After saying goodbye to Florida and dropping through Alabama for a few days, it was time to go to Ohio. My last visit had been over the summer of last year, during which I complained a lot about how it was TOO COLD; despite the fact that I spent the first 19 years of my life in Ohio, I never adapted to the cold, and I very much feel like a true Floridian, putting on a sweatshirt the moment it drops below 80F. I started this February trip with the knowledge that I was going to be miserable, but that I only had to survive for a week until I was on my way to the tropics!
I moved away from Ohio in 2013, which was the last time I saw snow. Driving up I-75 in Tennessee on my way to Ohio this year, I got my first glimpse of snow in 5 years. “I hate snow SO MUCH but I have to admit it’s reeeeeaaaalllllyyyy pretty to see it on the side of the road with the mountains in the distance and the puffy clouds in the bright blue sky,” I begrudgingly texted to a friend at my next gas stop.
Soon, I was almost at the bridge between Kentucky and Ohio. Before entering my beloved home state, however, I pulled off in Covington, KY, and drove to the top of Devou Park, where I had a lovely view of Cincinnati across the river. When I visited Cincinnati the following weekend, it was gray and miserable, so I’m glad I made the detour for such a lovely view.
After snapping some pictures of the Queen City, I hopped back in my car and drove up to the cornfield that I’m from. I spent the next several days at my dad’s house, trying to finalize my packing list and organize everything that I was leaving behind to store in a closet at his place.
Over the weekend, I drove back down to Cincinnati to spend time with some of my best friends. It wouldn’t be a true trip to Ohio if I didn’t leave the city swearing that I would move back as soon as possible. Indeed, I had such a good time and couldn’t believe I’d survived so far away from my closest friends. “I’ll find a way to survive winter!” I declared. “Anything to move back to my favorite city with my favorite people!”
(Of course, I’m writing this post from a country where I don’t ever need to carry anything thicker than a sweater, and I’m perfectly happy with that, so I’ve talked myself out of the idea of moving back to Cincinnati, and the cycle of declaring my undying love for the Queen City and my determination to move back will repeat itself next time I’m there.)
On my way back to Dad’s house, he met up with me in Dayton at the Museum of the US Air Force. When I had been in Alabama a few days previously, my brother Ricky told me that he went there with Dad recently, and they got to see JFK’s presidential plane, so I was immediately sold. JFK’s presidency is one of my favorites, so I was definitely going to take the opportunity to walk through his plane!
The museum is huge, and after walking for about 10 minutes through various hangars, I finally found Dad in the presidential exhibit. We started with FDR’s plane, a modified Douglas C-54 Skymaster called the Sacred Cow. As the first presidential plane, it was tiny, and the coolest feature was the retractable elevator that could lift him into the plane, along with his wheelchair that was displayed at the bottom of the elevator. What I did not realize at the time I visited the museum is that this airplane was only used once, in 1945, before he died.
Next up was Truman’s plane, the Independence, which was a modified C-118 Liftmaster. It was later used by Eisenhower, and it became the first plane to be given the call sign “Air Force One” after a mixup with a commercial craft carrying the same call sign as the president’s plane.
Eisenhower added several other planes to the presidential fleet, and we had a chance to go into his Columbine III, which was the only Lockheed VC-121E built. (Fun fact for my fellow nature-lovers: Eisenhower’s wife named the plane after Colorado’s state flower, the columbine.)
Finally, we got to the plane that had originally piqued my interest: a Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000 that was first used by Kennedy. He felt that the plane’s design was too fancy, so he hired a designer who used the Declaration of Independence as his visual inspiration for the lettering on the outside of the plane. In addition to Kennedy, the plane carried Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton.
In my opinion, Kennedy’s time in the plane was most significant. Not only do I find his presidency fascinating, but this plane was modified to carry his body after he was assassinated in Dallas. All presidential planes carry a casket in the cargo hold, but nobody felt right about putting his body inside the casket and then back into the cargo hold. A wall and seats were cut away from the back of the plane to make room for his casket. Jackie sat next to it on the entire flight back to DC. On the same flight, Johnson was sworn in as president.
This plane was retired from its role as Air Force One in 1972 but was still used by other political figures until 1998. Even Queen Elizabeth II flew aboard this plane on a trip to the US!
The museum is huge, and someone who loves planes could easily spend all day there, but I only cared about the presidential planes and I also needed food, so after about an hour of marveling at Air Force One’s history, I was ready for some Indian food.
After a few more days in snowy central Ohio, Dad drove me back to Dayton, this time to board a commercial airplane for my flight to Hong Kong! I enjoyed the week I spent in my home state, but I was ready for the next adventure, and more importantly, I was ready to be WARM!!!!