Because We Can - Fulltime RV'ing

Journal Archive 02/01 - 02/10 2008

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February 1 Friday

Time to go back to work, though work is hardly the word for it. I think the one thing which makes our volunteer time here at the Museum different from all the locations we have volunteered, is what happens after the actual tour is completed. While it doesn't happen on every tour, many times there is someone, or at times even several people, who want to share the story of a relative who was in the war. It is intensely personal for them, and it is always something from the heart.

It didn't appear that we would have large numbers of people on the tours today, especially in light of the forecast which called for quite windy and cool conditions, and as it turned out, we weren't disappointed. Many of the tours, and there are seven tours every day, starting precisely on the hour from 10 AM to 4 PM, were what I joking refer to as private tours. These are tours where there are only two people on them and the people are either married, related, or close friends.

These small tours also are over much faster, mostly due to the lack in delay of physically moving larger numbers of people from one area to another. Because of this I was often back to the TBM building (where the tours start) while Linda was still out front waiting to see if anyone was going to show up for the next tour. In the area outside the building, where people wait if they arrive early,there are several artifacts which they can examine if they have time. Artifacts such as these 16 inch shells that were fired from our battleships against either Japanese ships or shore installations. Weighing nearly a ton, they not only sounded like a boxcar while flying through the air they did more than just a little damage when they exploded on their intended target.

16 inch shells

The other artifact in this area is an atomic bomb casing. This is not a reproduction or model, this is the actual casing for what would have been the 7th bomb to be dropped on Japan if we had been forced to invade the Japanese home islands in November 1945. Fortunately sanity reigned within the Japanese government and they agreed to unconditionally surrender negating the necessity of the use of the additional atomic bombs in our possession.

Two blond bombshells

The last thing I would ever want to do would be to make light of the sacrifices which were made during the war, but looking at this photo I couldn't help but think the perfect caption would be: Two blond bombshells.

One of the nice things about the shortened tours is that it also gives me time to actually eat my lunch rather than just gobble it down. It was as I was finishing with my turkey rollup that I walked outside to see if there was going to be anyone on the one o'clock tour. Since no one was in sight it looked like I was going to have the opportunity do some research for the next hour. Just as I was turning to go back in, we noticed two elderly ladies very slowly walking up towards the entrance. My first reaction was one of disappointment since I would not be able to do any research, but as is many times the case, I couldn't have been more completely wrong in my thinking. It turned out to be most enjoyable tour I have given in weeks.

The older of the two ladies was here because she had just donated her second lot of documents to the Museum pertaining to her late husbands service in the war. He had been a fire control officer on the USS Portertfield, a Destroyer stationed in the Pacific during the war, and Reagan, our Archivist had been of great assistance to her. By the time the tour was over I had learned a great deal about what both she and her husband had done during the war, and I hoped I had been able in a small way to show her how their efforts had fit into the picture of the war as a whole. When she shook my hand and thanked me for the wonderful tour as she was leaving, it made more than my day, it made my entire month and this was only the first day of February.

Then it turned out that even more good things were on tap. As I waited in the office for the newsreel to finish so I could begin the next tour, Linda came in with a gentleman she wanted me to meet. He was to be the speaker at the Museum's program tomorrow on the USS Enterprise, the most highly decorated ship of the war. But even better, not only had he served aboard the Enterprise, he had been a radioman and radar jamming operator flying in a TBM.

He wanted to take some photo's of our TBM, so we arranged for Linda to accompany him, while I would take the tour group over to the PT boat building. By the time they were done Linda was probably more knowledgeable about the workings of the radio/radar compartment of the TBM than anyone at the Museum. You can bet I made her tell me everything he had talked about. Several things we had always been interested in were what was it like being in that small compartment where you couldn't see anything (their missions were always flown at night), what went through the radioman's mind when the plane cleared the end of the deck and immediately dropped several feet, and also, how did you physically climb into the compartment.

For an answer to the last question, it doesn't get any better than this, as he demonstrated to Linda just how it was done. Not bad at all for a young man in his 80's. Face forward, put your left foot inside, duck your head inside and up and in you go.

How you do it

It was a day of connections, connections to the past, connection to people, connections to Life. What an awesome way to begin the month, and just think, it's only going to get better.

February 2 Saturday

Nice day weather wise had been predicted for today, so we would probably be very busy with tours in the Combat Zone. With that in mind, I was up early and managed to get the Daily Journal written and posted before we left to open up. Then during our walk around, the sunlight was filtering through the trees making the Type 97, Shinhoto Chi-Ha Tank picture perfect.

Japanese Chi-Ha tank

Opening the Combat Zone is more than just walking around checking on the artifacts and displays. We have to turn on the lights and make sure the audio system is working correctly in each of the buildings, unlock the restrooms and the gates, then raise the flags. We also go a step further and sweep any of the entrance areas if they are dirty, which is especially needed after windy days like yesterday. The last thing we do is to walk by the burial ground and remove any leaves or other debris from that area. We are not required to do those latter things, it is just something we want to do.

It was apparent from the first tour that the nice weather had indeed brought out the visitors, but there also may have been another reason. Today the Museum is hosting the History Channel Film Premier about the the USS Enterprise CV-6. So this morning we had several visits by WW II veterans who had served on the Enterprise, which was by the way, the most decorated ship which fought in the war.

I flew in this plane

The gentleman in the photo had flown aboard a TBM during the war, sitting in the radio/radar compartment in the tail of the plane and operating both the radio equipment and the highly secret for its day, radar jamming equipment, that enabled our fighters to shoot down Japanese planes during the night like sitting ducks. It just pointed up how far far more technically advanced we were during the war than the Japanese.

