Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Near Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia

Colorful Truck Sales, Weed, CA

Hollywood Sign

Flamingos, Busch Gardens, FL

Pelicans, Grays Harbor, WA

It’s Birch, Not Spruce!

Not a lot really happened today, so I thought I’d repost one of our all-time favorite adventures.

Sometimes It’s All Worthwhile     June 27, 2011

After a quick stop at the Long Beach, WA Post Office, Nick Russell, his wife Terry, Jan, and I hit the road this morning about 10 am heading for McMinnville, OR 120 miles away to visit the Evergreen Aviation Museum, and of course, the Spruce Goose, aka the Hughes H-4 Hercules.

Because of road repairs and the sucky weather, we didn’t get to the Museum until about 2 pm.

And the first thing I noticed about the Evergreen Aviation Museum was the many ‘exceptional’ one-of-a-kind items on display.

For example, the C-47 / DC-3 below. Pretty much every aviation museum has one. Heck, Jan and I have even flown in several. But this one is special.

It flew in the D-Day Landing, dropping paratroopers in Normandy, France. How’s that for special!


And besides the Spruce Goose, Evergreen has another ‘Goose’. The ‘Tin Goose’, Ford’s entry into aircraft manufacturing. Since the Model T was nicknamed the ‘Tin Lizzie’, the Ford Tri-Motor became the ‘Tin Goose’.

About 200 were built including the ones I flew on in the early 60’s in South America. Although by then, the centerline engine had been removed and the two wing-mounted engines replaced by newer, more powerful ones.

Ford Tri-Motor 2

This photo shows a better view of the Tri-Motor’s unique corrugated sheet metal skin, making it light, but very strong.

Ford Tri-Motor 3

Next we have this beautiful example of a 1939 Beech D17A Traveler, better known as the ‘Staggerwing’ Beech, because its lower wing was mounted ahead of the upper wing, the reverse of normal at the time.

This aircraft is the last of the 17A’s known to exist, and is probably the one used by Winston Churchill during his 1963 Idaho fishing trip.

The Staggerwing, introduced in 1932, was the first aircraft produced by Beech, and was in production until 1948 when it was replaced by the Beech V-Tail Bonanza.

Beech Staggerwing

Another plane I had never seen in person before was this Republic RC-3 Seabee. This little civilian amphibian’s claim to fame is that it was used in several movies, including 1974’s James Bond flick, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’.

RC-3 Seabee

And this B-17 is also a James Bond alumni, 1965’s ‘Thunderball’.

B-17 Thunderball

Here’s another one under the heading of ‘aircraft I’ve never seen before’, McDonnell’s 1946 version of Germany’s V-1 Buzz Bomb. Also using a pulse jet, it was used as a target drone by the US Navy, and unlike the V-1, it could be radio-controlled.

KDD-1 Katydid

This P-38L Lighting is considered one of the finest examples of that aircraft still in existence.


In 2007 we got to see ‘Glacier Girl’ at the ‘Wings Over Houston’ Airshow. ‘Glacier Girl is the P-38 that was recovered from almost 300 feet under the Greenland Ice Sheet, and restored to flyable condition.

Glacier Girl

Done up in the paint of the ‘Flying Tigers’ the P-40 Warhawk were the only few planes to get in the air during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

P-40 Warhawk

Another plane I had never seen in person is this de-Havilland D.H. 100 Vampire fighter. Originally named the ‘Spider Crab’ (glad they changed that!), it was the 2nd single-jet engine British fighter to go into service right at the end of WWII.

Vampire Fighter


These next two are examples of Hitler’s ‘Vengeance’ weapons. This V-1 ‘Buzz Bomb’ is actually the American version, the JB-2 Loon, one of what was to be thousands of mass-produced copies, launched from ships and submarines during the Invasion of Japan, which of course never happened due to the dropping of the A-Bomb.

V-1 Buzz Bomb

Germany’s V-2 rocket was the world’s first ballistic missile, over 3000 of which rained down on London and Antwerp.

JB-2 Rocket

Then we have the other end of the ballistic missile spectrum, and again, something I’ve never seen in person, a Titan II missile, complete with its launch complex.

Titan 1

Titan 2

110 feet tall, the Titan II could carry a 35 megaton warhead, and until it began being replaced by the Minuteman ICBM in the mid-60’s it formed the backbone of America’s missile defense.

