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» Sunday, October 23, 2011The Big Mission
Breakfast didn't end until ten today, so we slept until 8:30 this morning, then went downstairs. The breakfast area was mobbed, almost as noisy as last night. We were right, there was some type of soccer tournament in the area. The people sitting next to us were talking to someone else about having lost to another team.
Since the Armstrong Air & Space Museum didn't open until noon today, we made a minor stop at the WalMart across the street (James needed 81mg aspirin), then went back to the bookstore at the Air Force Museum, since it had been so crowded yesterday when we were shopping. I found a discount book about the selling of War Bonds, plus bought two CDs, the Air Force Band and the Singing Sergeants singing "Songs to Fly By" and also a collection of Christmas performances. By then it was about eleven and we headed up to Wapokoneta, listening to last week's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me."
The road is rather bland, farms (mostly growing corn; the stalks appear to have been harvested, but are still erect—perhaps for a corn maze, sale, or later to be harrowed under to enrich the soil?) interrupted by exits with stores and gas stations. Again, the fall color is rather muted except for occasional patches of bright leaves, usually the smaller trees and brush in front of a grove. We also saw one of the "barn quilts" that are so popular in this area. Instead of hex signs on the barns here, they paint a quilt pattern, and there are guides to them.
After an hour we reached the little museum, which is a domed and angled structure behind a Bob Evans. There were only a few other cars in the parking lot; I supposed the place doesn't get much business this time of year.
This is just a neat little museum that you can go through and read everything in about two hours (this includes sitting down to watch the 30-minute film about the Apollo 11 mission), chiefly to do with Neil Armstrong's career. There is personal memorabilia like family photos and his school yearbook; his service uniforms, keys to the city and other awards given at the time of the moon mission, his backup Apollo space suit and his Gemini suit, etc, and also some dandy things like the Gemini VIII space capsule that almost killed Armstrong and David Scott (one of the thrusters jammed, sending the capsule into a continual spin), a moon rock, Gene Cernan's jump suit and Jim Lovell's longjohns, and other space memorabilia, going all the way through the space shuttle era. There were also neat things that people had sent Armstrong, including a ... well, James said almost a mosaic: it was a portrayal of the command and service modules and the LM, made of beads, clips, fasteners, and other everyday items...fascinating! Portraits, too, and a bust of Armstrong...all sorts of cool things, including a collection of newspapers chronicling the mission. My favorite was the local newspaper's headline: "Neil Lands on the Moon," like he was everyone's kid.
As I mentioned, there's a film about the moon landing in a little planetarium-like theatre. As you walk in there, there's a small entry corridor that is some combination of lights and reflective mirrors that makes it look like you are floating among the stars. Too cool. Just a tiny touch, but it works.
You finally exit through the gift shop, which is small but has a variety of neat things, including men's ties, one with mission patches on it. Bought a couple of postcards and a gift, and we signed the guest book, then went outside to take photos of the jet out front. James tells me it is a very rare experimental plane that Neil Armstrong had test flown; only four were built and three of them were scrapped, so this is the only one left.
We had lunch at the Bob Evans, where I partook of the turkey dinner and James had meatloaf. We had pumpkin bread as our side!
We still had a bit of afternoon left, so we drove back to Dayton past the hotel and to the Aviation Heritage Trail to the Wright Bicycle Shop and the Visitor Center. Alas, we'd tarried too long at lunch and only had 40 minutes for both, but the park rangers were nice: we were taken directly over to the bicycle shop, and then we wandered around the exhibit, basically where I read a few things but took a lot of photos.
This is not the bicycle shop, the one where the Wright Brothers worked on the airplane. What you see is the third bicycle shop they owned; the fourth, where the Wright Flyer was born, was around the corner on another block. That building, as well as the Wright homestead, was taken up and moved to Greenfield Village in Michigan, as part of the Henry Ford Museum. The third bicycle shop was, in fact, only rediscovered recently; the brothers had a total of five different shops, each one larger than the next. Number three is fitted out as it would have been at the turn of the century, and there are several bicycles (mostly reproductions) illustrating the type of cycle they would have sold, plus the part shelves, and the workshop in the back where they could straighten frames or spokes.
The Visitor's Center honors not only the Wright Brothers, but Paul Laurence Dunbar, the African-American poet, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Wrights. Sadly, we were not there long enough to see his home. From our walk-through of the exhibits, we saw the steps in which the Wrights worked on making a heavier-than-air craft fly (including some bad initial structural design) and also their jobs previous to becoming involved in the lucrative bicycle business, which included a printing concern. People today rarely think of what a great transportation breakthrough the bicycle was: for many people it's only a kid's toy, or for exercise junkies. The bicycle actually was a factor in the woman's suffrage movement, as dozens of young women took up bicycle riding ("immodest!" cried many) and therefore had to wear less restrictive clothing to do so.
Finally it was five and we headed back to the hotel to take Wil for her walk. About seven we walked over to Panera and got some soup for supper. Been casting about the television all night for something to watch and finally settled on Holmes Inspection.