 6

On the way between Pella and Omaha, I spent the afternoon at a heritage railroad in Boone, Iowa. It runs diesel- and steam-powered excursions out into the countryside. No steam today, unfortunately.

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The route is a former electric interurban trolley line that ran until the 1950s between Des Moines and Fort Dodge. Then it became a diesel-powered freight-only line that was abandoned in the 1980s.

Fittingly, the current heritage railroad also operates electric cars over a short section of the line. Today they used a car that ran between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana until the 1980s. It’s the model for the cartoon that I use for my avatar.

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  • #18
jtbell
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Day 6 (addendum)

While I was driving through Iowa, I saw a lot of insects getting swept past my car, and thought, “grasshoppers”.

Then when I got to Boone, I looked at the front grill of the pickup truck next to me in the parking lot and found out what they really were!

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  • #19
jbriggs444
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On the way between Pella and Omaha, I spent the afternoon at a heritage railroad in Boone, Iowa. It runs diesel- and steam-powered excursions out into the countryside. No steam today, unfortunately.
You passed pretty near by my brother's farm there. He's a few miles east of Boone. I've been on the steam version of the excursion. Plenty of cinders in the eyes to show for it.
 
  • #20
davenn
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Then when I got to Boone, I looked at the front grill of the pickup truck next to me in the parking lot and found out what they really were!


Look like Monarch butterflies
 
  • #21
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Day 7

Spent most of the day at the APS national stamp show. It seemed smaller than the one in Columbus last year. Probably because dealers and their potential customers have to travel further to Omaha than to venues closer to the east or west coasts.

One exhibit was based on the completion of the transcontinental railroad 150 years ago. It includes the earliest known letter to travel the route: from San Francisco on 13 May 1869 to New York on 22 May, and then to France. No markings explicitly indicate the railroad, but how else could it have crossed the country in 9 days?

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Across the river from Omaha, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was where the Union Pacific line began. A giant Golden Spike monument marks the location.

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Finally, what could be more appropriate for dinner in Omaha than a juicy prime rib? Moo!

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  • #22
davenn
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Across the river from Omaha


gosh, haven't been to Omaha since 2006... time flies

Finally, what could be more appropriate for dinner in Omaha than a juicy prime rib? Moo!


just a little too red for my liking... like them closer to well done 😉


Dave
 
  • #23
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Day 8

En route from Omaha to Kansas City (actually Independence MO), I stopped briefly in Stanton IA which was settled by Swedes. Alas, the Swedish Heritage and Cultural Center, in a former school, isn’t open on Mondays.

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Then I noticed the huge coffee pot on the other side of the building.

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Could this allude to the Swedes’ love of coffee? I once read that Swedes and Finns are the #1 and #2 coffee drinkers per capita. ;-)

No, this is the home town of an actress who appeared in a lot of TV commercials for Folger’s coffee!

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Day 9

Drove from Independence to downtown Kansas City, an easy half hour trip even without using the Interstate (motorway).

Union Station has only six trains per day now, and came close to being torn down, but it’s been restored nicely and is used for a bunch of activities.

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Next to it is one end of KC’s streetcar line that runs up and down Main Street and opened a few years ago.

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One of the things inside the station is a collection of operating model train layouts. One of them had this unusual “prop”:

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Up the hill where I took the first picture is the National World War I Museum which I didn’t visit for lack of time, and the Federal Reserve Bank’s Money Museum, which I did visit. It has exhibits which try to explain how the FRB works, a viewing gallery where you can see currency being examined and counted (no pics allowed), a nice coin collection going back to the 1790s, and... a display of origami using dollar bills etc. How about a buckyball?

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All that walking, maybe 4-5 miles, made me hungry. In KC, that means barbecue, so I went to Jack Stack’s, a popular place across the tracks from Union Station.

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When I arrived about 5:30, I got a table immediately, but when I left about 6:45, there were a lot of people waiting to get in. Pretty good business on a Tuesday night.
 
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Day 10

In Jefferson City MO, the dome of the state capitol is wrapped in white sheeting. An environmental art installation by Christo? No, just a renovation project.

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Further east along the Missouri River is the town of Hermann, founded by German immigrants in 1837. It still has German-theme shops and restaurants, several bed-and-breakfast places, wineries and at least one distillery.

I arrived a bit too late in the afternoon, after the local museums and many of the businesses had closed. The streets were almost empty, in fact. I suspect things are a lot livelier on weekends, with people coming from St. Louis and other towns.

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Day 11

After spending the night some distance west of St. Louis, I wanted to avoid the traffic on the expressways over the Mississippi River. Instead, I crossed the river on the Golden Eagle Ferry north of the city.

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About 12 miles later over winding country roads, I crossed the Illinois River on another ferry.

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In Alton IL, I stopped to get a picture of the grain elevators at the entrance to town.

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Across the street to my left was a small park with statues. It turned out this was the site of Alton’s old city hall, outside which Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas held the last of their famous debates while running for the US Senate in 1858.

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Douglas won the Senate race, but Lincoln got a lot of national attention. He went on to defeat Douglas for President two years later.
 
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Day 11 (continued)

I crossed Illinois mainly on US 40, the former National Road built in the early 1800s from Maryland to St. Louis.

Along the route is Vandalia, which was the state capital 1819-1839. This building was built in 1836 to serve as the statehouse (capitol).

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Lincoln served in the House of Representatives during those years. He was a key figure in moving the capital to Springfield in 1839, making this building vacant after only three years.

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One of Lincoln’s paychecks during this period.

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Near Greenup IL, running parallel to US 40 is a side road which was the old National Road, crossing a river at this point. Originally there was a covered wooden bridge here, but it was wiped out by a flood in 1865. After that came a ferry, then a steel truss bridge, then a concrete deck bridge. In the late 1990s, the supports were damaged by yet another flood. The state ended up replacing it with... a wooden covered bridge, built 1998-2001.

