With a day off coming up and a strong desire to get out of town, I cast about for options. Much as I like the coast, I’ve done all the day trip things I want to do for a while. Wine country tour? No designated driver. If I’d had three days off, I’d go up to Seattle and catch a couple of ballgames. I like the Gorge, and I’d done the waterfall tour last year. Thinking about the Gorge got me thinking about another place I’ve enjoyed, the town of Hood River. I checked out things to do in the area, and found a museum I thought I might like. Done deal.
It was overcast in Hillsboro, but the weather for Hood River was forecast as clear. I know that this time of year a marine cloud layer often extends inland and ends where the geography transitions from temperate climate to high desert. Five miles west of my destination the skies cleared, and 90 miles east of home is Hood River:
The Gorge is on the right. Hood River is a world-famous destination for wind-driven water sports, and on the day there was a 15 knot breeze blowing. In a few months as the desert to the east warms, sustained winds will often reach into the mid-20 knot range. The wind blows against the 3 – 5 knot current of the river, making for challenging conditions, so it’s not a place for the inexperienced. I learned to windsurf on the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and have never challenged the Columbia. Kite boarders were well represented and it didn’t escape my notice that a fair number of folks were wearing wetsuits. The water isn’t exactly warm this time of year.
The museum I wanted to see is the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM). It’s located at the airport, and their conceit is that everything on display is operational, so I was really interested to see what they had.
The front of the museum. Two of the museum’s three hangers are visible to the right, with Mt. Hood directly behind to the south. If you turn around, you can see Mt. Adams to the north:
Admission is $14, and the ticket is good for the day, so unlike most museums, you can exit and re-enter. After passing through the gift shop area, there’s this:
Everything you’re looking at is operable and original. OK, restored, but you get the idea. There are nearly 300 machines on display, and they all work. It’s mind-boggling. Most of the collection is airplanes and automobiles from the 1920’s and 30’s, but every decade from 1880 to the 2000’s is represented. The oldest item is this 1883 bicycle known colloquially in England as the ‘penny-farthing’ for the wheels’ resemblance to the two coins:
Try riding that fixed-gear, slackers.
Near the entrance is this airplane:
Built in 1912, this aircraft has a climb rate of 200 fpm. That is the slowest time-to-climb I’ve ever seen, and would be shamed by a hot-air balloon. It’s a slow climber even compared to contemporaneous aircraft. Compare to the 65,000 fpm rate of the MiG-29 I saw a couple of weeks ago at Evergreen Aviation Museum. For perspective, if this aircraft could reach 65,000 feet, it would take it over 5 1/2 hours to reach the altitude the MiG could do in one minute.
I noticed that during the 1920’s, both airplane and auto designers tended to put the fuel tank between the operator and the engine:
The Ford Pinto looks like a paragon of safety compared to this arrangement.
The first building is devoted primarily to aircraft, while the second building is more car-oriented. However, the two vehicle types are freely mixed. There are a number of bicycles about, mostly from the 1940’s and 50’s, along with motorcycles, and a couple of horse-drawn carriages. At one end of the first building is this:
Now that’s the business. A 1935 Packard convertible with a V-12. Back in the day, you bought a Cadillac if you couldn’t afford a Packard. Near the Packard is what I consider to be the museum’s crown jewel:
Behold the 1936 Cord 810, considered by the cognoscenti to be the most beautiful American car ever made, and one of a very few cars to be displayed at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve heard of Cord’s since I was a boy, and of course seen pictures, but this was the first time I’d ever seen one in the flesh, so to speak. Only 3000 of these were built and yes, it runs.
There’s a 1932 Dodge firetruck:
It wouldn’t take much of a fire to exhaust the truck’s water supply, it seems. I noticed that cars built in the 20’s and 30’s have the horn mounted on a rail atop or alongside the engine. Just a curiosity.
To say the museum’s collection is eclectic is to grossly understate the case. There are vintage consumer electronics:
Items from the travel industry:
And whatever this is:
It looks like a tangle of fishing line and lures, and is located in a fishing lure display, but I have no idea why it’s presented in this way. There are examples of vintage laundry equipment, lunch boxes, toys, and firearms:
I didn’t ask if the firearms were operational, but I would be much surprised if they weren’t. There are also some sleds:
And not the 1960’s Detroit version, either, although there are some of those, too.
