Category Archives: Travel

The Final Delta IV Heavy From Vandenberg

There are stories to be told, maybe, but if so, later. Today was a full day, and a day full of ADVENTURE! The good kind.

Tonight, just the pictures. I’ve had enough time to see what I have and what I missed and clean it all up a bit.

In short, I made it up to Lompoc, about 135 miles north of where I in western Los Angeles County.

The second I opened the window to take this picture, a large, weird bug flew into my ear.

To orient us, the launch site was at Space Launch Complex #6 (Slick-6) as marked on the left side, right near the coast. I was where the blue dot was in the middle right, just barely outside Lompoc city limits. The “heart” pins indicate places where I had flagged from online articles as good places for Vandenberg launch viewing. I was headed for one of the two on Ocean Avenue to the west of where I stopped, but the police had the road closed before I got to either.

I was guessing that we were about eight miles from the launch site. Whatever! This was a new experience, a chance to learn how to do this more in the future. I got settled.

Next to us was a guy working on his field. I have no idea if he loves rockets or hates the crowds. In the background you can see some of the fairly large crowd parked aside the road between his fields.

There was what I perceived to be a large crowd, even if it wasn’t gargantuan. (Try getting out of the Rose Bowl after an N’Sync concert!) Folks were lining all of the roads all the way back into town and beyond, plus any open side road.

There were turkey vultures flying overhead.

There were turkeys taking selfies. Off on the horizon on the left, my best guess by eyeballing the map said that the rocket would come up over one of those two peaks behind that barn.

I was right. (For all of these rocket photos, I haven’t cropped them. They’re all shot with a 300mm telephoto lens – click on the photos to blow them up to full sized, there’s actually some decent detail in the rockets and plumes!)

The rocket cleared the hills about 18 seconds after liftoff. We had plenty of folks with radios who were listening to ULA Launch Control, so we knew when it lifted off.

Remember my guess of eight miles to the pad? That was pretty close, it was just over 40 seconds before we started hearing the engines.

From our vantage point, the rocket seemed to go right next to the sun, which was a rude surpose to those of us (i.e., me) who were looking at it through a telephoto lens.

For a brief time around then there was a really nice condensation trail, which made it much easier to follow.

Here’s a wider angle view from a video screen capture. I’ll have to play with the video to see if there’s anything else that’s salvagable.

Back at SLC-6.

And then there was traffic. And other adventures to tell about later. And maybe video.

Was it worth the three hour drive each way?



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Nature’s Popcorn Dritter Teil

Yesterday, after I saw the tiny dude from the previous post, I went walking around the back yard and spotted another tiny dude.

This guy was not nearly as calm as the first one, skittering and running like hell when I was still twenty feet or more away.

He got off of the grass and onto the dirt very quickly, letting his natural camaflouge work for him.

If I hadn’t seen him skitter over there, I’m not sure I would have noticed him as I walked by if he didn’t move.

He only waited a few seconds before moving to make his escape over the edge and down the hill, even though I had frozen.

Not sure why he thought I was such a threat. I think it has something to do with the “popcorn” title and the idea that everything and everyone is trying to eat you.

And there he goes, just the tip of his tail left! Total time of the encounter, from first picture to last? Twenty-eight seconds.

Tomorrow, with luck, an adventure!

As many times as I’ve talked about going up the coast about 150 miles to Vandenberg to see a launch, it’s never quite worked out. But tomorrow, the final Delta IV Heavy launches from the west coast (there are two more scheduled from Florida before the rocket is discontinued and replaced with the Vulcan rocket) and my schedule is otherwise clear. No super critical work deadlines, no more Wing activities for the CAF, no travel, no Chiefs game – “no obligations.”

So, footloose & fancy free, I plan to wander up the coast to Lompoc, see if I can find a wide spot off of the road near the base entrance or on the beach if it’s open and not foggy, and watch a really freakin’ big rocket take off.

I’ll let you know how it goes…


Filed under Critters, Photography, Space, Travel

Happiness Is Only One Line Showing On A COVID Quick Test

You know – sort of like this!

We tested when we got home from our Chicago/Chambana trip, and then again five days later. We’re good!

I pretty much don’t go out at all still, or at least compared to pre-COVID days it’s much less than 10% as much. A lot of that is working from home instead of going into the office, but also going to sporting events, the CAF hangar, concerts, movies, shopping, and so on.

And when I do go out, I’m masked. Period.

And I’m fully vaxxed, including two boosters, and I’ll be getting the bivalent booster as soon as I can, which should be soon.