We get torn between the days when we just a few visitors and those when we have a large number of visitors. On lightly attended days we can have tours where either no one, or everyone, is interested in what we are presenting, with the later making for a great tour and the latter making us wonder why they even bothered to take the tour in the first place. Then there are days like today where each tour has many people on it. The difficulty is that once again we have a number who are really into history and a few who would seem to care less. It is real easy to pick out the wife or in some cases, the husband who was dragged along to see the Combat Zone. Of course there is also the great number of visitors who are intrigued, but not to any significant degree. Maybe they are the ones who didn't hate history in high school, they just didn't care about it one way or the other. One of the challenges of being a tour guide is trying to strike a balance, satisfying the hunger of the history buff, yet at the same time, not overwhelming, but simply whetting the appetite of the vast majority, hoping they will intrigued enough to dig deeper after they leave the Museum. As far as the "I don't want to be here" ones are concerned, I could give a rats rear end about them, but woo unto them if they are disruptive, as I can, and quickly will make them look like a complete idiot in front of the group. (Didn't have any today, but there was one who was close until he finally came around on his own.)

Shown in this photo is what truly makes everything worthwhile, a WW II veteran on the tour. That's the gentleman on the white jacket, who's smile was spread all across his face and who was nodding in agreement as I talked about the three types of deck guns displayed on PT 309.

Having fun

Since the program on the Enterprise sounded so fascinating, Linda went up to watch it while I gave the tours.

Speakers who served on the Enterprise

Each day is different and today was proving to be no exception, especially when I was ending the two o'clock tour and learned that Linda was not yet back from the program, something I hadn't thought about. It turned out to be just fine, though everyone was gathered around the door when I opened it. It's times like this which makes it all worthwhile. Just to let you know some of the things we do a tour, here is a series of photos taken at the different tour stops, or at least the stops I used on this tour since each guide can personalize what they want to talk about.

Outside the door to the TBM, where the tour starts, we stopped at the Bofors anti-aircraft gun and GE Searchlight. As you can see, I do a pretty poor imitation of an anti-aircraft gun firing.

Tour stop

Next stop was at the PT boat, then it is out the door, around the corner and down to the beachhead where an LVT sits, having just come ashore and debarked its load of troops.

Tour stop

Then it is a short distance past the seawall and we come upon a Japanese pillbox where the tour learned about how the Japanese strategy and tactics evolved during the war. But for every change the Japanese made, so did the American forces, and in explaining how we attacked these fortifications we discuss the use of flamethrowers.

Tour stop

After moving on to talk about some of the Japanese equipment on display, and on occasion a visit to a mobile field hospital, we end up in front of six white stakes, a silent testament to the human cost of the war. While we were here on the last tour of the day, Bob, one of the speakers at the Enterprise program also spoke in very moving terms about having watched 40 of his shipmates be buried at sea after the kamikaze attack on the Enterprise off Okinawa.

The ultimate price for what we have

Our day was not over yet, as Bob had agreed to have dinner with us, so we drove to Andy's, where over good food, learned many fascinating facts about Bob's life, before, during and after the war.

Having fun sharing memories

It had been another day when we had listened to our guide, the young lady who leads us through this journey we call Life, Sara N. Dippity. There are days when superlatives are not available to adequately describe the joy we had, the sheer thrill of living and the awesome wonder of things. This was truly one of those days.

February 3 Sunday

Another glorious day in the Texas Hill Country, one when many Americans will be going to church in the morning, then watching the Super Bowl along with almost everyone else later in the day. Meanwhile the dynamic duo of Bob and Linda will be tour guides in the Combat Zone at the National Museum of the Pacific War. Whatever our Life is, it isn't boring unless we make it that way, but we will be hard pressed to have a day that equaled yesterday.

It is our memories which sometimes sustain us and this morning as I unlocked the exit gate area my mind was once again filled with thoughts of past memories. Memories of WW II and my father. Memories which stared me right in the face just as they do many times a day whenever we are giving tours. You see, just outside the gate I had just unlocked is a 3 inch gun. Not any 3 inch gun but one off a YMS minesweeper that saw service during the war.

My father died a long time ago, at an age when he was not yet ready to tell me all the stories of what it had been like to be in the war. He had talked of a few things, and one had been his service aboard the YMS 372, a yard minesweeper that served in the Pacific. Even though he never said much, I do remember him talking about exotic places like Ulithi and Yap, of the almost unbearable heat of the engine room and of firing the 3 inch gun on board the ship. That memory I spoke about was real, it is real and will continue to be real, especially every time my eyes fall upon that gun.

3 inch gun

We really hadn't planned to be at the Museum this winter, we had tried to get volunteer positions at other places but they were all filled. Maybe there was reason for that, maybe in the bigger scheme of Life there was the chance to live something I never got to live in the first place. Like Linda is fond of saying, things happen for a reason. Our visitors walk by some glancing at this gun, most only seeing it as a shape as they walk past. Occasionally a boy will climb up into the seat and pretend to be somewhere else. I look at it and see a sailor in his early twenties, far removed from his wife and young son. Where others see an old gun, I see my Dad.

Distant memories

I had entertained thoughts of a laid back, easy day, which proved to be not that far off the mark. We had a steady stream of visitors, but still the tours were definitely on the small side, with twice there being only two on a tour. One time it was a husband and wife where the wife was an absolute history nut and the husband was bored beyond belief. I simply chose to ignore him, which is wife did also, and the result was she thoroughly enjoyed one of the best tours I have ever conducted. The other pair was a father, accompanied by his son who looked to be about ten years old. The problem was the son acted like a grownup and the father acted like a ten year old kid with an advanced case of ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. I would hope that little boy has the opportunity to have some other male role models in his life other than just his father.

