Category Archives: Travel


By lex, on March 25th, 2007

We were to meet at 0700 at the church parking lot, so it was with cattle prod in hand that I went to summon the Biscuit from the land of nod at 0630 on a Saturday morning, only to be met with the familiar-as-my-own-heartbeat but nevertheless heart-rending wail of “Five more minutes!”

Very well, says I, five more minutes, but when I come back you’ll need to spring to action!

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Humor, Lex, Life, Travel

Random observations from the outer arc

By lex, on October 11th, 2006

Google must have a thermos in it: When you type in the url over here, you automatically get the .bh suffix, with all kinds of cool, wriggly, right-to-left writing in the places where you’ve become accustomed to seeing “Web,” “Images,” “News,” “Groups” and “Porn” back home. Also, when you type in your search request, the letters fill from right to left, instead of the correct way.

How do it know? It’s got a thermos in it. That’s how.

NSA Bahrain is like an island inside the island. It feels just like being home, except that everyone is wearing some version of DCU’s. It’s “Lost” in cammies.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Humor, Navy, Travel


By lex, October 10, 2006


For clarification’s sake, this is not “The Trip.” This is merely “a trip.” Whether or not I end up going on The Trip is being decided by my betters at the Commander, Fleet Forces Command headquarters, my name having been offered up with several others as belonging to someone who could be Potentially Useful and almost certainly a living, breathing person, capable of your higher forms of mirror fogging.

The Trip, if I end up taking it (while it’s true that your odds are twice as good in Russian roulette, the stakes are far higher) would start in late December. This trip returns to my own, my native land, in the course of about 11 days.

In case that wasn’t clear.

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My Ideal Road Trip – Part 9

Today – traveling through Death Valley

Manzanar Internment Camp site

Leaving Beatty NV for Death Valley…




US 395 is a beautiful road that follows the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Lex wrote about it; I am sure he traveled it frequently to and from Fallon. Manzanar is right by 395 just north of Lone Pine.

It does not reflect one of our country’s better ideals. My late father, who grew up in Los Angeles had a Japanese-American friend whose family was given a very short time to vacate their house and report. Many lost their homes to unscrupulous buyers.

My mother has a good friend who had to live here as a little girl.

Some of these Japanese-Americans, or Nisei, still answered their country’s call and joined the now legendary 442nd Infantry Regiment.  It is one of the most decorated Army units in history, and of the 14,000 men who served, 9,486 Purple Hearts were awarded.

Today, all that remains is a guard tower and the main entrance where the guards resided. The outlines of the old wooden structures are shown.



Back in the 1940s, it looked a bit different



A few years ago, I met a veteran of the 442nd – had to shake his hand.

Tomorrow: the final installment. I wanted to show the Lexicans the genuine ghost town of Bodie, which today is a state park kept in “arrested decay”. 

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Part 4 is here

Part 5 is here

Part 6 is here

Part 7 is here

Part 8 is here


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My Ideal Road Trip – Part 8

Today – Planes of Fame Museum Annex – Valle, AZ

I was on my way to the Grand Canyon when I passed this – and of course had to do a quick U-Turn and visit it.

I can remember back in the 70s being on a sales trip and stopping at the original Planes of Fame in Chino, CA. 

As I recall they didn’t even have a museum-hanger to display the planes – many among the last 1-2 survivors. You just walked on the tarmac. I believe they really got their start renting these out to movie production companies.

Of course, things have changed with Mustangs going for way over $1 million these days.

There was one plane there that made the entire visit worthwhile. With the original engine – a DB605 designed by Daimler-Benz – I doubt there there are a dozen in the world. To my knowledge there are only 2 original Me109s flying – one in Canada (which was for sale – parts should be no problem 😉 ) and the other was a restoration by EADS – the Airbus consortium – which absorbed Messerschmidt.

There was a 3rd that was painstakingly restored over some 10-15 years by volunteers at the Duxford Museum, and during one flight had to crash land. To my knowledge it is a static display now.

Virtually all of the 109s you see in the movies – well all that I know of, are the Merlin-powered Buchons, built under license in Spain until 1955 or so.

How do you tell the difference?

It’s easy.

Look at the location of the exhaust stacks. The DB605 V12 engine was designed to be inverted – for better CG and servicing. The crankshaft actually sits right under the top of the cowling. So the exhaust stacks are near the bottom of the cowling. (I’d be interested to know how they solved the lubrication problem).

