Posts Tagged ‘landmark’

You just walk out of a balloon from above the Earth? Good God!

Apr 21

There is a man who jumped 102,800 feet to the Earth from a balloon. His name is Joseph Kittinger, and the gondola, balloon capsules, and suit he wore during this epic feat are on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton.

Guy Walks Out of a 102,800 feet

That's the Freaking Earth Way Down There!

In 1959, Kittinger, then an Air Force Captain, transferred to the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton. There, he was assigned to Project Excelsior, which researched the effects of high altitudes on pilots  in preparation for the coming manned space program. Mostly though, they just wanted to see how high an altitude a person could safely parachute back to Earth – just in case things ever went badly up there. The most reasonable way to accomplish this, apparently, was to have a man walk out of a balloon.

In the end,  the experiment was a success, and his work was valuable. But let’s just look at it from this point of view: 102,800 feet is really high – and though I have none to speak of in either the metal or flesh variety – you really do have to have balls of steel to go 20 miles into the sky in an open-air gondola being raised by a balloon. Let alone jump.

The thing that carried Joe Kittinger to the edge of the Earth

I wouldn't feel secure in this thing at any height

I am once again ashamed of my cowardice during this blog process (see my post on St. Louis), and salute the 82 year old retired Colonel Kittinger. He now lives a quiet life in Orlando, Florida, and may he live another 82 years. Frankly, if you survive this, you deserve to Never Die.

The Theft of the Wright Brothers Home and Bicycle Shop…

Apr 19

… by that coward Henry Ford.

Being beaten out by Kitty Hawk for the first ever flight is hard enough to take. But, compound that with the actions of industrialist Henry Ford (yeah, he just made cars. Cars don’t fly) and the good people of Dayton, Ohio might just want to give up.

You see, Ford started a museum in Dearborn, Michigan, (creatively called “The Henry Ford”) dedicated to the preservation of all things of historical significance; particularly those dealing with the Industrial Revolution. What does this mean in context to Dayton and the Wright Brothers? This.

Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop, Wright Brothers House, Henry Ford Museum

All That Remains

One morning in the early 1930s, Ford took both the house the Wright Brothers lived in, and their bicycle shop back with him to his Dearborn museum, leaving Dayton with only a half-replica of a bicycle shop that was closed long before the Wright Brothers started building airplanes.

Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop, National Park

Wright Bros Cycle Co: Sort of

The Ranger in charge of this site was quite sad and apologetic, as if somehow she could have gone back in time, using her special Ranger Powers (slightly different than Power Rangers), and stopped Ford in his tracks. I do absolutely believe that Rangers are magical, but only in the sense that they really do not get enough credit for how much they enhance the National Park experience for all of us.

So, is this site still worth the look? Of course. Old Ford may have the building, but Dayton’s still got the history.

Great Faces Indeed!

Aug 21

If you read my last post (and shame on you if you skipped it or any of the others) you’d realize that I am standing in front of 4 heads carved into the side of a mountain.  I’m not usually a proponent of graffiti, but even I have to admit that this work is pretty good. 

Mt. Rushmore is far more imposing than I was lead to believe.  In the middle of the majestic setting of the Black Hills, it is positively outstanding.  The original vision for the sculpture was a bit different, and it is on display on the park grounds for comparison. Abraham Lincoln, for example, had an ear, and Thomas Jeffereson had an arm (awkward though it may have been). 

Some interesting facts about Mt. Rushmore:  the mountain was named after New York Attorney Charles Rushmore, who, while on an expedition in the area, repeatedly asked his local guide what the name of the mountain was.  The annoyed guide finally replied, “Never had any but it has now – we’ll call the thing Rushmore.”  The name stuck. 

Also, Theodore Roosevelt’s image is rumo(u)red to have been included because he was close friends with the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, and had originally encouraged his ego-driven friend to use a bigger medium, like the side of a mountain.  Oh, how little it takes to make history folks.

Sacre Bleu!

Aug 21

The French are really rude.  There were a number of French tourists around today (not Quebecois, which is a whole other story), and they were all obnoxious and rude and one of them touched me to get me out of the way of his photo opportunity while I was clearly in the middle of having my photograph taken here:

Meet Me in St. Louis

Apr 29

The Arch in St. Louis is gigantic.

The last time I was in Italy, I finally went to the Tower of Pisa.  I expected it to be impressive, if not huge; a symbol of Italian craftsmanship and beauty, while simultaneously acting as a living monument to the fragility of existence.  What a crock of merda that was.

