Roadside Aviation

Forget the Quilting Hall of Fame. Plan that next road trip around some aviation pit stops.

There are a couple of A-7 Corsair IIs on I-75 that always catch my eye whenever I make the drive between Florida and Illinois. During a recent trek to rehab an old house and to take the kids to the in-laws, some new finds came into view, like the TA-4J Skyhawk next to a small airport in Kentucky — oh, and the ICBM I spotted behind the Gas-N-Go at the Cordele, Georgia, exit.

An F-4 Phantom II on display outside Newark, OH

An F-4 Phantom II on display outside Newark, OH

According to the Cordele plaque, the missile was placed there in 1969 by what was then the Confederate Air Force. It came from a silo in California, and was acquired with help from the local Chamber of Commerce. The Titan I was in service from 1962 to 1965, and in later Titan II form, was the launch vehicle for Gemini XI. Besides being next to the aforementioned Gas-N-Go (man, filling up the old minivan has gotten expensive), the website Roadside America helpfully notes that the formidable weapon, once designed to rain death on Soviet cities, is now conveniently located near a Krytstal hamburger restaurant.

A Titan I missile guards the Gas-N-Go outside Cordele, GA

A Titan I missile guards the Gas-N-Go outside Cordele, GA

Other attractions along our trip included the Don Garlits Museum of Drag racing, which features one of those A-7 Corsair IIs, a former gate guard at a Naval Air Station and now on loan from the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. Garlits’ museum is a must-see for any gear head, and also contains some interesting aviation treats. Garlits was once known for drag racing a few Navy aircraft on a runway, and even aboard a carrier. Inside, there’s a racer powered by an Allison V-12 that (according to the display) came from a Curtiss P-40. The display also says the engine once had a bullet hole in its crankcase. Garlits, in his youth, raced drop tank racers — cars fashioned from WWII aircraft external fuel tanks — but I searched in vain for an example.

The A-7 Corsair II outside the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

The A-7 Corsair II outside the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

Sure, there’s the National Air and Space Museum, but what about the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California? Or the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania? Headed through McMinnville, Oregon? Don’t miss the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, home of Howard Hughes’ massive Spruce Goose. Or, check out the atomic cannon in Junction City, Kansas.

Another source for out-of-the-way aircraft on display is this discussion at the Warbird Information Exchange, including this contribution:

-F-94C located in Erie, Pa.
-F9F-9 located in Tonawanda above Buffalo, NY.
-Two CF-101C Voodoos located FBO Gila Bend, Arizona.
-Four derelict DC-3′s located on US 63 north of Rolla, MO on Vichy Airport.
-B-26 Invader old route 66 El Reno, OK.
-South of Rolla MO, on US 63 Patton tank at Veterans Hall.
-B-52 located in Rome, NY.

Sure beats visiting the world’s largest ball of twine. (Clark Griswold never told you where, but it’s located in Kawker City, KS.)

About John Sotham
John Sotham

A former associate editor of Air & Space, John Sotham is a hopelessly nearsighted frequent flyer, with thousands of hours logged in exit rows worldwide. He is a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel and a former crew chief on the F-4D Phantom II and A-10A “Warthog.” He started collecting aviation books when he was eight years old. Any opinions expressed are solely the author’s.

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