Saturday, May 30, 2009

D-Day Memorial, Va. 2007

In the spring of 2007 Ken and I visited the East Coast. One of the things that I wanted to see was the D-Day Memorial outside of Roanoke Va. It was recently completed and sits high on one of the mountains. The memorial is visible from the freeway and is quite awe-inspiring from the highway.

The memorial re-creates the D-Day invasion on the Normandy beaches. The structures represent the various landing crafts and the soldiers who stormed ashore under German gunfire. As you walk through it, the water erupts with stimulated gunfire, just like what the soldiers went through.

The bronze sculptures are cast from actual photos of the invasion. They are life size and very life like.

The walkway takes you over the beach with a representation of one of cliffs the soldiers had to scale to reach the German soldiers.

The sculpture is incredible. From the expressions on the soldiers' faces to the detail in the equipment each soldier carries, it is an exact replicia.

At the top of the wall the soldier survives to charge the German lines. This sculpture is so emotional that tears spring to your eyes when you walk through it.
The plaque lists the names of the soldiers who survived the climb, and the ones who didn't. It also lists who the sculptures are representing. Again, the sculpture is taken from a photo.

This represents everyone from the various counties who died in the D-Day invasion. The memorial contains flags from every country involved in WWII.

One of the planes used during WWII. No GPS, no computers, no technical assistance. Just good pilots and lots of courage.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Anchorage and around, Spring 2009

Anchorage does have some beautiful glass towers scattered through downtown. Sometimes you get a sunny day with nice reflections.

And then you get the downtown Saturday market during the summer. A little bit of everything in the tents, from food to clothes. The Killer Shrimp was a little cajun, with bread to dip into the sauce.

A drive down the Seward highway encompasses of the most beautiful scenery in the state. That's me at Alyeska ski resort.

There's a great destination at Bird Point. A path with interpretative signs winds through the area, telling someone about Turnagain Arm, the wildlife, tides and history. Bring your bicycles and ride the bike path. It's totally separate from the highway with great overlooks.

During the summer months beluga whales used to be plentiful in the Turnagain Arm waters. You could see the white humps in the water as they chased salmon, smelt and other small fish up the Arm.
The whale are just about gone now. About 300 still live in the Arm and Cook Inlet. Not enough to be a viable population for generations. Maybe they'll get lucky. Because we don't see them as often, the bike path has included all sorts of representations of them, as if you could still see them in the water.

Some scenes around the Turnagain Arm. From bogs to forest, cliffs to water, mudflats to waterfalls, this drive gives you a little bit of everything.

Friday, May 15, 2009

King Salmon, Alaska

My job takes me all over the State of Alaska. I was in King Salmon this past week and I thought I'd throw up a few photos of the area. First of all, Alaska is a huge state and the majority of the tourists don't see the state, they only see bits and pieces.

My travels are all by aircraft: we don't have roads for most of the state. We don't have big aircraft, like jets, traveling around either. So photos often have props in the image. Sorry about that. Below this Metroliner is a large lake. It's the middle of May and the ice is still there. It's not thick enough to walk on, anymore, but it's still holding fast.

Where the ice is really thin, it's blue. You're probably looking at ice that is measured in inches, instead of feet.

From the air, Alaska is a patchwork quilt of ponds, tundra, marshes and lakes once the ice and snow is gone. Right after breakup the ground is mostly brown because it hasn't warmed up enough to turn green.

The mountains are almost always covered in snow and ice. Even after a warm summer, the tips are still white with years old rivers of glacial ice snaking into the valleys.

Alaska is part of the Pacific Rim of Fire. Which means we have lots of active volcanoes. This photo is the steam plume from Mt. Redoubt which is a little over 100 miles from Anchorage as the crow flies. It is currently erupting. Over the winter months Anchorage was dusted with ash. The lava dome that is currently building will probably collapse shortly and another explosive eruption will happen. If the wind is right, Anchorage could get ash again. The mountains around the volcano are brown because ash has covered all the snow. The plane I'm in flew low to give a birds' eye view of the restless mountain.

King Salmon's claim to fame (besides great fishing) is an Air Force base that closed years ago. But because the runways are still there and the State keeps the airport ready to handle the military aircraft the F22 Raptors can pay a visit. Today they are checking to make sure the runway arresting barriers are working.

