Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Geology tip

I'm going to remember this tip for the next time we visit the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pima Air and Space Museum

 Or, How I spent my winter vacation, part whatever.

We're back on the tundra, I should be writing about more current events -- what's going on down at the museum (not much at the moment), what's happening politically, exciting local news (two moose died in a vehicle/moose collision, someone wants to open a Dollar General store in L'Anse), you name it -- but after reading excerpts from The Donald's Associated Press interview the past is looking much better than the present. (I keep waiting for some little kid to yell "but he's not wearing any clothes!!" loud enough for it to finally sink in that there's a lunatic in the Oval Office, but apparently sane children are in short supply inside the Beltway.) So instead I'll revisit some of the highlights of snowbirding in the desert.

The Pima Air and Space Museum is located on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. When we lived in Tucson almost 35 years ago, the museum felt like it was way out in the middle of nowhere. Urban sprawl has since caught up with it. There's still a fair amount of visually vacant land around it because it's adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, but suburban development has filled in what used to be a whole lot of nothing to the east of the museum.
The S/O/ taking one of a zillion photos he'll probably never look at again after downloading them to the computer. .

The last time we'd been to the museum was probably in 1981. Long, long ago in what now feels like a galaxy far, far away. At the time I think the museum had one building, maybe two, but there were a gazillion aircraft, mostly military but a few civilian, on static display. Somewhere in our photo albums there is page after page of snapshots of various nifty looking pieces of aeronautical engineering. I was definitely fascinated back then by the fighters the Blue Angels flew.
So what's changed in the intervening decades? Well, they've got more buildings now, which means the museum can do more interesting exhibits. If you've got a B-29 sitting outside exposed to the elements, i.e. desert winds and scorching sun, you're doing good to keep the paint job intact. You really can't do an exhibit that provides any sort of a context or includes much besides the plane. Stick it in a protected environment and you're able to provide interpretive signage that doesn't have to be as weather-resistant as outside signage would be, you can dress mannequins in flight suits or ground crew uniforms, you can do an exhibit that includes ancillary pieces of equipment. You can even stick a flying boat in fake water, which they've done. You can tell a much more complete story and know that whatever is in the exhibit is going to last for awhile.

I'm always intrigued (and more than a little envious) by the various methods that museums with money use for protecting the objects in their collections. Having heavy items (or even light ones) sitting directly on their suspension and wheels is never a good idea. Sooner or later the weight of the object causes things to break down. Springs get flattened, and wheels go out of round. We have two carts at the museum that have bad wheels now because they sat in the same position for too long. In any case, I was impressed by the stands for the aircraft. (I was also jealous of the chains and acrylic that kept the public from running its greasy hands over many exhibits, but that's true of just about every museum we visit.)

The S.O. and I had a good time wandering around the museum. Once again he pointed out the type of aircraft he fell off back in his Air Force days -- the fall resulted in a broken leg -- and once again I promptly forgot just what it was. When it comes to model numbers and airplanes, there are maybe 5 I can remember without having to think real hard: B-52 (aka BUFF), F-117 (Stealth fighter), SR-71 (aka Blackbird), U-2, and the Vought F4U (Corsair). I have an irrational love for Corsairs. Appropriately enough, the museum keeps its Corsair in a hanger. The boring piece of Vietnam era flying junk the S.O. fell off gets to sit outside and bake in the Arizona sun.
F101, aka Vietnam era junk
We decided to do the bus tour of the Air Force "bone yard," too. The military stashes old aircraft at Davis-Monthan. It's where they come to be parted out when their useful life is over. Anything salvageable gets salvaged and whatever is left turns into scrap metal. Aircraft that have had particularly interesting careers may end up sitting on static display for decades providing fodder for the tour bus guide. After all, a tour that consisted primarily of saying "And on your left are 50 C-131s" with no colorful anecdotes about how a particular aircraft was used would turn dull pretty quickly.
I did learn the Air Force gives old aircraft away to museums and other nonprofits. They strip out all the electronics, of course, and anything else that could either make the aircraft operational or compromise military security, but if we wanted an airplane to just sit around taking up space and looking thoroughly out of place next to Lake Superior all the Baraga County Historical Society would have to do is figure out a way to transport it. Too bad we don't have the space to park a B-52. I could argue they fit our mission to preserve local history. B-52s used to practice flying under radar locally. They'd go over L'Anse at about 1,000 feet above sea level, which didn't thrill anyone in town (L'Anse is at about 600 feet above sea level), and they'd have to climb to get over us (we're at 1700 feet). Seeing a B-52 at treetop height is kind of a thrill the first time you see one, but it gets old fast.
Yard art?
I could see revisiting the Pima Air and Space Museum. We didn't see everything there thanks to taking the bone yard tour (it eats up a couple hours)  and both the S.O. and I do like looking at airplanes. It's one of those places that can easily turn into an all-day experience, especially when there is an on-site restaurant that serves pretty decent food at not-outrageous prices.
I love cutaways -- it is always cool to see the internal structure of technological devices.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Home - finally!

