Heavy duty floppy

I had the opportunity to take my little fellas to the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Historic Site recently, a site which I’ve visited multiple times.  I wrote a magazine article about this site when it first opened, and for that article I was able to spend the entire day below ground in the capsules taking photos.  I’ve been back since from time to time, but this was the first opportunity I had to bring my kids with me.  This time I spotted a couple of things I hadn’t looked at closely before.

lcm_floppy_35157Yes, it’s a heavy duty floppy drive.  There are actually two in this rack, mounted side by side.  I must admit I’m actually impressed that it looks like a 5 1/4″ drive, not the old 8″ drives that I would have expected.


lcm_modem_35156And how about this?  A modem!  Another term that most people don’t hear often, unless they’re cable internet subscribers.  Even then, we’re talking about baud versus megabit these days.  I remember 300baud or bps in my freshman year of college…that was painful.  Compare that with the 70+ megabit service that I enjoy in my home office now, and it makes it seem like I was computing via telegraph!

It just goes to show that there’s always an opportunity to encounter, and be fascinated by, something you’ve previously missed.  If you’d like to look at many more photos from this intriguing historic site, click here for the photos from my first trip to the newly-opened site.

In memoriam

gwot_memorial_32255I teach my kids that there are three real superheroes: the preacher, the soldier, and the first responder.  I took a moment to visit the GWOT Memorial last weekend and thought I’d share this image from that visit.  Would have loved to visit the Veteran’s Memorial this weekend as we remember the Pearl Harbor attack, but I’ve been down with a sinus infection thing all weekend.  That’s okay…one can still be thankful from a bed or couch, all dosed up on TheraFlu.

Fighting Falcon

f-16_44794While looking for a photo of a B-2 Stealth Bomber in my collection last night, I came across this really cool F-16 Fighting Falcon photo that I’d totally forgotten. I couldn’t help but process it and share it right away.  One of my little guys loves F-16s; he has a toy one and thinks they’re really fast and cool.  He’s right.  I have a surprise for him.

mafb_nnd_44370That B-2 photo I was looking for?  Here it is.  Still one of my favorite photos ever, because I’m so fortunate to have seen one up close.  By the way, most of the time when it’s approaching or departing it’s almost invisible to the naked eye.  When banking, it looks like a goofy, jagged sliver.  Stealth, indeed.

Panning for gold

sac_museum_pan_1302I promised more pics from our Cold War Mancation trip to the Strategic Air & Space Museum.  On day one I didn’t even take my camera bag out of the car; we just used the day to take it all in, climbing all over everything that could be climbed, with an occasional iPhone photo.  I have grown to love the panorama feature, so I thought I’d share.  You can click on each of these photos to pop up a larger version.

sac_museum_pan_1288As I pointed out before, you’re greeted by one of my favorite aircraft ever: the SR-71 Blackbird.  It’s simply breathtaking, and this one resides in a suitably breathtaking lobby for display.  When you take the escalators up or down between levels you travel right under this bird, and it allows a true sense of how gigantic it is.

sac_museum_pan_1275This is the main hangar.  It contains lots of displays, models, consoles from Minuteman and other launch control facilities, videos, simulators, and rare aircraft.  Here is where I got to see a U2, the B-36 behemoth, and the B-58 supersonic bomber.  Those were three things on my aircraft “bucket list” before I ever even discovered this museum.

sac_museum_pan_1316This is hangar two, containing spacecraft, a Soviet MiG fighter, a Space Shuttle bouncy house for the kiddos, and room for more aircraft.  They have an Avro Vulcan bomber in back awaiting restoration, which is something I’d really like to see.  That merits a return trip in the future once my boys are old enough.

sac_museum_pan_1286Did I mention the SR-71?  What a beauty.  In addition to a ton of other cool items in the gift shop, many of which I brought home, they have a Hayne’s Owner’s Workshop Manual for this airplane.  Its pages actually include extensive history and data on the aircraft, and if I wasn’t on a tight budget I’d own one.  Someday…

You can check out more about the Strategic Air & Space Museum online, of course…that address is www.sasmuseum.com (opens in a new window).  I recommend not only scheduling a trip to visit and support this facility, but to make sure you set aside two days to take it all in.

Somber day, so here’s a somber photo

gwot_memorial_27961After our camera club’s meeting this morning I decided to poke around to find a photo that would benefit from the gloomy day.  I didn’t have to look far, as I soon spotted these flowers left at the Global War on Terrorism Memorial over at Fraine Barracks.

Somber, cloudy days are often good time for reflection; the rain and bleak skies just seem to set the mood perfectly.  On such a day, should one be at a loss for something to ponder, consider those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.

