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  • Writer's pictureAl S.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles... but mostly planes - Dayton, OH

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

I took my first rest day in Dayton, OH. Actually, it wasn't so much a "rest day" as a "run-around-a-huge-museum day". Still, it was worth it.


May 27

Mileage: 0 miles

Odometer Start: 2721.1

Odometer End: 2721.1

Avg Speed: 0.0 mph

Max Speed: 0.0 mph

Riding Time: 0 hrs, 00 mins

Dayton, OH

I began thinking about this trip years ago. The first time I seriously sat down with a map and began plotting a course across the country was in 2002 at the depth of the collapse of the tech bubble.

There was a stretch of time where my company was laying off people at a dizzying pace. It no longer mattered if you were actually good at your job, there was just no business to support the number of people employed at the time. In April 2002, in the midst of yet another round of layoffs, I was fully expecting to lose my job. Fortunately, I had no real responsibilities outside of a mortgage, so it occurred to me that I had the perfect opportunity to complete a ride across the country. I had already done numerous rides along the C&O Canal from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC. I had also completed 2 week tours through the Loire Valley and Provence in France. I was reasonably confident that a much longer tour was possible.

The small map I began using in 2002 to begin tracking places I wanted to visit.

As I sat at my desk waiting for the phone call that would let me know my status with the company, I broke out a small map of the United States that I kept in my desk. I began looking at routes across the US that would take me through the places that I really wanted to visit. As the morning wore on, I was becoming more enthusiastic about this plan. Eventually, my phone rang and I was informed that I was "a valuable member of the team and my contribution going forward will really be needed".

At the time, I was actually disappointed to keep my job. I eventually spent 19 years at Agilent Technologies (which later became Keysight Technologies) until I retired in 2019. The only reason I retired was so that I could pursue projects like this bike ride. Looking back, I consider myself extremely fortunate for the opportunities that were presented to me by Agilent/Keysight Technologies. My job allowed me to travel all over the world, see amazing things, and participate in some extremely interesting projects.

Out front of the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH.

However, what I learned from the very real and imminent prospect of losing my job was that I had a lot of things that I wanted to do that were not work related. The US map stayed in my desk for the next 17 years. For the remainder of my career, every time I heard about something that was particularly interesting, I would mark that location on the map. In fact, that map was the kernel that eventually became my bike route across the country.

The Memphis Belle - the first B-17 bomber in WWII to complete 25 missions, which allowed the crew to be rotated back home.

One of my must-see places in the US was the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. I arrived in Dayton after 10 days of riding. My plan was to take a day off of the bike, let my body get a day of rest, and visit this museum. Sleeping in a hotel bed and getting a couple of good meals was just a side benefit.

The US Air Force Museum is immense. I spent an entire day wandering around this facility. It turned out, I probably could have spent 2 days here. This facility has an example of almost every plane the Air Force (and its predecessor, the US Army Air Corp) has ever flown. The facility is so large that each building holds multiple large planes... a B1 Bomber, a stealth bomber, a B-17 bomber (The Memphis Belle), even the old 707 that served as Air Force One in the 60s and 70s. If you ever find yourself in southwestern Ohio, I highly recommend carving out some time to stop at this museum.

Day Air Ballpark, Home of the Dayton Dragons.

My hotel was in the middle of downtown Dayton. I chose it because it was part of the Marriott chain and I had several vouchers for a free night. Unbeknownst to me, the hotel is also right across the street from the stadium for the Dayton Dragons minor league baseball team. They are the High-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. They happened to have a homestand while I was there, so I caught a game. They beat the Quad City River Bandits 11 - 8 that evening. It's a nice ballpark, but it is no Camden Yards.

My ticket to the Dragons vs River Bandits ballgame.

It turns out that Ohio has a really good system of rail trails across the state. You can ride from Dayton (or Cincinnati) all the way to Cleveland and only have to ride on the road for short distances. This route is known as The Buckeye Trail and it is still under construction. They plan to close the gaps in the trail so that you will eventually be able to ride all the way across the state without ever having to share the road with cars. Another cool feature of the trails that are currently in place is that many of the small towns have locomotives, cabooses, or other railroad relics on display right next to the trail. This is a nice feature for anyone with an interest in railroads because you can climb on many of these rail cars and get a close look at them.

The title of this post is "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles". The "planes" piece of the title is obvious. The "trains" is obviously a reference to the route across the old railroad rights-of-way that I followed to reach Dayton. You may be asking yourself, so where does the "automobiles" fit into this story. That is an easy question to answer: I took the city bus from downtown Dayton to the US Air Force Museum. For the purposes of this story, a bus qualifies as an automobile. If that seems unsatisfactory to you, then I suggest you undertake your own ride across the country and show me the error of my ways.


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