I’m still just astonished that everyone isn’t doing that. When the zombie apocalypse comes, we don’t have a prayer if the response to COVID is any indication.

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More Chicago Pictures

On the eighth day we returned – on the ninth day I had to start catching up on work that had been put off for eight days. While I have wonderful and amazing co-workers and we have a fantastic team, the fact is that there are things that have got to get done. So instead of thinking or writing much (and there’s no Flash Fiction again this week, so far as I know) here are a few more pictures from our visit to Chicago.

This high-rise condo or apartment building was opposite our hotel and I have a thing for patterns in my photographs. These patterns were nicely broken up by the rain drops on the windows, something we get very, very rarely these days in Los Angeles. (On the other hand, we’re expecting to get sideswiped by a Pacific hurricane for the first time in twenty-five years with heavy rain and local flash flooding tomorrow through Sunday, so things are getting weird.)

Next to that high-rise condo building was that one that I referred to a couple days ago as looking “sort of like a fountain pen sticking up.” For Labor Day weekend at least, it was lit up at night in red, white, and blue. Way, way down in the bottom right corner, three blocks from our hotel, was one of the Giordano’s restaurants, where we got that wonderful deep dish pizza.

Here it is again, to the right of the dark brown building, which is the Hyatt Regency, site of the Worldcon. This view is from the other side of the Chicago River, when we were on a quest to find those Chicago dogs. (The kind with pickle, relish, tomato, onions, but never, ever any ketchup!)

Inside the Hyatt at night, everthing over by the restaurant and bar in the huge atrium is lit with slowly shifting colors all night. Quite colorful and vibrant – I wish I had thought to take a time-lapse of it. Oh, well, next time maybe.

Now, back to work!

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And On Day Eight We Returned

Eight days on vacation – one travel, five at Worldcon in Chicago, one in Champaign-Urbana looking at houses and getting the lay of the land and discussing options, and one final day of travel.

This should look familiar to about 99% of those who have traveled in the US in the last twenty-five years or so. The United Airlines terminal C at O’Hare in Chicago, of course.

Now we’re home and I don’t know what time it is or what day it is. But it’s hot here, and I have to get back to work tomorrow.

It’s Monday^9. Should be “interesting!”

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Skyscapes – Central Illinois Plus Trains

Out of Chicago for a day before going home, on a mission from God, as they say. First, in a small town, found a train moving some cars around the sidings, blocking the road for a long, long time.

I watch the trains on Virtual Railfan and I know that when they stop or start it’s loud, but until I was standing there I had no clue just how loud.

Later, a bit of convection started building up, making these fairy castle cloud castles.

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Chicago Sightseeing

Worldcon was wrapping up (it was great) so we took one of those bus tours of the city.

The “L”, tall buildings sticking up into the clouds, a bunch of tourists sitting on the top of a bus with no roof.

Lots of tall, tall buildings in a number of spots.

Nice views, albeit for probably $100K+ per year in rent. Or, more precisely, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

From the museum district out where Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum are, you get a nice view of the bottom of the skyscrapers. See on the left side, where the sixth from the left looks sort of like a fountain pen sticking up and the one to the right of that is up in the clouds and just a straight, white building? (Nothing implied there…) Our hotel is right there, but much shorter…

This is the Sheraton near us with funky balconies that I like a lot.

I do really like Chicago, a lot!

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Chicago Food

Another great benefit of travel is different foods. Most places have local dishes that you need to sample. Kansas City BBQ. New York deli. Los Angeles street tacos.

Chicago deep dish pizza. Check!

The absolute best part of this picture is the expression on that little kid photobombing us from the next table.  That’s totally a “JESUS CHRIST! THEY’RE GOING TO EAT ALL OF THAT??!!” look. And yes, we did. It was wonderful.

The Chicago dog? SPECTACULAR! Have two.

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Chicago Loop Sightseeing

I love to travel. I love to get out and just walk around and take pictures and see things. (I take a LOT of pictures.)

The Chicago River is central to Downtown Chicago, better known as The Loop.

The Chicago Riverwalk is an amazing strip of park, restaurants, walking and running paths, an oasis of calm in a sea of skyscrapers.

There’s a mix of the old skyscrapers, like the Wrigley Building, and the modern steel and glass buildings, like this fortress of evil.

Lots of rococo. Flying buttresses? Really?

A fair number of these are not office buildings, but condos, townhouses, and apartments. I doubt they’re cheap, but it would be wonderful to live down here!

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Fine Feathered Friends – Chicago Urban Version

Sparrows, finches, and these guys…

The pigeons are the worst! If you’re eating and they don’t get their share, they’ll attack!

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