Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When you know the right people...

wonderful things can happen! I've found so many of them through the years and the doors that have opened have amazed me!

One of those belongs to Anji (a link to one of her several blogs), who among her many interests, deals in antique postcards. I had purchased some beautiful sets she assembled and gave them to my daughter-in-law a few years ago; antique postcards of flowers made into arrangements that were wonderful pastels and and made a nice wall hanging for her.

Given the "rabbit hole" I've been in of late, I visited her a few weeks ago to see what I might find in early aviation postcards, thinking I might find one of Louis Bleriot's monoplane. Not only the builder and pilot of the first successful monoplane, he was also the first to fly across the English Channel. When you conside the state of aviation in 1909, the reliability of engines, etc., his fame is well deserved!

My search had my eyes misting as I not only found what I'd hoped, but also two pristine original postcards of Wilbur Wright's visit to France in 1908 (the upper two cards below). They tie in to my current reading (the rise and collapse of the Wright company).

The 3rd card is of Glenn Curtiss airborne over Hammondsport, NY. A motorcycle racer turned aircraft builder, among many things he's considered the "Father of Naval Aviation". The last frame belongs to Mr. Bleriot.

This hangs next to my side of the bed where I see it first thing each morning and last at night as well as numerous times through the day. Thank you, Anji!

I mentioned my mother-in-law recently and was asked to write more about her. There are so many things I wish I did know! I know she attended Cornell for part of her college, then moved to one closer to home. Given it was the Depression, I don't know whether it was due to financial issues or other things.

I know her favorite band was Artie Shaw; she told me of dancing not only to the Shaw band, but Miller, the Dorsey and the Goodman bands as well when they played college dates. You can imagine my envy of her getting to hear those in person! One late night in her kitchen in Vermont when I was playing some cassettes of Bunny Berigan with Goodman's band we were discussing the possiblity of traveling far enough into space to catch the AM radio waves and record the radio broadcasts of the period with modern recording techniques...I've been assured by my oldest, the astrophysicist that they would be distorted enough that it wouldn't be the same, but it's still a nice thing to dream about!

After the war she worked a few more years, then gave it up to settle down, marry and raise a family. She still did some projects from home; the girls remember being given a set of disposable razor handles that she designed injection molds for.

I know she didn't renew her licenses one year when my wife and her siblings were little. She and the girl's father were both working in a mill in Vermont full-time and still having a hard time making ends meet. At the time groceries and heat were more important. I've been there!

It wasn't long after we lost she and my Dad within a year of each other that I started making a point of asking my only surviving grandmother lots of things about her history; I learned a lot; part of it I got on cassettes I should be making a point of transcribing to disc before the oxide peels from the tapes. I wish I'd done that with my Mom's parents, my Dad and Marion as well! They say hindsight is 20/20. I sometimes think 20/10!

I had a couple of good doctor's appointments in the last 10 days; there has been a bit of improvement in my lung percentage. It's thought to be due to how long it's been since I had my last chemo. The cancer doctor said "keep doing what you're doing". I'll have a CT in November so they can really peek behind the scenes; until then I just have to ignore each ache and pain and quit worrying about them, and try and avoid the fall flu season! I went and got my shot the first day I saw them available.

I hope life is being kind to each of you!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Diving deeper...

and juggling multiple books and sources, I'm finding myself amazed at all the things that can play into/hinder rational decision making!

Concurrently reading a Packard history of non-automotive engines and hit their WW2 building of the Merlin (Rolls-Royce aircraft engine, most notably used in the P-51 Mustang) at the same time I got to them in a memoir by a Rolls-Royce engineer who was very involved in it. Mixing that in with some of the politics that I picked up at the Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri and the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas and reading a bit more on key players, I'm convinced we're lucky to have survived!

My "light reading" this past little while, among all the technical things, had been "Lost Horizon", the James Hilton novel from the 30's. I've seen bits of the movie, and love Ronald Coleman, but have always avoided the movie because I wanted to read the book first. I finished it a few days ago, and last evening, when my brain had been sufficiently "stretched" by all the "heavier" reading, I dug out one of the Will Rogers books I've picked up this summer "Letters of a Self-Made Diplomat to His President".

