Sunday, July 23, 2017

the Grouch goes flying! Part I

Over a year ago the Missus and Grouch kids banded together to buy me a rear seat ride in a P-51 Mustang WW2 fighter for my 62nd birthday.  I was so excited and greatful!

I called the airfield to arrange the ride only to find out the engine had crapped out on the plane.  I was told it was going to be a couple of months before the plane would be ready for flight.   A couple of months turned into a year and it still wasn't ready.  I wanted to take a ride before fate intervened in some manner and I missed out on a ride altogher so I opted for plan B:  A ride in a T-6 Texan WW2 advanced trainer.


We see T-6s overhead at Grouch estates frequently.  There are some that fly out of Van Nuys and others come from airfields around Los Angeles.  It is a popular warbird with so many made during WW2 and so many surviving to this day.  Some T-6s flew in military service outside the U.S. until the 80s.  South Africa flew large numbers as advanced pilot trainers until then and may have been the last government to do so.

SAAF high-jinks in a T-6, 1964


I picked my birthday weekend as the time for my ride.  It happened to correspond with the arrival of one of two operable B-29s 'Fifi', as well as a host of other WW2 aircraft.  I was in heaven!

I met my pilot who is a corporate pilot in his day job and flies for the CAF - Camarillo on the weekends.  A great guy, full of personality and fun stories.  

It was time for the ride!

During the ride the pilot let me do some gentle turns.  He rolled the plane twice and then we did some low level flying along a ridge.  What a blast!


'My' T-6 waiting for me with Fifi taxing past


Meeting the pilot

Getting in wasn't easy.  Imagine getting in with a flying suit and seat parachute dangling beneath your butt!

The pilot telling me not to jump out of the airplane if the engine quits.  


Ready to go!

Wheels up

Time to come back

I had a blast!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mr. and Mrs. Grouch Head South Part V

All right then!  Picking up where I left off a couple months ago, the last day of our time in the Palm Springs area saw us visiting an earthquake fault and doing a bit of late afternoon off-roading.

We visited a park near the city that covers an earthquake fault that traps and channels water in a very dry landscape.  Because of this, giant palms have crowded into the two areas where the water pools.

At the park entrance, a vintage home with furnishings serves as the park office.  A path loops from the first oasis to the second, where fish can be seen in the pond.  




The video is from someone who visited the area in 2010 but it seems to still be the same in 2017 when we visited.



The giant palms at the first oasis




A nice bridge over the first pond


The palm oasis and the terrain between.


At the second oasis and pond


Actual fish!


Now for some off-roading!




We finished our day with off roading into the evening and then headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for the long drive back to Los Angeles.  Another successful trip!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Still here!

Hey Grouches and Grouchettes!  

Yes, I am still in the blog biz but various events have conspired against me to limit my recent postings.

Some are good:  a ride in a WW2 trainer, a wedding, a wonderful cruise.  Others not so good:  loss of job, minor illnesses, etc.

My job of seven years was eliminated in a restructuring and I had a month find another one.  I was very lucky and did find another one but the process was fast paced and time consuming.

Then, the Missus and I went on a 12 day cruise, I returned to my new work to find that a key member of my new team had quit while I was gone.  I'm working 11 hour days plus commuting so my energy cells are a bit depleted.

I hope to get back into blogging soon, I have a lot to share so keep checking for updates!

Citizen Grouch.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mr. and Mrs. Grouch Head South Part IV



After we finished with Slab City and the Salton Sea we headed back to Palm Springs for a ride on the aerial tramway to the top of a very high mountain.  It was cool-ish, about in the 60s at the bottom of the lift and below freezing at the top.  Of course I forgot to bring my hat and gloves!


The Missus and  I rode the tram back in the day on a Labor day weekend trip to Palm Springs.  It was over a hundred at the bottom and in the 70s at the top. We hiked for miles before riding back down.  In those days the tram was just a tram but now it spins 360 degrees to be sure everyone gets a good view.  Unfortunately the rain clouds kept visibility pretty low on the ride up.

The Missus and I have been passengers in cable tramways such as this in other places too:, the Zugspitz in Germany and Table Mountain in South Africa for example.  They are always a thrill.



We bought tickets for a round trip and dinner at the lodge at the top.  It is an experience I certainly recommend!




This is our ride heading into the station


The anticipation grows!


Up on top and it is darn cold!


I would love to go snow shoeing or just walk in the snow but no time for that foolishness

Headed down to at least stand in the snow


Yay, I made it!

