Monday, April 30, 2007


It was a rainy day so we headed over to The National Museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton, Ohio. There are two different museums here with over 300 aircraft on display, the first is the one that you drive to following their signs houses most of the exhibits that explain the history of flight, this one is big , crowded and we have done this one before and it takes almost the entire day so we went right to the rear of the museum store and signed up for the Presidential Hanger tour. When you sign up they give you a wrist band with your tour number and time on it, at the appropriate time they take you by bus across the airport to the Presidential and experimental aircraft hanger, just about everything here is a "One of a kind".

Left: the wings rotate vertical to horizontal for vertical take off and landing.

Right: the first vertical jet to take of and land.

There were only 15 people on this tour and there are no ropes to keep you from the aircraft they just ask you not to touch and then turn you loose for 45 minutes.

Left: Truman's Plane

Right: Ike's Plane

One side of the hanger has the presidential aircraft which includes Franklin D Roosevelt's Handicapped equipped plane, Harry Truman's "The Independence", Eisenhower's "Columbine" and the very first one to be assigned the tail number SAM 26000 and the radio call sign "Air Force One". This craft was first used by President Kennedy and continued through President Nixon's first term, Lyndon Johnson used this aircraft the most, this was the craft were he took the oath of office and the one that flew President Kennedy's body back to Washington DC.

The other side has all the experimental aircraft, most of which are the only one in existence, some of these you look at and think no way that thing ever got off the ground but they did. My personnel favorite was the XB-70 Valkyrie, 200 feet long, wings that dip down 65 degrees, 200,000 lbs of thrust from 6 huge jets all lined up in a row at the center back, speed mach 3+, and it looks a lot like a Kligon "Bird of Prey" from the Star Trek movies. They built two of these and the other one crashed in a mid-air collision, how do you run into something this big.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Carillion Historical Park

Featuring over 25 structures that follow the history and development of the city of Dayton, it's located in the heart of downtown Dayton between the Little Miami River and a glacial moraine. We found out that a moraine is the hill formed when a glacier stops its movement and melts, the moraine is the pile of earth that was being pushed in front of the glacier. This explains why the northern part of Ohio is so flat until you get past the Dayton area then the hills start up until you hit the Ohio River then the mountains start.

The park which opened in 1950 is focused on the Dayton's transportation and inventive history, there is an original 1905 Wright Bros Flyer III on display, the first electric cash register, (NCR headquarters is right across the street) first motorized wheel chair, the oldest standing building in Dayton, first Soap Box Derby winner and much more.

Notice the outdoor hydraulic lift
at the Sunoco Station.

This is park is set up so that you get a very good history of the Dayton area and find out how many first took place here. A very interesting part of WW II history here is about the WAVES. The WAVES lived in Sugar Camp (over 600 of them) which was the part of NCR where their trainees lived while being trained, their work here was Top Secret, they had very little idea of what they were building and were not allowed to discuss it among them selfs. While everybody thought that they were building accounting machines they were really assembling electronic computer for breaking the German's encrypted codes, by the end of the war they has built over 120.

Another interesting thing was the "BUG" it was the first pilot less aircraft / buzz bomb / guided missile, it was developed by Charles Kettering for use by the Army Signal Corps in 1917, thirty years before the Germans V-1 was used, WW I ended before the Bug was put into use.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Millsprings Battlefield & the Wildcats

Right now we're staying at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, before the Grand Old Opry opened this was the haven for country music stars and was famous all across the country. They still have a big theater and put on shows all year long, there is a little village here filled with shops, restaurant and tourist type stuff.

I Googled the area and found that there was a National Cemetery and Civil War Battlefield about 40 minutes away so that was going to be our day. The Cemetery and battlefield are both named Mills Springs but the battle took place about 30 miles from this city, at the visitors center we found out that this battle went by 9 different names: Mill Spring, Fishing Creek,Logan's Crossroads, Somerset, Old Fields and a few others. The Battle is considered the first major battle in Kentucky and ended with a Northern victory, 150 Confederates and 50 Federals were killed in the 6 hour battle, the Federals are all buried in what is now the National Cemetery.

