Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lora’s Birthday Trip

I’m not sure exactly how this happened, but I turned 60 years old yesterday.  A little scary (maybe more so for my parents!), but there is an upside to this:  WE DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR MY HEALTH INSURANCE ANYMORE!!!  That’s the primary reason we’ve been working off and on for the past five years of retirement, so now we should be able to just work for our site once in awhile to save on campsite fees.  Hooray!!

So, for my birthday, we decided to drive up to San Marcos (between San Antonio and Austin) to see Derick.  Derick became part of our family back in 1994 when he first came to Alaska after rooming with our oldest son, Eric, in college.  He came every summer after and then moved to Alaska after graduation to fly for ERA Aviation.  Anyway, he now flies & maintains WWII planes for The Collings Foundation.  The foundation does a “Wings of Freedom” tour for 10 months every year, flying around the country with a B-17 bomber, a B-24 bomber and a P-51 Mustang fighter.

Other than dinners in the evening with Derick and one little drive through the countryside to find wildflowers, we mostly hung out in the shade under the wing of the B-17 and visited with whoever walked by, including Derick and his co-workers.

Here’s the story in pictures, starting with Monday:

John & Derick by the  “Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress”, a/k/a “Nine-O-Nine”.
The “Consolidated B-24J Liberator”, a/k/a “Witchcraft” from “our” spot under the B-17 wing.
The “North American TP-51C Mustang”, a/k/a “Betty Jane”.
This P-51 isn’t with the tour, but is Bob Hoover’s “Ole Yeller” (for those aviation buffs reading this).  It was flown down from Idaho to Fredericksburg, Texas by its current owner to help celebrate Bob Hoover’s 90th birthday.  Derick got to fly from Fredericksburg to San Marcos in it – lucky guy!
Derick took us first on a personalized tour of the B-17.  I’m always amazed at the number of controls in a cockpit!
Here’s John trying to navigate the bombay.  Those young aviators during the war must have all been petite!!
Derick also treated us to a demonstration of one way to enter the belly turret under the B-17…
Apparently, the easier and more commonly used way to get in there was from the inside of the plane!

Both bombers had lots of names on the side of donors who have helped support the foundation.
Here’s Derick in the cockpit of the B-24.  He showed us all the steps to take when starting each of the four engines.  Pretty complicated!
This is Alex, an 11-year future pilot!  Derick let him ride in the P-51 when it was being towed to the hangar at the end of the day.  The kid couldn’t quit smiling afterwards!

Tuesday morning, we took a drive through the countryside looking for those famous Texas wildflowers.  Bingo…Texas bluebonnets!
Shortly after we arrived at the airport, some gentleman with $$ to spare went for a ride with pilot Jim in the P-51.
Felt right at home when we saw this Super Cub taxi by on its “tundra tires”!
And, here’s the B-17 on its first “passenger” flight of the day.
And, you’ll never guess who got to go along on the second flight of the B-17…

I be one lucky birthday girl!
This is the most amazing view looking back out the open top turret.  That’s right – I actually got to stick my head out the top of the plane while we were flying!!!  What an incredible experience!
And, this is looking out the front from the bombadier’s station…
and, down at the ground…
and, over at two of the four engines…
and, back at the pilots from the little bubble.  If you enlarge the picture, you can see Mac giving me a thumbs-up!
On this flight, there is no secure door to the cockpit!
More views from the open top turret.  Definitely my favorite part of the flight!
Thanks so much, Derick, for a most amazing birthday treat!!  And, then the kid took us out for dinner at Saltgrass Steak House.  Yum, yum!!  Thanks again, kiddo!

