Thursday, July 31, 2008

John Travolta is (probably) here

This is his very shiny Boeing 707 in original Qantas livery.

New Cirrus jet

Flew in yesterday and looks very sweet

Honorary 30,000th homebuilt

This Vans RV9 was chosen from the thousands of aircraft here

Another beautiful morning

The sun is shining on my third morning at Oshkosh. Here is my wee tent! Now I am off to find some planes :-)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I just flew in this Cessna 185 on floats and it was totally excellent!


At the seaplane base where things are more tranquil

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monster sized plane

This is the Boeing Dreamlifter, their new big transport

Grumman goose

Just one of many beautiful things here

Monday, July 28, 2008

I made it to Oshkosh!!

Someone please pass me a shovel to pick my jaw off the floor! This place is HUGE!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Greetings from Lockhart

We came to Lockhart to visit Smitty's Barbeque and it was delicious! The picture shows the courthouse nearby.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Britain, family and friends

One of the things people asked us most whilst in the UK was, "What's it like being back?". For me, it was my first time in the UK in nearly two years. Alan's had a couple of business trips during that time.

I made some notes in an attempt to answer this question while sitting eating breakfast at a London cafe last Friday morning. So here's a few observations, peppered with some photos of people and places...

People in suits were such an odd sight. Particularly in London as there were so many of them. You almost never see a business suit in Austin. Formal work attire means long trousers instead of shorts, but there's still a good chance of a Hawaiian shirt.

Jill and Steve

One thing the Americans just don't seem to have got quite right is bacon. Good, honest, tasty bacon. Alan and I availed ourselves of plenty of cooked English breakfasts whilst home to make up for lost time ;-)

Bury St Edmunds from the air

There's about a million Czech and Polish people around these days. In London it's actually very hard to hear an English accent, especially if the person is behind a shop counter or bar. Local corner shops advertise Polski food alongside English and Asian foods.

In fact, there is even more ethnic diversity in general than I remember there being. Again it was most obvious in London, but in other towns - Ipswich for example - there's people from everywhere in abundance.

Jane and Chris of the Mason's Arms in Bury; a proper British Pub

That breakfast cafe had one example of the many unfamiliar signs in shop windows. Some new review website network that we'd never heard of. New tehnologies, new websites, communication systems etc. The world moves on and we have missed the last two years of European tech development.

Peter, Alan, Kate, Sarah and Paul

They say there's a recession on, and it is evidenced by the many shops closed and/or gone. Places we once knew in Bury, Sudbury and Ipswich are boarded up or replaced with other things. RIP Kings Deli in Sudbury; a sad loss.

Tracy and Paul about ten minutes after we met them in Ipswich

Sadly, it is my duty to report that the British fashion sense has not improved any since we've been gone. There were staggering numbers of really quite unfortunate examples of how not to dress, in all parts of the country. Granted, neither Alan and I are ever going to be catwalk kings or queens but there are certain lines that should not be crossed. Shell suits is one of them. Tight hotpants on large ladies is another, and let us not forget the cropped shiny leather jacket and unfeasibly short skirts (Aeroplane skirts, a friend of mine used to say. So short, you can see the cockpit!).

Nairn, Paul, Tracy, Elizabeth

Alan and I made a discovery which may shock some people. It seems that in general, we now prefer US beer. Maybe it was Alan's cold (which lasted the whole trip) hampering his taste buds, but a lot of London beers we tried were pretty flat and just not as good as we remembered them. That said, we did find some outstanding pubs.
The Cittie of Yorke at 22 High Holborn has to be visited, if you're in the area. It's a Sam Smiths pub which is always a good thing, and the building is truly fabulous.

A ferry leaving Harwich, probably heading for Hook of Holland

I love the brilliant green English countryside. In summer it is a delight to behold. So lush and verdant. It was my privilege and pleasure to go flying with Nic, where we could see plenty of it from the air. Likewise, a summer evening's walk with Sarah through the pathways and water meadows in Bury St Edmunds was delightful. Early morning on the common lands of Sudbury, next to my hotel, was so refreshing. I do miss common lands and footpaths. Texas is all private land and has not had the weight of years in which to build these networks. Britain should cherish them.

I'm not so impressed with the Carbuncle in Bury, however. Otherwise known as the new shopping centre. They have built a rounded-corner monstrosity which is going to be a Debenham's store. It is actually a lovely bit of architecture; it just shouldn't be within a hundred miles of Bury. It doesn't suit the town At All.

Delightful cool British weather is the source of much moaning by Brits but much relief from the likes of us. Two weeks of not sweltering all the time was a luxury. It is a British sport to complain about the rain (and yes, we got our fair share during the trip) but being on a 5-day watering schedule during an alarm stage drought makes you appreciate it, for sure. Remember how I like the green countryside? It's very brown in Texas.

London has always been busy but seemed extra-busy this trip, and nowhere more so than in the British Museum. We went in there as it was so close to the hotel but didn't stay very long as you could hardly move for all the visitors. That said, here's some views of it.

British Museum new section

I was amazed at how many examples of Egyptian relics they had. There is a vast number of excellent things in here.