The Confederates were buried together in a mass grave about 8 miles away near the "Zollie Tree" more on that a little later. The tour of the battlefield covers about 30 miles and has 10 different stops along it and one river crossing, the second stop on the tour is at the Zollie Tree.
General Zolliecoffer was the the general in charge of the confederates, and it was at this location that during the battle he
saw some troops firing upon his men, thinking that they were part of his regiment he rode up to order them to cease fire. At the same time Colonel Fry (a northerner) was riding down to see were the southern troops were, they met in the road and due to the confusion, the smoke and snow, both men wearing slickers because of the weather neither one realizing the other was the enemy. They sat there on their mounts and Zollicoffer ordered Fry to have his men to stop firing, as Fry was giving the order to his troops to cease fire one of Zolliecoffer's Staff Officers rode out of the woods shooting at Fry and screaming "General they are the enemy" at this point Fry drew his weapon and started firing along with his troops shooting Zolliecoffer and his Staff Officer dead. Zolliecoffer's body was braced up against a tree and stayed there until after the battle, since then this White Oak was known as the Zollie Tree, this became a local gathering place for years but no effort was ever made to honor the men lying in the mass grave just a few feet away.
In 1902 a little girl, Dorotha Burton, noticed that on Memorial Day the National Cemetery had a grand ceremony and decorations to honor the Union soldiers buried there and that the Confederate dead were forgotten. Feeling that this was unfair she started decorating the Zollie Tree every Memorial Day with a flower entwined evergreen wreath and flowers on the mass grave, her and later members of her family have continued this to this day. In June of 1995 a storm destroyed the Zollie Tree, it was 15 feet in circumference, 90 feet tall and 250 years old.

A seedling was taken from this tree and was planted the next Memorial Day in the same spot so that the tradition could be carried on. We were told by the museum curator that on Memorial Day that the crowds and ceremonies at the Zollie Tree are twice the size of the one at the National Cemetery.

All this and we haven't even had lunch yet, after lunch we decided to just follow some back roads back to camp, that is until we spotted a sign, a old brown sign that read "The Old Wilderness Road and The Battle of Camp Wildcat". The Wilderness Road was the original north south route through Kentucky, starting at the Holston River and extending through the Cumberland Gap to the Ohio River. The arrow pointed to the north so thats the way we went, it starts out a nice new blacktop road for the first mile then it turns into gravel, after another 1/2 mile the sign points up the side of a mountain to a gravel road about 8 feet wide, this is the original Wilderness Road and this is what you take for the next 5 miles. Through the forest right on the side of the cliff winding around sharp blind turns just like the settlers did, until we came upon an opening which was the parking lot for the battlefield. This was a short battle where once again Zolliecoffer was driven back by the northern troops, there is a small monument and a mile long trail outlining the battle. The thing that we noticed here was the name of the battle, Camp Wildcat, in Kentucky, the Kentucky Wildcats, always wondered where that name came from. The only bad part of this venture is that we have to take the same road out, we even ran into three vehicles going the other way, very tight.

Another thing we ran across today, we're always checking out different campgrounds for future use and we came across a small county park on Lake Cumberland. If you have seen it in the news the dam that forms Lake Cumberland has sprung a leak and the Corp of Engineers has been forced to do an emergency lowering of the water in Lake Cumberland in order to save the dam and to do the repairs on it. The campground has two boat ramps for launching boats, the only problem is there is no water anywhere around, and it's going to stay this way for about 5 years until the repairs are made.
Back to camp and TIGER BASEBALL....... We live for this!!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Admiral Farragut - K;town part two

Just looking at the map this morning and noticed that there is a town named Farragut just a few miles west of Knoxville, since we read a quite a bit about Admiral Farragut while we were in the Mobile Bay area this winter I decided to see if there was a connection. Turns out that the Admiral was born in this area when it was know as Campbell's Station, when the City was incorporated in 1980 they picked the name Farragut. The new city hall was built with room for the Farragut Museum, so we decided to take a little road trip over to see what they had. Its a small museum but extremely well set up and has an amazing amount of original items from and about Farragut's life.

When we first got there we figured about 45 minutes to an hour, we ended up being there for over two and half hours, as it turned out there were three volunteers there and they must have been bored or we were the only visitors this day cause they took us on a private tour and made sure that we saw and understood everything in the museum.

Farragut entered the Navy in 1810 at the age of nine, yes nine years old. When he was 12 years old, he was given command of a prize ship that they had captures the "USS Essex" and safely brought it back to port.

