Dayton, Ohio, is merely 40 miles up the road (as we say in Scotland), and it is the place credited with the development of the first practical aircraft.
That's a bit of a mouthful.
Suffice to say, the Wright brothers Wilbur and Orville lived there and used their bike shop to develop the world's first heavier than air aircraft that could successfully fly under it's own power. That's not any better, I guess. The guys that invented the plane as we knew it came from there, and the city is very proud of that fact. Being geeks and working in aviation, it seemed prudent to have a trip and become immersed in the history of flight.
The first issue that we came across was actually getting to Dayton. It’s a bit like getting to Edinburgh from Glasgow, without the train, a really irregular bus service and an (at times) unpredictable bus service to get into the city to walk to the bus station. America doesn’t really do public transport, or at least the Midwest doesn’t.
The solution was to hire a car. Not too expensive split between the two of us, and driving in America doesn’t look all that hard – it’s just straight lines, traffic lights and push-to-go accelerators. We got Hertz’s smallest car on offer, a Toyota Corolla 4 door – it wasn’t what I’d have called a compact car, but this is the land of the Dodge Ram and Ford F150. Apart from getting slightly lost on the way out the rental centre’s car park, driving was relatively easy. Being on the wrong side of the road isn’t an issue, and free right turn is the greatest driving privelidge I’ve ever come across. Just turn right, even if the light is red. I’m definitely going to struggle to get that out my mind when I come to a left turn in the UK.
Driving on the highway was pretty simple too – point and go! Ohio has a very ‘copy-paste’ landscape… once you’ve seen 2 miles, you’ve seen most of it. The one highlight is Traders World and the Solid Rock Church, where Touchdown Jesus used to live, until he got struck by lightning. (I find the whole 66’ statue of Jesus being struck by lightning thing a bit amusing…).
My major excitement on the Interstate came from cruise control. This is a genius invention, and whomever came up with the concept deserves a knighthood. Not only can you set the car to maintain your current speed with no input from you on the accelerator, you can increase and decrease speed using buttons! It’s too much fun, if not a bit creepy. I now just have to be careful I don’t carry through my Detroit-based inspiration and DIY one of these into my own car.
We stopped off at Carillon History Park, which is home to the oldest building in Dayton, some awesome old industrial stuff and the Wright Brothers’ cycle shop and the Wright Flyer III.
After an hour of intreague, fascination and learning there, we moved off to the Air Force Museum via Wendy’s (to support my rapidly expanding waistline).
The Air Force Museum is a joyful wonderland if you’re at all excited by aircraft. They have all types of vehicles from all ages of modern flight – the Wright Brothers aircraft right up to ICBMs and re-entry modules from the Apollo program. Aircraft are packed in – sat on the ground, hanging from the ceiling, some are disassembled slightly so that more can be fitted in. Most aircraft have a panel describing them – both their contribution to the technical development of flight or a brief overview of their combat role, if any.
It’s a wonderful place – again, it can only be described through American hyperbole and pictures. On a side note, I definitely getting better at this being enthusiastic and optimistic thing that they all seem to do here. It’s not that I want to, but being told to have a great day so often eventually rubs off on even the most insistent of pessimists!
Look Ma, ICBMs raining down death around the world!
The plane that dropped “the bombs” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with some decommissioned nukes beside it. Intense stuff, quite humbling, really.
Finally, my favourites – the B2 stealth bomber and the SR-71, the most badass plane to ever fly above everything else. I believe that's an American term for “good”. I'm just trying it out - seeing how some of these new words fit.
I hope the wider world is treating y'all well - in our little corner of it, life's just peachy!