We thought we would reward the kids for being so good last week by taking them to see “Cars 2”. That did not go quite as planned. Connor said it best once we left and were getting in the car when he said, “That sure is not what I thought it would be.” That pretty much set the tone for the remainder of the day.
It had rained that morning and was heating up fairly quickly so the humidity was becoming unbearable. We still decided to stop for a quick picnic at Wyandotte County Lake Park just over the state line in Kansas. Most of the shelter areas were filled so we found a quiet picnic table that sat right on the lake shore. The wind was blowing just hard enough to make everything blow around, but the waves slapping the shore were relaxing.
We stopped by Navy Park in the New Century Aircenter to see the two A-7s and one A-4 Skyhawk. I started photographing the single-seat A-7E Corsair II, one of my favorite aircraft, while Connor took my point and shoot and got a pretty good pic right down the intake. Katy and Kim were already nearly out of site walking along the small lake that was behind the park. After a few minutes Connor took off to meet up with them.
The second aircraft was the two-seat version of the A-7 Corsair II and the third yielded a small historic surprise. The A-4L Skyhawk had been a part of the famous “Blacksheep” Squadron VMA-214.
If you have not noticed I am partial to locations that have aircraft there. My father was in the Air National Guard for 38 years and aircraft played a large part of my childhood. Even now I still run outside when I hear the “whop, whop, whop” of a helicopter or the distinct roar of military jets. I guess in a way each one brings me that much closer to the kid I was. Those were some of the best memories I had.
Entering Emporia, KS I thought finding a helicopter, a tank, and very well known memorial would be easy. Wrong! We drove around for forty minutes, Google maps was incorrect on two different locations. Finally we had to stop in a grocery store and ask directions. That got us going in the right direction at least.
The Emporia Zoo was a bit of a surprise. For a free admission zoo I really was not expecting much, but it was a very clean park and made for a nice relaxing walk. It is not a large zoo, but it is still worthy of a visit. Water turtles seemed to be everywhere, the mountain lion was sleeping, and the eagles were strutting across their tree limb. The landscaping is aesthetically pleasing and helps with the relaxing mood of the park.
Right across the street was the All Veterans Memorial, and another Huey. This memorial honors all veterans from all wars and duties performed during peace time. Emporia also has the honor of being the founding city of Veterans Day. After spending awhile photographing around the memorial, the drive to Cottonwood Falls began.
Driving out of Strong City and into Cottonwood Falls looked like a war zone. Large tree limbs were strewn about, a few power line poles had been broken off at the ground, and a couple of trailers had trees felled on them. Swope Park had limbs down but the play set was clear so Kim and Connor were able to play while Katy and I had some p,b, & j sandwiches. The public pool was full of people trying to escape the heat.
Chase County All Veterans Memorial consists of a UH-1H Iroquois (Huey), a tanks, and is a memorial to Chase County’s veterans. Although I could not find any information on the helicopter, we all know that the Huey is the iconic image that honors all that fought and died in the Vietnam War. Even perched atop the display poles the Huey stands as a noble symbol of bravery and the sacrificed paid by so many.
The plan after leaving Cottonwood Falls was to stop by the New Century Aircenter in Olathe, KS but as we got closer time just was not on our side so we bypassed it and continued on the way home.
A busy day as we hit five cities, photographed seven Hueys, and drive back home in almost exactly twelve hours.
How did you spend your Father’s Day weekend? I finally got to go on a Huey hunt through eastern Kansas. I found displays or memorials in five cities and towns throughout the eastern part of the state and wanted to visit each one of them all at once. Meriden, Topeka, Overbrook, Emporia, and Cottonwood Falls each have a UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) displayed so I visited each one of them.
First stop was Meriden, Kansas at the VFW Post #10815 where UH-1H SN 64-13701 sits right off of Hwy. 4. This particular helicopter saw action in Vietnam as a Med Evac and troop transport. There were several instances between 1966 and1967 the helicopter took enemy fire but it continued to fly. After the service this Huey had it deserves the resting place where it honors those who fought and died in the Vietnam War.
Topeka, Kansas is home to two great museums that I try to visit at least once a year. The Museum of the Kansas National Guard and the Combat Air Museum are situated within a few blocks from each other on the south end of Topeka. If you have any interest in military history and aviation history you should stop by and see them. The Museum of the Kansas National Guard hosts an impressive outdoor display that includes legends, such as the F-4D Phantom, UH-1H Huey, and the AH-1S Cobra. Wheeled and track vehicles are situated allowing for you to explore around them and touch a piece of history. While I was there photographing, I noticed new concrete pads so I am assuming there will be new exhibits coming soon.
