Monday, September 25, 2017


I've been pretty much Missing In Action the last 2 weeks...a bit over a week ago (Saturday night to be specific) we began the current PTS (Payload Transportation System) Mission. We convoyed our gigantic SCTS (Space Cargo Transportation System) container to the flightline and over the next several hours loaded into the waiting C5 aircraft. The next night (Sunday) we loaded the support equipment C5 ( with everything we need for the mission), boarded and were SUPPOSED to fly to LAX....but we had a problem with the aircraft and were delayed for 24 hours for repairs. So we finally flew Monday night. Tuesday night we unloaded the aircraft(s) and convoyed the container to the factory (that built the spacecraft we are picking up). I had Wednesday off as I was shifting from nights to days. Thursday began as a whirlwind of work to prepare and load the container with the spacecraft.

Sunday night (yesterday) we again convoyed, this time TO the waiting aircraft...and did what we do...loaded it on the plane. Tonight we load the support plane, board and fly home with our spacecraft. I can't begin to tell you how much WORK it takes by a small army of people to do all this. The on/off-loads are literally a 4 ring circus of activity. Our staff includes 4 inspectors, which are integral to everything we do. There is written procedures and checklists, with the inspector running the show and the tech (me and the other "working" guys) doing the work, with our engineers overseeing and supporting. The fact that we have 4 inspectors means there can be 4 separate jobs going on at any given moment. Being as this is only my 2nd mission, I only get to see the jobs I'm actually working, and there are 3 jobs happening that I'm not involved in. This illustrates how HARD it is to learn this job...there is SO MUCH going on at any given's just amazing!

ANYWAY....we fly home tonight in the middle of the night (hopefully)...the support aircraft should be arriving soon and we have a small crew already at the flightline to load it. We also have a monitoring crew with the container, as it has a spacecraft inside it and must be monitored at all times. The container has it's own HVAC systems (Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning) that keep the interior at a set temperature/humidity at all times. Spacecraft are EXPENSIVE and must be cared for like the irreplaceable asset they are.

Assuming the support aircraft arrives on time and has no problems, and we have no problems with the container aircraft, we'll fly home and head to the payload processing facility on Vandenberg to prepare for the arrival of the container in 2 days. Tuesday night (tomorrow) we'll unload the container and transport it to a safe-haven building for a day, then Wednesday we go back to split shifts (we run 24 hour shift coverage during these missions typically a 12 hour day shift and a 12 hour graveyard shift). The night shift will do the convoy to the processing facility, and the day shift will relieve the graves crew Thursday morning to begin the work there...the container needs to be cleaned and then brought inside the payload center, where the  lid will be lifted off and the spacecraft lifted out and put on a stand in a cleanroom cell...where it begins it's final preparations for launch. When it's done being processed and fueled it will be placed inside a fairing and transported to the launch pad and stacked on a booster.

So...that's what's been going on in my life...busy busy busy. Yesterday (Sunday) I had the day off as we transitioned from days to nights (I worked the day shift here in LA) I drove down to San Diego for something to do. I went to the Naval Station as I haven't been there since Navy Boot Camp back in January 1979. It was fun to wander around the base, looking at the ships. BOY have things changed since I retired in 1994! Here are 2 pics of the NEW USS Independence! HOLY SMOKES! It's a new Navy for sure!

The name USS Independence used to belong to an aircraft carrier in MY day. But the Indy was retired while I was still on Active duty. Don't know much about this beauty but it looks amazing! About all I can tell is that it's a Tri-hull (3 points that touch the water). Traditional ships are 1 hull. I sailed on a twin-hull a few times when I was doing my sea-time. This is new and looks awesome!

So...that's what I've been up to lately. Just thought I'd catch you up on current events.

Later gaters...cheers!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Birthday Ride, go BIG or go HOME!

Last Saturday was my birthday...I turned FIFTY SEVEN! How on earth is that POSSIBLE? Only THREE YEARS AWAY FROM SIXTY???

Or maybe sixty isn't really THAT old. Yeah..that's the ticket...not old at ALL! Just a spring chicken, pecking around for seed. Yep...I think that's what I am.

Anyway, I felt like going somewhat 'big' on a bike ride to prove I still can (and to see where I am in my 'comeback) I ditched the weekly Saturday Morning 'group ride' and went solo. I don't do much solo anymore...too many close calls w/ cars..I think there's safety in numbers on road bikes. But I made an exception on Saturday (and besides, nobody else wants to do MY rides).