You look at a picture from WW2 of the mechanics servicing a Mustang and they are all on step ladders craned over the top of the cowling. The German mechanics had it all right there without the use of step ladders.

This is the first plane I saw once I entered the museum.


My car club’s magazine had an interesting article on this engine awhile back. Author Graham Robson made an interesting point – that many of the engineers assigned to this were veterans of the great GP wars between Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz in the 1930s. They were developing 600 hp cars back when chassis and tires weren’t keeping pace. Imagine racing these on skinny bias-ply tires – at close to 200 mph –  with no rollbar. No seat belts – the F1 drivers of today are rather spoiled.

On the left side below look at the size of the supercharger on this! (towards the back)

The Daimler-Benz engine had several advantages – one was mechanical fuel injection – developed with Bosch – that eliminated the pilot having to make constant mixture changes with altitude changes and was impervious to negative-G maneuvers – the carburated Merlin would briefly cut out for a second or 2. The Bosch unit – with a few modifications – powered Mercedes-Benz cars through the 1960s. The DB605 had a very different sound from the Merlin – the nickname among the German pilots was “the stone crusher”. They both sound pretty cool; just different voices!

But the Merlin had an advantage over the DB engine – at least the early ones. Starters were deemed so heavy and bulky that in at least the early versions – there was no electric starter. A crewman would stand on the wing – on the left side – insert a crank and start turning a centrifugal clutch. When it was going fast enough  he would remove the crank and the pilot would engage the clutch to turn over the engine.

The Merlin, of course, has proven to be a timeless design. By just adding more boost and strengthening the pistons and crankshaft, they are producing over double the original HP- 3,500-at the Reno Air Races.

But it is a shame that the allies had virtually every Daimler-Benz engine destroyed. It would have been an interesting comparison today!


A beautiful Merlin, complete with step ladder – at the Reno Air Races. 4 valves/cylinder, DOHC – other than electronics today an enduring design of 80 years.



I like nose art – what can I say?



I had never heard of some of these planes, like the Convair and this “Schmidt Commuter Helicom”. That makes a Robinson R-22 look like a Chinook.

One other thing – the docent told me that every plane in there – except the Me109 – is airworthy. Pretty amazing!

I assume you have all seen pictures of the Grand Canyon so I’ll skip that…

Tomorrow: A few scenes crossing Death Valley and the site of the Manzanar internment camp.


Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Part 4 is here

Part 5 is here

Part 6 is here

Part 7 is here





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My Ideal Road Trip – Part 7


Today – Rt 66 and the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup NM

Since this was a trip – my kind of trip – where I had no fixed itineraries (other than to get home by 5:30 on a Friday for a dinner) – I decided to veer south 200 miles or so and stay at the Hotel El Rancho.

One of my minor regrets in life was not joining a Rt 66 tour my car club had about 10 years ago – from Chicago to California. But to tell you the truth if you are on a Rt 66 binge to me the most interesting parts are through Arizona and New Mexico. And I would divide the attractions into 3 categories: In the 1st category are places that have stayed pretty much the same – regardless of the fact that I40 took a lot of traffic from them. The second category are places that actively try to recreate the “Rt 66 experience” – they will probably have 50s music playing and at least 1 50s car out in front. All of this nostalgia is fine, but I keep thinking of a family in the 40s or 50s on “The Mother Road” – in the summer – with no air conditioning and the children crying with parents beyond irritation  because they haven’t reached the destination.

Besides, on a previous time though I decided to check into a 50s motel in Flagstaff, AZ. Ya’know, to get the experience. There was a lot I had forgotten since I was a small boy about the 50s. To wit: Thin old mattresses that seem to sag to the floor. Thin curtains that illuminate every few seconds to red from the flashing neon sign out front. A rattly air conditioner in the wall that has 2 settings – freezing and off. 1 electrical outlet in the whole room – have a few things to charge – time for triage.

And on and on….

But I have noticed that the Europeans staying in these motels eat this stuff up.

It ain’t all beer and skittles, as Hizzoner used to say.

But anyway.

The 3rd category – are those places and buildings that are abandoned – a reminder of how things were. If you are driving I40 on some areas like Oklahoma –  you can still see old 66 off to the side with an abandoned service station – or in some cases, complete towns. I think Amboy, CA is the town that Pixar got the idea for Radiator Springs in their hit movie, Cars.

I was fortunate to go through there on my last real car trip. This was before anyone was trying to “fix it up”. Amboy is a true 20th century ghost town.

