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Monday, March 27, 2017

A Day Out: The Commemorative Air Force Museum - Camarillo, California


For years, I'd drive through this Ventura County town on my way to Santa Barbara or on my way back from San Luis Obisbo, and see a stunning Lockheed Constellation parked at the south end of Camarillo's airport from the freeway.


I vowed to take a closer look but never did. Eventually, the Connie went away but I still made it a mission to someday see the air museum here.

That day has come as I've vowed to get the family out of the house more often and do more of these day-long adventures.


Camarillo sits just over the hill from the mega-sprawl of Los Angeles. A sometimes hair-raising descent over the Canejo Grade from Thousand oaks deposits you here. This city, Oxnard, and Ventura are making their own little sprawl but miles of farmland still surround the trio of cities.

It's also become home to refugees of the giant congested city to the south with thousands of residents commuting daily via their cars, Metrolink's railroad, or buses to their jobs in L.A. The telltale sign is the congested traffic coming down the grade this morning.

We crawl our way across town on the 101, making our way over to the airport. It's a former Air Force base so old, military style buildings dot the grounds. A couple of schools and the Sheriff's facility have moved into some, airport support services occupy the others.

A bright yellow Huey helicopter, with the signature 'whoop whoop' of the rotors eases it's way down to it's pad at the Sheriff's Search and Rescue facility while we look for the museum.  It's just past the deputies' landing pad.

The docent manning the front counter lets us know that half of the planes are missing today because they are appearing at an air show in El Centro. To compensate, he only charges us half price (usual donation is $10 to get in, today it's $5).


Before setting out onto the tarmac, we browse the interior with displays of weapons, bomb sights, uniforms, and even this piece of the 'Enola Gay,' autographed by the crew.


A couple of planes are inside the hangar with us, a trainer covered with a tarp and this P-51 Mustang that was getting a new engine installed.

We head outside and start looking at some of the craft when a docent comes up and asks us "where's George?"

I let him know that I don't know, and don't even know who George is. He tells us that we must be escorted at all times on the tarmac. No one told us but he goes off to get George, another docent.

Once George shows up, with a couple of German tourists in tow, we get a tour of the tarmac. There's a C-47 (the military version of the DC-3) that saw service in WW2 and as a gunship in Vietnam and a Huey that was also a gunship in Vietnam (pic at the top of this post).


The 'China Doll', a C-46 transport that was built right at the end of the war so it saw no military service but planes of this type flew resupply missions over the Himalayas.


In a hangar next door, George shows us a B-25 undergoing restoration by another group unaffiliated with the museum.


With several planes in the collection gone...including one of the few remaining true Japanese Zeros left in the world...it's a fairly short visit.  We're on our way but not before I snap a picture of this docent-owned classic Chevy Bel Air (by the way, the docent told me the Lockheed Connie that used to be there is now at the Yanks Air Museum in Chino).

Once outside the gates of the airport, we're back in the middle of prime Ventura County strawberry country. Some of the best strawberries in the world come from this region.


A small farm stand sits in a field across from the airport gate, we'll pick up some berries here. They were delicious and most didn't make it all the way home.


We also picked up a bag of local oranges.

Over the hill in Thousand Oaks, we go to the local mall to have dinner at Stacked.  This is a new chain, about half a dozen locations at the moment, started by Paul Motenko and Jerry Hennessy.

We're big fans of this pair, going way back to their days of buying up another small local chain, BJ's, which they turned into a nationwide powerhouse.

Paul and Jerry were bought out and forced out of their positions at BJs and, as soon as their no-compete clause expired, they were back at it again with Stacked.


You can order via an iPad at your table...or you can order via a server the old fashioned way...and customize your food to your preference, the price changing on the iPad to reflect additions or subtractions to your entree.


Tim and I had bacon cheeseburgers...mine with onion straws, his without...and Letty opted for the more healthy choice of this salad.


One more stop in Simi Valley for a trip to Costco for groceries and gas where we spotted this beauty...a bright yellow 57 Chevy to go with the red and white version we saw at the airport.

Darryl Musick
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