The Titan II was later repurposed by NASA to launch twelve Gemini space flights.

Tital Control Room

This is the Hiller 1031 ‘Flying Platform’, kind of a modern flying carpet. What a way to commute.

Hiller Flying Platform

Of course, if the engine quit you just fell out of the sky.

Never mind.


Next we have probably my favorite aircraft of all time, the SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest plane in the world. Although officially its top speed was about Mach 3 (2200 mph) pilots have said whenever they pushed the throttle forward, it just went faster. Some have said they think it would just fly faster and faster until the engines blew up, but no one knows at what speed that would happen.

Ever time a missile was fired at it, they just pushed the throttle forward a little more and outran it.


Here’s a better shot.


I’ve seen SR-71’s all around the country and I’ve never seen one with its Start Cart.

Powered by two Buick Wildcat V-8 engines, it was the only way to light off an SR-71 unless you had a high pressure air source.

SR-71 Start Cart

And the gray box in the center of this photo is something I haven’t seen before, at least at a museum.

SR-71 Black Box

The last time I saw one was a late night in 1971 at Otis AFB on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I was working as a DOD civilian contractor on the night shift in the Electronics Shop, and was commandeered by an Air Force Colonel and two armed MPs, taken to the far side of the base, shown a very strange-looking plane surrounded by flood lights and more armed MPs. But as I got closer I knew that I was in the presence of the ‘fabled’ Blackbird spyplane.

I was then told that the gray box in the photo above was broken and I needed to fix it. When I ask what it was, I was told, “You’re not cleared for that”. When I asked what it was supposed to do, “You’re not cleared for that”.

When I asked if I could see some tech manuals or schematics, guess what?

Yep! I wasn’t cleared for that that, either.

So I took the box back to the shop and got to work.  And after about two hours I kind of figured out was it was supposed to do, and tracked down a bad relay, luckily a standard one I had in stock, and got it working.

And it’s not easy working with two armed MP’s standing over you, believe me. They even followed me to the bathroom. I mean, why? I didn’t take the box with me!

So back to the flight line we go, and I reinstall the box. Then, getting out of a station wagon parked over to the side, a guy in a flight suit climbs into the cockpit, flicks a few switches, waits a few seconds, and then gives the colonel a thumbs up.

Back in the jeep we go, and back to the shop. After we parked and I got out, the colonel says, “We were never here, you were never there, you never saw that plane”.

I said, “What plane?” He smiled slightly and drove off.

And that was my last adventure into the world of black ops and spy stuff.

Below, this is the D-21 drone, made to be launched from the M-21 variant of the A-12, which was a predecessor to the SR-71. (Are you getting all this?) It was supposed to overfly reconnaissance targets even faster than the SR-71, drop its film package to be recovered later, and then self-destruct.

It was never really successful, and actually caused the crash of an M-21 and the death of one of one of the crew.

M21 Drone

sr71 with piggyback drone

And now for the big, and I do mean BIG, finish to our trip. And this is what makes following Nick Russell around, fixing everything he breaks, (and he breaks a lot of stuff, believe me), and even working on his leaky black tank valve and getting covered in poo.

He got the four of us, a personal tour by Larry Woods, the Evergreen Aviation Museum’s Executive Director, of the flight deck of the Spruce Goose.


Spruce Goose 1

It’s hard to imagine how big this plane is. At almost 220 feet long, and a wingspan of 320 feet, it is one of the four largest planes ever built, and still the one with the largest wingspan. With its 8 4000 hp engines, it was designed to carry 120,000 pounds of cargo over 3000 miles.

Spruce Goose Flying

It only flew once, in November of 1947, in the middle of Congressional hearings on cost overruns on the project. That flight covered about a mile, and got about 70 feet in the air.

And it is almost all wood. But not spruce. It’s most birch.

But I guess ‘Birch Goose’ just doesn’t have the same ring.

Spruce Goose 2

And suddenly there we were there, on the actual flight deck, walking where Howard Hughes had walked.

Spruce Goose 3

Jan even had to go up and touch the seat where Hughes sat.

Spruce Goose 4

These are just part of the gauges to monitor the 8 engines.

Spruce Goose 5

This shot looks down into the interior of the wing itself. Mechanics could crawl down into there and work on the engines IN FLIGHT! That’s how big it is.

Spruce Goose 6

And here’s a wider view of the flight deck. You could dance in there.

