Saturday, November 17, 2012

Midland, Texas

    It’s a laudable undertaking to gather veterans to recognize and appreciate their service, their valor and their sacrifice. It’s unconscionable to have them transported by a careless, unqualified driver who re-inserts them into harm’s way resulting in the unnecessary death of four of these honorable veterans.

    I am a veteran. I am a truck driver. I am a railfan. The railroad crossing rules concerning vehicles carrying passengers or trucks hauling hazardous materials are very explicit and invariable. The truck involved in this tragedy was pulling a flatbed trailer. Flatbed types are rarely used to haul hazardous materials. Flatbed trailers are generally not considered passenger carrying.

    The driver, I assume, was not qualified to haul hazardous materials or transport passengers so he would not have been operationally aware of the inescapable responsibilities regarding the stop within 50 feet of a railroad crossing but no closer than 15 feet to absolutely ensure, crossing gates and warning lights or not, that no railroad traffic would impact a safe crossing and that enough space beyond the crossing was available for the vehicle to completely clear the track area before beginning the crossing.

    A look at a Google map, street view, shows a generally flat area with seeming unlimited visibility in both directions. There are multiple railroad crossings in Midland and railroad locomotives equipped with horns, headlights and oscillating bright lights (ditch lights) are required to sound the horn before every crossing and activate the ditch lights prior to reaching the crossing.

    It is unimaginable that anyone attempting to cross the tracks while paying full attention could not have known of an approaching train. Many railroad crossings have affixed to the warning light poles a stationary sign warning, “Do Not Stop On Tracks”. I’ve always thought how totally unnecessary such a warning is, that logic and good sense would be sufficient. Apparently not. It’s time to reexamine warning protocols for difficult intersections like this one. The next time it might be a school bus!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


    Cheers? As in the place where “everyone knows your name”? Well, yes, but not the one in Boston. This one is a different Cheers. This one is just north of Manheim along PA route 72 near the PA turnpike interchange and that location contributes to the magic which occurs there with some degree of regularity for the present.

    That location is in the very near neighborhood of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire located on the grounds of the former Grubb mansion, the home of John Grubb and his family from the mid 18th century through the mid 20th when, no longer a Grubb property, it became the Mount Hope Estate and Winery which the Pa Renaissance Faire now calls “home”.

    This fortuitous juxtaposition is what injects into Cheers a vitality of which no other establishment can boast. The actors, singers and dancers from the Faire (they refer to the Faire as the PRF) consider Cheers their neighborhood “place” and they are individually and collectively an ensemble of such exuberant talent that any karaoke event will become memorable regardless of the theme set by the chosen preferences of the participants.

    Last night, Kristin was in a Disney theme mood. Chris by contrast did his rendition of Sinatra’s My Way after a request by Mary, Cheers’ owner, whose welcoming warmth gives the place its comfortable character.  Chris has a presence and such vocal clarity that I’m sure even old blue eyes himself would issue “Kudos”.  Kristie Yamaguchi (not the skater, the singer) did a stupendous Janis Joplin -- I think if Janis were alive and had been there, she would have been jealous it was that good!

   I was in a show tune mood so I chose to do Razzle Dazzle  from the musical, Chicago. It’s become a favorite of mine and I keep getting more comfortable with it.

    The karaoke presenter, Brandon (L-N-B Entertainment), is also a performer and a fun emcee regardless of who’s ribbing whom. To borrow from Robert Frost (Birches), “[Karaoke at Cheers] would be good either singing or listening. One could do worse than be a [singer at cheers]”.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Green River Intergalactic Spaceport

   My mini-bucket-list trip to San Francisco in 2010 included a side trip on my way back east to the southwest corner of Wyoming. In my Navy days I chose to ride the train, The City of San Francisco (on the former stagecoach Overland Route), between California and home. Obviously, the trip took a lot longer than flying would have but since I loved trains and the railroad, the trip by train was as much the object as the home time for a couple weeks leave.

