On this adventure Rooster and I explore the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The weather slowed us down, but we enjoyed a fantastic day. #Air Zoo #Kalamazoo # Michigan #Chicken Coop
Air Zoo in Kalamazoo
The windshield wipers had a hard time keeping up with the spray coming off the semi-trailers. The highway to Kalamazoo was waterlogged from the downpour of stubborn rain. It was the first 60-degree day the mid-west has had in months, but the weather forecast included thunderstorms putting a damper on the comfortable temperatures. Our hurry centered around reaching the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo Before closing time.
The weather slowed us down.
It was predicted to be one of those late winter early spring storms where moister streams north from the Gulf of Mexico. This sort of weather pattern can produce heavy rain, lightning, and the occasional tornado. The weather wasn’t the only factor, which made the ride uncomfortable.
Rooster and I were both suffering from a bad case, of the winter blues. There is generally a certain amount of excitement when we start a journey. This morning we both seemed to move in slow motion. It took a lot of effort for us to load the Sunshine Mobile and hit the road. This was an abnormal occurrence for us. I can only contribute to the grey skies overhead. It made me wonder if we were breaking some major adventure rules on our quest to travel to the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The first stop on our adventure itinerary the air zoo.
Why Rooster didn’t replace the passenger side windshield wiper.
We arrived at the motel Rooster booked for us without experiencing any tornadic activity, but we did encounter high winds and an excessive amount of rain on the drive north. The windshield wiper on the passenger side of the car isn’t doing an excellent job of keeping water off the glass.
Rooster said he’s going to replace the wiper on my side of the window, but he believes the passenger doesn’t need to see the road. He also has pointed out it doesn’t rain every day, and the money to replace it could be spent on better things like Indian motorcycle accessories. I beg to differ. I enjoy seeing where I’m going. We didn’t waste any time checking in because we were on a mission. The Air Zoo in Kalamazoo had a five o’clock closing time, and we were afraid we wouldn’t make their last tour.
We took a wrong turn out of the motel parking lot and found ourselves driving down the perfect motorcycle road. It was hilly and tree-lined. It didn’t take long for us to figure out we’d be lost if we didn’t turn around. Once we got headed in the right direction, we found the freeway and blended in with traffic.
We made it to the Air Zoo
The Air Zoo is in Portage near the airport but claims to be in Kalamazoo. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we walked through the doors, however, I did a little research online when we decided to take this trip. I imagined the museum might be a cheesy sort of place where you took kids to amuse themselves on a rainy afternoon. Rooster and I are going through our second childhood. There was a chance we might blend in without attracting attention too much attention to ourselves. I was encouraged we would fit in when I discovered they had senior discounts.
Our experience at the Air Zoo
From the time the young man at the front desk told us to walk through the mural of billowy white clouds, I was pleasantly surprised. We were met at the entrance to the main floor of the giant airplane hanger by Denny. He gave us a guided tour through the plethora of aircraft scattered in the enormous room.
The walls were a hand-painted display of the history of air travel from the hot air balloon to space ships. Denny explained the workings of World War II airplane motors. He told us how they used castor oil to lubricate the inner workings of the engine. The Japanese couldn’t grow castor seeds used to make this oil. This gave the US an advantage in keeping the planes in the air because the castor oil was a thinner oil. Denny was extremely knowledgeable about antique aircraft.
I found the inside of the museum artistically done. There were exciting rides for children to experience. I was amazed to find out that during World War II Lake Michigan was used as a training stage for pilots to learn how to land on a moving ship out in the ocean. You couldn’t hand these young, inexperienced pilots a plane and tell them to make a landing on a boat in the water without at least achieving eight successful practice runs.
The Movie at the Air Zoo
They converted two pleasure ships into aircraft carriers to do the job. After Pearl Harbor, they needed a lot of pilots who could make these landings. Most of the guys training to do the task were little more than kids. We watched a one-hour movie on how the pilots were trained.
