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Ohio: Our old stomping grounds! First stop: Dayton

March 26, 2019

 

As described in prior posts, this leg of our journey has taken us through a variety of beautiful states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, [Georgia and Tennessee (again)], and lastly Kentucky.

 

And now we were about to cross the border into a state we had called home for almost five years, back when Lorraine was in graduate school: Ohio! (oh, and by the way, we refuse to say "Thee Ohio State"! It was known as OSU when we were there and that's good enough for us)

 

This is our planned route through the state:

 

We really enjoyed living in Ohio. Acres of farmland with the occasional city being dropped in to break up the monotony, nice mid-western people, and a slower pace of life. If it wasn't for the "emotional tug" of family (and missing Delaware beaches), we would have been quite happy living in the state. But it was not meant to be. We looked forward to seeing how much the state has changed since we left back in 1987.

 

Our first stop over was at the Frontier Campground in Waynesville, Ohio, just south of Dayton. The reason we chose this location was because of its proximity to the Wright-Patterson Air Force base home of the National Museum of the USAF; the world's largest air force museum. Something I've been looking forward to seeing for quite some time.  But more on that later..

 When choosing a campground, we are dependent on Google. Although we use other apps to cross-reference, it is the customer-reviews that help us decide.

 

Frontier Campground surprisingly had decent reviews, receiving almost 4 out of 5 stars overall. But one of the downfalls of Google's rating system is: it's easy for campground owners to "stuff the ballot box", and the reviews left years ago carry the same weight as recent reviews. So campgrounds that are in a steady (or rapid) decline might still have a decent overall score. We don't know for sure how this campground received such good reviews, but we feel they didn't earn them honestly. 

 

In recent times, auto manufactures began putting words of warning on their side view mirrors: "Objects may appear closer than they actually are". Well, I feel campground owners should have to label their webpages with the words: "Conditions displayed on this website may appear nicer than they actually are".

 

For instance, while Frontier's website showed this enticing morsel:

 

 

What we discovered was a tad less appealing:

 

 

And while their website showed this harmonious setting:

 

What we found was something a little less idyllic:

 

 

Now some of you might ask why we didn't just turn around and leave? Well we've learned that a bird in the hand --no matter how unappealing-- is truly worth two in the bush. There is no guarantee that the next RV park could accommodate us on such short notice and the thought of staying the night in a Walmart parking lot is not an option we care to select.

 

Lorraine and I had many spirited debates about whether Frontier deserved the honor of THE WORST RV PARK at which we have stayed (and we have stayed at over 75 parks to date). But she reminded me that there weren't people walking around in hospital gowns with nothing on underneath. Don't worry Boardwalk RV Resort (Homestead, FL), top honors still reside with you!

 

Without belaboring the terrible conditions at this campground, let me just leave you with these photos:

 

This is the pool house:

 

A former tenant had driven over the sewer cap making it impossible to twist off. Fortunately, a nice neighbor came over with a reciprocating saw and cut it off for us.

 

 

The floating door mat gave us a feeling of being at sea every time we entered or exited our RV.  A nice touch.

 

The husband-wife owners of the park were nice but since the wife had a pistol holstered to her belt --true story-- we decided to keep our complaints to ourselves.

 

After all, it was only four days, we didn't feel our personal safety was an issue, and the other campers were very friendly. So.. C'est la Vie. We are in this for the experiences, whether good or bad.

 

The National Museum of the USAF in Dayton is the world's oldest and largest air force museum with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display (and I think I took pictures of every one!).

 

Below is one of the many massive hangars they have crammed with air craft of every type spanning many generations:

 

No air museum would be complete without paying homage to the inventors of the "lighter than air" craft, Orville and Wilbur Wright. Two very interesting characters that I shall describe later in this post. Here is a reproduction of one of the crafts they built. 

 

Many of the parts used in the above model were donated by Orville himself! [Interesting Fact: When another aeronautical pioneer from Ohio, Neil Armstrong, became the first man to step foot on the moon in 1969, inside his spacesuit pocket was a piece of "Pride Of The West" muslin fabric from the left wing of the original 1903 Wright Flyer along with a piece of wood from the airplane’s left propeller].

 

Below (in no particular order) are a few of the other historic planes housed at this museum.

Above is a WW1 British Sopwith Camel. One of the most successful fighters in the war. Camel pilots have been credited with the shooting down of 1,294 enemy aircraft, more than any other Allied fighter of the conflict.

 

Here is the famed reconnaissance aircraft the SR-71 "Blackbird". It holds the record as the fastest "air-breathing" manned aircraft in the world. 

Here is the famed WWII Japanese fighter plane the Zero.

