Wayne Belden’s 50,000-pound girlfriend follows him everywhere.
That’s OK because the lady of such immense and Rubenesque proportions happens to be a warbird, an F-105 to be exact.
Belden first met F-105 #60492 growing up on Long Island. His father had taken him to an air show where the war fighter was being showcased.
"The serial number was the same as my dad’s birthday, so that is how I remembered the plane," Belden said.
After enlisting in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, Belden again met #60492 at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, where Belden was being trained in aircraft maintenance. While stationed in Thailand, he also kept bumping into the plane.
Decades later, Belden was at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, which advertises in the Space Coast Fun Guide that Belden publishes, when he again ran into a familiar set of wings. Yes, it was the F-105, which had been donated by the government to the museum to be restored for display.
"It goes wherever I go," Belden said.
Belden, who lives in Port Orange, helps keep Brevard County tourism humming with his Fun Guide. With more than 300,000 copies published annually for hotels, cruise ship passengers and locals, the Guide offers information and discounts on local attractions.
The Staten Island native was a unique soldier, one who enlisted after he was drafted. After the Army requested his appearance on Nov. 10, 1965, Belden enlisted in the Air Force and reported for duty Nov. 9. At least he tried to report for duty since, while riding the New York City subway system to get to the airport, the famed Northeast Blackout of 1965 happened, leaving him in the dark inside a subway.
"No one knew what was happening and I thought it was the beginning of World War III and here I am just enlisted," he said.
After six years of service, including deployment in Southeast Asia, Belden left the military.
"It was the biggest mistake I made," he said.
His parents had moved to Orlando while Belden was in the service, so he followed them and began a civilian career that included managing the first Pizza Hut in Orlando and later working in broadcasting. A Sarasota publishing firm hired him for its visitors’ guides, including one for the Space Coast.
"At the time, I didn’t know anything about Brevard, but I was very impressed by what I saw," he said.
When the firm decided to go in another different direction, Belden went his own way. In addition to the Fun Guide, Belden, with the help of his son, now is responsible for digital news sources such as the Daytona Beach Connection.
The best part of the job — whenever he wants, he can visit with his 50,000-pound girlfriend.