I saw the cancer doctor a few days ago. He said he heard nothing that caused him concern; he didn't mention scheduling any tests, just made sure I had prescriptions ahead for my antibiotics and prednisone to try and finish getting through this round of lung infection and another 2 for next time.

The only friend I have that goes back more than 30 years has moved back to Kansas and bought a farm, so we took a day trip on Saturday to visit him and meet his "new" wife and daughter. It looks as though life is finally smiling on him, and the day "in the country" was wonderful! I'm looking forward to a return visit soon!

Between sorting some plumbing issues here along with some other odds and ends as well as having my brain "picked" over the phone to troubleshoot some things, I'm feeling not quite so useless this last week or so. It's kind of nice to feel like I'm contributing something to the world instead of just watching it go by!

May the days be kind to each of you!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Down the rabbit hole!

When I came back from my trip to Dayton and Indianapolis with so many photos and books I planned on spending many hours going through them, researching the engines I'd never heard of, the configurations I'd never seen, etc.. I never dreamt I'd spend quite so many happy hours doing so, to the point of waking in the middle of the night to go read or re-read a certain piece, or look up some piece of information that suddenly "gelled" as my mind mulled things while the rest of me slept...

The ever-widening circle of information led me back into realms of engine theory I hadn't visited since my days riding and street racing Triumphs, the engineering I taught myself then just being a primer for the things I'm delving into now. A new pantheon of engineers and designers is taking shape in my "hall of heroes". It's an interesting trip! (Thus my title for this post.)

I was startled to find supercharged motors in the Air Force Museum that dated almost to the end of WWI. Having come home and devoured the "Packards at Speed" book I bought, along with a few other "lighter" things, I moved onto the Packard "Master Motor Builders" book. Also, unable to buy a book covering the Allison engines at the museum I visited in Indianapolis, I came home and found one on eBay-being sold by the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust (they operate that museum). Several transactions later, I'm now a member. The things I've learned as I tied all this together have added Henry Royce to that list I mentioned earlier.( I'd never considered the possibility of weighing the air/fuel charge in a cylinder to determine what the power output would be under a given set of circumstances...among the many things I'm learning!)

The "Master Motor Builders" book has me hunting down names and theory, scribbling notes and working a calculator, much to the amusement of my wife. I keep finding things that predate my ideas of when they began by decades! It seems Tesla wasn't the only engineer who was years ahead of his time; he was just more prolific...

All of this is making me miss my mother-in-law terribly as well. A mechanical engineer, descended from a long line of inventors and engineers, she graduated college just in time to work for Pratt and Whitney during WW2, laying out assembly lines and streamlining things, hiring to fill them, along with various design projects. She always had a way of reducing things into simplest terms, thus making "the little light bulb over my head" turn on. What it takes me two or three days to sort out by surfing the web or sorting through other books she would have settled in a few minutes. Somewhere I know she's smiling...

Curiouser and curiouser!

May the days be kind to each of you!


Friday, July 11, 2014


for dinner and fireworks. The most people we've had here at once in the 36 years we've been here! A bit worrisome as the day approached, because it is a small house, only one bathroom, etc.; all the things that make you "sweat" ahead of time.

But it came off well; Dottie had things planned out well; everyone brought food and my younger son grilled (I kind of stay away from the grill now, with my plastic O2 line and bomb of an O2 bottle). Last year I bought a good 3M respirator with charcoal filters that were rated for sulfur fumes (black powder) and slipped the O2 line from my concentrater out the door to my chair and under the mask. It worked well-a year ago I never figured I'd get a chance to use it twice!

Bill and Laura made it in from Colorado so I got to watch Liam as he watched his first fireworks; as wonderful a year as I've had to this point, that was among the highlights so far!

Now the weeks until school starts again are growing short, so we're trying to spend as much time as possible with the grandchildren here (though their schedules are still hectic). We've been making day trips with each of them as they've had time, and have perhaps time for one more round with each of them before their schedules get really busy.

If I'm still doing OK then, perhaps another cross-country trip before winter sets in...

May the weekend be kind to you all!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Such a lovely high!

Home from some of the most wonderful 8 days of my life, never having thought I could string together so many in a row! Despite the logistics of my support systems, Dottie loaded up my oxygen concentrater, the compressor that refills some of my bottles, the CPAP, wheelchair, shower chair and a dozen non-refillable bottles in the new shell on the back of my pickup, and she drove (it's not that I can't, but since November, she insists) from here to Dayton. (After she changed the oil in it and did all the other things I always did before we set out on the road, plus mowed and caught all the laundry up!)

My older son and his wife set up rooms for our trip, and I allowed for 3 days at the National Museum of the Air Force, a day of rest, and then a day to visit some Wright Brothers sites that are there in Dayton as well. There are a group of "old-timers" I've chatted with off and on for years on a message board for veteran's who flew the B-36 who had told me it would take that long to do it justice, and since the admission was free, I planned accordingly. For years I've driven by it as we made the trip to Vermont to visit family, always intent on getting there and never taking time to do other things along the way. Last year, thinking it was my last chance, she suggested stopping for a day either going or coming home, but I knew that would only break my heart as I'd know how much I hadn't seen...

Being in the shape I'm in and dependent on others for mobility except for short distances, I knew I shouldn't be dragging my Nikon and lenses and a bag. When Nokia started offering a cell phone with Zeiss optics (Zeiss as in lenses like the Rolleiflex I shot years ago; like the good lens that was in my 4X5 Graphic, or on my Dad's Hasselblad) I started doing some research and liking what I read, got one. Though I miss my other lenses, I got by pretty well with my new Lumia and it's simple enough that Dottie can shoot it as well, and did a lot as she could shoot angles I couldn't, and get to places I couldn't in my chair.

Allowing the extra days at the Air Force Museum was the perfect call; we took 4 days and still didn't quite manage the whole thing! A million square feet of aircraft, engines, related systems, memorabilia...I didn't read every card, but probably 85% of them, photographed most so I could come home and look up more info on the ones I wanted, and we photographed almost every aircraft, missile, space capsule, engine...I was in mechanic's Heaven!

A plane I've loved since the first photo I saw at about 11, the Boeing P-26.
Divided into galleries by era, we spent the first day in the "Early Years" gallery; the 2nd in "Air Power" (the build up to WW2 and through it to it's conclusion). The 3rd day we started in the "Missile Gallery" (I finally understand the theory that makes geosynchronous orbit work!) and moved out into the "Cold War" because they were the furthest from the entrance, and I was feeling very guilty about Dottie wheeling me through this wonderful place. At the end of the 3rd day we came to the training mock-up of the Space Shuttle, and I told her to go ahead and go up by herself because I didn't want her pushing me up the ramps for it. It was late in the afternoon, and she said we'd see how she felt in the morning.

Notice, that was the end of the 3rd day, and my wonderful wife didn't even question whether we were coming back for a 4th!

So the next morning, she did take me up into the trainer. I was grateful for the 5 flat stops on the incline going up, though they didn't really lessen my guilt. After learning and talking to the two docents who were there, we went down the other side and on to the "Korean War and Southeast Asia" gallery, via a corridor filled with much info about the Berlin Airlift. I'd read much about it through the years and still learned things; Dottie was saddened by how much she didn't know, as it was just a footnote in her history class.

There is a very nice cafeteria there with reasonable prices where we ate each day, then went back to the motel so I could take my meds and refill my O2 bottles for the next day. I averaged 5-600 photos per day, and killed the battery in my phone 2 days out of 4 there. (I've since bought a battery bank for my next trip!)

That last day, we didn't get out quite in time to visit the 8th Air Force Control Tower and Nissen hut they have set up outside, a recreation of the ops centers from WW2 and an actual hut brought there from England.; it closed an hour before the Museum itself. We visited the aircraft they have stored outside, and called it a day.

The next day we were supposed to move to Indianapolis, but since it was only a 2 hour drive, Dottie loaded everything up again and we went to the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in downtown Dayton. I thought I knew much of Wilbur and Orville, but had no idea of their connection to Paul Laurence Dunbar. (I have books of his poetry that belonged to my grandmother, along with ones of Countee Cullen.) Along with a museum dedicated to the history of the parachute (again, learning much I didn't know) we crossed over to the  "Wright Cycle Co." shop. Viewing their machinery with their creations in mind only heightens my respect for them.

The night before, as I was planning out our day, I ran across a note about Packard museum that was a few blocks from the Wright Cycle Co.. I have memories of being not much more than a toddler and my Dad working on a Packard at a distant relative's house (something Dad didn't do often; cars usually came to him) and what a beautiful car it was and his reverent tones when talking to the owner about it. With that and their history in aircraft and marine engines, I took a chance and asked her to take me there.

(I should mention at this point that my new phone also does navigation, and proved useful for times like this!)

We parked, she wheeled me across the street and then I had to step up into the showroom of the old dealership building-the real, original dealer's building-and was never so glad I clicked a link! Car after car; engines, a truck, a WWI Liberty aircraft engine (turns out that besides building them, Packard was in on the design), a WW2 PT boat engine...limos, was a wonderful afternoon!

We got to Indianapolis just before dark that evening and settled into our room with my head swirling with the images of the last 5 days and my heart smiling as I looked back through some of the photos, adding "favorites" to my phone and texting her ones she liked to add to hers.

The next day she took me to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where I had planned to visit the Hall of Fame Museum. As she paid our admission, they told her about a "behind the scenes" tour that was available. I told her no, that was OK, I didn't want to slow anyone down. They said their van was equipped with a chair lift, and she told me I was going...

And go we did! The grounds, the garages, past the medical facility I've seen so many drivers sent to; on to the "Pagoda", where all the reporters work from, the press conference room, timing and scoring then on up higher to the Hulman family suite (the owner's of the track). Then back down and to the podium, where the drivers receive their trophies (a bit of walking for that, but not much).

Finally, they took us down to the "yard of bricks", the finish line; the only remaining pavement that shows from "The Brickyard" of 1911.

From there it was back to the Museum where I spent the rest of my day among 75 or so of the cars that have won through the years, the Offenhauser engines my Dad used to think the most wonderful ever built, along with a special display of all the turbine cars that tested or ran (some with the same engine that was in my Navy helicopters). Again I was in "motorhead Heaven" and again I killed my camera battery.

Between Dayton and Indy, I'd seen a sign for the Model T Ford Club of America's Museum at Richmond, Indiana. It wasn't far from Indy, so the next morning found us heading east again. Again more delight, more learning, more smiles. At least the camera battery got to charge on the way back to town, because I'd read a blurb in the tourism booklet the night before about Rolls-Royce Heritage operating a museum of Allison engine things (what my helo engines were, among many others). We found it, and I spent the rest of my afternoon in bliss.

The next morning we were supposed to head home, but wanted to mail one last set of postcards with Indianapolis cancellation marks, so I found a Post Office and put it in my GPS. A familiar street name from some research I'd done came up and meant one more stop on our way back towards the freeway.

Though the Andretti Autosports shop wasn't doing tours at the moment, they were kind enough to let Dottie take me in and spend some time among the cars, get some photos, and some autographed photos.

I've been home and rested up some; I'm still picking through photos, because I keep reading up on more things as I do. I've also put away a book that came in while I was gone: "There's Not a Bathing Suit in Russia", a Will Rogers volume from 1927 I picked up. Written about his visit to Russia 9 years after their revolution, Will chiding Congress for letting Russia get ahead of us in aviation fit in nicely with this past few weeks!

I had a doctor's appointment on Monday. He thought I was doing wonderfully, and said keep doing what I'm doing. He also said something about no sign I was ready for hospice, which took me aback, as I wasn't really thinking about it, though I know it will come. He did say that any further chemo would be a real "Hail Mary" because I've already been through so many rounds. He is checking on the Pirfenidone that has finally been released for compassionate use to see if it might keep my lungs from slipping as quickly and not react with the cancer...

So I'm plotting out some day trips for now and getting ready for the 4th of July! A year ago I figured that was my last one, so I'm truly planning to enjoy this one! After that, perhaps another road trip...

May the week, the world, and life be very kind to each of you!


Friday, May 30, 2014

So far it's been a lovely spring!

I spent a few days recovering from the road, then my oldest and his wife came to visit for a week and a half with the "new" grandson. At 6 months, he's 95th percentile in everything except head size, and there he takes after my side of the family, so he's off the chart, but the doctors are finally not worried because he's been consistently there, lol!

They split days between here and her parents. On one of their trips there, they went and had some baby pics taken by a professional photographer that will soon be hanging all around the house. We got the family together once for my nephew's college graduation (a teacher-to-be, hurray) and again just so my sister got some extra time with her newest nephew.