The Combat Air Museum has more aircraft than I care to count. They also have an F-4 Phantom and a UH-1H. On loan from a private lender is a P-51 Mustang named “Flying Dutchman.” An A-4 cockpit section is open for kids and adults alike to sit in and see what a pilot saw while looking over the many instruments and switches. CH-53 sits open so you can climb into the back and see how troops filled the back and awaited the mission they were on the way to. Even a Mig-15 and a Mig-17 sit there showing the ingenuity of the Russian airpower around the time of the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
The second leg of the trip will see Emporia and Cottonwood Falls, which looked as though a really severe storm had recently blown through.
The second stop of the day was the Dickerson Park Zoo
. Contrary to other reviews I had read that said the zoo was really small, I found it was a decent size, though not as big as the Kansas City Zoo. The first area we came to was South America, which is home to Capuchin Monkeys, Maned Wolf, and Macaws among others.
Australia houses the kangaroos, Emus, Parrots, and the Petting Zoo. My daughter Kim runs ahead while Connor stays back with my wife Katy and me. The petting zoo is a chance for the kids to interact with goats, a donkey, and a young camel. Connor is hesitant to approach the camel as he always is with new experiences. Just a part of his shyness I suppose. I always hang back to try and get pictures of the kids with the animals, however this time there was another couple that kept getting in the shot. As a general rule I do not usually photograph other people or other kids.
The Missouri Habitats area gives you a look at some of the native animals that can be found right here in my home state. River Otters, raccoon, Mountain Lions, and Coyotes are a few of the displays here. Although a Raccoon is nothing new since I have one living in a part of my attic. Seeing the gray wolf was a great chance to prove to my wife that although rare, it still has a presence in Missouri. Two young black bears were playing together for a moment then walked to their own part of the exhibit area, enough to get a shot of them together.
The first animal in the Tropical Asia is the Malayan Tiger, though they were still in their cages. The Asian Elephants were standing against a wall, using their trunks to throw dust over themselves. I waited for several minutes for the first one to turn around since I did not want a shot of the elephants behind but he never turned around.
The last major section of the zoo is the Africa section, home to the Cheetah and its house mate a tortoise. I have never seen a cheetah housed with anything other than another cheetah. Another feature that I had not seen before was the public was allowed to feed the giraffes. Kim had to keep moving around as the matriarch of the giraffes kept trying to lick her hair.
The miniature train is pretty short as it goes around the pond and Lemur Island twice. Connor loves trains so we always ride one wherever we happen to be visiting, this was no exception.
Overall the kids loved it and we were satisfied with getting our money’s worth.
2660 South Scenic Ave.
Springfield, MO 65807
The first stop of the day was at the home of the American Legion Post #639. Luckily we got there fairly early as there appeared to be a Volkswagen vehicle show taking place at the Post. I had planned the drive to Springfield around photographing the UH-1H and the AH-1G dedicated to the Vietnam veterans, but there was a surprise. Pulling in to the parking lot the first thing I noticed was the USS Lapon’s sail. The USS Lapon (SSN-661) was decommissioned in 1992 after serving with the Atlantic Fleet.
The USS Lapon earned several citations and medals including a Presidential Unit Citation, six Meritorious Unit Citations, and an Artic Service Metal. One mission of the Lapon was chronicled in the book “Blind Man’s Bluff.”
The sail was relocated to the American Legion Post #639 in 2005. You can find more information about supporting the work being done by visiting http://www.usslapon.com
The UH-1H SN #69-15051 served in the Vietnam War. As a med-evac unit this helicopter was probably responsible for saving many lives. I was glad to see the American Legion Post posted the history of both helicopters on their website
The AH-1G was fitted with a combat configuration that would have been used during the Vietnam War. Serial #71-21016 was dedicated in 1994 and had seen service from 1972 until 1992 with the Arkansas National Guard.
For me it is always humbling to visit these sites as they represent so many men and women that fought and gave the ultimate sacrifice. They are not just helicopters sitting on beams, they are a memorial and if you stand quietly you can hear and feel the echoes of the past emanating from them. Every time I photograph and write about these helicopters I try my best to do justice to the memories that they represent.
If you find yourself in Springfield, MO stop by and pay your respects.
The Huey on the ground can be found at the Military Heritage Museum in St. Joseph, MO.
The tank and other Huey are found at the VFW Post #9271 in Tonganoxie, KS
Remington Nature Center of St. Joseph
1502 MacArthur Dr.
St. Joseph, MO 64505
Now that the trees have let loose their leaves and the grass had greened it was time to return to the Remington Nature Center
. Since my last visit they have added a second Civil War display that includes an 1860 Colt Army .44 caliber pistol with stock attachment, a medical pouch worn by doctors in the field, and a selection of cannon balls and tools used to operate the cannons.
Unfortunately the Riverwalk was closed due to the high level of the Missouri River so I was not able to take the kids for a walk. But honestly, there is so much information and history inside the Center that it will keep you busy for awhile. It is always a pleasure to visit Remington Nature Center and I hope to return there soon.
If you missed Pt. 1 of the Remington Nature Center please go here
and read about the fascinating displays the Center has to offer.