Monday, October 17, 2011

A flight in a 1941 open cockpit biplane

On Sunday Dinah & I drove to the Santa Teresa, NM airport where we had arranged for flights in a 1941 Boeing Stearman open cockpit biplane at Far West Aviation.
Far West Aviation's 1941 Boeing Stearman biplane

Since the plane only seats two, and it is advisable that one of them know how to fly the plane, Dinah and I went up separately with Steve, the pilot and owner of the plane, in control from the rear seat.
Steve adjusts Dinah's microphone prior to the flight
Clear! Steve prepares to start the engine for Dinah's flight

The dry Rio Grande as seen from the air

We flew east from the airport across the Rio Grande into Texas, then north along the Franklin Mountains, then back west where we were given a chance to fly the plane, and to experience some mild acrobatic maneuvers.  The weather was great and the view from the open cockpit was superb!

Steve, the pilot, as seen from the front seat, reflected in a mirror

Dinah & Allen with Tillie, the biplane

Friday, October 7, 2011

A ride on Amtrak from Boston to El Paso

Passengers stretch their legs during a station stop in Texas
I flew east, but decided to return home by train, just for the experience.  I arrived in Boston with a backpack full of food to last the three plus days it would take to get to El Paso. We got off to a bad start when the train left Boston late, and stayed behind schedule all the way to Chicago.
Union Station, Chicago
Motorized self cleaning toilet seat
I had a couple of hours to kill in Union Station where I saw my first motorized toilet seat. The seat is encased in a continuous plastic sleeve which is advanced to a new, clean section after each use.  Cool!

I was to transfer to the Texas Eagle which would take me to San Antonio, Texas where we would join with another train heading to Los Angeles.  The Texas Eagle was late leaving Chicago, but we had a scheduled 8 hour layover in San Antonio, TX, and we left there on time.
View of a new bridge being constructed along the rail route
 From Boston to San Antonio, most of the views were of trees along the tracks, but from here on we were in desert with expansive views, sometimes allowing us to see into Mexico.
A view of the city (Dallas, I think) from the station platform

We crossed the Pecos River on what we were told was once the highest railroad bridge in the US, and 3rd highest in the world.
The Pecos River as seen from what was at one time the highest railroad bridge in the US
During my time on the train I got little sleep, and developed some saddle sores from spending about 22 hours per day, for more than three days, sitting in a seat. I did do a lot of reading! We arrived in El Paso a little ahead of schedule, and I hustled to the bus terminal to catch the bus to Las Cruces.  Great trip, but good to be home.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Visiting Family & Friends in New England

Three old Downses - Allen, Bev, & Dave
I flew east in late September to attend my 50th High School reunion, and also to visit with family and friends.  Here are some pictures from those visits.

Brother Dave Downs performing his Colonial Medicine show

Sister Bev Morissette, Dave Downs, & Andre Morissette at Bev & Andre's summer home
Bob & Sister Lois DeRusha in their home
Allen with Aunt Thelma                                             Allen, Bev, Cousin Janice, & husband Paul
Elizabeth Van and John Pratt (right)  at their new home

Dave & Vi Pratt in the flesh

And Dave in stone

Dave & I also visited with Cousin Barb and her husband Fred Blankinship (sorry, no pictures), and of course, no New England visit is complete without a stop at Kimball Farms for a Kimball Special - three large scoops of ice cream, strawberry, pineapple, and chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and nuts!
Allen holding his Kimball Special

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Allen's 50th High School Reunion

In 1960, Newton Massachusetts opened a new high school, Newton South. So after a Sophomore and Junior year at Newton North, I transferred to Newton South and graduated in 1961, 50 years ago.
Good old Newton South High

I recognized almost no one at the two reunion get-togethers - they're all old!

Nancy Hewitt

Sally Day and me

The reunion included a tour of the new Newton North High School.  Opened in the fall of 2010, it is one of the most expensive high schools ever built in Massachusetts at almost two hundred million dollars!
Floor plan of the 1st floor of the new Newton North High School

It includes an enormous gym with an indoor track, a basketball court with spectator seats, and an indoor pool.  There is a culinary arts program, automotive and carpentry facilities, and a print shop.
The Graphic Arts room where printing for the City of Newton is done

There was to be a tour of South High as well, but the tour guide didn't appear and we had to be satisfied with a walk around the outside of the buildings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Escapade - Gillette, WY

The last stop of our summer travels was the Escapees RV Club rally - Escapade - At Cam-Plex in Gillette, Wyoming. Escapade offers a chance to visit with friends, attend RV related seminars, visit RV related venders, and enjoy evening entertainment. We arrived a day early, on Saturday, 27 August and spent time with Lee & Marsha Squires; at our wedding at the 2005 spring Escapade, Marsha was the matron of honor and Lee gave the bride away.
Dinah spent one day as a volunteer assistant for a quilting class.  I helped organize the annual meeting of the HFH BoF (Habitat for Humanity Birds of a Feather group). BoFs are interest groups within the Escapees RV club - sub clubs if you will.