On Wednesday, the weather closed in a bit and the B-24 flight was delayed.  Here’s how excited pilots get while waiting for weather to clear…
Finally, the storms had mostly passed through and Jim hitched a ride on the P-51 as it was being towed out of the hangar.  That would have been fun, too…
Last flight for the San Marcos portion of the tour with Derick directing traffic from above! 
Then they were off to Houston for more of the same. And, we headed back to the RGV. The slow, boring way.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Catching up….again…

When I “named” this blog way back in March of 2009, I had no idea how apt the phrase “a sometimes blog…” was going to be!  Apparently time has been flying by for us because it’s been just a little over a year since I did a blog entry.  So – once again! – you won’t hear the details (maybe you prefer thatSmileSmile), but here’s a summary of the last 12 months:
On April 7, 2011, after finishing up our workamping commitment in Weslaco, Texas, we loaded John’s dad and all of his necessities into our motorhome and aimed it north.  The trip to Iowa was uneventful, except for a lovely visit from our niece, Kelly and her three kids the evening we were camped in Oklahoma.
We sure enjoyed watching the kids try to play hide and seek in the motorhome!!
We then spent almost six months in Iowa helping care for John’s dad.  John did lots of gardening, canning, freezing and baking; I took Zumba classes with friend, Cindy, and did some bike riding; we snuck away a few times to crash relatives’ family reunions; and enjoyed the many friends who came often to visit with Dad.
We did take a break in May and went to Alaska to visit my parents, see Eric, Kari & Jacob who had just moved up there, and also visit with Vance, Jody & Sebastian who were there visiting her family.
Here’s Jacob on a hike to Eklutna Lake,
Jody reading to Sebastian, Jacob (and Kari!),
and Sebastian playing outside.
Jacob at Eklutna Lake
Toward the end of September, we hopped in the car and drove up to Wisconsin to help Winter Texan friends, Bill & Sandy, celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  The next day, John dropped me off at the Minneapolis airport so I could fly up to Alaska for grandson Jonah’s birth.  Fortunately, he’s a cooperative little guy and managed to make his appearance on the 22nd – just before Grandma Newby had to go home!
On September 28th, we headed the rig toward Coffeyville, Kansas to work at during their Christmas rush.  To summarize: hard work, long hours, fun new friends and probably won’t do it again!  Steve & Mary visited one weekend from Springfield, MO and we drove over to Jon (Lora’s brother) & Deb’s lovely log home near Haviland, KS one weekend.
We were released from work at 8:15 a.m. on December 22nd and were on the road for Texas by 10:00 a.m.  By noon the next day, we were surprising John’s dad with our early arrival!  Sister Jane & brother Sam had driven John’s dad to Texas in late November and Dad was now settled into the “new” mini-mobile home that we had all coerced him into buying a couple months before.  It sure made caring for him SO much easier than in his little Airstream trailer and its location between Jane & Tony’s and our place was an added plus.
Dad spent four days in the hospital the second week of January to resolve some potassium level problems and on February 14th, he died – very peacefully and at “home”.  He never wanted to go to the nursing home and one of the most important benefits of our decision to retire and be full-timers was that it easily allowed us to spend lots of time with him and assist in his caretaking.  We miss him a lot but are glad that he no longer has to struggle just to breathe.
On February 15th, John & I started for Iowa with Dad’s car.  Both of our sons and their families arrived for the funeral and they were the best part of a sad time for us.  John finally got to meet 5-month old Jonah and we all enjoyed watching the two 3-year olds, Sebastian and Jacob, get reacquainted!
Little guy’s good, isn’t he?
John & I flew back to Texas on the 21st, quickly repacked and the next day drove up to New Braunfels for a long-planned vacation with friends Curt & Diane from Walla Walla, Washington and Steve & Mary from Springfield, Missouri.  Diane, Mary & I all worked at the Alaska Court System in Anchorage for many years and have remained good friends. 
This time provided much needed therapy for John & me and we all had a wonderful time!
March was fairly quiet.  We spent some time with friends & family, worked on getting things taken care of at dad’s trailer, finally sold his Airstream and finished up our medical appointments.  Jane, Tony & Tony’s parents left for Iowa on the 24th.
Enough summary.  We’re now back to exactly a year from my last entry!