Orlando Airport’s Hidden B-52 Memorial Park

Nestled on the outskirts of Orlando International Airport is a tiny little park, with a great big retired B-52 Stratofortress bomber in it.  This particular B-52 flew missions with the 306th Bomb Wing of what used to be McCoy Air Force Base from 1963 to 1974.  It was retired and set up at this park, the B-52 Memorial Park, which was dedicated in 1985.

Here’s a fun factoid – Did you ever wonder why Orlando’s airport code is MCO instead of ORL or OIA?  It’s because the airport is still using the original FAA airport code from when it was McCoy.

The B-52 Memorial Park is located on Bear Road, just past the North Economy Parking Lot, and if you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it-  it’s set back a little bit from the road.  Once you’re there, it’s pretty hard to miss though, because a B-52 Stratofortress is HUGE.

I had been meaning to check out this park for a while after I learned about it, and I finally managed to stop by to take some pictures last October, after I came back from a quick trip to DC.  I had parked in the North Economy Lot, so this was just around the corner from my car.

I couldn’t resist getting a shot for scale-  even the tires on this plane are huge.  Please ignore the stupid facial expression in this photo.

There are several sidewalks and benches around the plane, as well as an elevated viewing stand that looks directly at the nose of the aircraft.  At the base of the viewing stand, there’s a sign about the park itself.

It’s possible to walk up close to and underneath the aircraft, which is fascinating to me.   I’m still a ten year old boy at heart, and I love airplanes and trains and the like.

There’s also a tiny memorial to the faithful K-9 contingent of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, but it’s also easy to miss if you’re not reading all the signs.  It just looks like a fenced off patch of gravel.

The B-52 Memorial Park is open 7:00 AM  to sunset, and is easily found with the help of Google Maps. It’s also close to the ride-share waiting lot, so you will pass a lot of loitering Uber and Lyft drivers on your way there.

Are there any hidden historical gems close to where you live?



The South Florida Railway Museum

Much of the time that I spend with Amelie involves trains.  Specifically, we use them to see one another instead of taking the drive.  When Amelie comes up to visit me, I usually pick her up here, at the Deerfield Beach Tri-Rail station.


Tri-Rail is short for tri-county rail, and it’s a north-south rail corridor in South Florida that connects Miami, Ft. lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and parts in between.


The Deerfield Beach Station  is also one of several throughout the state that serves as an Amtrak station.  Amtrak is America’s answer to the Deutsche Bahn, except it’s not as convenient, not as cheap, and not as useful.  It’s also not as punctual, because Amtrak leases the rail lines from the freight companies, but that’s a different post.


One day in late April, I noticed this sign on the street near the entrance.


Following the sign, I found another one pointing to a nondescript door.  As it turns out, they were doing some work on the external face of the building.  Now, seven months later, there’s a clear sign to indicate that this is an actual museum.   At the time, it looked pretty sketchy.


Inside, however, it was kind of amazing.  This, it turns out, is the home of the South Florida Railway Museum and Model Railroad Club.   Housed in the old rail terminal building, it’s only natural that the museum contained  model trains.


This part of the museum reminded me of Miniatur Wunderland.


There was a lot of detail here, including a tiny herd of tiny cows.


The rail model was a giant construct in the center of a large open room, but the walls were filled with other things.


This vintage Coca-Cola machine was actually being used by the museum staffers as a refridgerator-  the place on the left where you’d normally see Coke bottles is being used to keep the coffee creamer cold.


There were dozens of model engines on the walls representing different time periods and train styles.


Some of them have specific historic importance, like this one from an old hobby store in Miami.  The store is long gone.


Even train cars need sweaters when it gets chilly out.


To a model train enthusiast, this museum is a goldmine.


This license plate had an inside joke for train engineers, but I can’t remember what the word on the bottom was.


Cheap plastic sunglasses from the launch of Tri-Rail serve as memorabilia here.


The museum has a fantastic collection of items from the golden age of rail travel, including an ash tray, a drinking glass, and “pasteurized drinking water” as it was distributed on passenger trains in the past.


