Saturday, October 12.
At 1pm Pacific Time I crossed from Nevada into California. Fantastic drive through the Sierra Nevada mountains and on to Truckee and Sacramento. If you’re looking for real mountain scenery, especially after driving through Nevada, this is one heck of a route to follow. I stopped at a scenic overlook, and many visitors came over and asked about my car.
My primary destination in California was to see friends in Palo Alto. I met Sebastian B. and his family at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts several years ago. We share a common interest in Switzerland (to say the least!). Seeing them at home here in California, sharing memories and ideas, was a great way to reach the halfway point of my trip. Nice car in the driveway, too:
Next day we went to the excellent Computer History Museum, just down the road in Mountain View. Here’s a highlight, the first memory “drum” used by mainframe computers in 1956.
We were fortunate to see a demonstration of one of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engines, built from plans he created between 1847 and 1849. This 10,000 pound behemoth calculates polynomial equations (used in navigational charts and mathematical tables) to 31 decimal places. It’s constructed from iron and brass, and powered by hand. The fascinating thing to me, is that Babbage designed this to accomplish two purposes: calculate the results correctly, *and* print the results – with no human (error prone) intervention.
Here’s a short video of the engine in action:
If you want to enjoy good Swiss food, I heartily recommend raclette. On our last night together, we shared a raclette including various boiled potatoes, pickles, onions, sausages, capers, plus home grown beans and a fantastic apricot tart. You put a few potatoes on your plate, add the condiments you want, then push melted raclette cheeses over the top. Originally just cheese melted on a hot stone, then poured onto “what have you”, raclette is now usually made on an electric raclette maker, condiments grilling on the top, and cheese melting below:
Get yourself a plate of boiled potatoes and enjoy.
I had to do it: drive right up to the Pacific Ocean and anoint my car with salt water. Altho’ I couldn’t drive on the beach, I could park near by and walk down to the water. Here’s the big moment – at my farthest point west.
Update October 18. Tucson Arizona.
Driving west across central California, you see thousands of fruit orchards. Interestingly, you see no weeds under any of the trees. Water here is so precious that the trees are watered from underground – thus the top of the soil remains dry. And what here is called “soil” is closer to concrete. You can barely scratch the surface with a sharp stick, and half an inch down you can’t even make a dent. A heavy rain can’t be absorbed, so you get flooding in “monsoon” season.
Crossing Arizona you see fantastic landscapes – cactus covered plains:
and massive rock outcrops:
Most important of this part of my adventure – seeing my brother Steve in Tucson. He still loves “tinkering”, and the house is full of computers, tape recorders, radios, copy machines, video recorders, and who knows what else? You can tell we’re related – we both seek frugal ways to accomplish our goals. We drove to visit the Pima Air and Space Museum; here’s Steve as we’re about to enter:
We did quite a bit of walking around the many hangars and tarmac displays of aircraft. Here’s me standing near one of my favorites, a B-36 (Peacemaker). This one is “City of Fort Worth”. I was born in Fort Worth, which at the time (late 1940s) was home to Carswell AFB, where the Peacemaker was based in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Then another favorite, a Lockheed L-049 “Constellation”, one of the great passenger aircraft of the 1940s. This is the TWA “Star of Switzerland”. (yes, another Swiss connection!)
The WW2 390th Bombardment Group has just opened a new hangar at Pima, this one displaying the B-17 “I’ll Be Around”. A member of the original crew (docent in red shirt) gave a spellbinding history of the aircraft, including his feelings (both physical and emotional) on an eleven hour mission in the unheated aircraft at 20,000 feet with temps around 40 below zero, flying at 200 mph.
My fellow volunteers at the New England Air Museum will understand why I’m posting this photo:
I’ve now driven over 5000 miles – and still ticking.