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TR - The Door Into Summer - 2 humans, a cat, and coasters


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“I have spent too much of my life opening doors for cats—I once calculated that, since the dawn of civilization, nine hundred and seventy-eight man-centuries have been used up that way. I could show you figures.” Heinlein, The Door Into Summer

 

Cast of Characters - One male human, Mike, age 50+, retired UPS driver, crazy vintage motorcycle and car aficionado (he has 35 bikes and 5 cars), more energy than a 5 year old the day after Halloween, vertigo and motion sickness sufferer.

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Mike with one of his first vintage motorcycles, a 1969 BMW R60

One female human, Pam, age 50+, retired (mostly) tech support and web design for a motorcycle performance manufacturer, avid motorcycle rider (you’re probably sensing a theme here), very amateur photographer, lifelong sloth, coaster freak.

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Nowhere I’d rather be than here...or on a good coaster.

One female cat, Tajah, age indeterminate, retired since birth, consummate traveler, ambivalent about coasters, occasionally camera shy.

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Don't worry, you'll see ample images of her face soon enough.

We live in Central Oregon, which has decidedly un-oregon winters with lots of cold and some snow. Winter before last the “some snow” became “tons of snow” for months on end. Our summer was meh, and then fall turned to winter in about 2 seconds. By January we were all ready to find a damned Door into Summer.

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Yeah, soooooo done with this.

So of course we decided on a road trip to Florida! Sure, we could fly, but Tajah isn’t a carrier cat, and we thought it would be cool to visit some places we had on our “must see someday before we die” list.

 

So we packed the car overful with clothes, alcohol, cat treats and a litter box and headed out on January 15.

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"What the hell? There's still white stuff on the ground here. Keep driving human!"

Fair warning, there’s probably going to be just as many non-coaster updates as there will be coaster-updates. If you don’t like history, there will be links below so you can skip to the good stuff. On the plus side, I’ll be sure to include at least one photo of Coasterfreak Tajah in each post.

 

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January/February 2018 Trip

El Paso Border Patrol Museum

San Antonio in the wet

New Orleans

National WWII Museum

Busch Gardens

Discovery Cove

Universal Studios

Sea World

WDW

Florida State Fair and Orlando Old Town/Fun Spot

Savannah

Motorcycle Nirvana - Blue Moon Cycles and Barber Museum

Nashville

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Random Bits

Tinkertown - if you like carnival art, you'll love this!

Synopsis of what it’s like spending 2 months in an old truck and tiny camper with a cat while driving the worst roads in America (AKA, Alaska)

Washington State Fair

Enchanted Forest

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March-May 2018

Random Old Car stuff and some Wild West History

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May 2018

Jacksonville Oregon on two wheels

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June 2018

Cedar Point

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El Paso Border Patrol Museum

Prior to this vacation my only experience with Texas was flying into Dallas for some sort of dad-conference when I was in grade school. Memories from that trip include purchasing an awesome cowboy hat at Neiman Marcus (I looked so cowboy in my nerd glasses and culottes, oh yeah) and a trip to the Dr. Pepper plant (my parents really knew how to party). Mike and Tajah had never been to the lone star state. We decided it was time to remedy that.

 

We chew big chunks of pavement on road trips, especially when we’re driving through familiar country. Our first day was Central Oregon to Victorville CA, just under 900 miles, the next day was shorter, just 800 miles to El Paso.

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Hah! Right!

 

Rolling into El Paso we looked over at a nearby hill and wondered why the houses there were so crummy when the rest of the town looked pretty nice - then we realized we were looking at Mexico just a literal stones-throw away. D’oh.

 

We spent the night in the El Paso at a La Quinta, actually, we spent nearly every night of this trip in various LaQ hotels. If you have pets, this chain is great because they don’t charge pet fee, they don't have a bunch of weird requirements (some places don't let you leave a pet alone in the room) and you can book online. The only problem is that quality can run the gamut from nice to fleabag, we always look for the properties that have been renovated recently and have interior corridors. This particular LaQuinta had been renovated in the past decade but didn't have interior corridors, but for $60 a night and only one night, we took a chance. It wasn't awful.