Spruce Goose 7

I want to thank Nick again for this special treat for Jan and I. We’re both plane ‘buffs’ and we’ll always remember this.

After a full three hours we headed home about 5 pm, well, not exactly home, but to Angelina’s Pizza in Seaside where we met friend’s Eldy Tompkins and Jeanne Sparks for dinner.

Eldy and Jeanne

They said the pizza was great, and they were right. Much, much better than Fultano’s Pizza a few days ago.

And no goat, either.

Thought for the Day:

Those who pay no taxes have no check on their appetite for services.



Not Enough Eye Bleach . . .

We were out the door about 9:20 this morning, heading for Jan’s 10am doctor appointment up in Friendswood, unaware that I would later see something that can not be unseen, and also be run down by a shopping cart

But before we left the Santa Fe area, we stopped at the local Valero (soon to be Circle K) for a fill-up. It’s hard to believe how much gas prices dropped while we were gone for our 2-1/2 week vacation.

When we left the price was pushing $3 a gallon, but today it was $2.55, a nice drop. Don’t know if it can all be attributed to the fact that the 4th of July has passed, but I’ll take it, anyway.

Jan’s appointment was just a blood draw, to check up on her thyroid . . . or lack there of.  She hasn’t had one since the 90’s so she takes levothyroxine. But they like to keep an eye on her dosage, thus the tests.

Finished with that we drove over to Webster to have breakfast at our favorite The Egg and I, a doctor appointment tradition of ours. We’d have breakfast here more often, but it seems like doctor appointments are pretty much the only reason we’re up in Webster this early in the day. And that’s why we usually end up at the Denny’s down here when we’re have breakfast for dinner.

Jan likes their Build Your Own Omelet, with Onions, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes, Bacon, Fruit, and an English Muffin.

Egg and I Jan's Omelet

For me, it doesn’t really matter where we have breakfast, Denny’s, IHOP, First Watch, or The Egg and I, I always get my usual Two Eggs Over Easy, Bacon, Fruit, and an English Muffin. It’s a nice rut, what can I say.

Egg and I Greg Two Eggs

After our delicious breakfast, I made a pit stop and walked in on two full moons. A gentleman was at the urinal and apparently decided to just drop his shorts and underwear down around his ankles while he took care of business. I think the most apt term is ‘pasty white’. I need eye bleach.

Our next stop was at WalMart to drop off a couple of prescriptions that we’ll pick up later this afternoon. Then leaving the store, I was ambushed by reality again.

A lady?, I guess in a BIG hurry, wheeled her cart around the corner and ran me down as I was coming out the EXIT, and rocked me back on my heels. In fact I suspect if I hadn’t been walking forward, she might have knocked me down.

Looking at her with the cart pretty much embedded in my gut, I said, “I’m sorry. I thought this was the exit.” Then I looked up at the sign overhead and said, “I was right. This is the EXIT.” When she continued to just stare at me, I pushed her and her cart back about a foot and headed out to the truck.

I’m not sure who, or what I ticked off, but I’m going to be really careful the rest of the day.

Our next stop was a couple of miles away at our house, so we could started making a list of things we want to fix, change, or update throughout the place.

I was happy to see that ‘Juan’ had done a really nice job on the yard, so I’ll see if I can get him to do it every two weeks or so.

“Por favor, corte mi patio cada dos semanas.”

Overall the place looks pretty good, especially for a house that will turn 40 next July, with just a couple of major things and some other small ones that need to be done.

One thing that sets our place off from the others like it in the subdivision are the French doors across the back of the living room.

House French Doors

Originally this wall consisted of a solid wooden door located where the far right door is now, and a 4’ x 6’ window on the middle left. Then, probably 20 years ago or so, Chris and I knocked out the entire wall, installed a 4” x 4” pillar in the center, and added the two sets of French doors. It really opened up the space.

Another plus is that our place has never been flooded, not during Hurricane Alicia in 1983, Ike in 2008, nor Harvey last year. Everything stayed high and dry.

Finishing up, with a lot of ideas and measurements to consider, we headed back over to WalMart (no cart injuries this time) for our prescriptions, and few other things, and then next door to the Sam’s Club for a few more scripts.

Thought for the Day:

When you’re dead, you don’t know that you’re dead. All of the pain is felt by others. The same thing happens when you’re stupid.


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