Up near the town of Peru, Indiana, Grissom Air Museum on the grounds of Grissom Air Reserve Base had an impressive collection of airplanes representing numerous eras in American aviation. Other artifacts and scenes around the grounds provided an in-depth look into our nation’s history, as well as telling glimpses of our present that will one day tell a story of their own.
I consider myself generally antiwar, but when faced with collections of giant machines larger than cars, some part of my brain interprets them not as armed conflict tools or purveyors of bloody destruction, but as really cool, super-sized toys. Maybe it’s some primeval boyhood attachment to the Matchbox and Hot Wheels collections I gave away in junior high. Maybe I subconsciously perceive sleek steel mechanisms as an extension of 1980s macho action flicks. Maybe the part of me that loves fast driving yearns for some opportunity to sit behind the controls of any fantastical vehicle that can exceed 100 mph without legal retribution or instant crashing. All I know is it’s fun to look at planes up close.
Longtime MCC readers have seen airplane galleries from past vacation stops such as the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, the National WWII Aviation Museum in Colorado Springs, and the USS Intrepid Museum in Manhattan. But we didn’t have to leave our home state to see more examples of vehicles our nation’s massive defense budget purchased throughout the last century.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…
On our two trips last year, I found myself in the presence of two different aircraft collections: one at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, which keeps several full-size wartime plans suspended in midair inside a multi-million-dollar building; the other, at the unrelated National Museum of WWII Aviation in Colorado Springs, which is relatively newer and dreams of funding that same square footage someday.
We found the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t have quite as large a fleet as those two, but the worthy assortment on its upper deck, lacking the specialized scope of those other two museums, includes vehicles from other wars and eras, not just World War II.
Side note while you’re scrolling through the photo gallery: film fans may recognize the Intrepid from its big scene in I Am Legend, in which our hero Will Smith hangs around the upper deck by himself and whacks golf balls toward Manhattan for fun. I guess that’s one way to pass the time after the apocalypse.
At last our six-day excursion to Colorado was drawing to close, with one last chance to wander Denver International Airport before our flight home to Indianapolis around 6 p.m. MST. We tried to make the most of it.
As with our July road trip to the South, I was determined to find places to eat in Colorado Springs that we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. Here we backtrack a bit to recap a couple of culinary experiences we had in the margins between the last several chapters in this series. Not all of them were trendsetting, but two of them were more creative than anyplace I’ve seen in Indianapolis.
For one of those establishments, the creativity was in the structure itself. Pictured above is my lunch option for Day 5 — the Airplane Restaurant, a perfect companion to the National Museum of WWII Aviation down the street. This 13-year-old eatery is attached to a Radisson Hotel, housed partly inside a normal building, and partly inside a Boeing KC-97. Once a refueling tanker for other planes, now it refuels people.
Last July my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the National World War II Museum in scenic New Orleans, Louisiana. Anne is the big, big WWII buff in the family, but I enjoyed myself well enough to devote four chapters to it in our nearly completed July 2015 road trip series (here, here, here, and especially here). Four months later, I was surprised to discover Colorado Springs has a place that’s the perfect sequel — the National Museum of WWII Aviation.
I previously posted about my Day Five visit later that evening from the hotel and used up most of my intro material in that one sitting. The single plane pictured in that entry, their F7F Tigercat, was hardly the only aircraft on the premises. The museum is 30% display cases and 70% actual war planes in various states of disrepair, restoration, and flight capability. Tonight’s presentation, then: another batch of World War II fighter planes to go with our July set.
Each year my wife and I take a road trip to a different part of the United States and see what sorts of historical landmarks, natural wonders, man-made oddities, unexplored restaurants, and cautionary tales await us. We began the tradition in 1999 during our best-friend years as an excuse to attend geek conventions and fan gatherings outside Indianapolis. After four years of narrowly focused hijinks, the tradition evolved through our happily married years into an ongoing project to visit as many other states as possible, see what they have that we don’t, and filter the results through our peculiar sensibilities.
From November 1-6, 2015, we racked up a number of personal firsts. My wife Anne was invited on her first business trip to Colorado Springs, all expenses paid from flight to food to lodging to rental car, to assist with cross-training at a distant affiliate. Her supervisor gave me permission to attend as her personal travel companion as long as I bought my own plane ticket and food. Neither of us had ever flown before, largely because we each grew up in families too poor for such extravagance. We’ve also never taken two week-long vacations in a single year. Thanks to our unforeseen circumstances, we were shocked to find such things no longer inconceivable.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, I posted one photo for each of the six days while we were on location. With this series, we delve into selections from the 500+ other photos we took along the way.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we took our first plane ride and arrived unharmed. While my wife spent the week working in Colorado, I spending the week as a bonus vacation in Colorado Springs, trying to find new things to do that we didn’t already do on our 2012 road trip. Short, on-location MCC entries have consequently been this week’s theme.
Tonight we flew home from Denver, and boy, are my everythings tired.
MCC readers may recall my wife Anne and I visited the National WWII Museum as part of our 2015 road trip to New Orleans back in July. When I researched possible stops for this week’s trip to Colorado Springs, I was surprised to find they have a logical companion attraction, the National Museum of WWII Aviation. The latter isn’t owned by the same people, hasn’t been given the same official accreditation, and definitely doesn’t have the same ginormous funding, but it serves as a local hands-on educational center for students and aficionados specifically interested in World War II air combat history. Like the National WWII Museum’s Boeing Center, this one boasts its own collection of vintage WWII planes in various states of flight readiness. Unlike its rival, this one isn’t afraid to get into the nitty-gritty of engine design, aviation mechanics, comparison/contrast studies with Axis aircraft, carburetor logistics, and related vocabulary such as “pitch” and “ailerons” and “sorties”. But the important thing is you still get to look at real planes.
Pictured above is their F7F Tigercat, one of the largest intact planes on site. This particular model wasn’t deemed ready for war use until August 1945, by which time the Allies had everything pretty much under control. The Tigercat came in handy years later as a night-flying option during the Korean War. Its development occurred during WWII, but it just missed out on any real action against Nazis or Zeros. It wasn’t the Tigercat’s fault that it couldn’t be there.
Anne, major WWII history buff that she is, might’ve appreciated the museum more than I did, if only she could’ve had that chance in person.