In the second building there are some automobiles:
Again, all operational. Just left of center is a 1918 Stanley steam-powered car:
Note the floor protection. There’s a 1910 steam-powered tractor next to it:
I’d first seen a steam tractor in Death Valley (they replaced the famous 20-mule teams to haul borax), and imagined sitting behind that boiler when it’s 90 outside. This building has an electric car. From 1914.
Want to see a car built in 3 1/2 minutes? Here you go:
This area has training gliders from WW II. On the left is a small collection of micro cars, including a Mini when they really were mini’s. They don’t have a Nash Metropolitan, which is a surprising omission. There’s a rat rod which wouldn’t look out of place in a Road Warrior movie:
Given that the exhaust goes right into the cabin:
A few odds and ends:
A minimalist windshield:
Carpentry was once a useful auto body skill:
Instrument flight training is sometimes referred to as ‘going under the hood’: this image of the student cockpit in a PT 19 trainer shows why:
An airspeed indicator on a 1910’s aircraft. No indication on what happens if you’re flying into a headwind.
I spent the better part of three hours here, and enjoyed every second of it. Any museum presents history: WAAAM presents living history. Many of the ‘walls’ in the buildings are actually large garage doors, and on the second Saturday of the month they roll out aircraft and automobiles and run them. I’ve circled 8 October on my calendar when they’ll have a 1930’s-themed presentation. Period dress is recommended.
I chatted a bit with the young lady at the desk on my way out, and remarked that like my discovery of the Crater Rock Museum in Medford a couple of years ago, I felt like this museum was the coolest place nobody knew about. It’s like I know a secret. We talked about the Cord and she mentioned that during their Saturday excursions rides are offered in the vintage cars (not, alas, in the aircraft). The museum offers a course in driving a Model T for $150. If you think driving a century-old car is easy, look it up. It’s comparable to flying helicopter.
Now that I’d seen some of the more interesting machines on the planet, I had to make the walk of shame to my frumpy Ford. Which I drove to the Full Sail brewpub downtown. I like the Full Sail brewpub because there’s a view of the river, and the food and beer are decent. But they’ve made some changes since I was last there. The deck used to be much larger: apparently the pub has enclosed most of it. The view from what remains of the deck:
The trees have grown a bit: there was an unrestricted view of the river. Now there’s a better view from inside the bar. After lunch I headed for the Mt. Hood Railroad. I’d hoped to take the ride into the Oregon orchard country, but the railroad runs excursions four days a week, and today wasn’t one of them. A shot of the train:
There are three classes of service, and the website offers no pricing or departure information. The two things most people want to know aren’t available online. Poor show, Mt. Hood Railroad. Tours run 2 hours for the round trip. For the record, seats in the rear car are $35, and don’t include food, although there is the option for purchase. Seats in the lower level of the dome car are $45, and seats in the upper level of the dome car are $55. The last two classes include a box lunch. Departures on the days they run (Thurs – Sun) are at 1100 and 1400. There, Mt. Hood Railroad: I’ve done your work for you.
Time to go home. On previous trips to Hood River I’ve crossed the river on the Hood River bridge ($2 for cars) and taken WA 14 back to Portland. This route affords spectacular views of Mt. Hood, but the cloud cover was such that no viewing would be done this day. I opted to go back by way of I-84, and pick up old US-30 near the falls.
Prior to the Interstate, US-30 was the east-west route through the Gorge. It’s slower, curvier, and more scenic than the Interstate, but in my opinion, more fun. You can see several falls from the road, and although I’ve driven this road a few times, why miss the opportunity to enrich your experience?
Unless your experience is driving behind someone going 25 mph. My goodness. I wanted to enjoy the scenery, but at a more reasonable pace, say, at the speed limit (at least) of 40 mph. There aren’t any passing zones on this stretch of highway, although there are a few pullovers, but not as many as one would perhaps like.
Only a couple of rough spots in the Portland traffic glacier, and not as bad as I’d expected. Back home after a much more satisfying day off than sitting at home.