I decided not to post last night since yesterday was spent just traveling from Chicago to a little city just outside of Dayton, Ohio, called Fairborn. It’s right at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where Paw-Paw used to be stationed and where the National Museum of the Air Force is located. We toured the base last night. It was huge and had two golf courses inside it. It was like a mini city. A lot of the base was still the same, especially the area where he mostly worked with the Strategic Air Command, which is located in its own little area at the back of the base.
We got up relatively late this morning (I never thought I would actually consider 9:30 late) and ended up at the Air Force museum at around 10:30. It was pouring down rain all morning. It’s the first rain we’ve seen on the trip outside of the occasional drizzle when we were driving. Luckily the museum is inside and the weather didn’t affect our plans.
The museum is housed in three massive airplane hangars and contains planes all the way from the Wright Brothers to the new B-2 stealth bomber. Most of the first hangar showed the evolution of the plane from the first flights to its use in the two World Wars. It’s amazing how quickly aeronautical technology advance in just those 30 years. From unstable wooden contraptions to single-propeller fighters that can reach 40,000 feet. The highlight of that exhibit was the Bockscar, the bomber that dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan. Paw-Paw was in the unit that worked with this plane and the Enola Gay, but he joined it after World War II.
Between first two hangars, they had a small exhibit on the Holocaust, consisting mostly of artifacts and stories from locals who were involved. It took us about three hours to get through the first hangar, so we decided to grab a quick lunch. After that, it was on to hangar two.
This hangar was made up of planes from the Korean and Vietnam wars. Since the planes have gotten larger at this point, there was less to see and we got through it quicker. They centerpiece was a large B-52 bomber that they had set up on a pedestal in the middle of the room. There were also a lot of jets, since this is when they started to replace the propeller driven aircrafts. They had the fuselage of one bomber open so you could walk through it, and they also had the cargo area of a huge cargo plane open. In one part, they had the cockpit of a fighter open so that you could climb into the pilot and co-pilot seats and look at all the panels. It was pretty tight quarters and there was a confusing array of knobs, buttons, levers and dials. I had no idea what was going on.
The final hangar housed what Paw-Paw called his plane: the B-36. This plane is even larger than the B-52, but was only used between 1949 and 1959 because the faster B-52 replaced it as the bomber of choice. This is the plane that Paw-Paw worked on the most, and the one that he was a crew chief for, which basically meant he ran all the maintenance on the craft. It was so impressive to see towering over all those other planes.
This hangar was focused on the Cold War on up to the present. There were a lot more jet fighter planes and experimental models on display. The last plane in the exhibit was a B-2 stealth bomber, that looks more like a kite than a plane.
We left there just before the museum closed at 5 p.m. Yes, we were there for almost six hours. You could spend days in there and not see everything. We were even breezing through most of the exhibits and not reading all there was to read.
Madison was adamant that we were going to see fireworks tonight, so I did some research and found out that there was a little festival and fireworks show down at a park in Fairborn. We couldn’t convince Paw-Paw to come with us, so Madison and I went searching for this little park. It was right beside the high school, even though the GPS system sent us two blocks farther down the road and proudly announced that we have “reached the destination!”
We got there about two hours before the fireworks were supposed to go off, but we had heard that there would be a band, so it couldn’t be that bad.
Alright, imagine a band that plays mostly at weddings. Cheap weddings. In the country. Now give them all matching shirts that have the American flag on them. Except the keyboardist. Think rock stars past their prime, then imagine that they never had a prime. Have them play every old, stereotypical rock and roll song that you can imagine. Got that in your head?
Call them Corky’s Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival. You can’t make that up.
They weren’t that bad, but combine them with the most stereotypical redneck Ohioans you can imagine and the scene was priceless. It made the Ayden Collard Festival look normal. I had to sit there and suck on my straw to keep from cracking up.
But we stuck it out through the rocky renditions of Bob Seger, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, through awkward off-beat dancing and through chain-smoking teenagers wearing Disturbed and Lamb of God T-shirts. We fought through it for the fireworks.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this being Fairborn, Ohio. It started out kind of rocky. One firework at a time would shoot up and explode followed by a few seconds of nothing. Eventually it started to build a little bit, but never really got completely going. It just kept dragging on. I thought it would never end until finally it seemed like the guy got bored and said “Forget it, just light them all.”
About 10,000 fireworks went into the air at the same time and started exploding one after the other. It was blinding and loud and confusing. It was everything a finale should be. The show concluded with dozens of those small, loud bang fireworks — that have have no point other than to be obnoxiously loud — exploding all together. I love those things. It was a great finale.
Corky and his band came back on for one last set, but we — and seemingly everyone else in Fairborn — decided that they’d had enough of the revival and it was time to go. We had to fight crazy traffic to get out, but 20 minutes later we were finally back in the hotel.
Tomorrow we will be driving all day to get to Hershey where we will stay one night and check out the chocolate the next day. I probably won’t post tomorrow unless something amazing happens on the drive.
Happy Fourth of July!