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Our first actual stop of this trip happened the following morning at the Border Patrol Museum.

 

This tiny free museum is supported by donations and run by a group of very committed and caring volunteers. It’s also the only border patrol museum in the US.

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We spent the better part of 2 hours here, mostly shaking our heads and saying “I didn’t know that!” to each other as we found out the Border Patrol started way back in 1924 when the major worry was liquor smuggling. For the first few years, recruits had to furnish their own horse and saddle and the government paid for oats and a badge (the horse got the oats, the rider got the badge).

 

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Mike has a similar Model T, although his wasn’t used to smuggle hooch...at least we don’t think it was.

 

The museum has quite a few original documents from their earliest history plus some very intriguing machines used in modern smuggling across the Mexican/American border.

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Tajah thinks she’d make an awesome smuggler, we told her no, but she’s definitely a scofflaw at heart.

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If you’re in El Paso and are interested in history, definitely make time for this little gem.

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After museum time we logged more seat time, rolling into San Antonio early enough in the evening to grab some really remarkable Tex Mex and Margaritas at Viva Villa on Deloroso.

 

The next morning we headed downtown and learned that everything we thought we knew about the Alamo was pretty much wrong. Fortunately, the reality was much cooler than our Disney-fied version of events.

 

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First thing we learned, this building is a lot smaller than it appears in those old movies.

The guided tour is well done and worth taking, although our guide was seemingly imbued with the superpower of making even the most exciting event sound boring.

 

On weekends they have period actors who do some reenactments, well, except for the part where everyone dies, they leave that out.

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We hung around the Alamo just long enough to let the weather catch up with us and by the time we arrived at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park it was pouring rain. The Mission Park isn’t like most parks, the missions are scattered throughout the city along the 15-mile Riverwalk trail and since it was raining, I had an excuse to avoid the 15 mile hike (yay bad weather!). I also ended up getting some cool photos from the deal, so it was a win-win in my book.

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Mission San Jose is the most popular site to visit, it is also home to a nice visitor’s center with a small museum. The gorgeous church was built in 1768.

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The area in front of the church was a courtyard surrounded by small apartments where natives who had been converted to Catholicism could live, the mission even provided bread-baking machines for their use! (some assembly required)

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Our next stop was Mission Concepcion, which apparently ranked higher on the totem pole and was granted two bell towers instead of just one.

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It was also home to a stairway that Tajah thought looked like the door into summer, but was disappointingly just another view of rain.

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The weather started clearing up a bit and we were starving so we headed back downtown to the Riverwalk which must be an awesome place to watch drunk people fall in the water on Saturday nights.

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They even have boats that can take you from bar to bar in case tequila renders your legs inoperable.

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The ducks seem to like it too.

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I know at this point you’re all screaming “Why the HELL aren’t you at Six Flags Fiesta???” Because Texans think 60 degrees is freezing and they close the place in the winter. Ugh.

 

Although we only had a day to explore the city, we thought San Antonio was a pretty cool mix of old and new, rich and poor, wet and dry, I just wish it was a mix of coasters and flats year-round too!

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This thread is off to a fantastic start. I especially enjoyed the missions. I teach 4th grade in California, and the California mission chain is part of the social studies curriculum. Keep 'em coming! *clicks subscribe button*

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Agreed. . LOVE the mission pics.

 

in my opinion (which don't count for all that much ). . I love the history stuff as well as theme parks. . so it's a TR that I absolutely want to read!

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Thanks guys! It's been really fun going back through my trip notes and bringing it all together. I used to do a blog but it fell by the wayside a few years ago and this made me realize how much I missed doing trip recaps.

 

San Antonio is one of those cities that seems to have everything we love, history, natural beauty, great places to walk or bike, excellent food that doesn't cost too much, and lots of good alcohol. The only weird thing we had trouble finding on the Riverwalk was coffee - only one $tarbux at the very end of the promenade and one other place selling ice cream and coffee. I guess usually it's warm enough that people aren't wanting hot drinks, but after spending a day in the rain we were chilly!

