Category Archives: Travel

Boston Travelogue

By lex, on August 10th, 2010

I have been here before, but it was a depressing space of time ago: I was a lieutenant down at Key West, having completed my first sea tour and working as an adversary pilot. Forward quarter missiles and tactics was my subject matter of expertise, and Raytheon had something new in the works, the development of which it was though I could contribute to, at least from a user’s perspective. I was scarcely 30 years old, and the town has a very different feel today than it did back in 1993.

Or maybe it’s just me.

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Necessarily Abbreviated Observations Upon Southern Maryland

By lex, on June 9th, 2010

1) It’s quite beautiful, actually. Rolling meadows and live oak trees, placid rivers and broad bay vistas. Things that look green look like they’re supposed to look green and – unlike other places of my recent acquaintance – not like they’ve been heroically dosed with reclaimed water to make them attempt to look green.

2) The Maryland highway patrol are pretty much everywhere, stealthily cruising in their unmarked Fords with their Smokey-the-Bear hats on.

3) The weather has been quite nice as well.

3a) Apart from last night, when a sudden squall of drunkenness set in for a few hours there at the Tiki Hut.

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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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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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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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