It wasn't all work and no play, as I did have time to take a photo of the TBM's bomb bay, so if you ever wondered what one looked like, here you are.

Bombs away

We had thought the late afternoon would be devoid of guests, what with the Super Bowl being played today, but that didn't prove to be the case. No early closing today, not that we wanted to watch the Super Bowl other than for the commercials, though it seems like we have even been disappointed in them the past several years. I'm not sure what was on our minds when we entered the RV area through the back gate, but it sure wasn't what greeted us. The first thing we noticed was that they had moved the two and a half ton truck over to this side of the compound so they could work where it was usually parked.


Note that it is parked on a slope and is aimed directly to our home and our first thought was what would happen if the brakes were to fail. Especially since the way it was parked, and the ground sloping back to the coach, it was going to roll down the slope and right into us. As you can see from this photo, the truck's emergency brake system certainly didn't instill a great deal of confidence in us.

Truck stop

(In case you missed it, but knowing how sharp our readers are from the emails we receive, you didn't, but for any newcomers who aren't used to my ways, it was the concrete block behind the rear tire, as viewed in the above photo taken from under our coach.) As we teased one of the full time employees about creating fear rather than confidence with their choice of parking locations, he replied, "Don't worry, there are about six different things on it that will have to fail before it starts rolling." All I could think of was, Sure, that's what YOU say.

Once we finally got up the courage to go inside the coach, we started to settle in and see what was happening with the Super Bowl. As luck would have it, what came on was a totally boring commercial. As I was wondering whether or not it would be worth it sit through what didn't look like a very auspicious start, Linda opened a couple of windows to cool down the coach. That was when we heard the sound of a large motor running nearby. I looked out didn't see anything. Then I suddenly remembered where we had watched the Super Bowl last year, it had been in Puerto Penasco. Before I could put myself back in that beautiful setting, well mentally at least, we once again heard the roar of that motor.

Given the option of remaining inside or venturing out to see what was happening proved to be no option at all, and out we went.

Gun placement

It turned out they were moving the triple mount 25 mm Type 96 Japanese anti-aircraft weapon, technically it is classified as a machine gun but it's a stretch to see it as that. It had been located on top of a hill away from the tour route, but was being relocated to it's new position along side the walk. It's going to be great having it up close were our visitors can readily see it, but of course it also means more studying to talk about it and to be able to answer any questions our visitors may have. Of course Linda's thoughts went in another direction, and realizing that what this project lacked was a good sidewalk superintendent, she immediately moved to assume the role. Looks like she fit the job description perfectly.

The project superintendent at work

We were really enjoying the show, and they didn't disappoint us, as step by step it was moved closer and closer to it's final destination. Finally it was lowered down into its permanent position.

That's the spot

By the time we had returned to the coach it was long past our normal dinner time, so I immediately began making the guacamole Linda had said she wanted for supper. There are times I think she takes this slave bracelet I wear just a little bit too seriously, but then again, she has cooked a couple of meals so far this year, so it's not like I'm really her slave, is it? Once we were done eating, it occurred to me that I hadn't written a post for this morning, so I dabbled a little, but with my energy sapped after three days of giving tours, it was time to call an early end to the day. Just as I was shutting down my computer, our youngest daughter called wondering if I had watched the Super Bowl, I had to admit that I hadn't. Guess my age is really starting to show when I'm not even interested enough to watch the commercials, let alone the game. It was just that when I turned it on earlier, the commercial was a bummer and the over-hyping of the announcers about the importance the game totally turned me off.

Something different for my final comments for the day, so just let me say that I was happy those overpaid, and most likely performance enhancing drug abusers, called the Patriots lost. (By the way, what a blasphemy their name is to the underpaid, oftentimes staving Continental soldiers who were the true Patriots.) Back to the present age, there were real men, and they were the 1972 Miami Dolphins truly awesome football players coming together to form a real football. Randy Moss, a role model and hero, you got to be kidding me. Give me Csonka, Buonticonti, or Langer. Compared to those three and many their teammates, most all the players of today are just wannabes.

February 4 Monday

Monday, which used to mean the start of the work week in our former life, now means the beginning of our time off from our volunteer duties. I hesitate using the term, time off, because that implies the days we volunteer are time on, something which is far from fact. But whatever we call today, I do know one thing, there is going to be some work done. Once breakfast was over, it was time for both of us to get busy. And for a change breakfast was not oatmeal, thank goodness the cook fixed something different today because based on what he's been fixing you'd think all he knew how to cook was oatmeal.

While I was enjoying myself on the computer getting the Daily Journal articles up to date, Linda checked out all the Ebay items she has posted. I had to laugh at the comments she was muttering as she scanned the list and you'd never guess exactly what she was doing if you couldn't see her. It was one of those good news, bad news deals. Good because such a high percentage of items were selling, bad because she was going to have to collect the money, package them and mail them off to the high bidder.

There must be unknown rule around here about much playing can be done on any given day with out doing any actual work, because it wasn't long before Linda was out the door and I could hear the compartments below where I was sitting being opened and closed. You could probably excuse me from knowing what was going on, after all I am only the slave around here, yet I knew it was only time until "she who runs things" would have me involved in whatever activities she had planned.

