Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 - McMinnville, OR
Nov 24, 2011
|Monday, November 21, 2011
It rained, hard at times, through out the night, but I slept well, not hearing any traffic or noise until . . . yep, you got it, a semi-truck sat idling, and sounded close by. I tried to look out the window at the head of my bed, but moisture has gotten between the two layers of insulated glass, making it obscure. I wouldn’t blame any long-haul driver for stopping for a rest in this huge parking lot, if they knew about it, but was dismayed to hear his engine running.
In about 10 minutes, the truck left and I got up to take a pill and noticed that it was 1 AM, so thought it was an odd hour for delivers, but it could have been. The Space Museum has a café and may get deliveries at night, so I’m not sure. It sure made my earlier comments about my motor home being a semi-truck magnet come true. LOL
Rain or no rain, I finished my coffee and prepared to hike to the Space Museum and start my day of exploration.
I walked over to the main museum and purchased my ticket for the IMAX movie ($7.00), having five different movies at five different times to see. I chose Legends of Flight, 3D, which showed at 11 AM, so had about 30 minutes before I needed to head to the theater. I stopped in the snack bar area and purchased a Danish and cup of coffee, which I was able to heat up in their microwave. I visited with the woman cashier as I ate and when I finished, I walked over to IMAX.
I was given a pair of 3D glasses and led to the entrance. There were only two other people in the theater, so having been in other IMAX theaters, I chose to sit near the top, in the center. After about a 5-minute wait, the movie began. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything in 3D and boy has it improved. I felt like the objects were right in my face and that I should be able to reach out and touch them. It was amazing and very real-like. The movie was mostly about Boeing and the team that designed the newest aircraft, the 878. It follows one principal person, a pilot and designer, through much of the process and was very interesting. The movie last about 45 minutes and then I headed back to the Aviation building, to finish what I didn’t have a chance to see yesterday.
I got to my starting point and after taking three or four pictures; the battery in the camera went dead. I should have put it on the charger last night, while I ran the generator, so it would be fully charged, but didn’t think to check it for charge level.
I headed back to the motor home and put it on the charger, after starting the generator, and decided to fix myself a sandwich for lunch while it charged. By the time I had finished lunch, the charger was still showing a red light, meaning it was still charging, but I took it off and put it in the camera to check the level. It was ¾ charged, which I felt was enough to finish my tour, so headed back to the museum.
Upon returning, and taking some pictures of the models that were used in the making of The Aviator, I climbed the stairs to view the interior of the Spruce Goose. Upon entering, there is a glass partition to the front and rear of the plane, so you can only see, but not go, into those areas. As I was taking some photos, a docent took two people through the front glass partition and I asked if I could also go on the tour. Nope. It cost $50.00 per person for the VIP tour of the cockpit, or $25.00 for a group of 6 to just go to the flight deck. The money is going into a fund to be used to restore the upper deck, as it has never been maintained since Hughes’s death in 1976. Well, I didn’t think it was that important of a deal, so wasn’t going to pay for the privilege.
I haven’t seen the movie The Aviator, so I am not sure what the docent was talking about, as he led a group on a tour past the Spruce Goose (which is actually almost all birch, not spruce). He said that the model plane on display was supposedly a remote control aircraft and was used to get action shots (action shots? The plane only flew once, in 1947, and it was only 70’ off the water in Long Beach Harbor), and that the hanger shots in the movie were all of the miniature set (see photos). I’ll have to see the movie, compare the miniatures to the real, and see if I can detect the difference.
I continued the tour; taken more photos, and when finished, started to head to the Space Museum. As I was leaving, I remembered that there was a new firearms display upstairs, so went to view it. It wasn’t nearly as extensive as the one at the Garibaldi Maritime Museum, but it was a nice progressive history of how Americans used firearms for independence and freedom, since coming to America. It was 3 PM now, so I decided to give Zack his play break and grab a soda before touring the last museum. It had been sprinkling off and on all day, but that didn’t stop Zack from enjoying his chasing the disc.
I walked to the Space Museum and entered, following their circular lay out. Having grown up in the era of infant space travel and living through every stage of the history until now, you’d think it would have as much, if not more, importance to me, but it doesn’t. I’ve never been interested in becoming an astronaut or going into space. I don’t find rockets and the history of space travel as interesting as the aviation history, and maybe it’s because I know I could never achieve astronaut training and go into space, whereas I could fly planes.
As I breezed through most of the static displays of rockets and information, I started feeling poorly, so sat down to watch a video about the SR 71, Blackbird. The video was interesting and gave me a chance to rest my feet and back. I haven’t been on my feet for this length of time (The underground walking tour, yesterdays museum tour and now the better part of today’s tour) in a while, so I was feeling the affects. This section of the museum had several aircraft displayed, some of which could be considered “space craft,” as they can fly to the highest altitudes, on the edge of space.
I found it interesting that after 20 years of using the SR 71 for high altitude surveillance, that they retired all but three, giving two to NASA and one to the military. The remainder of them where given to museums and put on static display. They retired them due to the number of satellites that were now capable of taking the same high definition photographs as the aircraft had. When they discovered that the satellites could not fulfill all of the demands, they re-commissioned two of the SR 71 to fly again. They also created an UAV, the D-21, which looks very much like a smaller SR 71, to fly over sensitive areas for reconnaissance (see photos). It was launched from an SR 71, flew its mission, taking photo, then jettisoned the camera, via parachute, and self-destructed. The camera package was then retrieved by a C-130, or on the ground in neutral territory.
There were at least six drones on display, which I find interesting because no humans have to put themselves in harms way to achieve a mission. One was less than three feet long and had folding wings so it would fit in a box, while others were as large as conventional aircraft and very sophisticated.
At the end of the tour, there were two cars on display, with no information plaques, so I have no idea what the connection with space was. One was a Mustang and the other was a newer Corvette.
Having seen all that there was to see, or at least what I was interested in enough to see, I departed and headed back to the motor home to rest. It was 4 PM, so I felt good that I was able to see and do all of the things I hoped I could in the two days here.
My overall impressions of the museums are highly favorable and I would recommend stopping by if you ever get the chance. While the $20.00 entrance fee may seem high, it covers both the Aviation and Space Museum, with the IMAX being an additional $7.00. The water park may be great for children but I didn’t bother to check it out and was told the admission fee was very high. I doubt any serious aviation person could see the both museums in one day, which is open 9 to 5, but would be able to get a good overview of the displays.
My criticisms are that many of the displays were missing informational plaques, so you had no idea what you were looking at, and that while the plaques that were there, were numbered, no handouts gave information based upon the numbers. While I asked docents about unlabeled displays, they too had no idea what the items were. When I asked the information desk, manned by docents (mainly old men, some of who participated in WW II and Korea), they didn’t know why there was no information relating to the numbers on the displays.
These museums were very modern, clean and well planned, but now a bit over crowded with aircraft as they are remodeling an entire corner of the museum and have moved many planes to clear that area. The noise today, compared to Sunday, was at times deafening as the construction workers dropped large pieces of metal or other materials, and it echoed throughout the facility. There were also a lot of children (two bus loads, plus with parents and grandparents), as I guess they have Thanksgiving week off. They were all well behaved and while the youngest ones seemed bored, the others enjoyed all of the hands-on displays they could manipulate.
I crashed back at the motor home, took a shower and had some dinner, watching some television before bedtime at 11 PM.