Here is the P40 "Warhawk" of the Flying Tigers squadron. This plane was flown by American mercenaries hired by the Chinese to defend against the invading Japanese.

 

Here is the B2 stealth bomber one of the most advanced airplanes of its day. Hard to believe its been relegated to a museum already.

Here's the F117 Nighthawk, a stealth fighter made famous during the opening raid on Baghdad, Iraq.

Visitors are able to walk through the plane that Lyndon Johnson was sworn in on after the assassination of JFK.

 

Although it can't be seen in this picture, the skirt that Jackie Kennedy is wearing, still had the blood stains from where she cradled her husband's head.

 

Another thing I learned was that each president gets a brand new Air Force One! The old plane is stripped of any "top secret" gadgetry and donated to that president's Presidential Library.

 

Here are some of the other planes I found interesting:

 

 Above is the German Komet developed during WWII. It was the first airplane to reach speeds close to 700mph. A record held for nearly a decade.

 

Here is the German ME-262. A jet powered fighter aircraft. It was one of the most advanced aviation aircraft of WWII.

 

Here is the Memphis Belle:

She was named after the pilot's fiancee.  Despite being routinely riddled with bullets and damaged by flak, the Belle is celebrated for being one of the few bombers (but not the first) that successfully completed 25 combat missions over Germany with her crew intact --the average life span of a B17 bomber was 8-12 missions. She reportedly went through 9 engines, both wings, two tails, and both main landing gear assemblies over the course of her seven month combat career!

 

Sadly, the engagement of the pilot to his fiancee ended a short time after he came home. Captain Morgan was engaged to another woman a week later, so its easy to connect the dots.

Apparently the two remained close friends through out their lives. In a Christmas card he sent her shortly before her death, Robert wrote: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” It is signed, “Past, present, future—love, Bob.” “That Bob,” Margaret said in an interview. “He could charm a snake!”

 

Margaret died in 1990 from cancer and Robert died in 2004. There's a very interesting article written about their romance and friendship in the Smithsonian magazine. Click HERE if you'd like to read it. 

 

DOOLITTLE'S GOBLETS

 

In a rather poignant display sits 80 silver goblets.

 

These goblets commemorate the brave men of the Doolittle Raid who did the unimaginable and flew a daring daylight raid against Japan in April 1942. Each goblet has the name of a crewman engraved on it. On one side the name is written right-side up and on the other side, upside down. Over the years, these goblets have taken a highly symbolic place in the history of military aviation.

 

Each year, on the birthday of James Doolittle (December 14), the survivors meet to toast their comrades. The goblets of those that have passed are turned over. 

 

There is only ONE goblet left up right. That of airman Richard E. Cole. He is 103!  

 

[EDIT: I want to thank my friend Ron Bove for alerting me that Richard E. Cole had passed into history on April 9, 2019. He will join his 79 comrades as his goblet is overturned this upcoming December 14th.]

 

A Flying Saucer!

 

 

 

 

 

This aircraft was known as Project 1794. It was developed by the USAF and Avro Canada in the 1950s. A flying saucer capable of “between Mach 3 and Mach 4,” with a service ceiling of over 100,000 feet, and a range of around 1,000 miles.

The supersonic flying saucer would propel itself by rotating an outer disk at very high speed. And maneuvering would be accomplished by using small shutters on the edge of the disc (similar to the flaps on a winged aircraft). Power would be provided by jet turbines. And the craft would even be capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

 

I was told the project was (air quotes) "cancelled" because it lacked feasibility [it couldn't produce enough lift to carry a payload].

 

To me, if the project truly lacked feasibility then why is it that every major interplanetary traveler uses a vehicle of similar design?! Explain that U.S. Air Force! ..And they call ME crazy!

 

All-in-all, if historic military aircraft interest you, this is the Shangri-la of museums. I spent an enjoyable and educational day learning about the history of U.S. aviation.

 

Other interesting sights we saw in Dayton were:

 

The Wright Brothers Workshop:

 (Wilbur and Orville Wright)

 

The Wright brothers were two (brilliant) self-educated inventors that dropped out of high school to pursue their passion of tinkering. Born shortly after the American civil war, the boys were always encouraged by their parents to explore and experiment. As teenagers they invented their own printing press and tried their hands as printers, then when the bicycle craze was sweeping the nation in the late 1890's, they jumped on board by opening a repair shop. As their reputation for quality work spread, they decided to  manufacture their own line of bicycles named the Van Cleve.

 

 

 

 

As the bicycle craze began to wane, the brothers came across an article about a German inventor known as the "Flying Man" who was developing a line of gliders capable of carrying a person over great distances.