People having fun in the snow

Palm Springs is down there somewhere.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Interlude - The Grouch family visits a Tin Goose!

Young daughter contacted me shortly after we returned from our southern adventure to tell me that a genuine 1920s Ford Trimotor airliner, know as the Tin Goose would be visiting Camarillo airport and did I want to see it?

Did I?  You bet!!  So Young Son and I traveled to Camarillo to meet Young Daughter and view the Tin Goose in all of her glory.



I was feeling cheap that day and didn't buy tickets for the Grouchs but now I wish I had.  

Once the plane landed a discharged its passengers we were able to walk up to the plane and check it out.  Amazing that this plane is still flying so many years after its production.

I remember seeing a movie made in the 50s about Forest Service smoke jumpers who flew to the fires in a Ford Tin Goose.  What a way to travel!

The Tin Goose on approach


This chap owns a restored M151 MUTT (not a Jeep) and I was able to talk with him about it.  I drove these minus the mounted gun when I was in the Army



Waiting for the next load of passengers






Fueling her up before the next flight.  They are watching a P-51 Mustang fly past at low altitude

Young Daughter checks out the exposed radial engines


Watch your head getting in!







When we were having lunch at Wendy's nearby the airfield, the Tin Goose passed overhead

Mr. and Mrs. Grouch Head South Part III


After finishing our visit to Salvation Mountain, a quick drive a bit further brought us to Slab City.

Slab City started as a USMC artillery training post during WW2.  It was abandoned after the war and gradually the area was claimed by various Snow Birds, anarchists, adventurers, and down-on-their-luck individuals.


There are a few concrete structures remaining from the Marine Corps days such as ammunition igloos, guard posts and the slabs that barracks and other buildings once sat on.   Otherwise everything else is of a temporary nature.

Driving around the area we saw some spots that had upscale motor homes and travel trailers sitting on them, a few even fenced in with new appearing cyclone fencing.  Others were occupied by ancient school buses or thrown together structures of plywood and plastic sheeting.

Some spots had burned out trailers or abandoned trailers surrounded by heaps of old appliances and derelict cars.  What is it about these sort of places that attracts junk collectors?

The whole area had the vibe of 'Bartertown' and I excepted to see Mad Max and Aunty Entity walking along one of the paths between the homesteads.

Bartertown - I mean Slab City is an interesting and colorful place in the bright sunlight.  At night however I'd only want to be afoot with a 12 bore loaded with buck.


Wonder what it was like to pull guard duty in this oven in the middle of the summer?  At the entrance to Slab City


An upscale homestead


Of course, the fork!

A more typical homesite





Ok, this would warn me off from visiting this place!

Is that a catapult? 

This must be a year round resident

Just to add some spice for living here....

Anyone need a shoe tree?



We ended this day's journey at the stinky, shrinking Salton Sea.  The transformation from the middle class oasis of the 50s-early 60s to a stinking stagnant lake with the resulting financial ruin of many persons is so typically California that it needs a whole blog post of its own.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Mr. and Mrs. Grouch head south Part II



Day 2 saw found us joining forces with the other two couples in our expedition and then heading off in the direction of the Salton Sea.  But first, we planned a stop at Salvation Mountain.


Salvation mountain is one of those places that seem to abound in California: magnificent obsession. Whether it is digging a tunnel through solid rock by hand for decades (see Burro Schmidt), building non stop on a mansion to keep ghosts at bay (see Winchester House) or in this instance, covering a hill with cement and paint and making it into a message of peace, love, and the holy bible.

The man who was responsible for this magnificent obsession has moved on to his great reward, but his work remains for anyone to see.

The day we were there it was misting rain and cool but the crowd was large and all in good spirits.

The construction is of cement over straw bales and is already showing signs of weathering and crumbling.  Perhaps 10 to 20 years from now it will all be gone so if you wish to see Salvation Mountain I'd suggest doing it now.



How can anyone argue against the messages portrayed here?

This is a major destination for off road fans

The cement covering was a bit slippery in the rain.  Fortunately no one went down while we were there.






The Missus soaks up the good vibrations of the mountain.

In we go!






The Missus and friends examine the unique construction methods.

The stairway to heaven?



We were feeling the love!



After we finished at Salvation Mountain, our next stop was Slab City.  This place was right out of a Mad Max movie.  

Stay tuned for our foray into Slab City (just don't go there after the sun goes down).