It was at his victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay. While tied to the rigging of his ship that he shouted the famous phrase "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead".

The sketch on the left is the actual sketch made by someone on deck during the Battle of Mobil Bay, the painting on the right is just one of many that have been made from the sketch

Admiral Farragut was the first rear, vice, and full admiral of the Navy.
There have been five US Navy destroyers named USS Farragut
He was a pallbearer for Abraham Lincoln
The Admiral served in the Navy for over 50 years and died at the age of 69.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

K;town part one

The first two days in Knoxville,we had great weather, sunny skies and a temperature in the high 70's, the third day we woke up to about a half inch of snow on the ground and a temperature of about 28 degrees. I would have taken a picture of the snow but the camera was out in the car and I wasn't about to go out in the cold to get it.

Fortunately the first day here we did a lot of running around, we started at the Knoxville National Cemetery, this is about the 20th National Cemetery that we have visited. This one, as most of the older ones is in an older part of town and is one of the smaller ones that we have been to, also the stones were not lined up very uniform as most of them are this was laid out more like an ordinary cemetery. They did have one very nice monument as you can see on the left.

The cemetery is attached (divided by a stone wall) to the Old Gray Cemetery which is the place to be buried if you are a big shot and live in Knoxville, well you will probably have to be buried in the New (Old) Gray Cemetery a few miles away since this one is full. This one has about 40 ex- senators, governors, founders, pioneers, and a large number of early war veterans. Buried here is Captain James Roger McCallum of the famed "Immortal Six Hundred", your assignment is to figure out who or what the Immortal Six Hundred were and what they did to receive this title.

Next we crossed the the Tennessee (Holston) River, and spent ten minutes driving back and forth looking for an unmarked entrance to Lambert Overlook Park. This is were the Civil War Fort Dickerson is located, The earthworks are still very well defined and they have added a few plaques and markers explaining the forts purpose. They have placed four canons here since this was the high ground and was used to defend the river below, you can get a great view of downtown Knoxville from here and the Volunteer Stadium.

Now a little drive through some really nice neighborhoods, it's Dogwood Festival Time in Knoxville and everywhere you go they are in full bloom, over to the Ijam Nature Center. The center has four different sections and each offers miles of marked trails and exhibits, we stopped at the main center and where they have a Raptor enclosure, there are two sections and the one we wanted had a Red-tailed Hawk. This hawk is huge with a 49 inch wing-span and looks like he could kick anybody s butt that he wanted to, to me this guy looked more majestic then a Bald Eagle, couldn't get a picture since they keep you back a distance and the wire mesh enclosure.

We took the River Walk Trail, which took use through the woods down to a boardwalk that was built into the side of the rock cliffs and took you for about a mile down the edge of the Tennessee River and past the opening of an old cave.

After our little exercise we headed back to the north side of the river and the city to find Sharps Ridge Memorial Park, this is another one that you really have to be looking for to find it. It's a
very high hill and the road runs right along the top ridge so you get a pretty good view of both sides, this is also where every type of radio or cell phone tower is located, there had to be at least 15 towers up here (can you hear me now). We also found out by looking at all the vehicles parked in the pull offs that this is where you come for a date, that is if you are a guy looking for another guy, not that there's anything wrong with that. I made Cathy stand close by at all times.

OK! its lunch time and we're off in search of Fountain City and Litton's Market, voted home of the best burger in Knoxville for the last 20 years. A little hard to find but Cathy spotted it back off the main street as we drove by, it's 2:00 and it's not crowded so in we go. After waiting five minutes to be seated with at least ten tables open (we were about to leave but this is the BEST BURGER in K-town). Now we're seated and looking at the menus, glancing at the prices this better be the BEST BURGER in K-town, have you ever chewed on the tongue of your tennis shoe after running a marathon in August in the deep south. Well if you have then that was juicier and had more flavor then the BEST BURGER in K-town had, I think when they voted for this they counted the wrong dangling chads and they really meant to award it to Wendy's or McDonalds or something. K-town should stick to judging ribs and BBQ and leave the burgers to the people up north, looks like the South lost again.

Back to camp and a three day hibernation until this cold front moves through. Did I mention the SNOW!

Happy Easter to every one.