The Best Western Air Museums

We have visited some very unique air museums in the western United States and we have offered a brief description of each below. All are quite unique in their own way and might make a good addition to your western vacation planner if your travels take you to California, Arizona or Oregon.

north american fighter planes

North American O-47B

Planes of Fame

The museum was first established in 1957 in Claremont California by Ed Maloney as the Air Museum. Today the museum is known by that name and also as Planes of Fame, located at the Chino California Airport. The museum expanded at it became apparent that a second location should be added. The Arizona museum opened in 1995 at the reopened Valle-Grand Canyon Airport which at one time served as a TWA facility.

This site is located halfway between Williams Arizona and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The Valle-Grand Canyon site displays over 40 of the Museum’s vintage aircraft with many of them being flyable. Many of the vintage aircraft are kept flyable by the people who donate both funds and aircraft parts to the museum. Additionally many people have donated their time to help maintain the aircraft. Aircraft restoration is a big part of what this organization does.

mohawk aircraft

OV-1 Mohawk

At the Chino California museum…Grumman Bearcat, Grumman Avenger, Vought Corsair, Grumman Hellcat, North American Mustang, Misubishi Zero, Lockheed Lightening.

At the Valle-Grand Canyon Arizona museum…Standard W.W. I Trainer, Curtiss Robin Flying Replica, Martin Airliner, North America Trojan, Billy Walker Nieuport Flying Replica.

Pacific Coast Air Museum

If you’re planning a San Francisco vacation and/or a wine country tour, I think you’ll find a visit to the Pacific Coast Air Museum a very historically interesting side trip. It’s one of the best aviation museums on the west coast and a lot of fun for the entire family, young and old.

california air museums

Pacific Coast Air Museum

From San Francisco drive north on U.S. Hwy 101 through Santa Rosa. Exit Hwy 101 at Airport Rd. and turn left. Off Airport Rd. turn left on N. Laughlin Road and then right on Becker Blvd. Parking is near the museum entrance. Their phone number is 707-575-7900 .

The Museum is located on the grounds of the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.

The museum has on display a very historic aircraft that took part in the U.S. military’s response to September 2001 terrorist attacks. This aircraft is the genuine F-15A which was the first military jet that responded over the skies of New York City during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. It’s obviously a unique display to have and I would recommend you stop and give it a look if you are anywhere near Santa Rosa or Windsor California.

Below are photos and information on just two of the aircraft on display at the Pacific Coast Air Museum.

grumman tracker airplane

Grumman Tracker

The Grumman S-2A Tracker

The Grumman S-2A Tracker was built for the military as a submarine hunter aircraft. The plane is powered with two Wright Twin Cyclone R-1820 nine cylinder radial engines. Each engine produces 1,500 horsepower.

The cruise speed of this aircraft is 150 MPH with a top speed of 195 MPH. The Grumman S-2A has an empty weight of 18,750 pounds with a maximum takeoff weight of 27,000 pounds. Dimensions are a 70 ft wing span, 43 ft 6 in length, 16 ft 7 in height and a wing area of 496 sq ft.

uh-1 huey helicopter

UH-1 Huey

The UH-1H Huey on display at the Pacific Coast Air Museum was restored and updated and displays markings of the 188th Assault Helicopter Company referred to as the “Black Widows“.

This particular helicopter saw combat action in Vietnam flown by “Black Widow” air crews. When the Pacific Coast Air Museum acquired this helicopter it was being used by the California National Guard. The restoration was performed by Vietnam Vets from the Black Widow unit. Other markings seen on this aircraft include the bulls-eye of the 269th Combat Aviation Battalion, white markings belonging to the 2nd Platoon and the 2nd Platoon’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” door marking.

See the articles on our Western Trips site on the links below…

Visit a Rocket Museum in Albuquerque NM

Wiley Post and His Record Setting Lockheed Vega

The U.S.S. Hornet / Alameda California

Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum

If your western travel plans include the Columbia River area of Oregon, make a point to stop and visit the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River Oregon. Without a doubt, you will find this one of the most unique airplane and vintage auto museum in the U.S. Once restored by our volunteers, all of the antique cars and planes at this excellent museum can and do run.

hood river oregon air museum

Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum

The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum features over one-hundred vintage and classic autos plus about seventy-five flyable antique aircraft.

This is all under one roof. Aircraft, automobiles, motorcycles, tractors, military jeeps are all on display. One of the impressive vintage airplanes on exhibit at WAAM is the Beechcraft airplane E18 S shown below. This is the post World War Two “Super 18” and is remarkably restored.

