Saturday, November 30, 2013

Music Interlude

Young son loaned me his Monsters and Men CD the other day and I'm hooked!  I particularly like this track, so here it is for your auditory pleasure.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Citizen Grouch visits the Radium Queen and a mine

Some friends and I went exploring recently in the Mojave desert and found the home site and graves of Josie Bishop 'The Radium Queen' and one of her sons.

All that remains of Josie's home is a foundation and the two graves.

The grave site

Josie's grave

A write up about Josie at the site of her home

Josie's view from where her front door used to be.

After visiting the Radium Queen we traveled on the the location of an abandoned mine.  There are untold numbers of abandoned mines in the Mojave although the BLM is doing its best to fill them in to protect us from ourselves.  The Mojave bankrupted many a man and the remains of their various sure-fire schemes are everywhere for us to visit.   This location was once a going concern with a lot of activity but it is all pretty much gone now.

The mine shaft is on the upper left 

A deep hole

One of the many scattered scraps left behind by the miners.  I thought the label reading  "made in the U.S. of America" was interesting!

Citizen Grouch goes off-roading

When off-roading, the hill you climbed or the hill you descended never looks as steep in a picture as it does when you are sitting in your Jeep contemplating the challenge waiting for you.  Here are a series taken by a friend as I was coming down a pretty steep hill in my trusty Jeep.  Back about 20 years if I had done this in my open differential Samurai it might have been a bit more sporty but with my Rubicon it is almost ho-hum.  But, it was fun anyway!

At the top - it looks pretty steep from up here

Here I go, low range first gear, sway bar unlocked, differentials locked

No problems here

The only problem is that I'm going too slow!  Low range first gear is really low and slow!

Talc mine visit

We visited the talc mines on the Mojave desert trip last weekend.  I have been here before and blogged about the site but my friends had not visited here so we stopped for a look-see.  This place is very Star Wars looking.  I almost expect to see Luke and Uncle Owen step out of one of the mine tunnels!

The picture doesn't give justice to the scale of the excavation

Yes, that is someone down at the bottom!

One of my fellow travelers and some other visitors to the area

"Uncle Owen!  This droids no good!"

Citizen Grouch visits Bickel camp

During the same off road trip that you'll see on your visit today to Citizen Grouch was a stop at the famous Walt Bickel camp.  I've blogged about this place previously but each visit brings some new discoveries.   First off, you should read about Walt Bickel here:   Once you've done your background research you will understand the photos more easily.

Bickel's camp in all of its junk yard glory.

Another view.  Walt must have been quite the guy!  The story is that Walt could fix anything and was the go-to guy for everyone for miles around to have their machines fixed.

I would love to have given this a spin!

A car abandoned by two L.A. Times reporters that seems to be sitting where it stopped running.  the other side of the car body is completely sand blasted of all paint down to bare metal but this side protected from the wind and sun still has the original paint.  The frame was used to make a well drilling machine.

Some never used Model A car tires

A Fordson tractor and the drilling machine in the background.

A Bickel made air compressor using a WW2 aircraft oxygen tank.

Jimmy Durante's V8 Cadillac broke an axle nearby and was left to Walt.  Here's the engine from it!

Walt never discarded anything - even his empty cans were saved for some future purpose!

Desert Fun

Some nice pictures of the very nice scenery on my recent Mojave desert trip

Characteristic red rocks with a covering of prehistoric lava 

Reminds me of the 1960s movie "Planet of the Apes"

An abandoned mining operation with some foundations and Tamarisk trees perhaps planted by a miner
A storage room chiseled out of solid rock near the mining operation.  The powder magazine perhaps?


The view from yet another abandoned mine higher up in the hills 

Someones hopes and dreams at one time

I wonder if anything of value was ever found here?

The Grouch inside the mine

At least the miner had a great view from his cabin

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's day!

From COL Grouch:

Happy Veteran's day to the Grouch clan and to the Missus' clan who served our country in time of war and of peace.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mystery Revolvers

I recently wrote about a mystery rifle that I own; today we have some mystery revolvers.  Many years ago the Missus and I were visiting a gun shop in Van Nuys that specialized in collectible firearms.  On display were several Webley revolvers and in the group were these two.  Webley made handguns for the civilian and the military market; they were sold all around the world for years but except for military surplus revolvers the brand was not common at all in the U.S.   

This pair are consecutively numbered and in almost new condition.  the 5" barrel version used to be the most common in this country being imported military surplus revolvers post World War Two.  These are 4" barrel commercial finish revolvers complete with the really cool 'flying bullet' logo.  For some reason the Missus was feeling really generous and she allowed me to buy them to be my very own.