Window washer

She soon called me out, my task being to retrieve the step ladder from its resting place in one of the coach's bays, but I couldn't say I didn't know this job was coming, especially after having washed the roof for her last week. I was happy to keep writing as she seemed happy washing the coach by herself, then I looked up and decided it was time to go put and help her.

A long reach

She was just a little too high up on that ladder for my comfort, so I held the ladder while she continued to wash. Hey, she's the one who wanted the coach washed, shouldn't she have the fun of washing it? Eventually she stopped washing, and made several hints about getting tired, all of which fell on deaf ears and I went back inside to finish up my writing.

Finally she came into the coach, changed into more comfortable clothes as it was pushing 80 degrees, then plopped herself down in front of her computer. Before long I was being distracted by the sound of giggles which were themselves, occasionally interrupted by a laugh from her side of the coach. I finally had to ask what in the world she was doing, to which she responded with her biggest smile and said she was watching the Super Bowl ads.

Ad watcher

She then proceeded to tell me the birds were so noisy outside that she had to come in for a while. Seems a Mockingbird had decided to set up shop in the bushes right beside where she was washing the coach. He must have decided she was definitely one cute little bird herself and that he was going to do his best to woo her. The only problem was he couldn't decide which kind of bird she was, so he called up every song in his repertoire, which he then belted out at maximum volume.

Try as she might, she couldn't get him to fly off, so finally she got the bright idea of taking his photo, hoping the thought of being shot might scare him off. (Who can understand the workings of the mind of woman or bird.) As you can see neither of her goals were attained, no photo, at least one you could see, and the bird remained ensconced in the bushes, singing away at the top of his voice.

Bird in the bush

All was not sloth on my part, and once my writing was done I actually went out and volunteered [Editor's comment: He did NOT volunteer, what about being my slave does do not get] to help her, something she immediately took me up on.

Finishing up the job

While I washed, she dried and before long we were done. She was happy, I was happy, and now it was time for me to think about what was for dinner. Now to give a glimpse into just what kind of people you are dealing with as you read these pages let me tell you what I fixed, spaghetti. I know what you are thinking, big deal, that's no insight. Not if you look at just the surface, but if you dig a little deeper you'll learn more. First it was home made spaghetti sauce, second it was frozen. Now we're on to something, these people make up their own sauce and make it such quantities that they freeze the extra. It had come from our freezer at home which means it was at least several years old, so now we are getting some more insight. The date on the lid was, 8-1-98, meaning it was nearly ten years old. Now you know what I mean about learning something about these people.

We always grew tomatoes in our garden and made our own sauces, Linda coming up with some new twist on the recipe every year, and this had been the best of the best. To us it was like a fine wine, the kind which ages to perfection, so it wasn't a case of dragging something out that should have been thrown away years ago, this was as good as it gets. As we each tasted that first morsel after having lovingly lifted it from the plate, we both smiled, knowing that indeed, Life is good. It was the best tasting meal we have enjoyed in months.

To know the link with the past.
To experience the connection of being human.
The joy of life.
The spirit of individuality.
The adventure goes on and on.

February 5 Tuesday

It was supposed to be another warm day and with the outside temperature already up to 65 degrees when I got up this morning, it looked like they got the forecast right. I hadn't really even got going before the phone rang. It was our daughter calling to let us know our grandson had been up much of the night coughing and generally not feeling too good, so she was looking for some advice. I put the family medical expert on the phone and in short order things were taken care of.

Something was telling me that since Linda was up at this early hour, she was going to stay up, so I proceeded to make breakfast. By now I have this cheese, non-fat sour cream and egg mixture over garlic, peppers, onions and cilantro breakfast dish pretty much down pat, and with her really liking it, I fixed it again this morning. I find it interesting how the eggs seem to puff up so much while they are cooking, then deflate once you get them on the plate. Must be a secret there I haven't discovered yet, but we'll take the taste without any additional puffery any day.

Later, while I worked on the Daily Journal, Linda headed off to the Post Office with a number of Ebay items. Upon her return she immediately started to list more items for bid, while I contemplated doing something I had been considering for a long time. When we had first got the coach I installed the SMI brake system on a very cold day in January while we were in Carson City, Nevada. With the coach only being a couple of days old, I wasn't into drilling holes, and had simply fed the wires up through the existing hole in the electrical compartment up into the driver's area.

The only difficulty was the cables were not the longest, and it limited where I could mount the control unit in the cockpit. Today was going to the day it got rewired, or maybe I should say the day the wires got rerouted. It turned out to be far easier than I had imagined, with the new hole I drilled being in the perfect place to be hidden from view, let allow the straightest run of the cables.

New wiring

The wires I rerouted are the three black ones coming out of the controller and going straight up. To finish the job I just need to get some split loom tubing to make everything look professional. We will still have to move the control box, but due to a somewhat heated discussion on its new placement, the decision on where to place it has been postponed until another day. Particularly since the whole purpose in my moving the wire was to allow me to move it to where I can easily see and reach it, while Linda's thoughts were to place it where it looked nice. Now if I can just find a location where it is easy to see and use that looks nice I'll have a chance to return to her good side.

Some days just seem to drag, but today went by so fast we didn't hardly have a chance to catch our breath, and before we knew it, the gates were locked and everyone had gone home. Since they have been working so diligently on the Combat Zone, we decided to take a walk and check it out. Because we are always talking about the fact it only takes us less than a minute to walk to work, Linda suggested we take a photo from the Combat Zone through the entrance gate to show just how short a distance it is.

A short walk to work

I don't know if you have a whole side yard of WW II artifacts, but we here do, so as we walked around seeing what was new, I decided to do a little role playing such as this Japanese Imperial Army soldier manning a Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft weapon.

