Monday, July 28, 2014

The Western Road

Some random views.

Somewhere in Arizona, along Highway 89.
Marble Canyon.
Indian reservation homes along Highway 160.
Welcome to New Mexico.
Shiprock.
Heading south on 491.
Lotta open space out there. I drove for hours--for days--without turning on the radio, just because I wanted to drink all of this openness in. And the lack of traffic. I could go for miles witout seeing another car and I could drive as fast as I wanted without having some blockhead ahead of my harshing my mellow and slowing me down. Now that I'm back here, I miss it, especially after this morning's commute.

But on the plus side, after five days of forced immobility and staying off it, my foot's getting better. I'll be back out in the real world this week, and I'll find new stuff to post about.

And now I've got the bug to mfly up to Maine. For lobster. Tentative trip planning commenced last night.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Man Movie

In Zulu (1964), Michael Caine learns to lead men in battle at Rorke's Drift against 4,000 Zulu warriors.

Every time I watch this, I want to go shoot one of my Martini-Henrys.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Man, I wish I could have gone to work for the Forest Service

Back in the day, they flew some planes.

While strolling around Pima Air Museum's back lot, out behind the hangars on the far side from the rest of the outside collection, I found some sad-looking old military derelicts that will hopefully be restored someday. Most of them were marked up as Forest Service fire bombers, indicating how they finished their flying lives.

The first was this Grumman AF-2, which was originally built as a torpedo bomber and then repurposed as an anti-submarine aircraft.
This particular one is an AF-2S. 193 of them were built out of a total production run of 389 AFs of all variants. They were only in service with the US Navy for five years, 1950-1955, and with the Navy Reserve until 1957.
Her engine was only 2400 horsepower, which many pilots felt made her underpowered for her size and weight. She was never a very popular pane to fly, and eventually they were replaced in their ASW role by the much more successful S-2 Tracker.
Most were scrapped, but a few, like N99952 here, were turned over to the Forest Service and either leased or titled to companies like Aero Union and used to fight forest fires.
She needs a bit of TLC, but I'd still love to take her up.

Also back there, this Lockheed P-2 Neptune, another Maritime Patrol and ASW aircraft that flew primarily with the Navy but also the Army and Marines and the CIA well up into the 1980s.
This one is on loan from the Forest Service and still looks to be quite flyable; it's probably the most airworthy aircraft in this back lot.
These aircraft flew in the Korean War, Vietnam, and even as recently as the Falklands War in the hands of the Argentinians.
Note the addition of two jet engines under the wings to operate in conjunction with her reciprocating engines.
At one time, the Navy even developed a program by which the P-2 could be used as a carrier-borne nuclear bomber, using rocket packs attached to her sides to help it get off of a carrier deck with a nuclear bomb aboard. But as the P-2 could not land on a carrier, the crew was expected to find a friendly country to land in or ditch the aircraft at sea following bomb delivery. Fortunately for the Navy crews, other, more capable aircraft came along shortly and this role was taken away from the Neptunes.
Several P-2 Neptunes are still flown by firefighting companies like Neptune Aviation Services in Montana, and Minden Air Corporation in Nevada. If I get time this week, I may just send them each a resume. Flying these would be cool.

Also cool to fly: This DC-7.
Here's where they rigged a water-drop bomb bay beneath her. I'd have scootched under there for better shots, but man, that sand was hot, even with the shade.
The engines just need a bit massaging, and I suspect that they'll turn right over.
Not sure why I don't have more pictures of this one. Probably because I was still bouncing around the place like an eight year old on a sugar high in a candy store.


There was a Fairchild C-119 in that lot too, also with a single jet engine attached to it's roof.
Most of these were built near me in Fairchild's factory in Hagerstown, MD, but 71 were subcontracted out to Henry Kaiser who built them out of the old Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, MI.
These old birds carried troops, supplies and anything else that needed carrying in Korea and Vietnam. Some were even fitted with side-firing guns in an AC-119 configuration,and they rained holy hell down on the bad guys in SE Asia.

This one ended her days as a fire-bomber, but who knows what she did while flying for the Air Force. Like the others here, these were warplanes before they were fire-bombers, and they flew countless thousands of hours between them, probably all over the world in both peacetime and war.
Of course this one could use a little TLC, too.
Look behind her--another C-119 awaiting restoration back in the "off limits" area.
In 1981, Hemet Valley Flying Service lost one of these aircraft and it's two crew members when it's left wing suddenly tore off during a fire drop. That aircraft's N number: N13742. This one:
Cause of the crash: age and wear; metal fatigue.