 

Because of the Wrights’ extensive experience with the bicycle—a highly unstable but controllable machine—they believed a motorized glider could be unstable yet controllable as well.  And thus began their foray into the development of the airplane [interesting fact: after the first successful flight of their motorized glider at Kitty Hawk, NC they sought a patent, not on the design of the lighter than air craft, but on the steering mechanism that made the craft controllable].

 

After successfully developing a method of controlled flight, Orville, Wilbur and their sister Katharine (who focused more on the business end of the operations), became the three most famous people in the world, sought after by royalty, the rich, reporters and the public. The kings of Great Britain, Spain and Italy came to see their "flying machine".

 

Sadly Wilbur died of typhoid at the age of 45, Orville died thirty-five years later at the age of 76 from a heart attack. Neither of them ever married.

 

-----

 

After spending the afternoon learning about the lives of the Wright brothers and their inventions, one thing struck me..

 

These two were exactly like the brothers Frasier and Niles Crane from the television series Frasier!

 

If you've ever watched the television show (one of my favorites), you're familiar with the two main characters.

 

These brothers are so fussy and pretentious that the only true relationship they were able to nurture and maintain was with each other.

 

It seems these two sets of brothers were cut from the same unbleached muslin fabric that was used on the Wright's original glider!

 

I had to laugh at some of the ironic similarities shared between these two "couples":

 

  • Both pairs were highly intelligent.

  • Age difference: The Wrights were born four years apart. The Crane's (although never clearly stated in the show) age difference is approximately four years apart. The actual age difference between Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and David Hyde Pierce (Niles) is four years.

  • The Wright brothers never married. The Crane's never had a successful marriage (we never find out the duration of  the marriage of Daphne and Niles). In fact, Orville and Wilbur made a pact early on to not let marriage interfere with their work.

  • The Wright brothers just like the Crane's had few friends other than each other. And they poured themselves into their work.

  • Both went into the same field of study with the younger Wright (Orville) following after his brother.

  • Their mothers had a powerful influence over the direction of their son's lives: Hester, the mother of Frasier and Niles had a PhD in psychiatry while Susan Wright had a college degree in literature and would come to design and build simple appliances for herself and toys for her children. As boys, Wilbur and Orville would consult their mother whenever they needed mechanical assistance or advice.

  • Both had mothers die at an early age. One from lung cancer (Hester) and one from tuberculosis.

  • Both pairs had morally rigid fathers. Milton Wright was a minister with the Brethren Church, while Martin Crane was a police officer.

  • Both pairs tried their hand at publishing. The Crane's wrote a series of children's stories titled: The Crane Brother's Mysteries while Orville dropped out of high school after his junior year to start a printing business. Wilbur joined the print shop, and they launched a weekly newspaper. The paper only lasted four months.

  • Both never strayed far from their home towns (at least not for too long).

 

I wonder, as the Wright brothers were contemplating the complexities of wind velocity on the curved surface of a wing, did their discussions devolve into this:

 

 

(Growing up, it seems like most of the discussions I had with my brother ended in this fashion.)

Our final stop in Dayton was at the Woodland Cemetery where the Wright brothers and their sister are buried:

The inscription reads: "Dedicated to the immortal spirit of Daytonians Orville and Wilbur Wright."

 

Their parents and younger twin siblings (they died at a very early age) are also buried on this site.

 

Other famous graves located here are:

 

Erma Bombeck:

 

 

A 29,000-pound rock has become a monument for the writer Erma Bombeck. The massive rock was brought here by flat-bed truck from near her former home in Arizona. Her husband, Bill Bombeck, said he wanted a “piece of Phoenix” at Erma’s grave to commemorate the 25 years they spent together in Arizona.

 

The Van Cleve family:

 

Relatives of the Wrights and founders of the town of Dayton.

 

The first bicycle the Wrights ever produced was named after them.

 

The Huffman Family:

 

 

William Huffman was the founder of the Huffy Bicycle Company.

 

Paul Laurence Dubar:

 The United States' first renowned black poet.

 

John H. Patterson:

 

John Henry Patterson was the founder of National Cash Register. During the 1913 flood, Patterson had his employees build 300 boats to rescue thousands of people who were stranded on top of buildings. Legend has it that the expression “you're fired” dates back to Patterson who terminated one of his executives by having his desk taken outside and set on fire. Seems he was the Donald Trump of his day!

 

Little Johnny Morehouse:

 

This is the gravestone of the five year old son of John and Mary Morehouse. Sometime around 1860, he fell into a local canal. His dog jumped in after him to rescue him but it was too late; little Johnny had drowned. After his burial, his faithful companion stayed by his graveside for many days.

 

Civil War Veterans:

The cemetery has a section dedicated to those who gave their lives in the Civil War.

Although not overly impressed with the city of Dayton, or our campground, we had an enjoyable time seeing the sights.

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