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A key factor here is tourism based on the National Road, similar to what has happened along the former Route 66 further west.
 
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  • #28
davenn
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what a wonderful trip through history :smile:
 
  • #29
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Day 12

On Friday I drove across Indiana, through the cornfields and small towns north of Indianapolis. No stops here except for gas and lunch.

I entered Ohio and stopped briefly in Celina, on the shore of the largest inland lake in the state (not counting Lake Erie). It’s an artificial lake, created in the early 1800s as a reservoir for a canal between Lake Erie (at Toledo) and the Ohio River (at Cincinnati).

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Celina has a typical Midwestern small town Main Street, lined with buildings from probably the 1890s-1910s.

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In Celina, people call the lake “Grand Lake”, whereas people at the other end of the lake call it “Lake St. Mary’s”. So on maps you often see “Grand Lake St. Mary’s”.
 
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Day 12 (continued)

A bit further east is Wapakoneta, the home town of Neil Armstrong. His boyhood home has a marker in front, but someone lives there so there are no tours.


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Just outside town next to I-75, the main north-south artery through western Ohio, is the Armstrong Air & Space museum. It opened in 1972, just three years after the first moon landing. It has exhibits about Armstrong’s life and the space program.


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The Gemini 8 space capsule, which carried Armstrong and David Scott in 1966:

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A moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission:

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  • #31
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Day 13

I spent yesterday in Marion OH at the same railfans’ gathering that I did on my road trip a year ago. That time, I didn’t show you the inside of the theater where the presentations took place, a restored movie “palace” from the 1920s:

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I had to skip the final presentations last night because I came down with a cold. The runny nose and coughing and sneezing got to be too much. I decided to take a rest day and spend another night in Marion before hitting the road again. That’s why you’re getting three posts today while I’m sitting up in bed.
 
  • #32
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Day 13 (continued)

Make that four posts... I forgot to mention... for some reason, it’s become a tradition at this gathering to wear tropical themed shirts. I didn’t find this out until after I got here last year, but this year I came prepared.

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One of the presenters actually wore the very same shirt. Because of my cold, I didn’t get a chance to catch up with him and ask if he got it from Walmart, too.
 
  • #33
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Day 14

This afternoon I actually felt pretty good, just a bit of coughing, so I drove to Columbus to re-visit the Ohio Railway Museum. It uses about a mile of a former electric interurban trolley line that ran to Marion. This line is electrified, so they can run electric streetcars, etc.

Unfortunately the museum fell on hard times as the original generation of railfans who built it up in the 1950s-1960s died off. A younger group is trying to turn things around. I think their biggest problem is that they don’t have a carbarn, so their stuff is always exposed to the weather.

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This is the only surviving Columbus streetcar. They’re trying to raise money to restore it.

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After returning to Marion, I visited the sites related to its most famous son, President Warren G. Harding (elected 1920, died in office in 1923). His home, now being restored, and his tomb are both here.

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  • #34
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Day 15 & 16

I’m now wrapping up a day and a half in Dayton, Ohio, after driving down from Marion yesterday morning. I’ll save my main business here for the next post.

For a trolley buff like me, Dayton is interesting because it’s one of only five cities in the US that still have electric trolleybuses: rubber-tired buses that run on electricity from a pair of overhead wires. At their peak, 65 US cities had them. Now they exist only in San Francisco and Seattle (large systems), Philadelphia and Boston (small remnants of large systems), and Dayton, with a medium sized system that has remained sort of intact.

“Sort of”? Out of seven routes, in recent years only three have used trolleys regularly, for various reasons. During this visit, only one route was using them, apparently because of road works.

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The last time I visited Dayton, > 15 years ago, these trolleys were very new. Now they’re showing their age. Fortunately a new fleet will arrive during the next year or so, which should allow restoring trolleys to routes which have been using diesel buses. I understand the new trolleys will be able to run “off wire” for longish distances, thanks to present-day battery technology.

That single route passes the historic district where the Wright brothers did their pioneering aviation work, in their bicycle shops. Here’s the next to last one:

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The successor to this shop was in the vacant lot to the right of the trolley in the first picture. What happened to it? Henry Ford dismantled it, shipped it to Dearborn, Michigan, and rebuilt it at his Greenfield Village.

Downtown there is a distinctive building that was the last survivor of a local chain of hamburger joints dating back to the 1930s. Alas, it closed ten years ago, but it recently reopened as a Colombian restaurant.

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The old name presumably comes from a character in the old Popeye cartoons... the guy who loves hamburgers.

A few blocks away is the Oregon district, home to restaurants, bars, nightclubs, tattoo parlors, etc. It was the site of that mass shooting nine days ago. A memorial has sprung up in front of the bar which was at the center of the event. As I passed by, a local TV reporter was filming a report. Then a truck from another TV station passed by. Obviously this is still “live news” here.

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Day 16

I spent the afternoon today at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB. This place is mind-boggling. I had to skip about a third of it for lack of time.

It’s not all fighters and bombers, which for me tend to become alphabet soup after a while. There are a lot of historically significant items. Herewith, a sample.

When entering the World War II hall, the first thing I saw was the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki:

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Next to it is a sibling of the yellow “Fat Man” bomb.

The German V-2 rockets (along with the captured rocket scientists who designed and tested them) were the starting point for our space program.

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A Wright Flyer built for the Army in 1909.

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You can walk through the Air Force One that carried Presidents Kennedy through Clinton.

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There are also predecessor planes that carried FDR, Truman and Eisenhower.

An early attempt c. 1950 at a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft, built by a Canadian company and tested at WPAFB. Does it remind you of something?

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