The average age of these young men was eighteen. Not only did the pilots need to be educated, but also the ship’s crew needed to know what they were doing before they were sent off to war. There are still a high number of these training planes at the bottom of Lake Michigan. A group of people go out and search for these pieces of history sitting on the bottom of Lake Michigan. They risk their lives to bring them to the surface where they can be restored.
The Chicken Coop
After we left the Air Zoo, we went to find the Chicken Coop. I located this restaurant online while we were in the planning stages of the trip. Where else would a Hen House Lady eat except at the Chicken Coop? The only items on the menu were fried chicken and fish. Side dishes were included if you ordered the meal. There wasn’t a grilled breast to be found anywhere in the coop. These items did havoc on our effort to lose our excessive poundage.
The eating establishment was an upscale version of fast food. The staff was amicable. Tiffany style lamps gave the place a classy feel. While we were eating, a strong storm erupted outside. The wind kicked up, and rain poured from the sky. The Chicken Coop was an excellent place to grab a quick meal and ride out a storm. The fried chicken dinner I had was flavorful and moist. The outside of the meat was crispy. I liked the coleslaw, but the mac and cheese were nothing to write home about. Rooster and I enjoyed our Chicken Coop meal after our visit to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo.
The Chicken Coop is located at 109 W. Centre Ave. in Portage. If you decide to pay them a visit, tell them The Hen House Lady sent you.
Rooster and I decided it was too early to go back to the room, so we searched for a coffee shop. We couldn’t find anything open except for a chain coffee house, so we ended up at Biggby Coffee. We pulled out our laptops and spent several enjoyable hours writing. I got my steps in walking the sidewalk in front of the café. I managed to kill two birds with one stone as the saying goes. I’ve discovered I get fresh writing ideas while I’m doing my daily walk.
My goal is 10,000 steps and at least 5000 words a day. It’s a tough target to hit, but with any luck, I’ll have a New York Times bestseller and weigh 120 pounds by next spring. By the time we drove from Portage to Kalamazoo, Rooster and I knew we were starting to enjoy the adventure.
The only landmark to distinguish one community from the other is a city limits sign. We decided to drive to downtown Kalamazoo to see if we could find an Irish pub. We knew they had to have one because we spotted a guy walking around in kilts. A steady downpour of rain created flooding in many low-lying areas.
Neither one of us was in the mood to drive the wet streets in search of a parking space and some Irish music.
Another sports team at the motel
We made up our mind to go back to the motel. When we checked in earlier, we watched a bus pull to the front of the motel through the edge of the curtain covering the window. The process of unloading a university Lacrosse team took place right before our eyes.
We aren’t against people having a good time, but we heard rumors Lacrosse players were heavy partiers. The last time we stayed at this motel a Florida professional hockey team was also their guests. (Who would have guessed there was a hockey team in the state of Florida.)
The establishment must cater to sports teams. These guys didn’t leave a crumb in the breakfast bar the motel provides. On this occasion when we tried to settle down for the night, there was a lot of commotion in the hallway of the motel.
We heard doors slamming, loud talking, and a steady pounding on the wall of our room. At one point the smell of cigarette smoke led us to believe we wouldn’t get a wink of sleep. We assumed the college athletes were responsible for the rowdy behavior. The next morning we discovered only a few athletes stayed on our floor. The noisy culprits were two families with kids at the end of the hall. The cigarette smoker was the old guy in the room next door to us.
Assumptions can steer you in the wrong direction. If you only visit the front half of the Air Zoo, you will miss one of the most critical pieces of aviation history. A whole section of the museum dedicated to the contributions women and African Americans made to aviation during World War II and beyond made the Air Zoo interesting. Maybe someday we’ll go to the Air Zoo and see our friend Theo Hawkins picture hanging on the wall. He is from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and served as an Air Traffic Controller in the Air Force from Vietnam until he retired a couple of years ago. He has a beautiful story that needs to be told. Therefore, maybe one day Theo’s picture will hang in the collection of African American aviators on the wall at the Air Zoo.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter!