Sunday, July 6, 2014

P51 Bucket List

The Collins Foundation is an organization dedicated to the preservation of WWII airplanes.  They brought four of their airplanes to the Minden Airport.  A B17, B24, B25 and a P51 Mustang.  For a donation to the foundation you can get a ride in one of the planes.  They even offer "stick time" in the P51.  I decided to take a one hour ride in the P51.  My dad was a WWII fighter pilot, flying Corsairs.  While the P51 is not the same as a Corsair, it gave me some idea of my dad's experiences flying the airplanes of that era.

This is the only P51 in existence with a full set of dual controls.  The Pilot took a look at my pilot's log book and commented on the amount of training I had.  He told me that he would taxi and do the take off.  He would manage the power settings. Getting strapped was quite a process.  The P51 is a single seater, so they have squeezed in the back seat and flight controls.  First came the four straps for the parachute, then a four point harness.  I was given instructions on how to "bale out".  I was quite convinced I would not be able to extricate myself I was so tightly squeezed in.  When they closed the canopy over my head I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic.  It was hot, I tightly squeezed in, it smelled of oil and my butt was already starting to go asleep from the metal seat.  I considered calling it all off, then I saw my friend Don Dixon taking pictures. I knew I had to go through with it.  We took off on runway 34 and  at about 800 feet AGL the pilot said "your airplane".  All my claustrophobic distractions were immediately forgotten.  The plane is very responsive.  I instantly adapted to using a stick instead of a yoke.  I found the plane actually easier to fly than the Cessna.  Hardly any rudder inputs are necessary.  I circled the airport and then circled my office a couple of times.  (no one noticed)  Then we flew up over Carson Pass and Lake Tahoe, the back into the valley.  You can cover a lot a ground going 210 knots.  (241 MPH)  Then the pilot taught me to do Barrel Rolls.  Shallow dive to pick up speed to 210 then pull up pretty steeply and push the stick over.  A little rudder to finish it off.  I followed the pilot on the controls for one, then he followed me for one.  Then he told me to one by myself and then another.  After the second one he said, "that was a perfect barrel roll".  Talk about making my day.  As I was flying the plane, I was thinking, "this is probably a Million dollar airplane.  It's not mine so I should fly conservatively.  After the barrel rolls the pilot said "my airplane" and he dropped it down to about 1000 feet AGL and we went roaring up the Carson Canyon and over Faith, Hope and Charity Valleys.  I mentioned to the pilot, "I don't think I'd do this in my Cessna."  He said, "no you probably shouldn't.  I think he was telling me in a nice way that "This is not a Cessna and you can push it a little more." He gave the controls back to me and we flew over Topaz Lake.  On five mile final he took the plane back and landed.

My instrument view

I couldn't really see out the front, I just used the side windows for my visual references.  luckily I'm familiar with the Valley.

Coolest Log Book Entry Ever

Amsterdam 2013

The final stop on our river cruise was Amsterdam.  We decided to stay a couple of days so that we could take in the city.  Amsterdam is a very easy city to get around in.  We usually aren't very bold when it comes to using foreign public transportation, but the tramway system in Amsterdam is very easy to use.  I don't think we took a taxi once.

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands as well as its largest city.  The entire city lies below sea level and sits atop wooden stakes.  With more than 150 canals and 1200 bridges, it is sometimes known as the "Venice of the North"

We usually do not venture out using public transportation.  But Amsterdam was very easy to get around in by using the tram line.  I dosn't think we used a taxi once.  Amsterdam is a very "open" city.  Prostitution and Marijuana use is legal and celebrated.  We managed to avoid the red light district and were very careful to stay out of the cafe's where the green leaves were a key ingredient.

I enjoyed the museums in Amsterdam as much as anywhere we have traveled to.  Newly opened museums dedicated to Rembrandt and van Gogh, and an excellent Navel Museum.

Of course our visit to Amsterdam co-incited with Europe's Gay Pride Celebration.  It brought an extra 100,000 visitors to the city.  Even with that we still had an easy time getting around the city.  We watched a little of the Gay Pride flotilla.  I got bored very quickly.  It seemed to consist of a lot of drinking and jumping up and down while floating down the canals.  Some wore matching tee-shirts.

Public facilities, for men only.  I don't know what the ladies do.  The get to pee against the wall in semi privacy.

The Counting House.  From the late 1600s.

Rembrandt's "Night Watch"

Gay Pride celebration.  Taken from the Tram.

Navel Museum

During the late Middle Ages, the city developed from a small fishing village into a major commercial and financial center.  It's Golden Age came toward the end of the 16th century when its port formed the basis of a worldwide trading network.  As a result, Amsterdam became the wealthiest city in the world and established the first stock exchange.  For the next two centuries, it was Europe's most important point for the shipment of goods.
 We also visited the Anne Frank house.  It is made famous by the "Dairy of Anne Frank" a young Jewish girl who was hid in the house from the Nazis for three years during WWII.

Final Reflections on our trip to Germany, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

We enjoyed our visit to this part of Europe.  The countries seem prosperous and the people seem happy.  A lot of beautiful scenery.  Many parts of the country along the Rhine have changed hands and been in control of different countries many times.  Some as many as five times in a person's lifetime.  As a result many of these areas are more influenced by local culture and less from a National identity.  I was amazed with how much WWII has impacted and influenced the identity of every area we visited.  The Germans are trying to repent for National Wrongs.  They're economy is strong and they are trying to strengthen the rest of Europe. One German economist told me that they don't want to be responsible for causing problems in Europe every again.

Kinderdijk Netherlands 2013

As we get closer to the coast we pass into the Netherlands.  The land is flat and green.  The river is wide.  Kinderdijk is a World Heritage Site where people still live in and operate the windmills as they did originally.  They were used to pump water out of areas where land was being reclaimed from the sea.

Pretty tight living quarters inside

All wood mechanics inside

A little intimidating to stand right under the sails.

Yes they still were wooden shoes.  not so happy about the picture.

Cologne Germany 2013

Cologne is a lovely German City along the Rhine.  Lots of vineyards and fruit orchards in the area.  The Rhine is wide and swift here.  Cologne was founded by the Romans in 38 B.C.  It is believed that the relics of the three Magi who brought gifts to the baby Jesus were brought to Cologne in 1164.  The Cathedral was begun in 1248 and not fully completed until 1880.  At the time the 550 foot spires of the church were the highest in Europe.  There is a small but delightful impressionist museum with some great works of Impressionist Masters and no crowds.  We also took an interesting tour through a mustard plant and museum.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Upper Middle Rhine Valley July 2013

The Upper Middle Rhine Valley  narrows and there are hills on both sides.  The water is swifter here.  There are a string of Ancient Roman settlements, castles, and vineyards.  It seems around every bend of the river is a castle once owned by a Robber Baron who exacted a toll from traffic moving along the river.

There are a lot of barges that go up and down the Rhine.  The families live on the barges.  You can see the family car on the back deck.