Everything is painted in subdued colors and emblems. It's all about stealth and not being seen.

The cockpit is a single seater. Everything is digital heads up displays. Joy sticks on the sides of the cockpit to control the plane. Gone are the dials, little airplane symbols or buttons to push or status readouts.

My job allows me to spend some time with the aircraft. The King Salmon Airport crew got to prowl all over the plane, getting some familiarization with the complex systems and an idea what it would take to safeguard this aircraft if all the high-tech equipment failed.

The Air Force technicians gave us a tour of the aircraft. It is a lovely plane, with marvels that rival an X-wing fighter. Being a mechanic on the F4 Phantom 30 years ago makes you appreciate what the technology has become. 30 years ago I couldn't even image this plane, Star Trek or Star Wars, notwithstanding.

When I was in the Air Force, leaning against the nose wheel in the sun was a favorite spot for a catnap. It still is. Amazing that you could fall asleep on the concrete, leaning against a wheel, with all the noise a flightline has. Oh for the good ole days when I was young.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vegas, Star Trek Hilton

The entrance to the Star Trek museum with huge models of all the starships over your head as you walk in.

The last thing I got to do was spend most of the afternoon at the Star Trek Hilton hotel. I did not know this existed. And now it's gone. The whole theme hotel has changed to something else. The interior was designed to look like a large portion of space station Deep Space 9, from furnishings to lighting. The elevator doors are all designed to look like turbo-lifts entrances. A large number of the personnel wear Star Trek related uniforms, at the very least, a communicator badge or insignia. The doors of the elevators.

There is a huge museum on the lower levels. Of course there is a price associated with it, but the price comes with 2 virtual reality rides. The rides are great and you totally get pulled into the reality of 2 battles.
The museum takes the timeline of all the Star Trek movies and series and incorporates them into the history of the universe. The timeline starts with the first tentative steps into space with the Sputnik, goes through the lunar landings and brings in Cockrams' rocket from the movie First Contact. It keeps going, so full of detail and information it's almost overwhelming. Clips and photos from the series, the movies, actual history, the arc you walk to visit everything takes hours. At the end of it, it's hard to know which is reality and which is not, until you step back outside the hotel to take a monorail and see Las Vegas in the 21st century.

The museum contains models, artwork, costumes, props, weapons, the list goes on. Each item contains details of what episode and movie it was used in, how it is used, etc.

Many of the alien costumes are displayed, along with clips of the episodes that the aliens are from.

The location is extremely popular for weddings. There aren't too many places in the universe where you can get married with a Starfleet uniformed best man or maid of honor, or honor guard of Klingons. The security people through out the hotel are dressed as Romulans, carrying phasers and communicators. Of course, the cell phones that are real are smaller and more detailed than the communicators from the series. Isn't it amazing that we've already passed what Star Trek predicted for the 23rd century?

One of the greatest places on Deep Space 9. Quarks' bar was the place everyone gathered from time to time.

Our local Fergeni representative. Running Quark's is just one of his DS9 activities.

Where else can you share a drink with a Klingon and a Starfleet officer?

Me and a Klingon stopping in for lunch. Don't drink the Saurian brandy. Not a drink for the faint hearted.

And then the Borg have to show up! Fortunately this one wasn't interested in acclimating anyone.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Vegas, The Luxor

I said earlier that Luxor is well worth a second visit. It is built on the theme of ancient Egypt and includes a museum inside with replicas of King Tut's tomb and hundreds of artifacts. I spent almost a day there between the museum and studying all of the detail in the reproduction.

No you can't climb on the Sphinx. It's a great reproduction. Amazing what we can do with fiberglass and concrete isn't it?

The walls of the casino are done in the hieroglyphics from the Luxor temples in Egypt. The cartouches all tell a story.

Inside the lobby of the casino you're greeted with statutes that do the temples of Giza credit.

Miniature Sphinxes guard the entrance to the gaming rooms.

The monolith at the entrance to the casino decorated with cartouches and rams.

Anubis guards the entrance from the circle driveway.

Rams line the entrance used for limos. The metal track in front of the casino is the monorail that you can use instead of walking. In 100 degree heat the monorail is greatly appreciated.