A Short Flight


I made a run up to the home office last week and had a nice flight up.  The flight path took us right by Washington, DC, giving a nice view.

Washington, DC


Thick/dirty plexiglass windows kinda kill the color, but it was neat seeing the silt patterns in at the top end of the Chesapeake Bay.

Chesapeake Bay currents


We finally hit some cloud cover, and descended into a thick blanket as we approached Newark.

fluffy pillows


As we hit the end of the runway, another jet hit the throttle to take-off.  We passed them for a few seconds, but they quickly caught-up and took-off.  It was fun getting to watch the whole take-off roll from right beside them.


Yuma Proving Grounds


On a flight from SAN-ATL back in 2010, I saw GM’s Yuma Proving Grounds. GM uses this for desert testing of its vehicles. The high heat and low humidity really put cars to the test. I’m sure it’s efficient, but can you imagine the monotony of driving around that big circular track for hours on end? There appears to be an improvised road course near the center, though, and lots of good off-road testing. I’m sure I could have fun flying around here for a few days!

Yuma Proving Grounds


Candy Stripes


When you’re dashing to your plane, do you ever take the time to look-up?  I’ve noticed some pretty cool architecture in my travels and wondered if any of you might recognize the ceilings you’ve passed under.

This one will be tough for most Americans, but it’s so bold that I thought it’d be a fun place to start this series.

bold lines

For the answer, use your mouse to highlight this line – Shanghai


What To See – Atlanta (ATL)


I know in my case, I tend not to spend a huge amount of time just hanging-around airports.  I get there just in time to make my flight, and run-off just as soon as the plane lands.  But there are often times some pretty interesting things to explore at the airport, if you can make some time.  I dropped my wife off at the airport recently, and then took some time to walk around.  Despite ATL being my home airport, there’s a lot I haven’t explored there.

In the South Terminal, between baggage claim and the ticket counters, there are a few cases filled with WWII aviation memorabilia.  Lots of model planes, identification cards, medals, etc.  Good stuff!

WWII Exhibit


This was an interesting pamphlet, designed to help people of all walks of life understand what they could do to help support the war effort.

What Can I Do?


This one seemed a bit odd to me.  If the planes have already made it over US soil and our radar or military warning systems didn’t notice…I don’t see how some kids on a hill top are really going to do much good.

Aircraft Warning Service


While I’ve never flown with a dog, people do it all the time.  I’d never given a moment’s thought to where they’d go potty.  Well ATL put in a small dog park after the recent addition of the rental car train.

dog park


Do you have anything interesting at your home airport?


Albuquerque Shooting Range Park


“Really? You saw that from the air and knew it was a shooting range?”, my wife said.  Yes, absolutely. :)

It turns out, the range is run by the city of Albuquerque and is open to the public for a very nominal fee.  Here’s a link to their website for more information.

You can see four rifle ranges on the left, and lots of pistol bays on the right, complete with a police qualification range in the middle (with concrete foot path grid).  What I didn’t catch from the air are the trap/skeet fields just SW of here, which you can see in the Google Maps images.

Albuquerque Shooting Range Park


And as I was looking around the area on Google Maps, I found this other range just a few miles north.  The Del Norte Gun Club has upwards of 20 bays, with everything from short pistol bays to 1,000 yard rifle ranges, with archery and shotguns in between.  SWEEEEET!!!

Ute Reservoir


This is the first in a series of photos I’ll post showing cool things I’ve seen from the air.  I love to sit by the window and watch the world go by.  While it’d be fun to go hiking in all these places to truly “see the world”, seeing the world from 30,000 feet is kinda fun, too.  So in this series, I’ll post a photo I’ve taken from the plane, and link to the Google Maps satellite imagery of the same object, so you can explore the surrounding area.

I’m going to go ahead and apologize ahead of time for the poor image quality in my aerial photos.  A) Airplane windows are often very scratched and/or dirty,  2)  haze is a contrast killer.  I do what I can to fix things up, but I think you’ll find the Google images are typically superior (as you would hope, given the millions it takes to produce them).  But enough of that…here we go!

This is the Ute Reservoir in New Mexico, and I loved how the color flows from red to deep green, as the sediment content in the water changes.  Mother nature sure is a beautiful artist!