Placed in the past

Reversing roles, how about a tank commander on an M3A1 Stuart light tank.

Top tanker

Ever wonder how a tank driver sees where he is going? It sure isn't by opening the hatch and sticking his head out. While this isn't a periscope like they have on submarines, it does allow the tank crew to view what is around them without having to literally stick their necks out.

A different view of things

Next it was time to check out the tank's engine.

There's got to a better way

It is a rather amazing piece of equipment in there, what with hoses seemingly running everywhere. So how do you cram a seven cylinder engine into that small of a space? Use a Continental radial engine, the same type used in the LVT.

Tank engine

Contrast the Stuart with its counterpart, the Type 95 Ha-Go Japanese tank.

A different size tank

I wasn't the only one to get into the act as far as having fun was concerned. Here's Linda wondering what it would be like to ride on a torpedo.

Having fun

The gyro setting was where the angle of travel was input, which allowed the attack to be made without having to aim the torpedo directly at the target.

Gyro setting

We had thought we were going to take just a couple of minutes to see what had been done today, and we had spent over an hour thoroughly losing ourselves in the past. When we volunteer at a place we never know what adventures might be in store and we sure never thought a year ago that we would be doing something like this on a Tuesday evening in February.

The day ended just as it had begun, with a call from our daughter reporting on the condition of our grandson. Of course the word was that he was feeling much better this evening. When Linda asked how our daughter knew he was feeling much better, the reply was, "Cause he's jumping up and down on the couch right now." Enough said, Life, the wonder of it all.

February 6 Wednesday

Well, this morning proved the old adage about if you don't like the weather, just wait a while and it will change. Yesterday it had been in the 60's when we got up, this morning it was 32, but that was expected. Expected not because we had looked at the forecast, rather it is because Wednesday is the day for the staff meeting and it is always cold, maybe because we have to walk over to the conference room in the Bush Gallery.

Because the meeting starts at 8:15, we tend not to have as much time to do things first thing in the morning as usual, so the Daily Journal didn't get written, though Linda made sure she looked at all the Ebay items she has listed that are closing today. By the way, we are planning on doing a new homepage article where we talk a little about the how, why and when of Linda's Ebaying, plus how she got into it in the first place. Don't hold your breathe, but sometime in the future it will just sort of show up out of the blue.

She probably thinks I'm stuck in a rut with my breakfast preparation, what with our having the same old eggs once again this morning. Something tells me she is never ever going to complain though, not as long as I continue fixing something, whatever it is, each and every morning. Changing subjects, there has been a virulent form of the creeping crud going around the Museum, something which has missed us, and it finally seems to have run its course because we had almost a full house for the meeting. As usual, it was brief, informing, light hearted, and productive. I wonder if there isn't a lesson for many a weekly staff meeting in those words.


We had actually cheated a little this morning, foregoing our usual walk, for driving up in the Explorer. But as soon as the meeting was over we were off to Wal-Mart for our weekly grocery shopping expedition, though it was going to be more like a brief trip to the Mini-mart, rather than a full blown shopping expedition. This cooking business is sure hard, it seems like all I ever get to do is heat leftovers, with very little cooking being done. That can make it easy, but it doesn't exactly make it challenging.

Once we had secured enough produce to provide nutrients for the coming week, it was time to do some real shopping. That meant a trip to the Circle E Candle Showroom, just a little east of town, where Linda had a great time picking out just the perfect scented candle for each propose she had in mind. Some were for gifts, some for our own use, and while they all smell wonderful as the burn, at least the few different scents we have burned, her favorite is wisteria, not just because of how it smells, more so I think because it reminds her of springtime at our house. We had a wisteria vine that covered the patio area, and when it bloomed, the purple cascades completely blocking our view of the back yard, their fragrance filling the air for several weeks.

A small candle still burns brightly

Our last stop was at a sporting goods store to check out any hiking boots or GPS receivers they might have, but as we quickly learned, they were a sporting goods store, not an outdoor store. Back home, with everything put away, it was time for me to get ready to provide lunch relief at the Combat Zone. It may be our day off, but with nothing really planned, and Roy needing to handle some other things, I was most happy to fill in for a few hours. As always, the people were great, the tours fun and I even learned something new. Waiting for the first group, I closely examined the 3 inch guns in front of the entrance and was surprised to see who the breech housing had been made by.

Gun label

Wonder if, instead of their usual motto: Body by Fisher, they changed it to: Gun body by Fisher. There was also another sign I hadn't ever taken a photo of, which was the main entrance to the Combat Zone. Sort of a welcoming about all ye who enter these gates will learn of the sacrifices that enabled us to have our liberties, freedoms and opportunities.

Right of passage

Ever wonder what the most commonly asked question in the Combat Zone is? It's: "Where is the restrooms."

Restroom sign

I do like to have a little fun with this sign, and as the group walks from the LVT down past the sign, I always tell them, "The latrine, head, or restroom, depending on which language you speak is down the path to the right." Sometimes if I have picked up a British accent in the group I'll throw in the word loo in addition to the other three.

I must confess to once again fixing leftovers for dinner, at least it was the last of the pasta and spaghetti sauce, accompanied by steamed broccoli and a tossed salad. I tried something new for the salad, making up the dressing using olive oil, non-fat sour cream and horseradish. From Linda's comments it was going to have to find its way onto the menu again. Even without her comments I could tell she liked it, especially when I saw her scrubbing the floor afterward. I did notice she wasn't using any water, just wiping the floor down, yet the rag was damp. Wonder if that had anything to do with the tears pouring out of her eyes, maybe just a little too much horseradish in the salad dressing?

