Trip to the Edge...

Message posted by The Major on February 07, 2006 at 2:12:50 PST:

I'm back in Hawaii after spending all of last week at Camp Pendleton, Las Vegas and Edwards AFB. Here are the highlights and lowlights of the trip:

1) Watched my son graduate from the USMC Advanced Infantry School! "Thumbs up" to my son for a job well done and the Marines who taught him how to do it!

2) Arrived in Vegas late Tuesday. My "reserved non-smoking" room at the Tropicana went up in smoke, as did any chance of a getting a room facing the JANET terminal. They gave me a free room upgrade, but the room they put me in smelled like a well-used ashtray in a 25 year old car. $20 worth of air fresheners did nothing to abate the smell. Took a late-night walk to the Luxor, and by the time I made it back to the Tropicana an hour later, I had been solicited by 3 hookers. Thumbs down to the Tropicana for giving away my non-smoking room, and to the hookers for having bad taste in men!

3) 01FEB - Walked the entire strip from the Tropicana to the Bible Federal Building and back. Took a nasty spill at the Bonanza General Store intersection. May have a chip fracture of my left elbow and a stress fracture of my left 5th metatarsal bone. Thumbs down on me for malignant clumsiness!

4) Olympus 7070 camera survives very hard impact on pavement during fall. Cannot, repeat cannot, find a scratch on it! Works flawlessly. Thumbs up to Olympus who makes cameras "Major Proof!"

5) Steak dinner at Gallagher's Steak House inside NYNY. Thumbs up!

6) 02FEB Too sore to do anything but drop quarters into slot machines. Learn the meaning of the expression "This city wasn't built by those who won at Vegas." Thumbs down on me for contributing cash to build the next Vegas casino!

7) 03FEB Check out of Tropicana at 05:15, arrive at Area 51 Main Gate at about 08:00. On Groom Lake Road inbound, a plain white Chevy truck overtakes and passes me about 3 miles short of the gate. Did NOT see where he came from! I stop approximately 15 yards from the warning signs, notice a dark colored pickup truck on the hill 200 or so yards to the front and right of my position. I stayed at the car, snapped 3 pictures of the signs with the 7070 and 2 with the cell phone. I successfully fought off the urge to use my other camera, the Canon D10 with a 640mm F5.6, to take a candid of the EG&G guards. Not good for them to get their picture taken, probably worse for me to take it! I get back into the car, reprogram the GPS, and egress from the gate area. Less than a mile outbound, a large white, inbound bus tops a mound in front of me, then blows past at a very healthy clip! Since it seems my drive to the gate may have altered morning activities, "Thumbs up" to the EG&G guys for tolerating my brief sightseeing stop so early in the morning!

8) Took the long way to Edwards via Highway 6 to Tonopah, then 95 to 267 and into Death Valley to 190. I took a "short-cut" on Wildrose, and as I was descending down the Mojave side of the mountain range near Tuber Canyon, an F-16 came in low and very, very fast from the southeast, passing a couple of hundred yards behind me and no more than 500 feet above the ground. The screech of the engine was awesome! Didn't catch the letters on his vertical stabilizer. Red Flag participant? If he was, he was sneaking up on somebody! Thumbs up for the unexpected flyby!

9) Air Force Lodging at Edwards AFB. 48 hours of peaceful, quiet bliss. Got more work done in 48 hours than I could do in a week anywhere else! Quadruple "Thumbs up" at $34 a night!

10) Nearly empty flight back to the islands. "Thumbs up" to the Super Bowl for keeping people in front of television sets instead of flying on airliners!

The Major


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