Ute Reservoir

Diamonds Are Forever


As I was passing through JFK the other day, one of the Delta agents looked at my boarding pass and said “Ooooh…Mr. Diamond, please step this way. You know, diamonds are forever!” I chuckled and said “No, just through the end of the month.” Sadly my new Medallion credentials arrived in the mail yesterday, and I’ve been demoted two levels due to my lack of travel last year. How will I survive as a lowly Gold Medallion in ATL?!?! Yea, I know; I’ll be fine. Given the routes/times I travel, I rarely saw domestic upgrades anyway. But for international travel, I’m going to miss the System Wide Upgrade certificates I got as a Diamond/Platinum. And the customer service I’ve been getting as a Diamond is truly remarkable! I haven’t been as low as Gold in four years. Wish me luck. 😉

5.11 ATAC L1 Review


I’m a strong believer in carrying a flashlight when I travel.  Flashlights are frequently helpful, and the right one can even improve your level of security.  In search of a smaller light that I would be inclined to carry more often, I purchased a 5.11 ATAC L1.   My beloved Surefire 6PX is just too big to drop in my pocket all the time, and doesn’t have a clip.  The ATAC flashlight line is new to 5.11.  There’s no doubt that 5.11 makes some high quality gear, so I decided to give this a shot.  Boy am I glad I did!  It’s a GREAT light.

  • Low level output is great for finding things in my bag, under a seat, etc.
  • High level is bright enough to temporarily blind/stun someone who poses a threat to you, buying time.
  • Strobe output would be very disorienting to someone, or would make a great signal if you were trying to summon help.
  • An integral clip keeps the light securely clipped to my brief case, or my pocket.
  • A rubber grommet keeps it from rolling off the nightstand.
  • The rotating lock-out tail cap make it easy to ensure the light doesn’t get turned-on in by bag.  Yet it’s quick to disengage when I need to use it.  I don’t engage this all the time, but it’s handy at times.
  • CR-123 batteries run for a long time, and maintain their charge better than alkalines.
  • Single cell design is compact and light (no pun intended)

After a few weeks of carrying the light frequently, I’m very pleased.  The only thing I’d like to change about the light is the switch opertion order.  Instead of coming on high then going down to low, I’d rather it come on low first.  I use the light frequently for general illumination, and it’s annoying to have to double-tap the switch every time.   I understand that as a self defense tool, coming on bright first is a great choice, but for me

Do you carry a light?  What works well for you?

5.11 ATAC L1 Flashlight


PS  This light seems to be in direct competition with the Surefire E1B, which costs over twice as much.  It’s well worth a look.  Surefire makes some great lights, but they’ve been getting away with huge premiums because of their name.  Glad to see some competition in the market!

Delta SkyClub Tokyo


After exploring Tokyo in the summer heat, I was all hot and sweaty when I got to the airport.  That’s not the way you want to start a 15+ hour trip home!  Thankfully, the SkyClubs at Narita (NRT) have showers available.

You simply ask for a key at the front desk, then head back to the shower room you’ve been assigned.  There are attendants that clean the rooms after each use.  I’m really not the kind of person who craves personal attention. I prefer to use an ATM rather than go into the bank.  I never have a bellman carry my bags, even when in places like Japan where you’re not expected to tip for the service.  But having this shower available was just awesome.  Instead of being tired and sweaty when I got on the plane, I was clean and feeling refreshed.  Most excellent!

There are shower facilities at many international airports, so if you have premium status with your airline or are traveling in first/business class…be sure to check ’em out!

Private Shower

private potty and shower

sink, soap, shampoo, etc.

A Little Too Much Time In Tokyo


On my way home from China I stopped-off in Tokyo for one day of meetings. It’s an awesome place, filled with great people.  But that’s another whole post.

We stayed at the Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi, which was nice.  It wasn’t the most convenient to get to from Narita, though.  I took a $38 bus ride followed by a $24 cab.  Ouch!  Coming from China where you can take an hour long cab ride for $10, $60+ really stung!  If our flight had landed earlier we could have taken the bus closer to our hotel and saved the cab.  But the hotel was nice.  The room was a nice size by Japanese standards.  Fast wired internet was included, and the room was very comfortable.  There was a nice HDTV with lots of HD content…none of which was in English.   Oh well.

A comfy bed and a desk...all I really need.

After meetings on Friday, I went out to eat with our local salesman.  We decided on a grill-it-yourself place.  We walked into the small restaurant and all the staff started shouting something…I’m guessing it was akin to “Welcome to Moe’s!”