    In those pre-Amtrak days, I found train travel a most commendable way of spending three days to cross this magnificent country we live in. It was like a back yard view of America from the dome lounge car or from the dining car window over a second pot of coffee and an after meal cigarette or three.

    Before Amtrak changed the routes west of Chicago, The City of San Francisco used to pass through Rock Springs and Green River, Wyoming. Those cities had a lot of railroad activity with Green River being a major freight yard, engine facility and division point. So, in 1975, when I intended to relocate to California I chose to drive Interstate 80 to see those cities from a less hurried platform.

    I got to Rock Springs well after sunset and had not yet found a place to spend the overnight so decided to find a saloon where there might be people to recommend a decent motel nearby. The streets were deserted and reminiscent of many western movies I had seen. An insistent breeze swept the dust from the street and pushed it in my direction. It was a bit chilling. Not at all scary but chilling and memorable.

    I eventually wound up in front of a motel with an unattended front office so I chose to sleep in the car. This was in the late Fall and overnight a cold front swept through and dropped the temperature below freezing. No alarm clock needed. That cold woke me and sent me in search of coffee and breakfast. With the sudden arrival of Winter, moving on was more important than any lingering exploration -- I wanted to get west of the Rockies before any snow storms. The Donner party was not as fortunate when they passed this way.

    Relocation to San Francisco — the most beautiful city I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit — was a total failure. For every job opening, there were 30 qualified applicants and the prospective employee was expected to provide local references. I never made it to square one! After 6 months, my funds were exhausted so coming home and going back to the drawing board was my only option.

    Before my most recent Amtrak trip I enjoyed the ease of finding information easily with a few mouse clicks and I researched the Rock Springs and Green River area for my planned side trip via Helper, Utah. Helper was so named because trains traveling the steep grades needed ‘help’ from additional engines and those engines were stationed there and that is as close as Amtrak gets to southwest Wyoming.

    While doing a Google map search I discovered an item on the map identified as “The Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport”. What? Really? Amazing! A further search with Google led to a Wikipedia article which explained it:

        Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport covers an area of 400 acres (160 ha) at an elevation of 7,182 feet (2,189 m) above mean sea level. It has one runway designated 04/22 with a dirt/gravel surface measuring 5,800 by 130 feet (1,768 x 40 m) with deep ruts due to vehicular traffic. The runway is unattended, with no buildings or facilities, except a windsock. The runway does not have a clear line of sight from the runway ends. Communications are through CTAF and most of the services are from nearby Rock Springs - Sweetwater County Airport.[1]
For the 12-month period ending July 31, 2007, the airport had 34 aircraft operations, an average of less than 1 per week: 100% general aviation. At that time, there were no aircraft based at this airport.[1]

        On July 5, 1994, Resolution R94-23 of the Green River city council designated this landing field as the "Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport", for inhabitants of Jupiter who might wish to take sanctuary in Green River in the event their planet is threatened by collisions from comets or meteors.[3] Thus far, no spacecraft of any kind have actually used the spaceport, and actual use has been limited to terrestrial aircraft.

In Dina Mishev's book,
Wyoming Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff she speaks about the proceedings to establish this refuge for Jovians fleeing any natural disaster on Jupiter

The Old Dinosaur said in a reply to a comment about Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport by Airport Junkie, on ERIC’s blogspot blog,The Dynamic Earth:

"I'm so glad to hear everything's underground. Went there July 2010 for a burger and a beer and nothing was open. I mean NOTHING was there. I saw the spaceport on the map so I decided I must have been suffering altitude sickness. I live at 500 feet above sea level in Pennsylvania. Green River is more than 6,000 feet above sea level. Went back down town and found the burger and beer I was looking for. At least I didn't have to fight off any Denebian slime devils. (Just a couple mountain type bar flies.)" January 13, 2012 2:27 PM 

The first two photos are from a defunct gas station -- Sinclair, I think -- along Wyoming 374 which used to be the Lincoln Highway, US 30. It's near Green River's western suburb of Jamestown between Chuck Wagon Drive and Ox Bow Drive, North.