I attended five seminars conducted by Geeks On Tour.  All on Computer subjects, all expertly presented, and all of great interest to me.  As a result, I now:
Manage my pictures with Picasa 3 - a free program from Google
I have started this blog, using
I have updated my streets & trips program from 2005 to 2011

The five days of Escapade passed quickly.  We chose to stay parked at Cam-Plex until Tuesday morning, 6 September to avoid the Labor Day weekend traffic.
Spotted in a Walmart parking lot

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer Travels - Las Cruces to South Dakota via Milwaukee

Some of the stuff we did this summer, I've talked about in separate blog entries.  This, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.
This must be where Big Foot is buried.
Located in Hutchinson, Kansas, this may be the largest grain elevator in the US
Dinah with Maxine at the Hallmark Visitor Center in Kansas City, MO
 In the Chicago area, we visited Dinah's sister Pat and husband Dick (no pictures - Pat is camera shy), and with Oliver Witte, Dinah's long time friend and author of a magazine article on our solar system.
We stopped near Milwaukee to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Dinah's grade school friend Linda, and her husband Warner, Schafer. The pictures Dinah took of the Schafers were lost when Noodle, the dog, chewed her camera's memory chip.
Anniversary pillow from Dinah's Quilts & Embroideries
Also in the Milwaukee area, we visited with Dinah' brother Bob & Ellen Gardiner, their son & his wife, and later met Bob & Ellen at their boat for a brief visit.
Ellen,Steve,Anne, and Bob Gardiner
Keira, Bob, Ellen, and Dinah on Bob & Ellen's sailboat
Allen also had a visit with his old navy buddy Mike Sherman and his wife Martha as they were emptying their apartment in preparation for becoming full time RVers.
Martha & Mike Sherman
WW II Submarine at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum
We visited the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, billed as "The most explosive Museum in the world" where we learned a little about wheat and how it is processed.
A visitor tries on a King Tut mask at the Science Museum of Minnesota
The cockpit of a DC-3 at the Fargo Air Museum
The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD
A mural made of corn on the cob specially grown in multiple colors.
These wild turkeys strolled through our campground in Rapid City, SD
This turkey was on display at the Central States Fair
Next stop, Escapade!  On to Gillette, Wyoming!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Museum of Broadcasting

Today I visited the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting in St. Louis Park, MN near Minneapolis. This is a great place for anyone interested in the history of radio and TV.  Their collection starts with spark generators (as used on the Titanic), then moves on to early tube radios with many varieties on display.
Early Tube Radios

I was fascinated by the first tape recorder in the US, The Magnetophon K4, imported from Germany immediately after WWII by a signal Corp guy, Jack Mullin.

The Magnetophone K4
At that time Bing Crosby had a radio show, the Craft Music Hall, but did not like the inflexibility imposed by performing live, and the sponsors and audience did not like the poor quality of wire or disk recordings. Crosby's technical producer decided to try the K4 which solved the problem. Because there were only 2 of these machines in the US, Mullin encouraged Ampex to develop a machine and the first Ampex 200 recorders went into use in 1948.

The Ampex 200 used by Bing Crosby's Radio Show

Right after I got out of the Navy, I assembled four DynaKits: an FM tuner, preamplifier, power amplifier, and a switching unit.  To my delight I found these four units in the museum's collection.

Dynakits like the ones I built

The last item I'll talk about is the Theremin, a musical instrument played by moving your hands near two antennas. One controlled the volume and the other the pitch of the note being played. The museum has a working original RCA theremin that I was allowed to try to play and I learned it is not easy to do.
1929 RCA Theremin
If you are ever in the Minneapolis area with some time to spare, check out this place!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Herber Hoover Presidential Museum

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum
My impression had always been that Hoover was a failure as president, and beyond that I knew nothing of the man. I now know a bit more about him.

Hoover graduated with the first class from Stanford University with a degree in geology and had a distinguished career as an international mining engineer. He became involved in humanitarian work, founded the Hoover Institution, and became Secretary of Commerce before being elected president.

But soon came the stock market collapse of 1929 and the depression followed. Hoover did much to relieve the distress but, like Obama today, found his popularity dropping as he was blamed for the economic conditions. He lost to Roosevelt in 1932.

Well worth the time to visit this museum.