Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pictures from the past

The other day I entered '66th Maintenance Company' into Google search.  The 66th was my first active duty Army assignment in 1978.  I have been curious to learn what happened to the unit over the years in the great reorganization and draw down of the Army in Europe.  I haven't been able to learn the unit's fate but I did find some pictures from that era on the web.  What a surprise when I found a picture of the unit's sign located in front of the company area and then of a formation which seems to have yours truly in it!!  The pictures are from the photo album of the company commander and the change of command that took place when she (the most senior of us group of 2LTs) was tapped for command.  She did a great job as company commander in a very visible and demanding position.  Through her sister who posted her and other family photo albums on line I was able to email my former commander and exchange some information about each other.  What a great surprise to find the photos and to hear from someone from what is now over three decades past.  Where has the time gone?

The unit sign on the lawn in front of the company area at picturesque Harvey Barracks.  Harvey Barracks was once a WW2 German airfield and was taken over by the U.S. after the war.  The first morning that I was in Germany and was to report for duty there was a command-wide readiness alert test conducted.  My sponsor never showed up to get me at my billet that morning and I ended up walking to the unit to find it like a disturbed bee hive with soldiers running in all directions.  I wondered if WW3 had been declared and someone forgot to tell me.  This was my 'office' for three years.
The change of command ceremony for my new company commander.  You see that guy in front of the platoon that is closest to the camera?  Yep, that is a very young Citizen Grouch back when my waist was narrow, my back was straight, and my hair was dark brown.   How the time has flown!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There goes the President!

So for the second time in four months I got to see President Obama airborne overhead.  The first time was when we were both in Pittsburgh in June.  The Missus and I saw Air Force 1 take off and pass fairly low overhead as we were walking on a path near the airport.  Today at work I heard the sound of a group of helicopters passing overhead.  I looked  up and saw Marine 1 and 2 and three CH47 helicopters flying in trail formation heading to I assume LAX from visiting Jay Leno at the Burbank studios.  The cost of this jaunt had to be enormous but it was pretty amazing seeing this air armada after having just been at the Reagan library the day before where I saw a former Marine 1 helicopter on display.  I waved to Mr. Obama and hopefully he saw me.  I like to be respectful to the CiC.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wiley E. Coyote School of Gunsmithing (WECSOG)

Wiley E. Coyote is famous for the ad hoc seat of the pants engineering of his plots to destroy his opponent the road runner with various types of violence and mayhem.  WECSOG calls for using force, improvised tools and approximate measurements to fix and modify firearms.  Since I'm not a gunsmith I don't have the tools or equipment to do precision work on firearms so I have desisted from working on my guns.   HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.    Of course I work on them!   Recently the Missus went shooting with me for the first time in years.  She was shooting the Ruger MkII target and having a great time when the front sight blade flew off and was lost.  Bummer!   I ordered a replacement front sight blade and figured I would simply fit it into the slot on the front sight mount, put the pin in and be done.  Not!  The blade wasn't drilled for the pin so I had to drill it so that the hole in the blade insert would match up with the teeny-tiny hole in either side of the mount.  Fortunately a couple years ago young daughter bought me a drill press for Christmas.  Allow me a side discussion for a minute:  for years I have executed repairs and modifications to the dwelling, vehicles, guns, tools, and other things with about a total of seven tools, these being 1. hammer; 2. pair of screw drivers; 3. crescent wrench; 4. hacksaw; 5. power drill; 6. pliers; 7. clamp.   It is amazing what can be done with minimal tools but it usually involves compromises and excessive force.  Recently I have decided I should grow up and start buying proper tools to work with.  It is amazing what can be done with proper tools!   After years of trying to drill holes in thing while holding a power drill and making a mess of the job I asked for and received a drill press.  It came in handy for this job.
The drill press from young daughter with the barrel clamped in place and the bit hopefully lined up to drill through the existing hole in the mount, through the blade and into the existing hole on the other side of the mount.  Of course I don't have the proper clamp for the job, but I decided to press on in the best tradition of WECSOG!

The barrel ready to be drilled.  Will I make a horrible botch of it?

The blade drilled and everything lined up and done properly.  Yay!

Next I tried to tap the pin into the hole.  I tapped gently - then I tapped a bit harder.  The pin was not going to go into the hole.  What to do?  I put on my thinking cap, crossed my fingers and decided I would press the pin into the hole using my bench vise.  Fortunately the sight mount is flat on either side.  I put the assembly into the vise and slooowly tightened it, keeping everything straight and the pin went in.  Woo!
The completed job.  Actually looks professional!

Along with the drill press, this year I got an actual tool chest to replace the two tool boxes and other hiding spots for the various tools I have accumulated.  Now I do feel grown up!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eagle Project - Done!