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Living in San Antonio is pretty awesome - we have 4 amusement parks within a 45 minute radius, a very historical downtown, and some really cool stuff to do up in the New Braunfels/Gruene area, not to mention a decent live music scene and a great food scene (not as good as Austin for music but fantastic for food). Basically anything you like to do that's not beach-related or snow-related we have it no further than an hour away.

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^ Austin's only an hour away.

 

anyone visiting S.A. should always make a swing thru Austin (preferably in the evening, so you can experience all the music).. there are lots of great food places here too

 

as a College Town (3 College campuses (including the HUGE University of Texas) to tour), AND the State Capitol, there are lots of things to do here to occupy an afternoon.

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Lived in Austin for 4 years, still go pretty often. If I want music I go to Austin, if I want food I'll go somewhere in SA or New Braunfels (tho the food scene in Austin is pretty good too).

 

With I-35 traffic it's probably more like an hour and a half, but yeah I love the whole area. In 15-20 years it'll be one giant metro akin to DFW, and it'll be awesome.

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Welcome to Louisiana!

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We’re here for 4 nights and two days and Tajah gives NOLA a huge thumbs up...or she would if she had thumbs.

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Why? Because she's got 2 full days of rest with no car time! Plus she got this bitchin’ necklace (but isn't admitting to flashing bewbs to get it).

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Although we drink (often), we’re not exactly bar-hopping fiends, in fact prior to this trip the last mixed drink I had in a bar was at least a year prior. We’re also not late night party animals, I’m a night owl but my partying tendencies were curtailed when I married a guy who is snoring after a few drinks or after the clock strikes 10. So I was a little concerned about visiting New Orleans, especially just a week before they really start rolling out the Mardi Gras crazy. I shouldn’t have worried, this place is so much more than just alcohol, revelry, beads and boobies.

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But yeah, they do have a few bars here.

 

Because we have senorita gato along for the ride, our hotel options are limited, especially when we’re trying to book in larger cities. I know we’ll need on-site parking and a place that’s not going to be crazy loud at night OR during the day, and nothing I found in the heart of things really fit the bill, so we ended up at a LaQuinta in Metarie. The place was cheap as heck and it was in a good part of town, but was more motel than hotel. I won’t dwell on details, but let’s just say we found the night clerk at the front desk with her head on a pillow sound asleep at 9pm and again the next morning at 7am, all three days! Needless to say there wasn’t any fresh morning coffee brewed to go with our beignets.

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We planned two full days in New Orleans, our first would be spent wandering from the French Quarter to the Garden District, the second day is reserved for the WWII museum.

 

Mike is militantly an early morning person, so I’ve been forced into this weird lifestyle where we’re usually up way before normal humans, which means that we get to see a side of party towns like New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Key West that most people miss out on. Of course we also miss out on a lot of sleep, but I think it’s worth it (most of the time, just don’t talk to me during that first hour or two).

 

We made it into the city and found cheap parking right on the waterfront in front of Jackson Square and there was no line for beignets at Cafe du Monde, so of course Mike got to crow about how the early bird blah blah blah, whatever, I needed more coffee.

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We spent the next few hours wandering the streets as the city woke up. What an amazing place! I took entirely too many photos, most of which looked like 99% of every other tourist’s photos of the French Quarter, well, except mine were sans boobs. Sorry. Oh, I do have a pic of an ass though.

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On the advice of a friend who lived in New Orleans for years I booked two walking tours, both through Free Tours by Foot. If you’re not familiar with this company they offer tours where you decide how much you think the tour is worth after it’s completed. It seemed a smart bet that the tour guides would be pretty good if they trusted a bunch of idiot tourists to not stiff them on a daily basis.

 

Our first tour started at the base of Mr. Jackson’s fine statue.

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Our tour guide Sean was a native of the city whose family had lived here for generations. And he didn’t have an accent. Whaaaaa??? So yeah the first thing we learned is that not everyone here sounds like they’re extras in The Big Easy, in fact most locals don’t have an accent, but Hollywood thought they should, so that’s how they’re portrayed. Mind...blown.

 

We spent two hours walking the streets, gawking at beautiful buildings and learning the ugly, amazing, crazy and awesome stories behind them.