There are lots of ash trays in the museum.  People smoked a lot back then.


One huge corner of the museum is dedicated to old Amtrak swag.


I think I had a set of those Amtrak playing cards when I was a kid.


This old control board is stuffed to the gills with ancient communications gear, and a now-rare example of an analog word processor.  Er.  Typewriter.  I mean Typewriter.


This old Amtrak sign is about six feet tall, up near the ceiling in the front.


Here’s more examples of older rail signs.  These haven’t changed all that much in the intervening years.


The Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Edo-Tokyo Museum in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo is a museum that details the history and culture of Tokyo during the Edo period.  The museum is in a multi-level building with a very interesting structure.  The main entrance is up that red escalator on the left.


One of the first things you see after entering the museum is a life-sized replica of the Nihonbashi, the bridge which has crossed the Nihonbashi river since the 17th century.  The first wooden bridge was constructed in 1603.  The Nihonbashi was rebuilt with stone and a steel frame in 1911.


Looking over the rail of the bridge, you can see a life-sized replica of an old Newspaper office.  You can get on the seat of the penny farthing, the bike with a giant front wheel.  It doesn’t go anywhere, however, which was very disappointing.


On the far side of the bridge is an area with models of castles and other buidings from the Edo period.


I didn’t take very good notes as to what the models represented, but they’re incredibly detailed.  They reminded me a lot of Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.


Look, a tiny palace!


The detail on these buildings and courtyards is extraordinary.


This demonstration involves lifting heavy buckets on a pole.  However, the metal guides prevent you from lifting them too far, which makes it even more awkward.  I tried this, and it made a terrible noise when I extended the ropes too far.


Boats! Boats! Boats!


I deeply regret not taking the time to photograph the placards that explain what these items are.  It’s been four months already since I left Japan, and the best I can come up with now is, “ooh, tiny Japanese people!”


Royalty may get a comfortable seat, but I can’t help but think the whole contraption would be faster if it were a little bit less ornate.


Some sections of the museum covered more recent times.  I thought the Subaru 360 was kind of neat.


The 2-door rear-engine 360 was Subaru’s first production automobile.  It was manufactured from 1958 to 1971.


The next two pictures are a scale model of a type of hot air balloon bomb that was sent out by Japan during World War II.  The Fire Balloon (fūsen bakudan) was a hydrogen balloon with a variety of bombs and incendiary devices attached.  Used in conjunction with the Pacific jet stream, the Fire Balloon was the first device to have intercontinental range.


Between 1944 and 1945, the Japanese Navy launched over 9,000 fire balloons toward North America.  About three hundred were confirmed to have reached the United States and Canada, but most of them caused little or no damage.  Six people (five children and a woman) became the only deaths due to enemy action to occur on mainland America during World War II.  One of the Fire Balloons landed near Bly, Oregon, and one of the children triggered the bomb.   The site where this happened is marked by a stone munment in the Mitchell Recreation Area in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.  The Canadian War Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario, has a full, intact balloon on display.


This is a Model T used as a taxi in old Tokyo.


This is a replica of  the Ryōunkaku, Japan’s first western-style skyscraper. It stood in the Asakusa district of Tokyo from 1890 until the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923.  The earthquake destroyed the upper floors, and the tower was so severely damaged that it had to be demolished.


This sign shows how the tower looked after the earthquake, and details the subsequent demolition of the tower.


The Boodo Khan is one of Sony’s earliest audio systems.  The Boodo Khan name was also applied to early Walkman models, but this is a component system for home audio.  Collectors and audiophiles still rave about the audio quality on these boxes.


This is a very pretty phone booth.  I think it looks a little bit like a lighthouse.


Have you ever been to the Edo-Tokyo Museum?

WEBMU 2014: Nürnberg

Every year, a group of ex-pat bloggers living in Germany gather for a weekend of fun, tourism, food, and drink.  This gathering is called WEBMU – the Whiny Expatriate Bloggers Meet-Up.  The location is different each year-  in 2012 the gathering was in Berlin.  In 2013, the group gathered in Prague, but I didn’t make it to that one.  This year, we met in Nuremberg roughly halfway through the month of September.