Since Dottie quit work I've had the longest spell without catching anything that I've had since I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis 18 months ago. It seems she was right, that she really was bringing things home from work! I'd been trying to convince her it couldn't be that and that I'd end up being sick whether she was working in a nursing home or not...shows what I know!

Though I am knocking on my head as I write that!

After Bill and Laura went home, we picked up the John's youngest son and brought him home for a few days-since she's not working and he's out of school, we can do that on weekdays now! He's always very happy to come hang out, watch movies and play video games...the art museum we took him to yesterday wore on his patience a bit, though there were parts he seemed to enjoy.

 Dottie's returning him right now and I'm waiting to see if she comes home with our granddaughter...the one who's 13 and going on 24, I swear! Last fall she was still a little girl, and a few weeks ago she came around the corner with a towel wrapped around her head after a shower and it was like she totally grown up in just a few months.

I've finished 3 of the books I came home from Claremore with; one written by Will's great niece; one a history of the ranch where he grew up, but so much more a history of the land, the people, the territory...a sociological study...a time capsule...from when someone could ranch 60,000 acres and run 10,000 head of cattle and have other ranches almost as large in every direction, through the break up of the ranches into farms and statehood for what began as Indian Territory through the arrival of the railroads and the beginning of the citification of things.

The 3rd book was about a different Will I've always had an interest in-William F. Cody. Years ago I read a book written by Cody's sister that was reprinted with a forward by Zane Grey when Cody died; I'd bought several more about him since. This one was written by someone who formerly ran the Cody Museum in Colorado at his grave site, and besides having access to a lot of memorabilia and photos I'd never seen, he also had access to court documents and things that are making me rethink the stories I'd read until now (about how Cody ended up being buried in Colorado instead of Wyoming).

After the docents at the Will Rogers Memorial pointed me in the direction of some collections of Will's daily telegrams and weekly columns (cross indexed so they are searchable) I picked up the first volume of each of them to fill out the sets I've acquired, and picked up a few first editions of his books that lept from eBay into my mailbox as well. I unwrapped one from 1924 yesterday and it was so perfect that my eyes misted...when a sawbuck can bring a pristine first edition to my door, it's hard to pass up!

I'm plotting out a few more trips for this summer, hoping that my good fortune continues and life keeps letting me play!

May it be kind to each of you as well!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

My 2nd childhood...

I've had a lovely week, though it didn't really start out to be. I got my reading of the P.E.T. scan from the cancer doctor on Monday-after the 6 month gap since my last chemo treatment, the cancer is growing again. The tumor is up around 30%; the lymph nodes are showing activity, though not growth. He said it's too soon to start chemo again, that it would weaken more than the result would be worth.

So we decided to try to take a road trip. I couldn't get a portable concentrater, but got some extra bottles from the O2 company, took my machines from here so I could refill the 4 bottles they gave me with it, and we loaded up all of that stuff and my wheelchair and headed south.

I've been wanting to revisit the Will Rogers Memorial since I was a kid; Dad took us there in 1962 (I was 6) and I bought "The Autobiography of Will Rogers" and read it before I was much older, as well as numerous times since. You've all known me to quote him...he's been a big influence on me. Yet, vacations were always about visiting family and we never took them to go places  for "us".

But Dottie made a point of getting me there, and it was wonderful! They've almost doubled the square footage since I was there, very tastefully done architecturally, I might add; the exhibits are fantastic and they have several of his movies playing constantly. I spent far too long in the gift shop after, as well!

The next day we visited the J. M. Davis Firearms Museum (an amazing collection) and had dinner at a Claremore restaurant that was one of the best meals of my life. Friday we headed home, via Oolagah (the town closest to where Will was born) and visited the Will Rogers Ranch, where the house he was born in stands. It was moved uphill about a 1/4 mile to get it out of the area flooded by a lake they filled in the 60's and when I saw it back then it was still sitting on timbers and jacks from the move. Now it sits on a lovely homestead with a period correct barn and furnishings provided by his sisters, some original and some replacements, but correct.

I was very exhausted by the 3rd day, but had a great time. I slept 14 hours last night and I'm still tired, but so very glad we went!

I hope each of you are doing well!

May the week be kind to you all!