The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum is located at 1600 Air Museum Rd, Hood River, OR.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

Camels of the American Southwest / A Trip Into History

Why the army was interested in camels is a story in itself. Most historians attribute the camel idea, or at least the original one, to George H. Crosman who served with the army in the Seminole Wars in Florida.

george crosman camel corp

George Crosman

The Camel Idea?

Starting in the 1830’s Crosman promoted the use of camels to the federal government but not with much success. The American frontier in the 1840’s ran basically on a line from Minnesota down through Missouri and then through Arkansas and east Texas.

The arid regions of the desert southwest were outside the American domain and were explored and governed by Spain. When Spain was expelled in the 1820’s the region was ruled by Mexico. Because the U.S. frontier at that time was far from the desert southwest, the camel, which was associated with the desert regions of the Middle East, was not on the government’s radar to replace the horse or the mule. Nothing came of Crosman’s idea.

The Camel Experiments of Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis fought in the Mexican American War. He was aware about the problems of military and civilian communication and travel in desert regions. When the war ended the U.S. military would need to travel throughout the arid southwest not to mention future railroad survey crews.

Two HistoricTrips to the Mediterranean

In 1855 Jefferson Davis sent the U.S.S. Supply on a voyage to the Mediterranean for the purpose of bringing back camels to the U.S. The vessel made another trip to the Middle East in 1856.for the same purpose. The destination of both boatloads of camels was the Texas coast.

jefferson davis army camel corp

Jefferson Davis who authorized the U.S. Army Camel Corp

The U.S.S. Supply was one of the most active supply ships during this era and during the later Civil War. It’s exploits to the Middle East during the 1850’s made United States Naval history. Jefferson Davis arranged for the camels to be brought to an area near Victoria Texas and nearby Camp Verde and San Antonio. When the camels arrived the local populace was quite excited and amused.

The camels also created a stir among the horses and mules who picked up the camels unique scent. Both the horses and mules became agitated when the camels appeared. The situation was such that teamsters had to be told in advance when the camels were transported inland from the coast so they could make certain their horse and mule teams were out of the area.

Below are Three Interesting Trip Stops Regarding the Army Camel Corp

Hi Jolly and Quartzite Arizona

There’s a few unique sites you may want to add to your western trip planner that is part of this unique military camel experiment.

One of these unique sites is located in Quartzsite Arizona, about 80 miles north of Yuma Crossing and 129 miles west of Phoenix Arizona on the north side of Interstate 10.

hi jolly grave site quartzite arizona

Hi Jolly grave site in Quartzite Arizona

Today Quartzsite is very popular with winter RVer’s and there are many major gem and mineral shows scheduled during the months of January and February which bring in over one million visitors.

Quartzsite is also the final resting place of a man who was referred to as Hi Jolly, a man much involved with camels in Arizona. Hi Jolly was a name given to him by the military men he worked with. His real name was Hadji Ali and he was also later known as Philip Tedro. Born in the Ottoman Empire of Jordanian parentage Hadji Ali (pictured with Gertrude Serna below right) was the first ever camel driver hired by the U.S. Army. His job was to drive camels through the American Southwest during the army’s experiment using camels as beasts of burden.

hi jolly quartzite arizona

Hi Jolly Monument plaque

The story of Hi Jolly and his work with the U.S. Army during the mid 1800’s is an interesting tale of experiments and American exploration into a new region…the arid desert southwest…this new land taken over by the Americans as a result of the Mexican-American War.

Camel Treks and Historic Reenactments and Exhibits

The Texas Camel Corps guides camel treks through the Big Bend region of Texas. Camel trekking is like backpacking, only without having to carry anything. When you tire of riding, you can walk.

Led by Texas Camel Corps owner Doug Baum, participants must be able to walk 5-7 miles per day and provide their own sleeping bag, water container, small duffel bag or backpack and change of clothes. Camels, all other camping gear, and meals are provided. The location is Gearhart Ranch, Scenic Fort Davis Loop, Fort Davis, Texas. For more information about Texas Camel Corps events see website www.texascamelcorps.comThe Camel Stables at the Old Benicia California Arsenal

The Camel Barns which were built in 1855 can still be seen at the old Benicia Arsenal whose grounds now house the Benicia Historical Museum in Benicia California. Benicia is located northeast of San Francisco along Suisun Bay. Benicia is about a 35 mile drive from San Francisco.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Southwest Expedition

The expedition in Texas was in-part conducted by a Major Henry C. Wayne who was quite familiar with the southwest having served with General Kearny in California during the Mexican War. Also recruited was Edward Fitzgerald Beale who was a former lieutenant in the Navy. Beale also recommended the appointment of one of his relatives, Navy lieutenant David Dixon Porter, to join the group. Porter went along with the U.S.S. Supply in it’s two voyages to find camels and drovers in the Mideast.

trans pecos region texas

The Trans Pecos Region of Texas

After the end of the Mexican-American War, the Army was needed to produce further surveys and construct additional wagon roads. Edward Beale was of big importance in this endeavor having ridden with Kit Carson throughout the southwest during the war.