They have no importer's marking as required since 1968 so they possibly have been in the U.S. previous to that time.  I shoot one and have kept the other unfired by me.  Both have just a slight bit of finish wear at the muzzle which says that they were possibly carried in a holster but if so, not very often.   My daughters enjoyed shooting the Webley and both said that they'd like one when I didn't need them anymore.

So, fast forward to about a year ago when I read of a service in the UK that for a reasonable fee will research your Webley and provide a copy of the sales receipt from the original sale so that it can be determined who it was sold to, when, and where the buyer was.  I had to jump at that!

I subsequently learned that my pair were part of 650 revolvers sold to New Scotland Yard, the London Metropolitan Police force in the mid '50s.  Now that is really cool!  Traditionally British police have not been armed and weapons were issued on a select basis to only a few.  The condition of mine certainly bears that out!

Now for the (minor) mystery:  how did the revolvers make it from New Scotland Yard to the Pony Express gun shop in Van Nuys?  Were they sold as surplus and brought here or did someone walk off with them one day and the Metropolitan police are still looking for them?  I hope the latter is not the case at all because I do like these shooters.  They are elegant yet efficient and the blunt nose .38 slugs that these throw hit a metal target with a satisfying clang at the distance that these are intended to be used.

These should have names:  Winston and Margaret perhaps?

Space Port

Recently some friends and I journeyed to the town of Tahachapi for the annual Apple Festival. Tahachapi is famous for the train loop, Alpacas, and its apples.  No pictures of the apple festival but on the way home we decided to stop in the town of Mojave to take a look at the airport.  We were hoping to be able to view some of the many derelict airlines stored there waiting to be scrapped or returned to service but alas we could not.  They are actually better viewed from the highway than from the airport grounds.  Security is pretty tight at the Mojave airport because a government contractor is based there; their task is turning old fighter aircraft into remote controlled target drones to be blown out of the sky by our top guns.  There is also a civilian test pilot academy located there along with some other unfathomable operations. 

Wait a minute....did I write airport instead of space port?  Because it is indeed a space port!  It is the home of Burt Rutan and his SpaceShpOne and SpaceShipTwo, the first successful manned commercially operated space craft!  SpaceShipTwo is undergoing tests at Mojave and will someday be blasting into space with paying passengers from this space port.   When I was a kid I read (and still do) Robert Heinlein science fiction novels.  In Farmer in the Sky the colonists leaving for a terraformed Ganymede depart from the space port at Mojave.   Now there is one at Mojave.  How double cool is that!

So we drove around the closed airport and were eventually stopped by a very nice but firm security guard who said that we really weren't supposed to be there unless we had business at the place so we left but not after taking these photos.

On display when you enter the grounds is the one and only Rotary Rocket!   This thing actually flew but not very high.  An interesting concept but lack of captial probably doomed the project before it really got going.

Here is some information on the Rotary Rocket:

A staple of the science fiction stories and movies of the 50s was the guys who build a manned rocket and head to space.  After the second world war anything seemed possible!  At last it seems that fact is catching up with fiction.

A memorial to the Rotary Rocket "Roton"  Love the name!  It reads like a Japanese monster from a cheesy movie.
The Grouch and Roton

Two people actually flew it from there!  I don't think there was a quick way out if something went wrong.  The crew had to be very, very brave to fly this.

The Roton's hanger, still in place 14 years later
What's this?  An actual space craft hanger!  Home of SpaceShipTwo and its mother ship

Bits and pieces of airplanes are stored all over the space port.  This looks to be a South African built trainer and ground attack aircraft.

My clue to its origins is the Afrikaans instructions on the side.  I am so glad the U.S. is not an official two-language country like Canada and South Africa.  Having everything written in two languages has to be a pain in the butt.  Wait a minute...the U.S.  government prints documents in six languages!   I guess we win...

Same type of plane but all in one piece

I think this is is a Swedish Draken fighter which seems to be missing some parts also

A nice comparison between high tech and low:  An AN-2 biplane produced behind the iron curtain.  The largest single engine biplane made.  Those commies always had to have the biggest!  This is a fascinating plane; it can fly backwards in a headwind and it essentially has no stall speed.  Read more about it here:

So that was my trip to the Mojave space port, a very interesting place to visit!   After this we went to Bob's Army Surplus in Mojave which is almost like entering a hoarder's home as it is filled with stuff from every era and military force from around the world.  Sitting outside are some derelict military vehicles and one movie prop:  a futuristic helicopter from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Sixth Day.  The prop appears to be made from fiberglass and the elements haven't been kind to it but if you loved the movie, you can see an actual piece from it right outside Bob's!

The prop on display is the one on the right