Egyptian heiroglyphics on a tomb

Egyptian gate guards

I'd love to go back when we had more time and it was less crowded. Granted, mid-July probably is not the best time of year to visit anywhere but you takes your chances when you can. Oh, and I was so delighted to learn that the Romans played marbles! They had five lovely, shiny, big round colourful marbles on display. Something so old, yet so ordinary. I just thought it was cool.

Near the hotel there were two Pavilions, built by architectural students. I like them. I like the big London terraces behind them, too.

This one is made of thin concrete sheets

This one is made of wood

So, a big shout out to everyone who looked after us in the UK. It was brilliant to see you all.

Next Monday, I'm off to Oshkosh. I intend to provide daily blogs from my phone, so watch this space!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Greetings from the UK

This post is coming to you from the wilds of Ipswich, Suffolk. Alan and I have been in the UK for about 10 days now. We couldn't mention it before as it was meant to be a suprise for Alan's sister Tracy - it was her birthday yesterday. We pitched up in a bar in Ipswich on Monday night and just happened to be there when Tracy and Paul walked in...

Rewinding ten days or so, my Dad picked me up from Heathrow and I went over to Gloucestershire to see my folks while Alan went to Cambridge and Sheffield to do some work.

Pictures/video in this post are all from my phone; there's plenty more of course but they will have to wait until we're back in the US and I can edit my pictures properly.

It was great to see my family and friends again back home. I spent Monday with my mother and we had a nice girly day out around Stroud and Nailsworth, before going to our mutual friend Cherry's house for a delicious roast dinner.

I stayed with my Dad, who took me to Cosford RAF museum last Tuesday. Here's a German Messerschmitt ME163 Komet rocket plane at the museum:

Dad dropped me in Sudbury on Wednesday which was really good of him - it's a 3.5 hour drive each way and it was lousy weather too. I stayed in the Mill Hotel in Sudbury, outside which is this lovely millpond:

Sudbury church, in the middle of town:

Meanwhile, my boss Nic was very generous and took me flying in his shiny new SportCruiser! We flew up to Bury St Edmunds on Thursday morning on a 40-minute flight, and flew again on Friday morning, south down to Mersea Island and then up the East Coast to Felixstowe, where this video was taken (that's the dock below us) and then back west to the airstrip; about 1 hour 15 this time. Great stuff.

Friday night, Alan and I reconvened in Bury St Edmunds where we stayed with friends Paul and Sarah, and we also met up with Peter and Kate. Many beers were sunk and we spent a very good weekend there. We also saw Richard in the butchers' and our old neighbour Charles in his finance shop in town so it was great to catch up with them too.

Here's Bury St Edmunds cathedral with all the flowers out in the Abbey Gardens.

On Saturday, we went to Flying Legends airshow at Duxford. This was very good as always. Here's a clip of the finale, in which they fly a big formation of aircraft.

So Paul drove us to Ipswich on Monday and we return to the beginning of this post... Tracy was suitably surprised in the bar and we went for a nice meal at Mizu's, then back to Tracy and Paul's lovely new house. They've had it for a while but it's the first time I have seen it. Or their cats, for that matter - Fergus and Bonnie who are both very cute.

Tracy and Alan's folks came down from Scotland for the day as well, so we had a big party and barbeque in the back garden. A lot of beer and wine was demolished, naturally! And here we are on the morning after which we're all taking nice and slow.

Alan and I are in Ipswich for one more night, then we go down to London for the day, before flying home on Saturday morning. See you back in the USA!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The lengths people go to

This appeared by our gate this morning. Every house has one. A local realtor decorating the neighbourhood for independence day. Good advertising, and a nice touch.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

General ramblings

As you may have guessed from the last three posts, I have been having fun with my new phone. Alan actually posted the one before this (beers in the garden) - his first ever blog post! Don't hold your breath for another one, unless I leave my phone unattended... It does video too, as you can see from the one with Alan shooting. Pretty cool.

RANT: Shops that assume you're a criminal when you walk in the door. I've gone into Shop X a hundred times and today they wanted me to check my bag at the door. The same bag as I've gone in there with 99 times before. I carry a smallish messenger bag; it's not even big enough to hold a laptop in. No way am I going to let them hold onto it when it contains my entire life. There's a few shops around that want to check bags but this is the first time I've had it for this bag. Gave me the right ire, that did. (No, they didn't get the bag.)

RAVE: The US Postal Service. Simply because they offer such civilised services. Such as holding your mail if you go away for a while (this will be handy during Alan's sabbatical), re-routing your mail when you move for a whole year (for free I might add, as opposed to the UK's Post Office which charges up to around $200), and also for picking mail up from your mailbox as well as dropping it off, if you're on a rural route.

This is what the little mailbox flags are for, to tell the mail carrier there's something to collect. Old news to most people I'm sure, but it took a little while for this to sink in when we first arrived. So, I'm dense...

The pick-up is great when you know what the postage is i.e. for ordinary letters but they have moved to a size/weight combination charging system here so for anything bigger it's safer to go to the post office.

I'm still not sure why mail seems to take an age to get here from the UK, when it goes from here to to the UK in seemingly no time at all... Must be differences in customs or something.