B-17, take two: new angles

I posted earlier about the visit by Sentimental Journey, one of the few airworthy B-17 bombers that remain.  I didn’t do the $5 walkthrough again this year, although it was definitely worth the money.  I did, however, do a couple of cool things.

One of the things was to shoot some video of them firing up the engines. Because engines like this are prone to leaking certain fluids, someone stands by with a fire extinguisher and gives a thumbs-up to the pilot once each engine has safely spun up. They start with engine #3 because it’s near the battery and gets the best crank, and work their way around the aircraft from there. My little boy thought it was pretty cool.

The other cool thing was to park out on the northwest end of the runway and let the rumbling beast roar right over our heads. My little guys thought this was a really sweet deal.

Scroll down a little bit if you want to see my interior shots of this piece of military aviation history. Check out the video above if you haven’t already. If you missed this aircraft, hope it comes by again in a few more years. More information is available online by clicking here.

This is one act that has bombed before

According to the Tribune, “Sentimental Journey” will visit Bismarck this Thursday through Sunday. It’s a B-17 bomber available for five dollar tours and $425 rides, and it’s worth visiting. I’ve had the opportunity to check out this plane from head to toe, and here’s a preview.

I took some time a few years ago to visit the B-17 bomber that was parked near Executive Air for the better part of the work week. It’s cool to see such a piece of history, especially since it’s a piece of technology and military hardware at the same time.

It wouldn’t be a truly nostalgic WW2 era plane without some 1930’s – shaped woman painted on the side (Betty Grable in this case). I couldn’t help but think of the old 1980s video game “B-17 Bomber” on the Mattel Intellivision game console. A friend of mine had that game and the expensive Speech Synthesis module, which allowed many of its games to “talk. B-17 Bomber was one such game. Thanks to the Internet, you can listen to the introductory sound from that game by clicking here (mp3 format).

What a big machine, don’t you think? When the news of possible hail or a tornado came in last night, this plane was moved into the BP hangar on site. It barely fit; it had to be rolled in by hand, with four guys on each wheel to move its weight, and its gun almost touched the hangar doors once closed. There were “little planes” tucked under each wing as well, but the mighty Flying Fortress fit. Say that three times fast.

Payload. One of the types of bombs dropped by these planes was called a Thunderbug. That’s just one of the fun nicknames that military folks came up with for various hardware and ordinance, and it shows they have a sense of humor. These obviously aren’t real, otherwise I’d be trying to strap one onto my motorcycle for use on a tailgater! Now let’s take a walk through this majestic aircraft…

This is the forward gun turret. Note the picture of someone’s lady on the left side wall. This would be a pretty crazy place to be when the fighting got hectic! I can’t even imagine. I think the fella who did the calculations for the bomb trajectories was located up here as well as the forward gunners.

This is the cockpit, one of the few places with windows that don’t have a gun sticking out of them. It must be a challenge to taxi a “tail-dragger” aircraft like this one…in fact, a friend of mine was near an accident at Oshkosh a few years ago where a little plane cut in front of a big plane on the tarmac. The propeller of the big plane sliced right through the little one. Messy. The pilots of planes like this have to zig-zag when they taxi so they can look out the side windows; the front windows point at the sky until they take off.

The bomb bay with doors open. That rail down the middle is the “walkway” for the plane’s crew. It’s about six inches wide. I had fun sneaking through there with my camera bag! It would be best to be skinny to be on a B-17 crew. I had that part covered, but then I decided to lug my gear with me.

This is where the radio operator sat, and there are a couple of jump seats as well. It’s pretty amazing to see how many crew positions are actually on this aircraft. I may have to hunt down a book about these guys…

I would have thought there’d be more bomb space and less crew space, but I really don’t know much about aircraft. Here you can see side guns as well as bunks for crew members, who I suppose rotated resting periods. This photo is somewhat out of sequence as it was taken from the rear of the aircraft, facing forward.

Firepower. The guys manning these guns were responsible for keeping this aircraft safe from enemy fighters. To do so requires some big guns, and there are big guns all over the B-17.

For $425 or so, you can take a ride on this plane, and even sit up in the nose turret. For $425, I think they should make these guns operational. Now that would be worth running to an ATM!

The aforementioned bunks. At the end of the fuselage is where the rear landing gear is stowed, and of course another gun position.

Thus endeth the tour. This was truly an amazing way to spend my lunch hour. It’s one thing to leisurely poke around this aircraft, looking at the old technology and trying to grasp a bit of history. It would have been another world entirely to dodge German or Japanese AA fire, fend off enemy fighters from a gun turret, and hopefully make it to the intended target and back safely. Oh yeah, and deliver the bomb payload on target. The people who fight for our country are incredible, but I think of World War Two stories and am in total awe.

