Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mojave Desert Trip

Over my birthday weekend I traveled with some friends to the semi-ghost town of Randsburg in the Mojave desert.  Randsburg was a thriving gold mining town up through the 20's until the gold was no long economical to mine.  It is now a desert trip attraction and a great place to get a burger and a beer when off roading in your Jeep.  I haven't done either myself at Randsburg but that is what I have been told.  It was sunny and in the low 80s when we arrived. 
(click on the photos for a larger view!)  This the the Randsburg Inn but don't let the sign fool you, it is a junk store and not an Inn.  There is an Inn but it was closed when we were there.  Perhaps it opens later in the season?    Next is the main street of Randsburg.  The most modern building is the Kern County fire station which is pretty nice.  I wonder if being station there is a hardship tour?   The Grouch standing in front of the city jail.  It was pretty small so either criminals were smaller then or the city fathers didn't want the miscreants to get too comfortable in there!
After leaving Randsburg we drove into the hills and came to a great rock pile outlook for lunch and surveying the surrounding territory.  We looked for wagon trains and outlaws but didn't see any so we set off for a dry lake bed that we saw in the distance.
This lake bed is covered with salt and sometimes even water if the rainy season is in fact rainy.   This time about a fifth of the lake bed had water on it at one end.   The lake bed is used as a model rocket launch range and young son has been there in the past with his boy scout troop launching rockets.  When I went with the troop we found remnants of WW2 .50 cartridge cases and bullets laying about on the lake bed.  I can only guess it was an aircraft gunnery range.  The pictures of the cases and bullets are from that trip of several years ago.  The rifle cartridge in the center of the two cases is for scale.

Walking on the lake bed was an interesting sensation, it was like walking on a sponge. We looked for interesting artifacts but the only thing we found was a meteorite!  Right in the middle of the white expanse of salt was a small cluster of rocks which is what I had read is how meteorites are found.  I checked the rocks (more like pebbles) and they contained iron so it is a good guess that I was looking at the last of meteorite!  Too cool!  Sorry, didn't think to take a picture of that discovery.
We finished up with a self tour through the Mojave desert tortoise preserve.  We didn't see any tortoises but we did see this extremely well camouflaged lizard!   The Army should adopt this camo pattern for desert use.

It was a great trip with great weather and great friends.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The grouch takes a fall

Thursday morning I set off for the train station on my bike as usual.  I was running a bit late and needed to make some time so instead of taking my usual 'safe' route through a shopping plaza and avoiding the sidewalk in front of the plaza which has obstacles like trash cans, sign posts, and benches I opted for the sidewalk.  after all the sidewalk would save at least a minute or two and when catching a train a minute can make a difference, right?

I was on the sidewalk.....then I was on a gurney being loaded into an ambulance!  I saw a deputy standing nearby and some other people.  A man asked me if I wanted him to take my bike home?  Sure I said.  He looked like an NCO I served with in the Army.  I still don't know who is was.  Next thing I was in the emergency room.  I recognized the signs - another concussion with the memory loss.  I had a severe one when I was in grade school.  Very painful and lots of memory loss over a 24 hour period but this time not as bad.  Xrays showed a broken collar bone.  My body tells me that I have a pulled groin muscle too.

What happened?  I don't have a clue. Several years earlier I veered off a sidewalk to avoid a group of teens, flipped the bike, did a great PLF (parachute landing fall), sprang to my feet and righted the bike and rode off with no injuries much to the open mouth amazement of the boys on the sidewalk.   Well, not so this time.  This is what happens when I turn 57!

Everyone is being very nice and helpful but I worry about next week when I have to go to work. I can't even get myself dressed at this point.  Oh well, I am sure it will work out.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Doolittle Raid: April 18 1942

April 18 1942:  The U.S. strikes back at Japan with a most audacious plan:  launch land based twin engine bombers from an aircraft carrier against mainland Japan.    16 planes on a one-way mission.  Five Doolittle raiders remain with us today.  

