I’ve just spent the first week of December on one of the best week’s holidays that I’ve ever had, a trip to the USA. In a previous post I showed pictures from a visit to The Netherlands with friends from Cambridge MAFVA to the museum at Overloon. Following on from that, I also joined them on a visit to the Scale Model Challenge show in Veldhoven, also in The Netherlands in September. A few weeks after that show, one of the Cambridge MAFVA members, John Paulding asked me if I would like at accompany him on a visit to the USA where he was attending the Performance Racing Industries Convention at the Indianapolis Convention Centre in Indiana, USA. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. It was something that I’ve never ever done, having never travelled any further than Corfu in Greece with my daughters, which was over 20 year ago. I thought it over for a couple of days and then accepted such a kind offer.
My first view of North America
We started off with an Air Canada flight from Heathrow to Toronto, and then a smaller plane from Toronto to Cleveland, Ohio. The photo shows my first view of the North American continent from 37,000 feet flying over a snowy Labrador or Newfoundland.
For the first couple of days we stayed with Jim Mesko, who is an acknowledged author who has written 45 books on various aspects of the Viet Nam war, and who is a Viet Nam Veteran himself. Jim then drove us to Indianapolis, via a model shop in Columbus, the state capital of Ohio. One thing that I found fascinating throughout the whole of my week in the USA is how so many things are similar, but different to the UK. The photo above shows a truck at a rest area on Inter State 70, on the way from Akron, Ohio to Indianapolis, about a 7 1/2 hour drive. What is interesting about this photo is that the one truck is carrying two others in a piggy-back style behind it, with the first of the white trucks attached to the fifth wheel coupling of the lead truck, so that the other two can turn around corners. This would never be allowed in the UK as it would not comply with our Construction and Use Regulations (thinking back to my old days as a Trading Standards Officer)
Jim and John outside the Convention Centre
The photo above shows Jim on the left and John on the right in front of the entrance to the Indianapolis Convention Centre, which is absolutely vast. It was dry in this photo, but at a bone chilling 20 F (- 6.7 C). We soon had several snow flurries, but nothing much until the Sunday. I was expecting the show to be at the Indie 500 race circuit, but the Convention Centre was right in the centre of the city. We stayed in a motel that was just outside a ring of Inter State routes that surround Indianapolis, which was 16 miles from the centre of the city.
Inside the PRI show
The show was held in two huge halls, all carpeted throughout, with hundreds of exhibitors and what must have been thousands of visitors. I had my mobile phone with me, and this showed that on the Thursday I walked 7.6 miles just going up and down all of the isles of the show.
In the Lucas Oil Stadium
We ended the Thursday with free drinks in the Lucas Oil Stadium that is linked to the Convention Centre. Dare I say, yet another first for me, to be inside an American Football stadium. I was told that it has about a 40,000 seat capacity.
Just one of the many cars on display
On the Wednesday I spent some time at the show taking photos of just some of the countless cars on display. The show had everything from fan belts to wheels to milling machines and 3D scanners to drivers clothing and anything else you can think of related to any types of racing car, including quite a few attractive young ladies helping to sell their company’s products, with almost everyone offering goodies such as stickers and pens or baseball caps and t-shirts.
Mean and ugly
For me, the prize for the most brutal car on display must be this one, very cleverly painted to look old and rusty, but quite the opposite. Just look at the size of the engine and air intakes! and yes, with massive rear wheels and two parachutes at the back to stop it.
On the way back from Indianapolis on the Saturday we called in to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The museum is in all four of these huge hangers with everything inside from the first powered flight right up to space travel.
A collection of ballistic missiles
If ever the Cold War had turned hot, it would have been these beasts that would have been flying from the USA across to Russia. It was quite sobering to look at them. They also had a mock-up of the control room inside a missile silo, with the seats and controls of the two operators far enough away from each other so that no one person could have set off a missile without working with their partner.
The Apollo 15 command module
By way of a contrast, here is the actual command module from the Apollo 15 mission to the moon, still heavily tarnished from re-entry to the earth. Whilst the missiles looked huge, this looked tiny. It must have been unbelievable cramped for three men to have travelled all the way to the moon and back in something as small as this. They also had several other capsules on display, with the one-man ones even smaller. It really makes you appreciate the nerves of steel that these astronauts must have had.
On the Sunday we visited Warther’s Museum in Dover, Ohio. I had never heard of this before our visit. Mr Ernest “Mooney” Warther made a living from making some top quality knives, and also made these wooden models of locomotives. The one thing that is amazing about these is that all of the parts are press-fitted together, without a single whiff of glue anywhere! The brown parts are wood, and the white ones are ivory, all hand-carved, including all of the lettering that have pins on them that go into the wood. What is more, all of the wheels, connecting rods, and pistons worked! Some incredible model making.
There had been some snow in Indianapolis, but there was some more when we got back to Jim’s house, and then even more in Dover and, as you can see in the photo above, in Massilon, Ohio.
We called into Massilon to visit another model shop, to the left in the photo. What this also shows is yet another example of things being similar but different. I have known for years about Americans use of the word “Math” where we in the UK say “Maths,” but here’s another one that I didn’t know about. In the UK we have “Road Works Ahead” but in the US they are, or rather it is “Road Work” with no “s.”
We came back on the Monday night/ Tuesday morning, with a combination of cancelled flights and delays. I left Akron, Ohio at 2pm (7pm UK time), got in to Heathrow about 12 noon, then found our cases were still somewhere on the North American continent, had a four and a bit hour coach journey from Heathrow back to Cardiff where my daughter Rhianwen and her children picked me up and took me back home at 7pm, 24 hours later and feeling both shattered and jet lagged – also a first experience, although less welcome. Nevertheless, this was truly a week that I shall remember for the rest of my life.