Young son's Eagle project is finally done!  For anyone who stumbled on this blog and don't know the back story on his Eagle project here goes:   With less than six months left before his 18th birthday young son decided that he needed to start working on a project to obtain his Eagle rank.  The usual types of projects such as improving landscaping at a school or building park benches just didn't appeal to him.  I suggested something to aid the Marines in Afghanistan as I serve with a warrant officer whose son is currently in Afghanistan.  Craig decided to design a comfort kit contained in a gallon ziplock bag for 200 Marines (BTW Ziplock brand bags are worthless.  Most of the zippers didn't work.  Get Hefty brand bags instead).  Each kit would have a paperback book, pair of crew socks, bag of beef jerky, bag of sunflower seeds, pack of chewing gum, pack of tic-tacs, small tube of toothpaste, dental floss, tube of chapstick, and a 4 pack of AA batteries.  He estimated his capital requirement to be $4,500 for supplies and shipping.  His project advisor put him over many hurdles to get everything just right and with only about three months left, turned him loose to start the project.  Not much time!

He started his fundraising and approached many local businesses most of which either gave only $10 or sent him on his way empty handed.  Kudos to Trader Joe's for a contribution of $50!   He went to a VFW post and received $380 from them!   The Knights of Columbus provided $250.  Yay Knights!  Relatives and friends contributed a lot of cash too.  He set up at two different grocery stores and gave shoppers a list of the items that he needed and asked them to buy just one of them.  The outpouring of support from the community was amazing!   With six weeks to go he had the items and enough cash to buy what hadn't been donated.  He and the Missus went shopping and cleaned the grocery stores out of beef jerky and sunflower seeds.  The big day came for packaging and packing the kits into cartons for shipping.  Three hours later all was finished.  A week later young son and your truly loaded up the Jeep with 480 lbs of kits and drove to the donation point for shipping to Afghanistan.  Two weeks after that the project book was delivered to the council office for review and approval.  Almost done!  Now young son will have his board of review.  Then he will be an Eagle scout.  Yay!!

Young son addressing one of the work crews at the Grouch's place of employment do ask for help with the project.  The employees of the city were very generous with donations of both goods and money.
Young son soliciting outside one of the grocery stores.  Even though I am an Army guy through and through, helping the Marines was a worthy thing to do.

The crew after making the packages and the boxes ready for shipping.  Twenty cartons and 480 lbs of goods!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The "Lost Boys' memorial bike ride

Time to update the blog! What a difference a week makes This past week it turned rainy and cool and even with the sun out it has been decidely cool.  No more pool time here.  I shut off the pool heater and overnight the water went from 81F to 72F. But last weekend was hot and sunny here in Happy Acres, the location of Grouch estates. On Sunday I decided that it was time to get old wobbly out and go for a good bike ride. It's called old wobbly because both wheels are bent from the crash in April and I still haven't gotten around to getting them fixed.  The weather was warm, the sun was out, the wobbling wheels imparted a nice motion like gently rolling waves and life was good.  I decided to take a ride through the industrial center with its myriad of wide streets deserted on Sunday for some hassle-free riding.  This was the venue for all four Grouch offspring to pilot the auto de jour to learn to drive.  I came to a bike path on the perimeter of the plan that looked like it didn't get much action which was perfect for me.  First stop was an access road that led to a water tank set high up on a ridge.  On an impulse up I went.  That sucker was steep!  I was in low-low-low gear and still huffing and puffing.  I encountered two guys, one speed walking and one running up the hill.  The walker suggested I select a lower gear to make it easier for me.  Too bad I was already there.   I made it about 9/10th of the way up but just couldn't go any further without hurling so I decided to take a pause to catch my breath and settle the stomach.   The runner passed me up and said that I made it further than just about most bikers he usually encounters.  That was nice of him to say even if it probably wasn't true.  From the vantage point I spied the old iron railroad bridge used in the 80s teenager vampire flick "The Lost Boys".
 In case you haven't heard of it, here's a link to the movie :
And, for those folks who say the bridge in their town is the correct bridge, I offer this link to the movie which shows the bridge I was on:   Hmmm, difficult to see from my picture, but take my word on it!
The local paper had an article about movie locations in our happy valley and this is one of them.  This was used in the scene where the vampire gang is jumping off of a bridge at night and they fly away, or something like that.  It's been awhile since I've seen the movie.   So anyway access to the bridge has been off limits all these years.  It was those pesky no trespassing signs that stopped me from checking it out.  Now it has been incorporated into the burgeoning municipal bike trail system so off I went to check it out.
The bridge has a date of 1888 on one end and 1898 on the other.  10 years to build this thing?  A nice iron bridge that spans the creek bed which is about 30 feet below.  From the deck you get a nice view of the local amusement park where young son works as a ride operator when he isn't being a scholar

After riding across and back again I continued along the path, under the freewayette (looks like a freeway but has stop lights on it) until the paved trail ended and it turned into gravel and dirt and had several signs telling wayward cyclists that we didn't belong there.  So I turned around and encountered this sign.  I've got to say, only in California will someone see something like this:

Will the sensitive ant's and animal's feelings be hurt if they are spoken to harshly?  Will their self-esteem by impacted?  Give me a break!  I finished up by riding home, taking a dip in the pool and falling asleep on the lounge poolside.  Life is good!