Day 24 – The Perfect Vacation Day

We didn’t intend to get up late and miss breakfast this morning, it just happened. Somehow we didn’t get the word that in Dayton breakfast only lasts until 9:00 a.m. and not 9:30. No matter. We just took off for our destination today: Wright Patterson and the National Museum of the Air Force.

It was only about six miles away and we were there in a snap. As we walked up to the doors it became clear that we could be spending the whole day here. The place is huge! Stopping at the information desk, we oriented ourselves and then went directly to the 1941-1945 era displays.

Lost among the information, pictures and planes it was a couple of hours before we came up for air. My driver needed some sustenance, so we made the executive decision to stay in the museum and get a hot dog so we didn’t waste any time going elsewhere. The hot dog was hot and filled the empty spaces left from the absence of breakfast. And, it provided just enough fuel to continue on. We went back to the WWII hangar and picked up right where we left off.

About 3:30 our feet were complaining and we decided we would probably not see everything. But, I did want to go outside to the recreation of an air field in England during the war that I had seen as we were driving in this morning. My driver went back to get the car, but I took off across the prairie to catch some pictures in the afternoon light. Just as I was arriving at the door of the flight tower and realizing I could actually go IN and see it from the inside, a man came out with a key intending to lock up and go home. “Oh, no!” I exclaimed. “You’re not closing up right now are you?” He explained that, yes, he was as it was 4:00 and this part of the museum closed at 4:00. Obviously, I must have looked disappointed. “Oh, it’s alright,” he said. “Go on in. I’ll wait for you.” Delighted, I thanked him and went on a whirlwind tour of the flight tower.

Coming back down the stairs I came out to see him locking up the Nissen Hut that housed the briefing room and the Officer’s Club. “Oh no!” I exclaimed again. “You haven’t just locked up the hut have you?” He kindly explained that I could come back tomorrow. How I would love to come back tomorrow, I said, but we would be on our way to Kentucky tomorrow. “So, you’re not from around here?” Well, no, I told him. We are from Seattle. “Well, go ahead,” he said. “I’ll turn the lights back on.”

My whirlwind tour of the briefing hut and Officer’s Club took me about eight minutes, but I was so grateful this kind docent allowed me to see these two sites. It makes up for the less than agreeable docent guide at Garfield’s home the other day. I thanked him again as I left and assured him I would remember this experience for a very long time. It’s only taken me six years to get to Wright Patterson and already I want to go back.

It’s impossible to distill all that we saw and learned in this museum. We’re still thinking and talking about it. Certainly the war years were difficult for any who lived during that time. And, this museum has done a fantastic job of making some of the war experiences of that time come alive for those of us who were not yet born when it took place. If you are interested, a walking tour is available online. It’s not quite like being here, but it might be the next best thing. Here’s the link to the WWII hangar where we spent the entire day.  And, here you can go on a virtual tour of the entire museum.

So, filled with knowledge, images, and experiences from the excellently displayed museum pieces, we left the grounds happy to be sitting in the car. Even though we’d had a hot dog for lunch, we felt famished. Something Italian sounded good, so we found a little hole in the wall place and had a lovely dinner of chicken piccatta and seafood fettuccini. The Dairy Queen around the corner just sucked us into it before we got to the car and we treated ourselves to some ice cream for dessert.

My driver went back to the car and I walked back to the motel. He assured me it would be about a half a mile, so I was good with that . . . especially after ice cream. Turned out, it was really two miles. But it was actually the best walk I’ve had since we started our trip. At least I think I walked off the ice cream.

It was absolutely the perfect vacation day. A museum filled to the brim with fascinating facts, displays and memorabilia; the kindest docent imaginable, who compassionately allowed me to see all that I could, even past the allotted time; a hot dog; an Italian dinner; and ice cream. Who could ask for anything more?



P.S. For my own accounting (and for anyone interested): Shoo, Shoo, Shoo Baby is the twenty-third  B-17 I’ve seen.