On to the Mississippi

I headed west after leaving the Mid-Ohio Racetrack. I had a plan to take some small roads I had never taken before.

I flew past this sight below! As I approached, it looked like an alter of some sort. As I got closer, I could make out three separate parts. Even closer, I could tell the top piece was carved. And finally I saw that it was a semi truck. I had to turn around. I was wondering if the two top parts of that alter were carved from one piece? And was it carved from the tree that once stood there? Well, the answer to both of those questions was yes. Carol was there to tell me that she had this sculpture made for her husband. They had long feared that the tree may fall into the highway in front of their house. They thought the tree was dead. Turns out it wasn’t. Bummer. But she had this made with the remains of the old tree. It’s a replica of her husband’s semi that is parked on the other side of that beautiful house. You can barley see the truck’s nose peeking out in the photo below.

Here is full size photo of Carol’s husband big rig.

I was told things looked good weather wise when I left Mid-Ohio but I didn’t check the radar myself. As I rode along, the sky just didn’t look right. By the time I checked the radar, I had one choice. I needed to move south and do it fast or I was going to get very wet. I rode fast toward Dayton and got a room for the night. It had been days at the racetrack and they don’t have showers, so I was looking forward to a room and a bed.

National Museum United States Air Force

I may have been brought to Dayton by running away from a storm the day before. As it turns out, I was running toward a remarkable museum. This is the National Museum of the Untied States Air Force. It is impressive.

The history of flight is captured with many of the actual planes that made that history.

These planes are displayed in massive connected hangers.

Hangers are arranged by their place in history and according to war campaigns.

Last year I got to see a Flying Tiger in action at an air show in Lakeland, Florida. It’s an awesome plane.

Looking at the nose of this plane, you can see the hand made patchwork of hammered out metal and rivets holding the skin in place.

This is the Memphis Belle. Made even more famous in the movies, this was the first heavy bomber to return home to the United States after flying 25 mission over Europe in WWII.

It was wild to look up and see into the bomb bay. You can see how the bombs drop in succession like you see in vintage films.

This little sucker looked like it was right of of a Buck Rogers movie.

There are a number of planes at this museum that hit me in an emotional way. This was one of them.

This is the Bockscar. The Enola Gay is often referenced in history books and lore because it was the first plane to drop an atomic bomb during a war campaign. Soon after Bockscar was dropping the Fat Man on Nagasaki.

Here is what the Fat Man looked like. On August 9, 1945 this atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, killing between 60,000 to 80,000 people.

There were hallways between some of the hangers that displayed signs of the times.

Another hallway had a display of actual bomber jackets from WWII. These were cool.

35 missions!

And Good old Stinky!

The B-52 Stratofortress is insanely large.

This plane below with the skin removed was fascinating. Look how it all that stuff packs into the structural frame.

Occasionally I would hear the knowledgeable dad, proudly sharing everything he knew about each plane in great detail to his patient, loving family. I am sure this is a sentimental pilgrimage for many veterans of the Air Force.

This was the other plane with a profound emotional impact.

I feel silly admitting this but when I was a kid riding my bicycle, I would pretend I was the pilot flying the President. It was my mission to provide the smoothest ride possible. I’d look for every blemish in the terrain that lie ahead. In NYC I’d occasionally hit a cobblestone street in the neighborhood where I lived. I would quietly say to myself, “Sorry Mr. President, we had unavoidable turbulence”. 

This was no bicycle I was on here, it was the actual cockpit where the pilot who flew the President would sit.

On one tragic day in November, a pilot would have to sit in that seat and safely fly two Presidents. One had recently been assassinated and the other sworn in while in flight. This was the plane that brought Kennedy home from Dallas. Below you can see LBJ being sworn in right here in the space I am occupying. 4 seats were removed in the back of the plane to make rook for the slain President.

The most recent part of the museum displays more modern craft and space craft. We now have The United States Space Force.

I believe this craft below is what Steve Austin was flying on the beginning of each episode The Six Million Dollar man.

She’s breaking up! She’s breaking up!

This is that craft you always see on those UFO shows. “…Or, could it have been mane made?” Then they show a clip of this vehicle wobbling around between some hangers on an air base.

This is Chris. He was parked right next to me as I walked out of the museum. I had never seen a Moto Guzzi built for touring like this one. He was telling me how he sealed his rear spoke wheel so that he could run tubeless tires. It’s sounds like a lot of work but it would be nice to not worry about tubes. Why don’t they just make them that way? Keep the look with spokes but seal that wheel. I mean, Triumph doesn’t mind putting on fake carburetors to keep a vintage look. I have popped tires in places where they didn’t have the tube to fit my bike. I once re-used a tube when replacing the tire due to wear because they had no tube. C’mon! Seal the wheel!