Sadly, that's not an unknown occurrence in a firefighting fleet made up of surplus aircraft, some of which date back to World War Two. In 2002, Tanker 123, a Consolidated P4Y-2, went down for a similar reason in Colorado, also with the loss of her crew.


Yeah, it wasn't without risk, and still isn't, but what I wouldn't give for a flying job like that, especially in those old warbirds.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Petrified Forest

Just south of the Painted Desert proper, the road takes you through the Petrified Forest, a section of badlands where numerous prehistoric trees were trapped in swamp sludge about 225 million years ago. These trees were infused with minerals in the water, and over time, turned to stone. Now, current erosion processes are exposing them and they are all over this area for people to see and touch.
Some logs and parts of logs (above), and some of the channes carved by water in the soft siltstone (below).
The Blue Mesa trail is a paved path that descends down into one of the valleys where the petrified wood is abundant. It's steep, but worth the climb.
A chunk of fossilized wood just laying on the ground.
Looking up from down in the Blue Mesa bowl.
Here's a big section of fossilized tree up on a "pedestal" of sorts as the ground around it has eroded away but the ground beneath it has not eroded yet.
It well all erode away eventually though, and then this section of fossilized wood will fall.
Looking past the Blue Mesa ridges out over the Painted Desert to the northwest.
Here's some bigger log sections down in the Crystal Forest section. Here, trails take you out in and around them.
This pace was incredible, and well worth the half day that I spent here. If you're in the area, don't miss it.

Whose fault was it that Obama fundraiser motorcade kept a pregnant woman from hospital?

So now Obama is catching some heat because his motorcade, in addition to gridlocking traffic all across L.A. at rush hour yesterday, also kept a pregnant woman from crossing the street to get to the hospital, reportedly holding her up for half an hour, labor notwithstanding.

Woman in Labor Unable to Cross Street to Hospital Because of Obama Motorcade

Obama being a narcissistic punk notwithstanding, I blame the woman here. Had she just stood up and pleaded in SPANISH, Obama would have stopped the motorcade, rerouted it to give her a lift to the hospital personally, and then handed her a phone, an EBT card and a voter registration form.

Everyone knows that Obama couldn't care less about white people because most won't vote for him or black people because they'll keep supporting him no matter what. But you throw what looks like the foreign mother-to-be of a possible anchor baby in front of him and he'll do handstands in a clown suit to curry her favor and that of the interest groups behind her.

It's sad to see that our elected officials have debased themselves and our government this badly, but I have to fault the 47% of the voters who just mistook the election for a reality show and voted for "the hip, edgy one" without regard for his actual qualifications or history. Until we educate our own stupid class or find a way to keep them from the polls along with those who only vote according to whoever promises them more of the taxpayers' treasure, this is what we'll likely get for "leaders" from now on.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Painted Desert

I saw the sign for Petrified Forest National Park as I was shooting down I-40 in Arizona last month. I almost didn't stop, because I'd not heard of it before and it wasn't on my itinerary. But I was doing good for time, and the random drifting and exploration is what makes my road trips special, so I got off the highway and turned into the visitor center. What's a few minutes spent finding out what's here, eh?

It was one of the best decisions of my trip.

The north part of the park is a small loop that takes you out onto the edge of the Painted Desert.
This badland is about 120 miles long by 60 miles wide, and it runs clear up to the south edge of the Grand Canyon to the northwest. It's arid desert made of siltstone, a soft rock easily cut by water. It has a heavy iron and manganese content that gives it it's unique coloration.
Beautiful as it is, I kept imagining myself as a cowboy on a horse or a wagoner behind a team trying to cross this land back in the 1800s. The terrain is near impossible to move over and there's no water anywhere.
You can't go out into this desert unless it's on foot with a permit, but I wasn't equipped or in shape for that. All the average visitor can do is stay on the park road and enjoy the views from scenic overlooks. I figured that I'd buzz right through, but it's so spectacular that I couldn't stop taking it in.
Remember the Grand Canyon pics from last week where I pointed out the San Francisco Peaks? Well there it is from the other side, just 120 miles away. And it's barren, trackless desert the whole way.
Most of this desert is still Navajo Nation today.
In a couple of these, you'll see flat stretches that look like roads. They aren't. They're just dry washes where the water from the very infrequent rains channels itself briefly. You wouldn't want to be caught in one of those when that happens, because they can flash-flood immediately with any kind of significant rain.
I need to come back here when I've got more time and conditioning and hike out there for a few days.