There's got to be an easier way

Another great day, full of discoveries and pleasures. We we started on this journey we knew we would enjoy it, we just didn't realize it would be as wonder as it has turned out. May your glass too, always be half full.

February 7 Thursday

For a day off Linda was up remarkably early this morning, but there was a reason, we are having visitors today. As I thought about, maybe that was the reason she was on her hands and knees last night cleaning the floor, it didn't have anything to do with my horseradish salad dressing. So as I worked on the Daily Journal, she flitted around the coach, straightening things which weren't crooked, picking up the odd object, putting it in some hidden out of the way place or flicking an imaginary speck of dust off of a surface.

I always get a kick out of what she terms, "Straightening up your messes" as if I was the only cause of the occasional out of place object in this house. The last thing on earth I would be stupid enough to do is to comment something to the effect, "Perhaps much of the mess around here is due to you, dear." That wouldn't get me into the dog house, no, it would get me ground up and turned into dog food. Understanding that, I kept my lips zipped and peace reigned as we both kept busy and out of each others way.

Once my writing was done, she took over, checking out what I had written and correcting any grammatical mistakes, when she raised her head and asked, "Did you run this through spellchecker?" I'm not sure how I ever got through life before there were spellcheckers, because the one I was supplied with at birth was never hooked up correctly. I always dreaded the days in grade school when we would participate in what the teachers referred to as a class spelling bee. We would all line up around the sides of the room, backs up against the blackboard, getting dust from the erasers and chalk all over the back of our shirts. That was the only fun I would have, and it would only last until the teacher, in her kind motherly voice, would pronounce the word I was to spell.

It wasn't my fault I had missed much of first grade due to sickness, but the results of those missed days which have plagued me for most of my life. I was in class when we learned to spell all those two and three letter words, but get me above three letters and I am lost. Spellcheckers, they had to have been invented by somebody who went through what I did in school, but now, even the brainy kids like Linda use them. Yesterday's extravagance is today's necessity.

Editor at work

At ten o'clock a vehicle stopped in the little parking area near the coach and two people with smiles that spread completely across their faces got out. Roscoe and Carole had arrived. We had last seen them when we left Mountain Stream RV Park on the first day of May in 2006. Little did we know how that our experience there would evolve into all the interesting places we have since volunteered as tour guides, getting to live our love of history over the past few years.

When it has been so long since you have seen someone, it takes a serious amount of talking to get caught up all the little details that have happened, but all four of us did our darnedest. Of course all that talking burns up a lot of energy, though the excitement suppresses it for a time. But at some point you have to recharge, so all four of us headed off to Cranky Frank's, where we treated Roscoe and Carole to some good old fashioned Texas BBQ. As you can tell, it was full plates all around.

Good food and good company

Back at the coach, it was time for a personal tour of the Combat Zone. And for once Linda got to add some comments as we stopped at the various artifacts. Normally she never wants to say anything, though she will occasionally give me the high sign when she feels I have either, not yet addressed a subject, or had a slip of the tongue. I believe Linda would put it differently, saying something to the effect, she only does it when I forget something or say the wrong thing.

Seems like a matter of semantics but its not, it the principle of the thing. On my tours I do not forget things and I do not say the wrong thing. What happens is since there is so much to talk about concerning each artifact, I am constantly thinking ahead to what I am going to be saying as my mouth is saying thoughts out loud, so sometimes the wires get crossed and subjects get dropped or words come out in the wrong order. She can have her own opinion as to what happened, while I know what happened.

Personal tour

At last it was time to say goodbye, and after taking a photo of the handsome husbands and beautiful babes who had spent the day together, we were once again home alone.

Four friends

It's not everyone who has a sunset like we do every night. Sure there are some people who watch the sun setting over the ocean, while others have the mountains, or even the beauty of the desert, but just exactly how many of you get to watch the sunset over an old German cemetery?


You'd think after a day like this there would be a time for relaxation in the evening and there was, for Linda. While she checked on her Ebay items and surfed the Internet, I was required to do my husbandly duty, cooking dinner. Why did I have to marry such a strong willed, brainy, yet unbelievable attractive woman, who knows I am at her every beck and call? I always thought it I met her on a blind date, but as the years go by it starts occurring to me maybe the only thing blind was me. Could it have been she laid a trap for me and I walk right into it? Woman wouldn't do such things would they?

Cooking dinner

While she probably wouldn't admit to having done any such thing, she certainly did comment on the quality of the meal I cooked. I made beef kinda stroganoff, making some liberal substitutions in terms of the spices, or rather lack of spices found in regular beef stroganaff. Linda's sister, Katherine, had given her a jar of seasoning blend, and it was time to try it out. Katherine had called it a spicy blend, something to give us head start on preparing Spanish style rice, Mexican burgers or as topping to go with the sour cream on our baked sweet potatoes.

I had noted most beef stroganoff recipes usually called for either bullion or broth, and since this blend had bullion granules in it, perhaps it was just what I was looking for. So what if it had dried onion, garlic powder, crushed oregano, chili powder and crushed red pepper. Beef stroganoff is normally far too bland for my tastes anyway. Besides she always told me when she was doing the cooking, that she cooked things to her taste, so I should just shut up and eat it.

Saying something like that to her would probably be last words I ever uttered, so I took the next fork in the road and didn't say a thing, thinking maybe she wouldn't notice the difference. Of course when Linda's expecting beef stroganoff, and the food comes out looking like something from the El Burro Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, she ain't a gonna keep her mouth shut. What surprised me was what she said, "What did you put in this, it sure does taste good." Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Tonight I was on the winning side for a change.