Here's my Strava screenshots (in case you've never seen a Strava ride). After the ride I connect my Garmin to my PC and it automaticly uploads any new rides. Then I click on it and this is what comes up:

This is the main page of my ride. It's got a title (in bold) and also a description (I entered both). Then off to the right of that is the specifics of the ride. Distance, moving time, elevation gain, estimated power (in watts), energy output (never paid any attention to that spec). Then below those in smaller type is my average and max speed, average and max heartrate, calories, temperature (typically taken at the end of the ride right before I turn off the Garmin), and elapsed time. Then below that tells me which Garmin unit I used (my Edge 500 for this ride) and which bike (I can select any of my bikes on the Garmin before the ride, each bike has different specs...tire size, etc). And to the left of the Grmin I used is some small pictures: these are pics I took and uploaded into my ride. I'll include them at the bottom.

Scrolling down the page is the aerial view from the GPS. The start (and end on this particular ride) is the little checkered circle off about 3-O Clock in the loop. Below that is the altitude profile of the ride showing both altitude (the vertical scale) and miles (the horizontal scale). This particular ride (Figueroa Mountain) is one of two HC climbs in the entire area (the other is down in Santa Barbara...Gibraltar Road). MANY Pro teams come to Santa Ynez in the winter before the season starts to train in the Santa Ynez area, and Figueroa is a big part of's the closest they can come to a big European climb here in the states. Narrow road, switchbacks, and a good 10 mile climb gaining over 3500'. That's just the can see there is a 14 mile run-in to the base of the climb, which gains about 800', then there are some small descents on the climb (and one bigger one) as you can see in the profile.

Below the Alt profile begins the "segments" that people have created. A segment can be pretty much anything, but typically they are climbs, descents, sprints, and in many cases portions of climbs (not sure why people do that).

Here I've clicked on the segment "Fig Mtn Rd - Happy" (for "Happy Canyon"). It then opens up MY specifics on that particular segment. The gold circle to the left with "PR" in it means that I set a Personal Record on that segment. My time was 1:23:30, and it shows a shaded bit of the altitude profile, and then on the aerial view it shows the segment in blue. To the right of that is the classification (if it's a climb). This one is an HC (in the red circle). Then over to the right of that is the "Leader Board", which is where I rank in the BIG scheme of things (I was #667 out of 2259 people who have done this climb). Note: for every person who does a 'segment', they only get 1 spot on the leaderboard, their PR. I've done this climb many times and when I PR it, I move up in the leaderboard.

Of note here is the KOM (King of the Mountain as you all the FASTEST guy) on this segment: it's none other than Tejay van Garderen of BMC, with a time of 44:37! So MY time was just UNDER 40 minutes SLOWER than TJ's! Damn he's STRONG...he was pretty much DOUBLE my speed up the entire climb! And if you look at #3, you see it's Nathan Brown (of Cannondale Drapac, who just did the TDF and wore the KOM jersey for 2 nights!)

Depending on the ride, there may be just a few segments, or on longer popular rides there can be dozens. Fig is a pretty popular ride w/ the stronger cyclists. Most in my Saturday morning group ride have never done Fig, they're scared of it. I LOVE this climb! However it is VERY temperature dependent. I knew as the day progressed it was going to get pretty toasty on the backside (I do a counter-clockwise loop). The winds are from the NW, and as the climb begins you are almost totally in blocked areas until about mile 7 of the climb, when you come around the mountain and suddenly there will be a headwind (a gift from GOD to be sure). On my first lap (which I PR'd) it was still relatively cool, so I was riding strong and felt GREAT! Got to the top, zipped up the jersey and descended into the wind. The descent is actually pretty horrible. The upper few miles of pavement aren't too bad...but the lower miles are HORRIFIC!  Holes, cracks, patches, and me on a standard road bike w/ 23mm tires (meaning pretty much ZERO suspension effect). And the descent is steep...many pitches over 15%, so your arms get very tired, and your feet are very tired from suspending your entire body (the road is so crappy you can't hardly sit down or you'll hammer your butt to the seat).

So anyway, this is the end of the segments...besides the yellow (gold actually) MEDALS (Gold is a PR) there are silver for 2nd best, and bronze for 3rd best. These medals are all ME comparing to ME. How am I doing? Am I getting medals? PR's? IF so then I'm getting stronger. And according to my birthday ride, I AM stronger! I did TWO laps (climbed it TWICE) and yes, the 2nd lap was much slower than the first. It also was 100 degrees for the 7 protected miles of the climb on the backside. I can safely tell you that when doing a 10 mile climb, 100 is pretty dang HOT! I took a lot of 30 second 'time-outs' in shade on that climb, just to get my heartrate down a bit before heading back out into the sun/heat. But I made it, and then another horrible descent back into Los Olivos (where I parked the car). So that's two 40 mile laps with 4835' of climbing in each (most of it on the BIG climb). I'm actually pretty proud of this shows that my 'comeback' has been a success..I'm right were I want to be: on the razors edge of my fitness, able to set BIG PR's (and there's none bigger than Fig)!

