Thursday, June 19, 2014

Such a lovely high!

Home from some of the most wonderful 8 days of my life, never having thought I could string together so many in a row! Despite the logistics of my support systems, Dottie loaded up my oxygen concentrater, the compressor that refills some of my bottles, the CPAP, wheelchair, shower chair and a dozen non-refillable bottles in the new shell on the back of my pickup, and she drove (it's not that I can't, but since November, she insists) from here to Dayton. (After she changed the oil in it and did all the other things I always did before we set out on the road, plus mowed and caught all the laundry up!)

My older son and his wife set up rooms for our trip, and I allowed for 3 days at the National Museum of the Air Force, a day of rest, and then a day to visit some Wright Brothers sites that are there in Dayton as well. There are a group of "old-timers" I've chatted with off and on for years on a message board for veteran's who flew the B-36 who had told me it would take that long to do it justice, and since the admission was free, I planned accordingly. For years I've driven by it as we made the trip to Vermont to visit family, always intent on getting there and never taking time to do other things along the way. Last year, thinking it was my last chance, she suggested stopping for a day either going or coming home, but I knew that would only break my heart as I'd know how much I hadn't seen...

Being in the shape I'm in and dependent on others for mobility except for short distances, I knew I shouldn't be dragging my Nikon and lenses and a bag. When Nokia started offering a cell phone with Zeiss optics (Zeiss as in lenses like the Rolleiflex I shot years ago; like the good lens that was in my 4X5 Graphic, or on my Dad's Hasselblad) I started doing some research and liking what I read, got one. Though I miss my other lenses, I got by pretty well with my new Lumia and it's simple enough that Dottie can shoot it as well, and did a lot as she could shoot angles I couldn't, and get to places I couldn't in my chair.

Allowing the extra days at the Air Force Museum was the perfect call; we took 4 days and still didn't quite manage the whole thing! A million square feet of aircraft, engines, related systems, memorabilia...I didn't read every card, but probably 85% of them, photographed most so I could come home and look up more info on the ones I wanted, and we photographed almost every aircraft, missile, space capsule, engine...I was in mechanic's Heaven!

A plane I've loved since the first photo I saw at about 11, the Boeing P-26.
Divided into galleries by era, we spent the first day in the "Early Years" gallery; the 2nd in "Air Power" (the build up to WW2 and through it to it's conclusion). The 3rd day we started in the "Missile Gallery" (I finally understand the theory that makes geosynchronous orbit work!) and moved out into the "Cold War" because they were the furthest from the entrance, and I was feeling very guilty about Dottie wheeling me through this wonderful place. At the end of the 3rd day we came to the training mock-up of the Space Shuttle, and I told her to go ahead and go up by herself because I didn't want her pushing me up the ramps for it. It was late in the afternoon, and she said we'd see how she felt in the morning.

Notice, that was the end of the 3rd day, and my wonderful wife didn't even question whether we were coming back for a 4th!

So the next morning, she did take me up into the trainer. I was grateful for the 5 flat stops on the incline going up, though they didn't really lessen my guilt. After learning and talking to the two docents who were there, we went down the other side and on to the "Korean War and Southeast Asia" gallery, via a corridor filled with much info about the Berlin Airlift. I'd read much about it through the years and still learned things; Dottie was saddened by how much she didn't know, as it was just a footnote in her history class.

There is a very nice cafeteria there with reasonable prices where we ate each day, then went back to the motel so I could take my meds and refill my O2 bottles for the next day. I averaged 5-600 photos per day, and killed the battery in my phone 2 days out of 4 there. (I've since bought a battery bank for my next trip!)

That last day, we didn't get out quite in time to visit the 8th Air Force Control Tower and Nissen hut they have set up outside, a recreation of the ops centers from WW2 and an actual hut brought there from England.; it closed an hour before the Museum itself. We visited the aircraft they have stored outside, and called it a day.

The next day we were supposed to move to Indianapolis, but since it was only a 2 hour drive, Dottie loaded everything up again and we went to the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in downtown Dayton. I thought I knew much of Wilbur and Orville, but had no idea of their connection to Paul Laurence Dunbar. (I have books of his poetry that belonged to my grandmother, along with ones of Countee Cullen.) Along with a museum dedicated to the history of the parachute (again, learning much I didn't know) we crossed over to the  "Wright Cycle Co." shop. Viewing their machinery with their creations in mind only heightens my respect for them.