Linda ended up the evening doing the Yahoo chat thing with our daughter, something that is good for her, her being our daughter, as it helps with her typing skills. All the while I was busy trying to think up something to fix for breakfast and dinner tomorrow. Sometimes I think this role reversal thing is being carried a little to far.

Enjoying Life

February 8 Friday

We had an early morning visitor today, and for once I finally got to take his photo. Being the shy sort of fellow, always before he disappeared just about the time I've always be able to get to a spot where I could photograph him.

Breakfast time

The beauty of our little friend was not the only good thing which was happening today. Being Friday, it was time for us to go back to work, and the weather forecast called for a high in the 70's. There wasn't a cloud in the sky so it looked like we were going to have the perfect day for our tours. One thing that had been troublesome was the extremely low humidity, and it seems like everything is drying out, including us.

Walking up to open the buildings and unlock the Combat Zone, I noticed one of the panels on the LVT had either been removed, or had fallen off. This opened up the drivers compartment, and with a little stretching, bending, and arm extension, think of it as the LVT equivalent to dumpster diving, and so I was able to take a photo of the drivers area.

Where the action was

The flat area at the bottom of the photo is the drivers seat. The lever to the lower right was the transmission shifting lever, used to change gears in the 5 speed, Spicer, manual shift transmission. The two levers towards the front on either side of the drivers seat were the steering levers which allowed the driver to control the vehicle by means of a manually operated steer differential.

The photo below was taken by holding the camera where the 7-cylinder radial aircraft engines, built by Continental Motors was located. Even though the engine developed 220hp, which was adequate for the vehicle, there was a major problem with the engines with their reliability. These engines were the same ones used in the Stuart Tanks, but their actual operating service life was far shorter than the required 100 hour major overhaul schedule. As was often the case, design and testing were no substitute for actual combat operations.

View from the engine area

For some reason it was a perfect day for photos and even the lighting in the PT Boat building was special.

Time for patrol

It almost seems like a surreal scene, sunset in the South Pacific during the war. The photo highlights the 20 mm Oerlikon cannon on the bow of PT 309. The sun was soon setting on our day also, and after a dessert of chocolate chip Zucchini cake served with a scoop of non fat, sugar free ice cream topped with chopped hazelnuts, we both, quite tired from a long day, called it quits.

February 9 Saturday

Some mornings you just don't feel like getting up and at 'em and that was how I was feeling this morning. Part of it was just exhaustion after yesterday, that's mental exhaustion not the physical kind. The other was due, I believe, to some instant apple juice I drank last evening. The saying is: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. That may be true for most people, but all my life I have felt, what is is probably best termed crappy, after eating an apple or drinking apple juice or cider.

Last evening I found a packet of sugar free, instant apple cider in the cupboard, heated a cup of water, reconstituted it, and then drank it. After all since we have been eating the South Beach way for two and a half years, I've been able to eat Granny Smith apples with peanut butter on a routine basis with no ill effects. And even though I have stayed away from any other apple products, it never occurred to me it would be the same as old times if I fixed this drink. Whether it was that or something else, I do believe I will listen to my body and fore go any further attempts at ingesting these types of apple products.

Once I had eaten breakfast, I immediately started feeling like my old self, and even though I didn't have the desire to write the Daily Journal, I was looking forward to the day, especially with the forecast predicting temperatures in the upper 70's, as if to add frosting to the cake, we were met with a strange sight as we walked up to open the buildings.

Building fortifications

As we walked by the area they are constructing the new fortifications, we could have sworn we were seeing an apparition. This area is where the Japanese artifacts will be displayed, and the fortifications are based on the handbook the Japanese used to erect the fortifications on the islands they occupied. To make them even more realistic they are also using actual photographs taken during the war to make them as accurate as possible. Normally there are a number of local volunteers as well as some Museum employees who are constructing the various trenches, seawalls, or doing other tasks. As we looked out across the partially completed Japanese defensive works in the early morning light we could have sworn we saw a Imperial Japanese Army soldier at work out there.

Scene from the past

Some things have to been seen to be believed, and this was one of those times. Unfortunately we couldn't stay and watch, as we needed to get ready for the Saturday hordes of people, and just as we figured, especially giving the awesome weather, it wasn't long before they descended upon us.

Tour group and guide

As I've mentioned before, I always try to have several of the young people assist us in moving between the buildings by holding the doors open, and today that was the rule rather than the exception. One a day when a small group is ten people, it becomes more of a chore to give tours rather than a joy, unless you can get the group actively participating in the tour. I was fortunate today in being able to do that on all except one tour.

Assistant tour guides

As you can tell, I had no trouble finding volunteers to be assistant tour guides, who have the job of holding the doors open as we enter and exit the buildings. The boys don't know when they either volunteer or get volunteered depending on what the situation is, that there is a reward for their good service. This is usually when it is very easy to discover who the parents are, as they are ones blinding me while they take a number of flash photos of their child.

The only tour I had any trouble with was the last one of the day, which had over forty people on it. The problem wasn't the number of people, it was the fact about half of them were kids between six and twelve. This is where I have learned to simply take on a persona, and things go much better. The persona is one of a drill sergeant, it works like a charm. It also lets the parents know, in subtle ways, that it is their responsibility to control their children, because if they don't I will, and everyone else in the group will know it. The biggest reward I get when this happens is twofold, the smile on the faces and the thanks received, from the people without children after the tour is over. My philosophy is simple, don't let a few bratty kids or nit-wit parents ruin the tour for everyone else.