And so...the pictures I took w/ my cell phone and uploaded after the ride:
 Who knew there was a herd of BUFFALO along my ride? This herd is on Baseline Road, about 6 miles out of village of Los Olivos (where the car is parked). They were very docile, weren't scared of me at all. I like that, unlike some COWS I've seen!

 Here's a view of the mountain. It doesn't really look like much but it's a 4500' climb from where I'm at taking the shot. You can see fog/clouds to the left of the picture. It's about 8:30am here (took this during my 1st lap). It's a beautiful morning in SantaYnez!

This is what the road ahead looks like in the bottom mile. It's holding a pretty consistent 11% grade here. On the 2nd lap (when I took this shot) it was QUITE HOT here.

Here I'm on my 2nd lap and in the last 2 miles of the climb (where I now have a HEAVENLY headwind, cooling me off but even further slowing down my pathetic climbing speed). You can see the road below winding up the mountain. Actually the last 2 miles are my favorites...the grade has dropped to between 6 and 8 % grade (which feels almost FLAT compared to the 10 to 12% you have further down the mountain).
Anyway, I figure it's not to shabby for a 57 year old recreational rider who works for a living...I can live with that. AND I'm still getting faster! Not sure how many more years I will be able to make that claim, but for now I WOO-HOO! And I HOPE to be still getting faster 5 years from now (when I retire)! Wouldn't THAT be something!


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Happy Birthday Sophie!

Our little darling Sophie (the Old English Bull) turned 3 on Thursday. can that be? It seems we've only recently had her come into our family. And tomorrow (Labor Day) our little MONSTER Abbey turns 7 months! How can THAT be? We got her at only 2 months, so we've had her 5 months already! (And she's turned our lives upside down for sure!)

I think we believe that every puppy is a monster...but Abbey is breaking the monster-mold. She's insanely stubborn, totally refusing to bow down to Sophie in any way, shape or form (who outweighs her by over 2 to 1). She is ready to go toe to toe with her at the drop of a hat, which happens several times a day/night (yes, we frequently get aroused from our sleep by a 'fight'...somebody encroached on somebody elses turf, or touched a bone that wasn't theirs, or whatever other tiny infringement of the rules as an excuse to go at it). Abbey ALWAYS gets the short end of the stick so to speak, typically ending up on her back with Sophie standing over her ready to seriously chomp down if she doesn't stop fighting. It's almost hilarious except that Abbey never seems to learn NOT do that. She is constantly starting fights. And then the next moment they are best buds again. There are no grudges or anything like moment they're best friends and the next they're all in over whatever the 'next' thing that happened was.

So anyway, here are a few pics from the last few months.

 This pic is from way back in maybe June...Abbey is definitely bigger that this now.

Who says there are no such things as Monsters in the cupboards?
 Abbey LOVES to crawl into things.

She was actually napping in here (the other side of the pantry) 
until I opened the door and took the picture.

 Ol' scarface. The marks on her nose are from her recent fights with Sophie.

 Here she's in the dryer, and you can clearly see another nice scar-to-be right between her eyes.

 Here's Abbey trying (unsuccessfully) to play with PG. When she gets anywhere NEAR PG, she (PG) starts barking and barking, saying "come and get the MONSTER away from me please!"

 Another pantry shot. She gets in there and the door closes and she naps, 
and we don't know where she is until she peeks out.

And finally here's Sophie's birthday party last Thursday evening. Jeannie made the cake from peanut butter and some other doggie friendly stuff, and it has cream cheese frosting. 
They both love it of course. PG not so much.

And so much for August...can you believe it's September/Labor Day Weekend already? WE are currently in the midst of a HEAT WAVE...our annual short-period when the winds shift and we suffer dearly. It's been over 100 the last few days...yesterday was 104 (right here in town, much hotter out of town). I should know...I was on a group road bike ride yesterday morning, and my Garmin showed it hit 118 down on Foxen Canyon Road as we were headed back towards town. It was STUPID HOT! By the time I got back to my house I was so dizzy and had to sit in the shade for a bit before I put my bike away and came inside. Today was only supposed to be 92, but it was hotter than that by about 9am. No idea what it will top out at. Tomorrow (Labor Day) is only SUPPOSED to be in the 80's...yeah right....we can hope! 

Hopefully you aren't suffering in the heat like we are (being as we have no AC in the house)! 

Happy Labor Day and stay cool!