The camels were brought to San Antonio on June 21, 1857 to be loaded. Beale set out across the south Texas plains and desert on June 25th and arrived in El Paso on July 27th.  A stop was made at Fort Davis along the way. The journey passed through the dangerous Camanche lands, referred to as Comancheria, but without incident. When the caravan passed near to Mexico many of the locals came out to see these strange animals. On the trip up the Rio Grande to Albuquerque much the same occurred when the group passed through villages.

Performance of the Camels

Durring his travels with the caravan Beale made several interesting reports about the camels. He reported that the camels could travel continuously in a country where other barefooted beasts couldn’t last but a week. He further noted that the animals could live on anything and thrive. Beale said that on an extremely hot day the animals didn’t take a drink of water for over twenty-six hours.

Westward Toward California

When the group reached Albuquerque, Beale rode up to Santa Fe to make his report to the military authorities there. On August 13th the group headed out west to Ft Defiance where they were to meet a detachment under the command of a Colonel Loring.

From Fort Defiance the caravan followed the 35th parallel where their real work would start. That was a survey for a wagon road westward to the Colorado River. The expedition was not actually the very first to traverse this region since they did have a map with them drawn up during a 1853 expedition to survey a railroad route. This route today somewhat follows Interstate 40 through the northern part of Arizona.

The caravan continued westward from the Zuni Pueblo and did encounter some Pueblo Indians and Apaches along the way but all meetings were peaceful. Upon reaching the Colorado River, the crossing, while a bit difficult because the camels could not swim, was not as hard as predicted. The camels were roped together in gangs of five and were able to cross.

fort tejon california

Old Fort Tejon Barracks exhibit today

Moving further westward they split up and a group went to Los Angeles and another to Fort Tejon. The Mojave Desert crossing seemed to be uneventful since Beale only devoted a few sentences to it in his journal.

Beale left the camels at Ft Tejon and started a long journey eastward to Washington to make his formal report to Secretary of War Floyd. Eventually the camels in both California and Texas were costing the government a lot of money but nobody knew what to do next with the camels and Congress began to stop funding..

The Experiment Ends

Secretary Floyd and others were proponents of camel usage throughout the military, however the majority were not. A few military commanders in the west wanted to do other experiments with the camels of a purely military nature. Could these sturdy beasts possibly replace many of the horses? They could subsist on almost nothing so could this help the army in it’s consolidation of the southwest? After much debate and the start of the American Civil War the funding for the camels decreased and for all practical purposes the use of camels by the government and by private industry came to an end in the 1870’s.

Wild Camels Roam the Desert Southwest

In 1891, nine camels roaming on the western edge of Death Valley appeared before the eyes of two gold miners who thought they were seeing ghosts.  This was decades after the camels were brought to North America. The miners, Shep Searcy and Charlie Fisher, were lying down at the time, trying to drink from a mud puddle, when Shep said: “Do you see what I think I see?”  Fisher replied: “I don’t know what you see, Shep, but it looks like Barnum’s circus to me.”  Shortly after that, the camels snorted, and ran away.  When the miners reported their brief encounter to residents of a nearby town, people thought they were crazy. The camel experiment as long forgotten.

benicia arsenal

Benicia Arsenal in 1878

In October 1891, camels caused a cattle stampede outside Harrisburg, Arizona.  Men stood around, amazed, not knowing what to do, when Harry Wharton, one of the original camel teamsters, approached to stroke one of the camels across the knees.  The camel readily knelt.  Harry then shot the animal dead.  Two Mexicans stripped the carcass and sold the meat to an unsuspecting butcher.

In the 1890s, passengers on Southern Pacific trains reported seeing camels pacing the sands of Arizona Territory.  In 1901, in western Arizona, a Southern Pacific train ran over and killed one of the animals.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

The Great Sand Dunes / A Colorado Adventure

Our Only National Park That Changes It’s Shape

The Great San Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of the only National Parks in the U.S. that is constantly changing. This of course is the nature of sand dunes everywhere. This very unique national park has the ability to change it’s shape daily. The park is located in a windy region of Colorado alongside the Sangre de Cristo Range. This national park also contains the tallest sand dunes found in North America.

great sand dunes colorado

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

These impressive sand dunes were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and it’s tributaries. Over thousands of years the prevailing westerly winds picked up sand particles from the river flood plain. The wind naturally lost power when trying to cross the high Sangre de Cristo Mountains and as a result deposited sand on the east side of the range.