Do you remember the vision we had this morning of the Imperial Japanese Army soldier?

Living history

This what you could truly call, living history. The young man in the photo is wearing his great uncle's Imperial Japanese Army uniform while building these Japanese fortifications. Had we gotten the volunteer position a LBJ National Park, it would have meant I would have been able to portray LBJ's grandfather, which would have been living history. What this young man was doing was far more awesome as he was doing living history, he was living history.

It made me once again wonder what it would be like to wear my fathers uniform which he wore during WW II and stand where he stood by the 3 inch gun in front of the Combat Zone. The next time we come back here to volunteer I might just see if I can find his uniform and bring it along. Then again, maybe somethings should be left just as they are.

Once back at the coach we both learned that the day had been exhausting, particularly in an emotion sense, so once I had fixed dinner, tonight it was a chicken quesadilla accompanied by salad and a can of black beans to which I had added cumin, chili powder, garlic, onion and liquid smoke, we pretty much just did nothing for the rest of the evening. I did work up enough energy to finish the Daily Journal, but it sure wasn't one of my finer examples of writing. Not every day can be perfect, but you know there is always tomorrow, and something tells me it has got a good shot at being perfect.

February 10 Sunday

For the second day in a row I wasn't eager to greet the day, but since we needed to be ready at 10:00 for the first tour, there wasn't much choice. One manifestation of my mood was the fact Linda had to make her coffee again this morning, which made it two mornings in a row I haven't had it ready for her when she came out. Then carrying it a step further, I managed to get the eggs a little, shall we say browner than usual. Linda was a good sport and didn't say anything, but it troubled me that I had let her down.

In spite of this, or maybe because of it we were ready on time, and I even had the Daily Journal written and uploaded before the first tour of the day. I was hoping, given my present state of well being, or rather lack of well being, that the mobs of yesterday would be replaced by a trickle of visitors today. Everything being relative, I'd say that it turned out to be an easy day. At least we got off to a good start, being serenaded when we first entered the Combat Zone this morning.

Cardinal attraction

The first tour had the usual ten or so people on it, or as we sometimes refer to them, the leftovers from yesterday. The people who had spent so much time in the Bush Gallery that they had been unable to tour the Combat Zone and hence were here first thing this morning. Normally the second tour of the day is one of the smallest, but that wasn't so today as Linda informed me when I returned to the TBM building. There was a Boy Scout Troop on the tour, the result of which was a great time by all.

Scene from my past

I can remember back over 50 years to the first trip I took as a Scout to a museum. My parents had let me take our Kodak Brownie camera along, and I shot a whole roll of film. When the film was developed, the pictures were all fuzzy because my concept of holding the camera still, and the camera's requirements for being held still were quite different. It didn't matter to me, I still thought they looked great and I still have those twelve fading black and white snapshots today. With memories like this, I went all out to make sure the boys had a great experience.

Having fun

As they were exiting the gate, one of the boys asked if they could sit on the 3 inch guns, most kids just do it without asking, and when I said sure, all three guns were immediately manned. I then took time to explain the operation of the gun and what my dad had done on the gun crew of one of these guns during the war. As they were getting ready to leave the Scoutmaster came over and thanked me for giving the boys the such a wonderful experience, saying they it was something they would remember all of their lives. My eyes misted over as I said, "I know exactly what you mean."

The next tour was smaller and thus was over a few minutes early, meaning it didn't run over the allotted one hour, which was of course my choice, since I needed about ten minutes to eat lunch. The past two days I have made a small alteration in our rollups, substituting non fat cream cheese and horseradish for the spicy mustard and lettuce for the cabbage. From Linda's comments, I gather was was a good thing, to which I will add my concurrence.

The afternoon tours continued as we have come to expect, with attendance tapering off to a more manageable level as opposed to yesterday's hordes. We did have some additional entertainment in the afternoon as they were moving another Japanese weapon into the new beachhead area. One thing that was necessary was to reroute the tour since they had the sidewalk completely blocked. It was a minor inconvenience and it may have been that many of the people on the tour had no idea of what was happening, but from my standpoint it would have been nice to have been forewarned that they were going to be doing this. Then again, change is good, routine is boring and Life should not be fought, it should be lived.

Taking a different path

All the time I was with the tour, Linda was playing Ansel Adams, so even though I wasn't able to watch them place the gun in position, later I could view a complete photographic record of what happened, thanks to her.

A place in history

At last it was time for the final tour of the day and just as was the case yesterday, by now my get up and go had got up and went. Still we had a great time, I did manage to tell the story of the searchlight battalion downing five Japanese planes on Okinawa, which I had learned from a former member of the battalion during a tour last month. I also had a good time with a 30 something giggly blond, allowing her to answer the questions I ask on the tour and receiving her thanks afterward, as she told me it been the best tour she had ever taken. As I've learned from the blond whom I've shared my Life with these many decades, they may have a screw or two loose, but the really are people just like you and me.

As we walked down to lock the main gate to the Combat Zone the sun ducked behind the clouds and made for a special moment.

End of the day

Back home it was time to relax, at least it was for Linda, because I found myself preparing refreshments for us, then starting on dinner. The evening was one where relaxation was the main focus, we were done for another four days, there was an expedition to the local thrift shop discussed for the morrow, and as the day wound down we both enjoyed reading our books. As always, it had been a very good day. and as I looked once again at the photos from the day, I couldn't help but think I saw myself in one of them. Not the Bob of today, the Bob of years ago. What a gift today had been.

A long time ago

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