The attendees were:

A WEBMU weekend typically runs Friday through Sunday, with the early arrivals taking a day trip to an alternate location in the daytime in Friday.  This WEBMU was no exception, and we met up at 10am to visit scenic and moist Bamberg.  Most of the pictures I took in Bamberg are similar to the pictures I took the first time I visited Bamberg, so I’m not going to include too many of those here.  If you’re curious, you can look at the previous Bamberg post.  (Also, it was raining all day, so many of my new photos have rain drops on the lens.  I really need to get a lens hood.)

One of the first things we saw in Bamberg was this randomly placed elephant.  We’re all pretty sure it’s an advertisement, but it was still random enough to warrant a photograph.


We went to the Altes Rathaus, and to the local cathedral to look again at the Bamberg Rider.


We were in Bamberg on the same day that there was a party for the closing of U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg, so we stumbled across the Burrito Bandito.  It was a little strange seeing US Army guys in fatigues while out and about in Germany.


While waiting for the train back to Nuremberg, we were witness to the Hochzeit of two smaller trains.  The coupling is almost entirely automatic for this type of train, so it was kind of fascinating to watch.  We were all mesmerized, to the great amusement of the conductor from the train on the left.


Fast forward to Saturday, and we started the day with a small city tour… in the rain.


Here’s the tour route, just for fun:


This is one of the two brass rings embedded into the wrought iron-work in Schöner Brunnen, a rather nifty fountain in the city’s main market square near the town hall.  It is said that spinning the brass ring will bring you luck.  The fountain itself is a reproduction; the original lives in the city’s historical museum.


It’s rather amazing to me that I’ve been in Germany for this long and I didn’t manage to get a picture with a section of the original Berlin Wall until this trip.  Here it is.


Albrecht Dürer is kind of a big deal in Nuremberg.  His house is near this statue.


One of Dürer’s most celebrated creations is this creepy-ass rabbit.  The dude with the pink umbrella just makes it so much more surreal, don’t you think?


This store’s sign caught my eye because it’s a rather nifty play on words.  Bohne & Kleid in German is “Bean and Dress,” but it sounds quite a bit like “Bonnie and Clyde.”  It made me giggle.


One of the nifty things about Nuremberg is that a large portion of the old city wall is still intact like this section on the right.


A bunch of these old cities have St. George and the Dragon themed stuff floating around.  It’s all very Trogdor-oriented.


Nuremberg also has a reasonably well preserved castle, part of which is pictured here.


Big castles have big doors.


Here’s the requisite view of the city from the castle’s ramparts.


Later in the day, Cliff and I ventured in to the Deutsche Bahn Museum, a place I had wanted to visit for quite a while.  It had some fantastic vintage carriages.


An old rail-running bicycle looking thing was on display.  This reminds me a little bit of the scene from Blazing Saddles with the quick-sand.


What would a train museum be without incredibly detailed models?


The DB Museum had a ton of great photographs up showing the construction of the railways and bridges.  Most of those pictures didn’t come out well enough to post, but this will give you an idea of how amazing and fascinating the historical photographs were.


Any good train museum would also cover that uncomfortable part of Germany’s history where the railways were part of the World War II experience.  Here’s a train conductor’s uniform from that era.


The best part of the exhibit was the various trains  set up along the outer edges of the museum.  Here’s a mostly-plastic model of an ICE train.  You couldn’t even sit down inside.  The real thing is much nicer.


Apparently, 6th class train rides involved standing up in a giant rectangular train carriage with no roof.  Still beats walking, I guess.


Compare that last one to first class, which has velvet seats and a nice terrace from which you can have champagne toasts.


Speaking of first class, the Prince’s carriages were present in the museum.  They’re very fancy.


The Prince’s carriage had a green room that Cliff thought was amazing.


I was more partial to the blue room in the Prince’s carriage.   What can I say? I like blue!


There were also some massive old steamers in the museum.


When I say massive, I mean massive.  These wheels were nearly as tall as I am.


…and you can step up into some of them for hammy moments.  Here’s Cliff, waving hello from the conductor’s window.


