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MERCED, CALIFORNIA

Castle Air Museum

semi-overcast 68 °F

Hello there!

As mentioned earlier I booked in at the Merced Elks Lodge after having driven through Yosemite National Park. It was a good choice for the members welcomed me warmly. I had 'Happy Hour' with the guys which I found to be 'lively'. Of the several men I met, one suggested that I visit the local Castle Air Museum at the former Castle Air Force base. It was a S.A.C. base until closure in the 1990's. SAC stands for Strategic Air Command and these bases located around the country are where the giant B-52 bombers are housed and maintained. Also based here were the KC-135 Strato-tankers, the aerial refueling planes. One of the men I met revealed to me that he was a retired Air Force General and we engaged in conversation for probably 45 minutes. A very interesting man who was a pilot who flew numerous aircraft during the span of his career. He told of flying as a passenger in the U-2 spy plane. There are 2 seats in the aircraft, one for the pilot and the second for an observer. He shared with me the effort local veterans made to establish the Air Museum at the former Castle Air Force base.

With that background to my story I did go to visit the museum. The airplanes are static displays outdoors on a 20 acre plot. The museum is part of an Air Force Heritage program established to showcase various aircraft that had operated from their particular bases. Castle was primarily a training base for B-52 & KC-135 pilots and crewmembers. It also had an Air Defense unit equipped with F-106 interceptors. It was a very busy place in Ist heyday. Currently there are over 70 aircraft on display and retired veterans volunteer their skills in the restoration of those in the collection and newly acquired additions. While walking around the grounds admiring the displays I said 'hello' to a man who was digging holes in the ground looking for sprinkler heads. He asked where I was from and a lengthy conversation ensued. He was one of the retired veteran volunteers who was a former pilot and B-52 & KC-135 flight instructor. He had about 20,000 hrs. of flight time under his belt. Amazing. After retirement as a LTC (Lt. Colonel) he spent 23 years with American Airlines as a pilot flying rount-trip from San Francisco to Hawaii twice a week for all those years. Not bad duty! He grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. Larry McFarland was his name. It's amazing the people I have met in my travels.

Friday nights at the Lodge is dinner night for members and guests. I was invited and accepted. The choices were beef; steak, prime rib, BBQ ribs, chicken, fried or baked, and fish. The usual sides and a huge salad bar included. At 'Happy Hour' I sat next to this guy, Chuck and his wife. We immediately hit it off and they invited me to join their family; son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, for dinner. It made for a very pleasant evening.

Posted by dixter 09:00 Archived in USA

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