They had a flew planes outside. I said a quick hello to the Warthog and was on my way.

Wait. One more plane? This is far from the museum. Just a Corsair II hanging out by the grain mill.

A milestone on many journeys is the crossing of Route 66. Here I am crossing at Pontiac, Illinois. Last year I rode the entirety of Route 66.

This was my third time criss-crossing through Pontiac on my many journeys. I had never stopped at the auto museum until now.

It’s a fairly modest museum but has a few choice vehicles. The Judge GTO.

A Pontiac Phoenix Hatchback. It’s got some junk in the trunk.

This is an old suspension bridge in Pontiac.

I said farewell to Abe in Town Square and continued west.

I crossed the Illinois River into the town of Henry.

As I planned my route toward the Mississippi, I realized I would be passing by a town I knew well. I had camped just outside this town a few times. One of those times I met a guy in the nearby town, so I gave him a call. He told me to stop by. On the way, I saw a familiar spot. The Psycho Silo Saloon. This sign below didn’t exist the last time I was here.

I expected the gate to be locked as this bar is unfortunately only open on the weekends. However the gate was open, so naturally I rolled on in.

I saw a guy who seemed to be doing some work there. I asked if it was cool to walk around and take some pictures. He directed me to an older gentleman who told me this place was the brainchild of his son Troy. He told me to feel free to look around. He said Troy likes to do all kinds of interesting things with old vehicles and such as he pointed out a motorcycle placed high in a far away tree.

As I walked around, Troy drove up. We talked for a bit. I was admiring how much it reminded me of the old Full Throttle Saloon before it burned to the ground. He acknowledged that and talked about possibly opening up for a few weeks so travelers to and from Sturgis could enjoy the place.

It must be so much fun here when it is open. I’ll have to travel through on the weekend sometime.

Now I was continuing west to meet my friend Lynn who I had contacted on the way. Below is his grocery store. It was a theater back in the 30s. Maybe 20s too.

I met Lynn years ago when I was snooping around taking photos of the vehicles you see below.

As I was taking photos that first time, Lynn approached me cautiously curious but friendly as could be. I’ve hit him him up ever since if I’m passing by.

The magical surprise of that visit was the huber man cave behind the walls of the garages I stopped in front of. It has changed a bit since I was last here. The vehicles are different. And there are more tables and chairs for sure. It’a a wonderful place.

I noticed a seam in the wall and asked if it was a door. Lynn then showed me a bit more of his cavernous collection. The hubcaps below were one wall of a continuous collection of car artifacts. He had rooms connected with cars and collectibles along with remarkable projects he is working on. It was so cool!

Lynn has been organizing a car show on Father’s Day. He said it has gained quite a following from a handful of cars to 150 cars. This last car show Frank Fritz from American Pickers stopped by. Lynn showed me a photo of them together. Unfortunately, Frank has had a severe stroke and apparently isn’t doing all that well. Wishing you a speedy recovery Frank!

This is an old 4 way stoplight with a spotlight that would have shined down to the center of the intersection.

Lynn set up this scoreboard above a pick-up truck bench up for his daughters high school graduation, so the graduates could all take photos with it. He made the score 20 to 22, (or whatever the year was). He’s crafty. He has an idea to turn a dry cleaning carousel into a rotating bar and he has the smarts and skills to make it happen. I look forward to having a seat at a traveling stool someday.

Lynn had a bunch of people over after a car show. He said one of the guests got very excited, calling him over. The guy said, “That phone booth. I know that phone booth.” It seemed an unusual and unlikely possibility. But then he said, it’s from Alexandria, Illinois. Lynn asked , How could you know possibly that? The guy told him that the phone number written in the booth is to the local bar in Alexandria and he still has it memorized!

I mentioned Frank Fritz a moment ago. Now here I am at the original home of American Pickers in La Claire, Iowa. This means I have crossed the Mississippi.

These are a couple of bikes NOT FOR SALE. They are part of Mike Wolfe’s personal collection. I can only imagine the vastness of the rest of that collection.

The store is fun. If you watch the show you will recognize some of the more dramatic picks.

You may recognize the old rusty car outside beyond this flathead. In fact, while I was in that hotel in Dayton, I was watching TV and saw the ladies break that pinball machine in an episode.

I have taken many routes across this nation. This time I am going to cross the river again and follow it north on the Wisconsin side for a while. See ya on the other side in the next post.

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