The wind continues and so does the process that has been going on for some 440,000 years according to geologists. The dunes not only change shape on a fairly daily basis but they are also growing. This is one of the attributes of the Great Sand Dunes that make a visit there so unique.

The Area of the Great Sand Dunes

What we do know about the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado is that they were first noticed by the Native Americans in the area. The names and languages of these earliest natives are not known, more recent American Indian tribes were quite familiar with the area when the Spaniards first arrived over 400 years ago.

sangre de cristo mountains

Sangre de Cristo Mountains along the Great Sand Dunes

As an example, the traditional Ute Indian word for the Great Sand Dunes is Sowapophe-uvehe, “the land that moves back and forth“. Jicarilla Apaches who settled in northern New Mexico  called the Dunes Sei-anyedi, meaning, “it goes up and down.”

The Navajo consider Blanca Peak which is just southeast of the Dunes one of their four sacred mountains.

The Great Sand Dunes National Monument was created in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. This was a time when several parks were created and others upgraded with trails and additional shelter buildings.

Many other National Parks and Monuments were created during that period. When the park was originally created it only covered the dunes themselves. What is important to the dunes however is the surrounding area. For the dunes to survive, care must be taken to protect the surrounding watershed and for this reason the park was expanded to include the adjacent area and mountains.

colorado sand dunes

The Great Sand Dunes

The Great San Dunes Monument and the Preserve

By the year 2004 the park also included a preserve. The preserve was then joined with the Great Sand Dunes Monument and was then the combined area was named a full-fledged National Park in September 2004.

This geologic wonderland contains about 39 square miles of massive sand dunes, some 750 feet high. The Great Sand Dunes National Park also includes alpine lakes and tundra, six mountain peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range over 13,000′ in elevation as seen in the photo above right. Among the trees you will see are spruce pine aspen and cottonwoods.

Also on Trips Into History see Reasons You’ll Enjoy a Rocky Mountain Vacation and The Mysterious Vortexes of Sedona Arizona

See articles on our Western Trips site on the links below…

Where the Southwest Meets the Rockies

Historic Antonito Colorado

Hiking the Great Sand Dunes

There are no roads or official trails into the sand dunes themselves simply because of the soft, ever-shifting sand. Although there are no marked trails you are allowed to walk anywhere and one popular target is the top of the tallest dune  which is only half a mile from the edge.

Walking to the tallest dune will likely take one hour since walking through the sand can be quite a slow process. The hiker will find it easier to walk along sand ridges, rather than straight up the side of the dunes. Be advised that the sand can become quite hot, sometimes up to 140 F, making it much too hot for walking on your bare feet. It is also advisable to carry plenty of water and watch out for lightning during the summer.

blanca peak colorado

Blanca Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of the Great Sand Dunes

The national park maintains three forested hiking trails located east of the dunes along the wooded hills. Some of the trails will take you to high vistas and high country lakes. The wooded trails include Montville Nature Trail, Mosca Pass Trail and San Ramp Trail.

Inquire at the park Visitor Center for free backcountry permits required for overnight backpacking. Designated backcountry sites in the national park are located along the Sand Ramp Trail, in the transition area between the dunefield and the mountains. This is a more sheltered area of the park.

Driving to The Great Sand Dunes National Park

If you’re traveling from the Denver area, Colorado Springs, or Pueblo, the best route is south on Interstate-25 to Walsenburg, then west on US 160 and then north on State Highway 150. If you’re looking for a more mountainous trip from Denver you can travel U.S. Hwy 285 south, then on State Highway 17 south, then County Lane 6 east from Mosca.

Many people also drive up from Santa Fe and Taos New Mexico. From Santa Fe drive north on US 285 to Alamosa Colorado. From Alamosa, you can take either U.S. Highway 160 east and State Highway 150 north, or State Highway 17 north and County Lane 6 east from Mosca. Mileages are about 240 from the Denver area and 185 from Santa Fe.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

Branson Missouri / Fun Attractions and Great Scenery

The History of Branson Missouri

Like many other towns, Branson had it’s beginnings in 1882 with the establishment of a general store. The town is named for Reuben Branson who not only opened the general store but also operated it as the local post office.

branson missouri downtown

Branson Missouri along the riverfront

The start of Branson as an entertainment town actually began in 1894 with the Marvel Cave. This was a natural cave explored in the 1880’s and it was found to house quite a lot of marble.

