Video: Father's Day Fantasies

By Travel columnist
updated 6/17/2005 2:57:07 PM ET 2005-06-17T18:57:07

Fathers everywhere have passions. They have dreams of flying and driving race cars, they have hobbies like model trains and music, and some wish they could have lived in the Old West.
Once upon a time, dreams like these might have remained just that: Dreams. Back then, passions went unfulfilled, yearnings unrealized. Today, living these aspirations is only a few steps of planning away.

Five of Daddy's big fantasies can be easily experienced, making for a Father's Day (or any special day) that will bring ear-to-ear smiles and elation that will not be soon forgotten.

Lionel Trains

Lionel Trains
26750 Twenty-Three Mile Road, Chesterfield, MI 48051
(586) 949-4100,

If Dad loves trains -- and there seems to be a part of him that just never seems to grow up -- he would love to take a trip to the headquarters of Lionel Trains in Chesterfield, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.

This is a trip into a model train lovers' paradise. Ten trains are running simultaneously. There are trains circling above, trains chugging and rumbling at waist level, and down below the main display, more trains puffing through an underground station that was part of the original 1949 layout that used to be set up in downtown New York City.

There are dozens of buttons to push, Dad can even wear an engineer's hat, and he shouldn't forget to check out the fantastic scenery that has been created on the model train boards. The details are wonderful.

Dad might also salivate at the collection of old locomotives, train cars and cabooses.

The tour takes about 45 minutes to an hour and includes a video about the history of Lionel.

Gibson Guitars and the Rock n Soul Museum
145 Lt. George W. Lee Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 543-0800,

Rock 'n' Soul Museum
191 Beale Street, Suite 100
Plaza of the FedExForum, Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 205-2533,

Gibson Guitar
For dads who have dreamed of music, especially rock ‘n’ roll and soul, Memphis is "The Holy Ground of American Music." Beale Street is where most of the action took place. And in Memphis, the Gibson guitar factory just off Beale Street, near Sun Studios, where Elvis recorded his first song, is one of American music's holiest shrines.

For more than a hundred years, musical instruments have been made here: Guitars, banjos, mandolins, and dobros, all made six days a week. This is also the factory where electric guitars are made. (Gibson acoustic guitars are hand-crafted in Montana.)

Dad can watch the manufacture of these stringed instruments, from plank to pluck. Wood comes into the factory. It is inspected for moisture and then cut into blanks. From this point virtually every step of the instrument creation process is done by hand.

This insures that every Gibson is unique. Every rim is hand sanded and every neck is hand rolled. Each instrument is an individual work of art that takes four to six weeks to complete.

Right next door is the Smithsonian Institution's Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. It is part of the National History Museum. This museum dedicated to music created by Americans is filled with artifacts, instruments, pictures, interviews and of course the sounds and melodies of America's musical past.

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Sun Studios is down the street and Graceland is about 8 miles away.

Fly a WWII fighter
Fighter Command, 177 Skyview Lane, Front Royal, VA 22630
(540) 635-2203,

These WWII fighter adventures are offered around the country by different individuals. Search on the Internet and in local newspapers to find a crew that will take Dad into the sky.

Fighter Command out of Winchester, Virginia, is one of these outfits. Here, Dad will fly in a WWII T-6 that was the training plane for P-51 pilots. The P-51 only had one seat, so once young pilots WERE STRAPPED into on of these fighters, they were on your own. Therefore, the military astutely decided that pilots would train in a two-seater like a T-6 before being sent off on their own.

The T-6 looks a bit like a Jap Zero or a Dessault Dive Bomber. And up close, it is impressive and bigger than Dad might have seen in Tora Tora Tora and other WWII movies.

Flights range from a half-hour to an hour. Dad will ride in the back seat of the plane and will be given the "stick" and allow to actually fly the plane for most of the flight.

Fighter Command
Mark & Mary Ellen Hutchins with the T-6
If there is time, and Dad wants that experience, the instructor, Mark Hutchins, will maneuver through several air acrobatic moves, like loops and rolls. When Dad is hanging upside down at the top of a loop or in the middle of a roll, he gets a new perspective on life.

Video cameras mounted in the cockpit and on the tail of the fighter record this adventure, so Dad can come away with more than only memories.

The look on Dad's face after this adventure will make it worth every penny. As they say in the commercial ... fulfilling a childhood dream ... priceless.

Cattle Drive
768 Twin Creek Road, Lander, WY 82520
(307) 335-7485,

others recommended ranches:

David Ranch, Wyoming

Since the days of City Slickers, going on a cattle drive has been a fantasy in which dads can indulge. Even though the movie made the whole experience seem simple, A real cattle drive lasts six to eight hours a day. So Dad will log some saddle time. It may take a couple of uncomfortable days for him to acclimate to the saddle. But once the horse breaks Father in, the adventures begin.

This is the real cowboy experience. Dad will ride and live like a cowboy. No matter what the season, the ranch experience means real, hard work. Fences always need mendin', cattle need movin' and stray cows and calves hidin’ in the trees and sagebrush need to be brought back into the herd.

Cattle drives might only be a mile or may stretch to 10 miles. Dad might be herding 50 head of cattle or more than a thousand. Some ranches will teach Dad ridin’ and ropin' but others only allow those who know how to ride into their cowboy world.

After a hearty breakfast, he'll begin his day in the saddle. Lunch is normally a bag lunch and dinner is a cooked-from-scratch feast at the ranch house.

Dale Jarrett Racing Adventures

Racing Adventure
Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure, 3604 Denver Drive, Denver, NC 28037
(888) GO-RACE-1,

If Dad is a frustrated race car driver, his dream can come true - for a day. Well, maybe about five hours.

The Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure will put him in the driver's seat of a real stock car racing machine at one of ten speedways. Most are in the south, but they have participating speedways in Delaware and Wisconsin as well.

Dad gets an overview of his race car, and lessons about how to enter the speedway, go into the pits and so on. He gets a racing suit and helmet. Then he will take a loop around the racetrack in a van to learn about the right racing lines. Finally, he gets strapped in and off he goes. Speeds hit 175 miles per hour! 

Oh, there is a certified instructor in Dad's passenger seat to act as a spotter. But he is in control and there can be about 8 cars on the track at the same time. And dad can come away with a video of the adventure. Fasten your seatbelt!

Charles Leocha is nationally-recognized expert on saving money and the publisher of Tripso. He is also the Boston-based author of "SkiSnowboard America & Canada." E-mail him or visit his Web site. Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting Leocha's forum.


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