At Moab Giants, Moab, Utah. Goofiest looking dinosaur I've seen recently.
We've actually been back on the tundra for several days now, but it took awhile to get the landline reconnected and the Internet service back. And we're still unloading the Guppy. I keep hauling stuff out of there thinking it's got to be the last item, but, nope, there's more. We were definitely bulging at the seams as we waddled down the road back from Colorado.

One thing I did figure out during the past 5+ months of living in that RV was that even before we stuffed the Guppy full of things from my mom's apartment we had stuff along that we did not need. I was way too ambitious in thinking what all I might get done in terms of sewing or other projects. I could have easily left half my project materials sitting in the Woman Cave and not lacked for handwork to keep me busy. And, despite having done some thinning after previous expeditions, we still have kitchen items  that we simply are not using. Ever. So why is it taking up space in the cabinets? Good question.
James M. Robb State Park, Fruita, Colorado

We did manage to time our return more or less perfectly. There was still snow across the end of the driveway, enough to discourage people from driving in but not enough to keep the Guppy out. The only fresh tracks on the road were from a moose. One of my fears whenever we're gone for awhile is we'll come home to discover we've been either burgled or vandalized. We've had both happen in the past, although it's probably been over 30 years since the last episode. One of the consequences of changing demographics locally has been fewer bored teenagers roaming the back roads looking for trouble to get into.

The trip home was relatively uneventful. We were a little smarter in how many miles we tried to cover each day so had more time to relax in the evenings. If I recall correctly, our original plans had involved staying at public campgrounds, but as it turned out looking for private ones (KOAs or similar facilities) was easier. In any case, we stopped early enough each day that we had some time in the evening to just relax and to dine at a normal hour. I should take the time to do some reviews on Campendium; every place we stayed was somewhere I'd be willing to revisit.
Camera shy rattlesnake at Hovenweep National Monument

We did have tire trouble in Missouri, but considering that the tires in question were probably 15 years old the fact the tread finally decided to let go wasn't a huge surprise. If a person just went by how the tread looked, you'd have thought the tires were fine, but we discovered when we went through the stack of receipts previous owners left in the RV that they hit puberty right about the time we bought the Guppy. They looked good because there weren't many miles on them, but considering how quickly rubber dry rots. . . We did replace the front tires not long after getting the Guppy because we figured that for sure we didn't want to chance one them blowing out. Didn't worry as much about the rear because the Guppy has dual wheels.We had planned to replace them this summer, but hoped to get back to the U.P. before being pushed into doing it.

The weirdest part about the tires deciding to die was they never went flat. The tread peeled itself off quite neatly, but the tires never lost air. It was bizarre.
One of the dead tires

Shout out, for what it's worth, to the Pulaski County branch library in Richland, Missouri. I wandered into it while the Guppy was at Larry's Tire Shop. It's a nice library for a small town, bright and airy and with a great selection of books on the recent arrivals shelf. Larry's was kind of cool, too, one of those small town full service gas stations and tire shops that you don't see very often any more.

I also have to say again that there are no bad state parks in Missouri. The tire episode meant we had to stop for the night before we got to St. Louis (well, we didn't have to; it just made sense to do so). We decided to try Robertsville State Park; it's located about 5 miles south of I-44. It's small -- only 27 camp sites, with a fairly even split between basic and electric -- but laid out nicely. What amazed me was it has two, count 'em, two sets of campground hosts. Two sets of hosts for 27 campsites. Holy wah. Maybe it's because it's so close to the city that the DNR wants to be sure there's always someone on site during the "on" season. In any case, it's another Missouri state park that I'd cheerfully stop at again.

And now we're home and I get to try to make the mental shift required to focus on museum stuff. The deadline for our heritage grant is May 31 -- everything we do is supposed to be done and paid for before then. I need to get the banners for the traveling exhibit scripted and ordered ASAP, we need to figure out just what we're doing for the permanent exhibit at the museum, and I need to start drafting the final report. The person who's been collecting the oral histories seems to have done a stellar job; it's just a matter of putting the final pieces together. The big challenge for me is figuring out how to condense a truly complex topic into the printed version of sound bits for the banners. Our project is supposedly explicating the history of Indian casinos in Baraga County. It turned out to be a lot messier than anticipated. Lots of "everybody knows" and everybody being wrong. Myth busting is never easy, and there are a zillion myths to be busted when it comes to Indian gaming.