The Marvel Cave was eventually purchased by a man named William Lynch and he opened it up to tourists. Lynch’s tourist business did quite well. The town of Branson grew and was incorporated in 1912.

Branson Missouri has become a premiere tourist destination for many families. The list of Branson attractions is long.  Many people travel to Branson because of the first class entertainment available in such a beautiful setting with plenty of outdoor recreation.

You will find more than fifty live performance theaters, a whopping twelve championship golf courses, three beautiful lakes, an international award winning theme park, a very historic downtown district and an excursion train that will take you on a pleasant short trip into northern Arkansas and back.

branson missouri scenery

Ozark foothills outside of Branson

A Popular Tourist Destination

Branson, located in the scenic Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri, bills itself as a very affordable family vacation destination, and it truly is. There is something in Branson for the entire family. The town offers some 22,000 hotel rooms and a huge selection of restaurants that will fit any budget. It’s estimated that Branson receives some 7 million visitors per year. There are about 100 live shows and a total of 400 restaurants.

See celebrities at Branson’s live shows. Explore the sights and sounds of one of the world’s top 10 theme parks, Silver Dollar City. Silver Dollar City evolved around the historic Marvel Cave. The theme park was built around the entrance to Marvel Cave, upon the foundations of a genuine 1800s mining town. When you visit the Silver Dollar City theme park your ticket also admits you to the cave. Cave tours leave about every half hour.
Branson features dozens of live performance theaters, three beautiful pristine lakes, championship golf courses.

A family will find hotels in Branson Missouri to fit every vacation budget. You’ll also find several Branson vacation packages to fit just about any trip length. You’ll also want to check out the resorts in Branson Missouri, some of which offer cabins, marinas and boat rentals. Branson resorts also offer vacation packages.

For many years Branson was a popular destination for travelers from Missouri and other nearby states. A big change occurred with the establishing of music theaters by nationally known performers. These theaters found all along Highway 76 ( known as The Strip) greatly increased Branson’s popularity and as a result Branson Missouri is a destination for tourists from all areas of the United States and the world. Branson shows are one it’s main attractions.

branson scenic railway train

Branson Scenic Railway leaving downtown

Branson Scenic Railway

During my visit to Branson I took the Branson Scenic Railway on it’s very enjoyable one hour and 45 minute trip. The trip begins at the train depot in the center of town near the river.

The train travels through tunnels, over trestles, and through the southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas wilderness. The Ozark Mountain foothills offer terrific picture taking opportunities. The train is made up of unique passenger cars. If you love trains then you’ll love this fun rail excursion. The excursion is a forty mile round trip and snacks are available onboard.

branson missouri golf course

One of the many scenic golf holes in Branson Missouri

Plenty of Golf in Branson

Golf is another one of the popular things to do in Branson. If you’re a golfer, your Branson vacation will offer a fine selection of golf courses for any skill level. I was able to play several during my trip there.

The Ozark Mountain topography lends itself well to championship golf courses. In addition to this, while winter does make it’s way to Branson each year, the climate at Branson is mild most of the time. There are more than six major golf courses in Branson and three popular ones are Thousand Hills, Branson Creek and Pointe Royale.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Texas Railroads and Historic Train Depots

Three Historic Train Rides

Travel the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Highway

Branson Centennial Museum

The Branson Centennial Museum shares the stories and legacy of Branson. The museum teaches the areas culture to future generations. Featured are rotating displays that change about every six to eight weeks. The museum is located at  Main Street and Veteran’s Boulevard in down town Branson.

Enjoy the free discovery trolley in Historic Downtown Branson which can take you to  the museum, the riverfront area and the scenic railway depot.

Getting to Branson

Branson is a perfect family vacation destination and depending on where you happen to reside, it’s one of the best weekend side trips you can find anywhere. Branson attractions offer something fun for every family member.

Located near the center of the country along the beautiful Ozark Mountains, Branson is less than a day’s drive for one-third of Americans.

Branson is located in extreme southern Missouri about 50 miles south of Springfield Missouri very near the Arkansas border. It’s about 220 miles from Tulsa Oklahoma mostly via Interstate-44. About 200 miles from the Kansas City area and about 155 miles from Fort Smith Arkansas.

Airports that serve Branson include the Branson Airport and the Springfield-Branson National Airport.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)