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Sean also pointed out his favorite places to eat so we had some ideas for lunch. After the tour we headed to the farmer’s market on Poydras to see if we could find anything remotely vegetarian for Mike - yep, he’s one of those non-meat-eating weirdos, but I can’t tease him about it too much because he’s skinny and healthy and I’m fat, so yeah. Anywhoo, if you’re a vegetarian in New Orleans you’d better take up drinking because that’s about all you’re going to find to eat. So we did, and had an incredible (and incredibly huge) daiquiri made with fresh fruit from one of the market stands. With a nice afternoon buzz well in hand I opened the NOLA transportation app and attempted to navigate their bus system to get us to our 1:30pm tour that would begin at Lafayette Cemetery. After standing at the wrong bus stop for about 10 minutes some kind drunk told us we were obviously country mice and pointed us to the correct stop across the street. I’ll admit, he’s right, we’re from the country and I never learned to comfortably navigate city public transportation. I’d rather be lost in the middle of nowhere on motorcycles with no cell phone signal and only a paper map and compass than have to figure out a transfer on a city bus system. Pathetic, I know. On the plus side, Mike did find a cat.

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Fortunately, our bus drivers were ever so kind to the idiots from Oregon and we got where we needed to be with time to spare.

 

Our second tour included Lafayette Cemetery and the Garden District. I can’t remember our guide’s name, but he was cool and we learned a lot about architecture, history, why dead people aren’t put in the ground around here, and where John Goodman lives.

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Here (John Goodman, that is).

The cemetery was artistically gorgeous, but touristicly overcrowded. I would have killed to have a few hours of quiet time here in the early morning or evening to shoot photos, as it was I had to time shots carefully to avoid the unwashed masses, which is frustrating and sort of wrecks the ethereal and sombre mood that should surround a place like this. Still, if you’re in NO, do NOT miss seeing this cemetery.

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This picture was an oops as I was doing some long shutter work and moved the camera too quickly, but I sort of liked the effect.

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The Garden District is made up of impeccably maintained historic homes. Our tour guide filled our brains with history, building facts and details about details, it was fascinating and I’ve sadly forgotten it all! I’m blaming the Lethe effect on lack of food and sufficiency of alcohol in my system. Still, we had a wonderful time.

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Luckily my “local” friend had given me the names of a few vegetarian places in town that she recommended, one was this tiny hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese place called Lilly’s Cafe. The food was plentiful and absolutely wonderful. Ahhhhh.

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We spent the another few hours after our early dinner racing around to the antique stores in the French Quarter. Mike is a crazy collector of all things moto, so typically while I’m riding coasters, he’s buying crap at antique stores. There weren’t any coasters around so I was stuck wandering these tiny stores crammed full of everything from antebellum oddities to modern knick-knacks. He did find a few cool things, and I had some fun just wandering, shooting pictures and soaking up atmosphere.

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We were both happy and tired as we walked back to the car that night.

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It's impossible to be unhappy when you spy a horse with wings on the way to your car.

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National WWII Museum

We are definitely museum people, when we find a good one we’ll be there when the doors open and stay until security ushers us out after the lights have been turned off. Needless to say, when I’d read that New Orleans was home to the #2 Museum In The WORLD*, I knew we’d have to visit. My only frustration was that I felt one day in the city just wouldn’t be enough (I was right), and would we feel like we were wasting our second day looking at planes and other militaria that we’d seen at other excellent WWII museums elsewhere? But…#2 in the world? How could we pass that up?

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'Murica!

(*if you’re like me and didn’t know it already, I’ll bet you just went to look up what the #1 museum in the world is, right?)

Tajah also makes us do all the WWII museums because she was a fighter pilot in the war.

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So, what makes this museum so much better than the dozens of other similar venues around the country? After spending a day there I’d say the differences are perspective and scope. Many museums make you feel like you're reading history from a book, this museum makes you walk in the footsteps of your forefathers and almost feel like you're a part of this war. First off, your day starts with a virtual train ride similar to that taken by plenty of young men embarking on their wartime journey. This beautifully done entrance really gets your mind focused on what the beginning of the war felt like for many Americans.