The movie "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo"  based on the book by the same name is a very accurate portrayal of the events.  Here is a clip from the movie:

From 69 years later we cannot fathom those desperate times and the sacrifices that were made to insure that we live as we do today.  Stop and say a prayer for those who died for us.

Friday, April 15, 2011


I went to the range today - yes, on Friday - I'm a beneficiary of mandatory commuting reduction by my employer so I work 9/80 and get every other Friday off.  So, off to the range.  I was wearing my ACU boonie cap with my LTC rank on it and got approached by a nice young man with the same cap with E4 rank.  He called me 'sir' and asked about my AF T-shirt (Keesler AFB courtesy of young daughter) combined with the Army cap.  We chatted and learned that we both had been in Germany with the Army but separated by 22 years.  The Warsaw pact forces that we stood guard against in my service were the allies that he trained with during his service.  We talked about volksmarches and bratwurst and some of the other GI favorites.  My stories for him were about as remote as what an occupation force veteran's tales would have been for me when I was in Germany in the 70s.  I don't realize the passage of time until something like this happens.  To me the details of 30+ years ago seemed to have happened maybe 10 years ago at the most.

If you are curious about the U.S. Army in Germany click on the link:

Go to this link to see Harvey barracks - the photo that is used shows the buildings occupied by the unit I was assigned to during my tour in Germany:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Grouch(y) updates

Young son was on spring break all this past week so I took the opportunity to take some days off and spend them with him.

Tuesday we visited the Ronald Regan presidential museum and library in Simi Valley.  I hadn't been there for awhile and it was fun and interesting to see the newly revamped museum.  Air Force One is on display inside the museum and I was able to add it to the presidential planes I have seen and been in.  I have also seen FDR's 'Sacred Cow', Truman's 'Independance' and Eisenhower's 'Columbine'.   A traveling exhibit of a gigantic scale model of the White House was there too.  I felt misty-eyed and near tears in some places going through the museum.  Nostalgia for a time when things seemed hopeful for America?  Remembrances of my youthful past?  I don't know but I felt emotional throughout the whole visit.  The view from the museum grounds is amazing and peaceful.  I highly recommend a visit.

Wednesday was spent working around the house.  I planted some trees that young daughter brought home from her recent trip to Mississippi (a pine tree and three strange looking southern tree things) and  young son did school work and washed his new car for the first time.

Thursday I went to work for half a day and the young son and I went tuxedo rental shopping for the prom that he is going to next Saturday. 

On Friday we went to see the animated movie 'Rango' voiced by Johnny Depp.   We both loved the movie and I laughed so hard I had tears leaking out!  This is a demented, funny movie and it moves to the top of my favorite funny animated movie list.  A short list to be sure but it is at the top.

After we came home the weather turned threatening.  The sky got dark and the temperature dropped.  Soon it began to rain and then hail!  I managed to take a short video of it and here it is for your amazement and entertainment:

Saturday (today) was my drill weekend and I put on the ACUs that camouflage me just fine for hiding in a pile of gravel and made the treck to Los Al.  The missus was very nice and let me take her hybrid Escape for the journey which got 35 MPG on the 120 mile round trip and saved us some money compare to the gas sucking Jeep which gets 20 MPG on a good day with a downhill run and a tail wind.  At $4.05 a gallon for gas I appreciated the extra MPGs.

That's all folks!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The difference between England, the UK, and Britain (explained)

Another video, this time both educational and amusing.  Click on the link for a bit of history.


Afraid of heights? You will be after watching this!

For no particular reason I decided to link this:

El Camino del Rey  video

(From Wikipedia): El Caminito del Rey (English: The King's little pathway) is a walkway or via ferrata, now fallen into disrepair, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near Álora in the province of Málaga, Spain. The name is often shortened to Camino del Rey (English: King's pathway).

Three Dog Days made me aware of this a couple years ago.  I could never do this but I read today that a pill exists to at least temporarily overcome phobias.  Maybe with a little help I could do this hike someday!