The third photo is of an FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) inspection car which just happened to be working in the Green River area. I spotted it while heading to the Peru Cutoff Road, a back way to the Spaceport. (I didn't want to arouse any Klingon security forces.)

The next photo is about a mile from the Spaceport and captured an elk antelope totally unconcerned about my presence or the possibility of any unplanned space craft landings nearby.

Shots five and six are of the landing strip on a slow day at the spaceport.

The next to last shot is from the runway looking north where a space ship would receive take-off instructions from Starfleet Command.

The final picture is from Flaming Gorge Way named for Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, (operated by Ashley National Forest) after a safe return to Green River.

Definitely on my Want To Do Again list!

Monday, November 5, 2012

9-1-1 Shots Fired

    There was no pain. I drove another half block to an off-street vacant lot and looked down my shirt for signs of blood. There were none. When I saw the hole in what had been my driver’s side window, now-shattered, I feared I might be injured and in shock. Relieved to see no evidence of a wound and no pain, I called the police to report that I had been shot at.

    It had been a very busy night for the city police with a major shopping mall incident earlier that evening so I was pleased with their swift response. After they arrived there was the standard anecdotal recounting of what had just happened and with several police units on scene they were able to narrow down the list of suspect addresses from which the shot was fired.

    The size of the hole in the middle of my shattered glass indicated a possible .22 caliber projectile but the police suggested it might have been from a BB gun. I doubt that. I suspect a pellet gun was used although no BB or pellet or slug was found amid the glass rubble that was now in the front seat with me.

    Why? Why would someone who didn’t know me, who never met me open fire at my vehicle as I innocently drove through their block? What kind of felonious immaturity drives a presumed human being to perform such an antisocial act?

    Adding insult to injury or rather, damage, as a good driver I carry a very high deductible on my comprehensive insurance so the entire cost of replacing the window is totally out of pocket -- no insurance company involvement at all. As a limited income retiree working part time for a bit of pocket money this unexpected expense is a pain in the wallet.

    I am not the kind of person who seeks retribution and I am inclined to turn the other cheek, usually. After this, however, I sincerely hope that copious amounts of bad Karma will pay an extended visit to this anonymous, pusillanimous pussy footer!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc is simply Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”. It seems New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg is guilty of committing this kind of logical fallacy in blaming hurricane Sandy on global warming.

    Global warming and cooling have been occurring cyclically for billions of years. Have you ever heard talk about the “Ice Age(s)”? Have you ever heard of the great Galveston hurricane of 1900? Those events happened long before humans existed or before humans had any appreciable impact on the global environment.

    Now Mayor Bloomberg is using President Obama’s position on global warming as justification to endorse him for re-election Remember this is the mayor who outlawed over-sized refreshments because he appointed himself the supreme authority on what is bad for HIS people.

    What is really sad is that there are so many sequacious people who glibly accede to his purported concerns about the health impact. They support their acceptance with comments such as, “Well, he’s right, you know” or “He’s only looking out for us.” It’s that kind of shrugging acceptance which seems symptomatic of our loss of personal freedoms!

    In a letter to the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Doctor Kathleen Kreider of New Holland (PA) [published October 19, 2012], deplores the “growing and disturbing trend…[of] sacrificing our right to make individual choices about things as fundamental as what we eat and drink” in the purported interest of public health. She also mentions a local hospital which has recently announced they WILL NOT hire, or employ smokers even if those people smoke only off duty or off premises.

    Educating people about potential consequences of unhealthy behavior is part of her job. Babysitting them to prevent unhealthy behavior is not part of her job nor should it be. Neither should it be the job of a big city mayor. Even as a mayor, Mister Bloomberg has a right to his opinion but since his intervention to staunch Free Will, political endorsements seem a dangerous track for him to take.

    Prosit, Skol, L’Chaim and Cheers all mean essentially “To your health” -- They are toasts, not Orwellian commands!