The night before, as I was planning out our day, I ran across a note about Packard museum that was a few blocks from the Wright Cycle Co.. I have memories of being not much more than a toddler and my Dad working on a Packard at a distant relative's house (something Dad didn't do often; cars usually came to him) and what a beautiful car it was and his reverent tones when talking to the owner about it. With that and their history in aircraft and marine engines, I took a chance and asked her to take me there.

(I should mention at this point that my new phone also does navigation, and proved useful for times like this!)

We parked, she wheeled me across the street and then I had to step up into the showroom of the old dealership building-the real, original dealer's building-and was never so glad I clicked a link! Car after car; engines, a truck, a WWI Liberty aircraft engine (turns out that besides building them, Packard was in on the design), a WW2 PT boat engine...limos, was a wonderful afternoon!

We got to Indianapolis just before dark that evening and settled into our room with my head swirling with the images of the last 5 days and my heart smiling as I looked back through some of the photos, adding "favorites" to my phone and texting her ones she liked to add to hers.

The next day she took me to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where I had planned to visit the Hall of Fame Museum. As she paid our admission, they told her about a "behind the scenes" tour that was available. I told her no, that was OK, I didn't want to slow anyone down. They said their van was equipped with a chair lift, and she told me I was going...

And go we did! The grounds, the garages, past the medical facility I've seen so many drivers sent to; on to the "Pagoda", where all the reporters work from, the press conference room, timing and scoring then on up higher to the Hulman family suite (the owner's of the track). Then back down and to the podium, where the drivers receive their trophies (a bit of walking for that, but not much).

Finally, they took us down to the "yard of bricks", the finish line; the only remaining pavement that shows from "The Brickyard" of 1911.

From there it was back to the Museum where I spent the rest of my day among 75 or so of the cars that have won through the years, the Offenhauser engines my Dad used to think the most wonderful ever built, along with a special display of all the turbine cars that tested or ran (some with the same engine that was in my Navy helicopters). Again I was in "motorhead Heaven" and again I killed my camera battery.

Between Dayton and Indy, I'd seen a sign for the Model T Ford Club of America's Museum at Richmond, Indiana. It wasn't far from Indy, so the next morning found us heading east again. Again more delight, more learning, more smiles. At least the camera battery got to charge on the way back to town, because I'd read a blurb in the tourism booklet the night before about Rolls-Royce Heritage operating a museum of Allison engine things (what my helo engines were, among many others). We found it, and I spent the rest of my afternoon in bliss.

The next morning we were supposed to head home, but wanted to mail one last set of postcards with Indianapolis cancellation marks, so I found a Post Office and put it in my GPS. A familiar street name from some research I'd done came up and meant one more stop on our way back towards the freeway.

Though the Andretti Autosports shop wasn't doing tours at the moment, they were kind enough to let Dottie take me in and spend some time among the cars, get some photos, and some autographed photos.

I've been home and rested up some; I'm still picking through photos, because I keep reading up on more things as I do. I've also put away a book that came in while I was gone: "There's Not a Bathing Suit in Russia", a Will Rogers volume from 1927 I picked up. Written about his visit to Russia 9 years after their revolution, Will chiding Congress for letting Russia get ahead of us in aviation fit in nicely with this past few weeks!

I had a doctor's appointment on Monday. He thought I was doing wonderfully, and said keep doing what I'm doing. He also said something about no sign I was ready for hospice, which took me aback, as I wasn't really thinking about it, though I know it will come. He did say that any further chemo would be a real "Hail Mary" because I've already been through so many rounds. He is checking on the Pirfenidone that has finally been released for compassionate use to see if it might keep my lungs from slipping as quickly and not react with the cancer...

So I'm plotting out some day trips for now and getting ready for the 4th of July! A year ago I figured that was my last one, so I'm truly planning to enjoy this one! After that, perhaps another road trip...

May the week, the world, and life be very kind to each of you!



robin andrea said...

That was quite an amazing and impressive journey. What a grand trip, and what a wonderful wife to take the journey with. You certainly made incredible use of the time you spent on the road. Great photos and so much cool stuff to see and learn along the way. So glad to read this post. Enjoy the 4th of July!

Caroline said...

Got to be impressed! How do you do it?

We are just back from a month on the road visiting my partner's friends and all the museums she wanted to visit. As the "pusher" I can tell you it is exhausting and the blisters on my feet hurt like hell so well done Dottie.

Sadly I hardly got to pull the Nikon from it's bag, just an extra weight to cause more blisters!!

Along the way we found the Naval memorial near Kiel in northern Germany, a moving memorial to "all" mariners who were lost at sea. My treat was to tour the last remaining U boat now on the beach at the foot of the memorial. I met germans who said that they were glad that they had been too tall to be in that service...

Enjoy the 4th of july.