“Sentimental Journey” will be in town from Thursday through Sunday. For more information or to reserve a flight, visit www.azcaf.org.

The Cold War in North Dakota

The most usable space in the Heritage Center was the setting for a very interesting presentation this weekend: the effect of the Cold War and military infrastructure on the landscape and culture of North Dakota. It was an extremely well-attended session, to say the least…one of three sessions planned to highlight North Dakota historic sites and their importance.

Site director Mark Sundlov, a former member of a Minot Air Force base missile crew himself, was the presenter. He has a unique perspective on this subject and is determined to help preserve this important part of North Dakota’s (and our nation’s) history. Right now it’s ripe for the picking, as there are many anecdotes to record. The audience had plenty of their own. The interest in this subject as well as the gold mine of information and firsthand accounts was a strong affirmation of just how spot-on Mr. Sundlov is about the impact of the military and this period of history on the culture of North Dakota and the everyday lifestyle of its citizens.

I strongly recommend clicking on this link to listen to a podcast interview with Mr. Sundlov from a while back, before the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Historic Site was even a reality. In it he talks about life on a missile crew, something that wasn’t really part of the focus of Sunday’s presentation.

If you want to read more about the Cold War remnants around our state from this photographer’s perspective, try some of these links, which will each open in a new window:

Cold War Mancation, Part One: Minuteman Missile Site

Cold War Mancation, Part Two: Nekoma Missile Base (Mickelsen Safeguard Complex)

Cold War Mancation, Part Three: Former OMEGA Station LaMoure

Cold War Mancation, Part Four: Cavalier Air Force Station

Cold War Mancation, Part Five: Minot

Looking back at one of the most memorable Memorial Day addresses I’ve heard UPDATE: Now with text of his address available for download

Let’s not forget that Memorial Day is about one thing: honoring fallen heroes who died defending our freedom. I typically attend the ceremony held for such purpose at the Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery each year, the most memorable of which was in 2010. It was during that ceremony that I witnessed a stirring address by C. Emerson Murry, former Major General of the ND National Guard. He was the keynote speaker of the event, and a very memorable one at that.

The words that struck me the most from his keynote address are best paraphrased as follows: “To be born free is an accident. To live free is a responsibility. To die free is an absolute obligation.” That made me set my camera in the grass and hastily type it into my phone so I wouldn’t forget it. Maj Gen Murry fulfilled that obligation, and it’s due to such men and women of our armed forces that we enjoy the freedoms we take for granted.

The National Guard provided me with the text of his remarks in PDF format from an issue of the Guardian magazine, and I’m pleased to be able to provide you a link to that PDF: (Click Here)

It was the last chance I had to hear him speak; Maj Gen Murry passed away in September of that year. You ought to take the time to read about the life of this remarkable man by clicking here.

9/11 Ceremony at the state capitol grounds

I spent the afternoon at the commemorative ceremony at the capitol Sunday. It was an appropriate memorial of the terrorist attack on our nation (not just a “tragic event” as some say) and focused on honoring our nation as well as those who have died in its service. Here’s a brief photo narrative of the day:

Governor Jack Dalrymple and his wife Betsy hosted the event.

The Mandan High School Concert Choir provided stirring music, with my friend Becca at the piano.

US Senator John Hoeven gave his remarks.

US Congressman Rick Berg also spoke.

Bismarck City Commissioner Mike Seminary represented the City of Bismarck.

Mandan City Commissioner Dennis Rohr. Of course, I’ll always know him as Chief.

The Governor and First Lady stand with Senator Hoeven during the presentation of a wreath to commemorate the day. Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley is looking on in the foreground.

Bismarck Police Chief Keith Witt spoke on behalf of first responders.

Lincoln Police Officer Marcel Sim gave an account of that day,
when he was working at Ground Zero for the NYPD.

Maj. General Spry has thousands of soldiers fighting not only the Global War on Terrorism
but also natural disasters here at home.

Lt. Colonel Dean Eckmann described going to battle stations and flying CAP sorties
over Washington DC that day with the NDNG Happy Hooligans.

Jenette Nelson spoke of the loss of her daughter and how her memory lives on.

Paul Goodiron gave perhaps the most stirring speech of the day, honoring not only those who serve but also the families who serve with them and endure their loss.

The Patriot Guard Riders had a presentation of their own to the office of the Governor.

First responders from fire, ambulance, and local law enforcement were in attendance to commemorate the day as well. I got to hang out with one of my favorite law enforcement friends and take photos.

One popular part of the day was a Blackhawk helicopter on the capitol mall, available for all to see.  Its crew were on hand to answer questions and explain the operation of the aircraft.

Then it was time to go home, tribute given and memories shared.