By my own admission, I should have known that a building cannot lean and be huge at the same time.  In my defence, I am a graduate of philosophy; engineering is supposed to be my natural enemy in the wild.  Nonetheless, it was an old building in the middle of a field and being there, seeing it up close, made me realize that the pictures gave it a largess that reality just could not sustain.

I return to my opening remark:  the Arch in St. Louis is gigantic.  You can see it as you drive into the city, and not because the city is small or it’s close to the highway.  I return to my opening remark: the Arch in St. Louis is gigantic.

Ok, that’s not the Arch. But that’s what I expected it to be.

The Gateway to the West, (hopefully the topic of a future blog soon (check local listings)) construction of the Arch began early 1963 and finished in the Fall of 1965.  It is a monument to America and its expansion to the West.  Resting close to the banks of the mighty* Mississippi river, it stands 630 feet off the ground.  And that, my friends, is 630 feet higher than I was willing to go. 

Rob has gone to the top, as there is an observation deck where one can see the entire city, and probably a few other things that are really high up.  I thought it was possible to persuade me.  Indeed, it would have been had I been blinding drunk or drugged or blindfolded or beaten about the head repeatedly with a blunt instrument or, most importantly, I hadn’t seen the Arch.  When I thought it was just a nice, benign landmark like our friend the leaning tower, it was possible to envision a world where I wasn’t deathly afraid of heights and could tell everyone that I had, in some measure, no matter how small, conquered my fear.  But, reality being as it is, I defer to my opening statement: the Arch of St. Louis is gigantic. 

I am still a better person for having seen it.  And I vow, one day, to go inside and get to the top.  Sigh…I’d go to the top of Pisa in a heartbeat, leaning and all.

*yeah, I wrote ‘mighty’ when referring to the Mississippi.  I know it’s cliche.  It’s hard coming up with adjectives all the time.  You try it.

Walking in Memphis

Apr 28

If there is one thing I love, it’s witty, wise, and wily people on the street trying to hustle me out of my money. And if, like me, you enjoy that very thing, may I suggest a nice trip to Memphis, Tennessee. Oh, and some guy named Elvis did some music stuff there a long time ago, too.

Graceland, the former home of this aforementioned Elvis character, is really quite epic; and, truly, the one place in Memphis where only Lisa Marie is trying to get you to part with your money.  However, unlike the other Memphisians, what she has to offer in the form of her father’s home, is spectacular.

I was not a big Elvis fan before going to Graceland.  I am not going to proclaim to be one now.  What I will say is that I have a new appreciation for the man.  I mean, anyone who has this kind of decorative sense must be respected.  I’ll let some pictures speak for themselves. 


In many ways, Rob is a lot like Elvis.*  Elvis played guitar.  So does Rob. Elvis travelled long distances for food.  Just like Rob.  Elvis likes things.  So does Rob.   And when they do like things, they buy them and display them or play with them. Yes.  You might even say that Elvis lives on in Rob.  Can’t wait until Neverland becomes a shrine to Michael Jackson.  Hope there are no similarities there. 

*I wish to stress that I was in no way coerced into making that statement.  Certainly, not by Rob, who designed this blog and who can wave the magic computer and make it all go away.  And he certainly didn’t buy my loyalty with this gift. 

Grand Ole Opry

Apr 14

When I was a kid, I always wondered what an opry was.  I still am not sure I know, but whatever it is, it’s a whole lotta fun!  With or without crackers.

Ending the trip with what is without question the most cliched Nashville experience, Rob and I attended the Grand Ole Opry. The seats were pews, I suppose, as a sign of the worship of the music we were about to hear.

On the whole, the music was okay.  There were 6 performers, some good, one a total tool who shouldn’t be a musician much less a guy who plays at the Opry (, and a very good-looking young gentleman singer who had me in his corner until his last song*; something about the Devil is a train and don’t get on the train because then you are on the train with the Devil.  I don’t do well with metaphor.  Obvious ones, at least.

The act of the night: 89 year-old Little Jimmy Dickens.  No more than a foot taller than a lawn gnome, this venerable old performer showed us all how it should be done.  89 years old.  I can’t even bend down to pick up a towel without squealing anymore and this guy is performing on stage.

Attending the Opry was the quintessential Nashville experience and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. 

Good-bye, Nashville.  You will be missed.

*Said singer is named Josh Turner.  He’s still a handsome young devil, and, I really like the first bunch of songs on his new CD.  So, my apologies for my initial judgment, even though I still don’t like the train thing.  Whatever.  I’m sure he doesn’t like my blog.