Have you ever been to the DB Museum?  Have you visited Bamberg or Nuremberg?

Nordic Adventure, Part 4: Oslo

The third stop in my traipse through the Nordics after Helsinki and Stockholm was Oslo.  I traveled from Stockholm to Oslo by train, a decision I actually kind of regret.  It took three or four times as long, and thanks to poor train management, it was damn near 10:30 at night by the time I checked into my hotel.  I made the best of it though.


This is a seafront plaza behind the city hall.  That building in the distance is the Nobel Peace Center.  I’ll come back to that.


The Oslo Radhus (City Hall) has some fascinating carvings on the walkways up to the main entrance doors.  I only photographed a few of them.

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The structure in the tower on the left is a set of carillon bells which rings every hour.  The clock face visible in the center is an astronomical clock- a more traditional clock face is visible on the opposite side of the building from the seafront.


Here’s a closer view of the  Nobel Peace Center.  While most of the Nobel Prizes are  awarded in Stockholm, the Peace Prize is given out in Oslo.


The exhibits in the Peace Center weren’t quite as interesting to me as the exhibitions in the Nobel Museum back in Stockholm.  This one looked pretty nifty, though.


These screens contained changing images of Nobel winners.  Kind of a nifty visual presentation, in my opinion.


In one of the stairwells, I found this anti-Nazi cartoon that I quite liked.


This sculpture by Monica Bonvicini, called She Lies, is made of stainless steel and glass panels, and it floats next to the Oslo Opera House.  The art installation floats on the water on a concrete platform twelve meters above the water surface.  The sculpture turns with the tide and wind, which changes the look of the reflections.


…and now for something completely different.  Say hello to the Holmenkollbakken, a ski jump and stadium with a hill size of HS134, whatever that means.


The ski jump will hold up to 30,000 spectators.


One of Oslo’s attractions is Bygdøy, a museum island.  The Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum, the Viking Ship Museum, and several others are on Bygdøy.

The Viking Ship museum has several Viking sailing vessels.  Por ejemplo:


The Kon-Tiki Museum was of particular interest to me because I vaguely remember seeing a film about the Kon-Tiki at the Society of the Four Arts when I was in middle school.  For those who are unfamiliar with the Kon-Tiki, it was the raft used by Thor Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands.  The Kon-Tiki expedition is pretty fascinating stuff.


The Fram Museum is another museum about a boat.  In this case, it’s about a ship which was used in both Arctic and Antarctic expeditions.  The Fram, which is entirely preserved in the museum, sailed farther north and farther south than any other wooden ship.


This poster was in the Fram Museum, and it made me giggle.


After I crossed back from Bygdøy by ferry, I walked past a building that housed a movie theater.  Inside, there was a life-sized Toothless and I couldn’t resist snagging a picture.  Moving on…


This is a view down Karl Johan’s Gate, one of the main streets in the city.


The opposite end of Karl Johan’s Gate ends at the Royal Palace.  This is actually as close to the Palace as I went, because it was starting to rain and I wanted to go to the National Gallery.

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The National Gallery has some truly amazing pieces.  A lovely little Degas, anyone?


I’ve seen a few Thinkers in my lifetime- the first one I saw was actually in 1997 in a touring exhibition of Rodin’s work.  I’ve also seen the one in the Gates of Hell in the Bay Area of California.   There are 28 full-sized castings out there, and a slew of smaller copies as well.  I never pass up an opportunity to snag a picture of a Thinker when it crosses my path.


This is the real reason I wanted to go to the National Gallery:  Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”  This is one of four versions Munch did of this piece, actually, but this is easily his most well-known work.    Oslo also has a Munch Museum, but this painting isn’t there, it’s here in the National Gallery.  Always do your research before you travel, children- it helps you to see amazing things.


While I was in Oslo, I took advantage of a well-timed concert schedule to see the Oslo Philharmonic play.


I’m not so crass as to take a picture during  the show.  This was a program of Don Juan from Strauss, a little Mozart, and the entirety of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica.’


Have you ever been to Oslo?  What kinds of art and music do you like to see when you travel?