As you could tell from my link, I had stopped at the El Rancho before – but just for lunch. Stepping into the hotel makes you think that time just stopped.

It was established in 1937 by the brother of Hollywood director D.W. Griffith. For several decades, it served as a base for film crews making Westerns in the area. I was told by one of the employees that when filming in Monument Valley, crews would stay there for 3 days working and living in tents, and then head for Gallup – 150 miles away – and rest for 3 days. Then go back up.

You can stay in any of a few dozen rooms all with the name of the star who stayed there at one time of another. I was given the choice of John Wayne or Doris Day; I wanted to stay with Doris 😉

I drove from Monument Valley and pulled into the hotel at dusk.



I was surprised at how small the room was for a movie star but then I suppose after 3 days in a tent in the desert this was pretty luxurious.




Upstairs – where no doubt many relaxed after dinner with a drink – are a few 100 black and white signed pictures of stars who were guests. Below is Paulette Goddard – never heard of her?

She was huge in the 1930s – and was almost Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. David O. Selznick was on the verge of signing her but for 2 objections: She was living with Charlie Chaplin across the street from Selznick at the time. He thought the public would view both favoritism and frown on her living arrangements (this was the 1930s).

If you see her in the GWTW Screen Test, you’d swear she was Scarlet. Take a look at her from the 1930s…





These are just a sample …here’s a list of all the stars who stayed here

Next morning I was off for the Grand Canyon. Since most of you have seen the Grand Canyon, I’ll skip that segment and show you a few things in the area you probably haven’t seen but before we end this segment a few more pictures…

Williams, AZ.

I did not realize that this was the last Rt 66 town cut off by I40 – 1984?. But since they are the gateway to the Grand Canon’s South Entrance, they are doing fine.



Tomorrow….An interesting aircraft museum on the way to the Grand Canyon 

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Part 4 is here

Part 5 is here

Part 6 is here



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My Ideal Road Trip Part 6

Today…Monument Valley, AZ 

For those of you who endured the slide shows of friends before the Digital age, I am worried that I will turn on the lights and find everyone asleep. So I’ll speed it along. I did want to show you Monument Valley, a special hotel off old Rt 66 in Gallup, NM, and – wait – on the way to the Grand Canyon a rather good aircraft museum and….Bodie, CA.

Anyway I’ll skip Zion National Park except to say that the rock formations were even more spectacular…

So this episode (if anyone’s still awake)  is Monument Valley, where so many westerns were filmed. And if you like the rest of the travelogue and can stay awake, I’ll show you my pictures of my niece eating oatmeal for the first time (yawn). How’s that for an incentive? 😉

One thing that I learned while in AZ is that so much of the state is Navajo country. There is a good part of the state that is the Navajo reservation.

The nearest town to Monument Valley is Kayenta – part of the Navajo Nation. They had an interesting little museum there include a display from the famous code-talkers of WW2 fame but alas, they didn’t want people to take pictures inside.


As I left Kayenta I saw this bucket in the road so I stopped the car and for the good of the Navajo Nation and the Lexicans, I kicked the bucket 😉


It’s about a 25 mile drive out from Kayenta to Monument Valley. I tried to imagine John Ford and crew doing this in 1937 – complete star entourage and film crew on what was undoubtedly a rougher road. And for a movie they did this more than once – taking a break in Gallup NM, almost 200 miles away. More on that in the next episode…


You have to pay a $20 fee to see the Valley – and here’s the thing I learned – after I visited of course – to drive around these formations is a 17 mile dirt road. And it does have big potholes. My old SL with maybe an 8″ ground clearance did not like that at all. Discovered rattles I didn’t know I had.In both the car and my head.

If you have a pickup or SUV your vehicle shouldn’t complain at all.

But the take-away point: The Navajo have a service for $75 p/p they will take you on the back of a pickup (actually a flatbed with seats) and they will take you inside to the places where, say, John Ford filmed this scene or that…

Next time…


But here is the entrance…You pay $20.


You first go to base of the 17 mile road – with a modern hotel and restaurant. And in many of my shots I like to take pictures of the people in the area…


Another British couple. They do like to travel. And Hogday told me that he did not know them, either 😉





I might add that the Navajo consider this area to be a sacred place and ask you to treat it accordingly…Stay on the road – do not venture off….





Tomorrow, I’ll take you to the hotel where John Ford and movie crews for decades came to relax with a break from the shooting….


Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Part 4 is here

Part 5 is here



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