I made a visit early Tuesday morning to the mothership. It required that I gain clearance to Wright Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio, in the guise of a tourist visiting the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Once inside the museum, I had to show my passport and be processed by a trio of guards, attend a security briefing, ride a special bus and then finally I was admitted to the Presidential hangar for an inspection. Isn't she a beaut?!?
I really did have to go through all that falderal to see the fabulous Avrocar, but it was worth every bit of trouble. The Avrocar was developed as a vertical take off and landing fighter-bomber and both the Army and the Air Force conducted programs from 1958-61 to try and develop it for different military uses. Testing showed that the air cushion underneath the disc could not be successfully stabilized, so the project was eventually abandoned, but I'd imagine it made a really cool toy for the test pilots anyway!
The Avrocar was on exhibit in a special remote hangar that is packed cheek to jowl with all sorts of crazy experimental aircraft, none of which I'd ever heard of before. It was so much fun to go around and look at all the odd contraptions, even though I had no idea what I was looking at.
One thing that really impressed me (and would not fail to impress anyone, trust me) was the XB-70 Valkyrie that was on display. It's considered by some to be the most exotic aircraft ever built and is so massively huge inside the hangar it's hard to comprehend you're even standing under a plane. Here's a picture of it from the internet since there's no way I could have captured it with my humble camera:
I was, however, able to snap an image of the row of six (SIX!) jet engines with my humble camera:
What an astounding piece of technology the Valkyrie represents.
Below is a plane with two propellers, each of which turns a different direction:
Front of the museum, complete with 'merican flag and jet-on-a-stick!
When we returned from our jaunt out to the special Research and Development area, I set about touring the main part of the museum and quickly became overwhelmed at what I was seeing. It was simply too massive and too important to take in during a simple stroll. I headed to the very back to the space section, figuring I'd concentrate on my area of greatest interest. There were some interesting things, but nothing that knocked my socks off like the Avrocar or the Valkyrie had. In fact, after walking through the museum's section on the development of the rocket engine, I became a bit disenchanted. I had toured the excellent Cosmosphere in Kansas last fall, and they were so good at telling the story, so fair in their presentation, that the jingoistic simplification I encountered here left me feeling I couldn't really trust the presentation of anything else I encountered. I'll definitely come back some day with a plan to spend several days and go on at least one organized tour because there are a huge number of astounding things housed here. But now I know to expect the sun drenched propaganda of the military, not the real story.
As I started my walk back to the parking lot, passing through the large hangar that houses the Cold War era planes and weapons, past the 30 foot tall print of a livid red mushroom cloud and through a bright rainbow of 15" high letters projected from above like a hopscotch of light that read DEFCON 1, DEFCON 2, DEFCON 3...and so on, I saw a group of young children squealing and chasing each other in and out through the beautiful colored lights, laughing and wrestling and screeching. Suddenly, all the enormity of the money and technology and people and machines that we have amassed to kill each other started to weigh me down and I couldn't leave fast enough. Fortunately, I knew just the remedy.
I drove to just outside Alexandria, Indiana, to visit the Carmichael family - creators and curators of the World's Largest Ball of Paint. This was my second visit (the first was in October 2010) and I was proud and privileged to add coat #24,071. The color I chose for my layer was, of course, pink (The number of my layer is written on the previous blue layer).
The Carmichael's have helpfully placed a mirror under the ball so you can see to get the nooks and crannies when you paint the bottom.
Ta da! It sort of looks like a giant brain in this photo, doesn't it?
I love, love, love the World's Largest Ball of Paint and I am truly glad the Carmichaels continue to give this marvelous gift to each and every one of us. It was a spectacularly perfect cure for the taste of destruction that had been in my mouth earlier in the day, and the perfect prelude for a drive across the sun gilded fields on my way to Portland, Indiana to spend the night.