 

Once you’re through the main gate, unless you have a tour scheduled, you’re pretty much on your own to decide how you want to proceed. I would definitely recommend starting with the 4D movie, it’s produced and narrated by Tom Hanks, so you know you’re in for Hollywood-level production values along with a heartfelt and honest look at America at war.

 

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After we saw the movie we really weren’t sure where to go next. The museum is currently made up of 6 buildings, but that number will grow by three more next year and by 2020 they’ll have an even 10. Just like anything else, once you’ve been to a place you have a better idea of what to spend the most time on, unfortunately we didn’t know what we didn’t know and we ended up spending too much time in areas that weren’t as interesting to us and rushing through some really amazing parts at the end of our day. I’ll tell you what I wish we’d done, but I think the best advice I can give you is to carefully study the website and plan out your day if you’ll only be spending a day here - or schedule two days and have the luxury of time (I wish we’d been able to do this!)

 

If we knew better I would have started with the movie, then the D-Day exhibit in the entrance building, then gone on to The Home Front in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, next moved to the Campaigns of Courage pavilion which is broken up into two sections, Europe and the Pacific. From there I’d spend whatever remaining time in the other pavilions - if you want to see planes from every angle visit the impressive and vertigo-inducing Boeing Center (skip the submarine upcharge), if you’re a detail person check out the Restoration Pavilion and read about how STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) helped win the war, and of course by next year there will be three new pavilions to add even more choices to your already-too-busy museum day. Whew!

 

But I really think the core displays that stay with you the most are those housed in the Campaigns of Courage pavilion. The way they integrated artifacts, movies, oral histories, written reports and thousands of pieces of ephemera collected from hundreds of veterans made everything seem very immediate and real.

 

You walk through a German bunker wall in Berlin...

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...then sweat as you see planes swoop low through a war-torn city...

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...or creep through steamy jungle terrain surrounded by the sights and sounds of fighting all around you.

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The theming is as immersive as anything you will experience at a Disney park, but instead of being surrounded by fantasy, what you are touching here is real history.

 

I don’t want to be all melodramatic, but as the final remaining living legends of this war will be gone in a few short years, museums like this need to be able to tell the story of their sacrifices, tragedies, and triumphs in a way that resonates with modern society. The National WWII Museum has found a way to do that, it offers a truly a singular experience. If you have any interest at all in history and America’s place in it, you need to see this museum.

 

Pictures do not do this place justice, but hopefully a few will whet your appetite to visit!

 

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One of the first displays in the D-Day exhibit is this depiction of how many service members from each country died during the war. It was a humbling start to our day.

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The Home Front literally walks you through a typical wartime Middle America living room.

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Air raid on Pearl Harbor x This Is Not A Drill. Original telegram from the US Atlantic Fleet.

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Original Enigma machine

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Suitcase Radio, given to resistance forces in occupied Europe to contact US and British intelligence.

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This restored British courier bike is the model seen in action on the wall behind.

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The Boeing collection is a vertical display, travel as high as your legs or fear of heights will allow and see these big birds from a different perspective.

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Gun displays are naturally a part of war museums, these are different because they are separated by campaigns and the weapons used by each side are shown next to each other to compare and contrast the quality available to the different countries.

 

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Used until they were used up, these flags spent the entire war on the same ship with the same gunnery officer, who packed them away and brought them home after the war.

 

But hey, enough gravitas, tomorrow we coaster!

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Thankfully Canada was so much stronger about their resolve to help Europe stop the Axis powers while America tried to hide their head in the sand until almost too late.

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I have no right to judge anything or anybody on this, but what I do think is...

 

For the Not-So-Good (War), there was The Good ~ Everybody who participated in defending their respective country from Evil.

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Very true. Those folks definitely earned their moniker of "The Greatest Generation". War absolutely sucks, I am uncomfortable with any displays that glorify it, but this museum does an excellent job of bringing the experience to life without making it seem like some thrilling video game.

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^ I've been through a few of them in Europe and they are some of the most intense

walk-through experiences I have ever been through. And they are necessary.

 

Pardon, not trying to bring your travels thread "down."

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