Thursday, November 27, 2008

Scenery From I-80 Road Trip

With the cost of diesel falling, my husband and I decided to drive home for Christmas to see family. We had been in Florence, OR in our RV enjoying the Pacific Coast. Now, we are making our way east in our Prevost, taking our time and enjoying stops at places like the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah and Cabella's national headquarters in Nebraska. The scenery is spectacular as we pull off for roadside rests. We're allowing plenty of time to make this run across Interstate 80. Our goal is to stop in Ingersoll, Ontario first then head south to Greensburg, PA. Happy holidays!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Golden Spike National Historic Site

November 24, 2008

ATK Rocket Display in Utah

Unimaginable! When people assembled for the Golden Spike Ceremony in 1869, they celebrated the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Years before, the idea of creating a railroad to span the vast distance across the US seemed impossible at first. But, technology, human ingenuity, and manpower converged to the join the rails of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads- the unimaginable- came true.

I doubt anyone in the crowd at Promontory Summit would have dreamed that a over a century later, not far from there, the same elements of technology, ingenuity and manpower would conquer another vast distance – the distance beyond the land and mountains into the earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

The ATK rocket display on State Route 83 in Promontory, Utah is not a National Historic Site like the nearby Golden Spike. It may take another century for the National Park Service to conceive this idea. Still the ATK rocket display is free and open to the public on the grounds in front of the ATK corporate manufacturing complex.

ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company. It manufactures rocket propulsion systems and strategic missiles – the unimaginable in 1869, reality today. According to Wikipedia, in Utah’s Promontory Mountains, ATK manufactures the solid rocket booster (SBR) for the Space Shuttle. And, after the SBRs are retrieved from the ocean following a launch, they are transported to ATK (formerly Thiokol) for refurbishing. Though the plant and surrounding land is noticeably a secure area, the rocket display is easily accessible.

On display is a Space Shuttle Booster Separation Motor which can travel through the atmosphere at more than 3,000 miles per hour and altitudes of 24 nautical miles. Visitors can also see the TX-486 Patriot, noted as the US Army’s most advanced surface-to-surface defense system. Its engineering began in 1972 and it moved into production in 1981. More historic are the TX-14 Big B, known as “The Klunker” – designed in 1950 for the US Army Ballistic Missile Agency as a test vehicle for high performance propellants and insulated materials – and the TX-10, the 1950s prototype solid propellant rocket motor for the US Army’s surface-to-surface Lacrosse missile that was developed for use against tanks and bunkers.

The rockets make a striking contrast to the trains at Golden Spike. Could there have been a hint of the next transportation frontier back in the 1869? Maybe the unimaginable, the impossible was pondered because one of the locomotives at the Summit on that historic day the Golden Spike Ceremony was named The Jupiter.

November 23, 2008

Making Our Way East Through Oregon and Idaho

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bidding Siltcoos Beach Farewell

When you say “goodbye”, you should not look back. That is why tonight Ed and I visited Siltcoos Beach at sunset. We knew the night would force us to leave. But before darkness blanketed the scenery, the sky and sea gave us a spectacular display, an assurance there would be fair weather on Wednesday when we turn our RV east for another cross-country journey.

Siltcoos Beach: Will We Ever Find A Beach Better Than This?

The Household Cavalry Museum: Behind the Scenes

If you are at all interested in the pageantry of the British culture and enjoy horses, a visit to the Household Cavalry Museum in London will please you. This small museum offers a unique look behind the scenes of the work that goes into the ceremonial duties and operational role of the Household Cavalry.

The Museum presents the military history of the Household Cavalry through collections of memorabilia and displays of uniforms. Videos offer accounts of how the men train on their assigned horses, care for the animals, and prepare for the ceremonial occasions. The Museum covers the 300 year history of this branch of the British military up to their present fighting role as an armored reconnaissance regiment without boring the visitor with an overload of information. This is a small museum easily visited in one hour.

I particularly enjoyed studying the artistic detail of the collection of the uniforms worn by these military men – bright red jackets worn under highly polished metal vests, swords, sashes, and ornate hats topped with long red tassels. I lingered around these casements. By contrast, a glimpse is all you get of the actual stables. I would have liked a better look inside the working stables of The Queen’s Life Guard. The glazed screen inside the museum made it hard to really see inside. The more visible sample stalls in the museum, though they looked authentic, seemed lifeless even with the feed bins and saddles hung on the wall.

The actual Horse Guards outside seemed lifeless too, but in a good way. Two mounted sentries in ceremonial uniforms were motionless in the guardhouse gates. I admired their discipline to stare forward over the crowd where people jockeyed for photos as close as they dared to the towering horses. The emotionless guards never flinched when a camera flashed, though the horses occasionally reacted. A sign on the guardhouse walls warned that the horses do bite when agitated. More than once I saw the sentry tug the reins of distracted horse to maintain their rigid stance. My guide book noted that these fellows are really “guarding nothing in particular” but that did not matter to me or the folks milling around. The guards’ presence is a great photo opportunity especially if you are a horse lover.

The Household Cavalry Museum is located between Horse Guards Road and Whitehall, London.

November 8, 2008