We ordered some Asahi on draft while he perused the menu, which was all in Japanese, without a single picture anywhere.  Good thing I trust the man!  Below, from top right:

  • Beef – It was marinated in something like a teriyaki sauce, and was quite delicious.
  • Horse – there were three cuts (neck, belly and leg), and all were consumed RAW.  Yea.   I had one sliver of each, and that was plenty.  The leg actually tasted pretty good, but no thanks.
  • Beef Tongue – I’ve had this before, and it’s not bad.  The trouble with grilling your own food, though, is that you’re probably not as good a chef as…well…a chef.  Plus tongue should be cooked “wet” (covered in water, etc), not grilled.  So it was quite tough.  The flavor isn’t bad, but it seemed an odd choice for this kind of restaurant.
  • Chicken – I don’t think they did anything to it at all, but at least it was a good piece of white meat.
  • Beef Intestines – I’ve had pork intestines, and I can now attest that they taste just like beef intestines.  Both taste exactly like what comes out of them.  OMG…I don’t understand why people do this to themselves!

Dinner, before we cooked it.

You cook things in the center, then move them off to the edge where they’ll cool a bit, but stay warm.  It’s actually a nice system for quickly cooking bite-sized bits.

personal grilling

There was a distinct lack of vegetation.  We had a small bowl of potato salad to share, and that was it.  Not even rice.

So that was Friday night, and I was headed home on Saturday.  My flight didn’t leave till 4pm, so I had some time to kill in the morning.  I got up, and had a quick breakfast.  They have a buffet literally in the lobby of the hotel.  It was a bit odd, but the high-top tables worked well.  Looking for something light, I just grabbed a bowl of cereal; corn flakes to be precise.  I wanted a little sugar on top, and there was a bowl right next to the cereal.  What I didn’t notice was that the bowl of white crystals was also next to the boiled eggs.   I took a bite and thought “these are the nastiest corn flakes I’ve ever eaten!!!!”  Doh!  Salt!  Take 2.

I checked-out of the hotel and walked down the street to the ANA Intercontinental hotel, just a couple blocks away.   As I walked out of the VF, I saw their glass walled smoking booth outside, with this sign.  I have no idea what those two people are doing, but I don’t think they’re smoking.

no smoking...or other activities

The Narita airport “limousine” stops at the ANA, so that’s the best way to get to the airport.  It’s really just a nice Greyhound bus, but it had wifi, which was quite helpful as you’ll see.  I bought my bus ticket, left my bags with the bellman, then headed north towards the Imperial Palace.

I took a bunch of photos…see the thumbnail gallery below.  While I was in the gardens, I was running through the time line in my head and nearly had a heart attack.  It was 12:25 when I realized that I should have booked the 12:30 bus instead of the 1:30 bus.  For some reason I had it in my head as I bought the ticket that my flight was at 5:00, but it was really at 4:00.  Given that the bus ride can take 1:30, it could be 3:00 before I got to the airport, and they’d literally be boarding when I arrived.  NOT GOOD!  But there was no way I was going to get on the 12:30, so I tried to relax and continue enjoying the gardens.

moat & tower at east gardens

My last task before reaching the hotel was to get a shot of me and the Tokyo Tower.  My kids are big fans of the movie Cars, and there’s a great little “short” called Tokyo Mater.  In the short story, Mater is a drift racer and has to race up Tokyo Tower.  It’s very cute; check it out on YouTube.  “Domo arigato, Mr. Tomato”  Brilliant!  I couldn’t seem to find anywhere to get a clean shot of the tower, and I didn’t have time to get any closer.  The kids thought it was cool, though.  :)

me and the tower

From there I pretty much ran to the hotel, changed out of my very sweaty clothes and hopped on the bus.   Using wifi on the bus I was able to check-in to my flight and get a mobile boarding pass in case I didn’t have time to print a paper copy at the airport.  Thankfully, since it was Saturday, the bus only took 1:00 to get to the airport instead of 1:30…so I had a whopping 0:30 to burn.  As an extra special bonus, the Sky Club at NRT has showers…but that’s another post.  I hope you enjoy the pix.

Notice that there are two pages of thumbnails, so to see the last pix you’ll need to click on “2”.

I put the map marker on the palace grounds.  Just zoom in and switch to the satellite view.

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