Sunday, December 14, 2008

Museum Visit Fail!

A couple of years ago while passing through Oak Harbor, Washington my wife and I saw an old gas station that had been turned into a mini-museum of sorts. Plastered across the front was the silhouette of a PBY Catalina patrol plane from the second world war. Both of us like the plane and we stopped by, only to learn that they were closed; only being open on Fridays. It was the temporary headquarters of the PBY Memorial Association, and we kept it in mind as a place to visit. This last friday made our way back up to look it over and see what they had. I burned a disc of some of the PBY items I had found during research at the various national archives I've been to.

They had since moved to a new location on base. There was no description other than "Building 12," and there were no directions on their site other than a link to the NAS Whidbey Island page that only gives vague directions to the ISLAND itself and none of the base gates. Given that they're focused on a plane that was based on the amphibious side of the base, I figured it wouldn't be that hard to find.

Two hours later, we arrived at the gate I thought was our best bet. It was in building 12 of NAS Whidbey, and we hit the gate near the base exchange, which used to be the seaplane base hangar. Just as we get close to the gate a MP comes up and says they need to close the gate for 15 minutes but that we can use "torpedo gate." I should say at this point, that my grandmother lives in Oak Harbor and while I have no idea where Torpedo gate is, I'm fairly familiar with the area, so I figure no big deal; we'll just swing it with my phone and google maps. I take one wrong turn; google maps didn't know that the Navy had closed off one road probably post 9-11.

About ten minutes after we leave the first gate we reach the gate on Torpedo Road and as we pull up I tell the guard "We were just sent here by the other gate; we're trying to get the the PBY museum." The guard gets this uncomfortable look on his face and replies with, "they just re-opened the gate, and I can't let you go driving through the base..."

So... back we go. We get to the gate, and it is indeed open. Pulling up, we get an MP with what was probably a South African accent, and I go through the spiel again. He looks confused; is the museum open to the public? The other MP says yes... and then he tries to give us directions. It's close enough; the building is literally right above us on the hill.

So we drive down, make the first left, and then left at the fork at the top of the hill and pull up to the building. No cars in the parking lot. "Uh-oh.." I think to myself. We park and walk up to the doorway and the dark hall on the other side. Edges quivering in the breeze is a little paper note that says "November and December Hours." Scanning the note, we see that they will be open on Thursday, December 11, and not the regularly scheduled Friday the 12th that we had arrived on.

I had really looked forward to posting some neat pictures of the museum and what it contains here, but at that point we just turned around, headed back to the warmth of the car, and called my Grandmother to make arrangements for a (hot) lunch at the nearby Mitzel's Kitchen. It was worth it, at least, to see her.

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