Sunday, March 30, 2008

Blog Updates

No, not additional posts but rather updates to the way the blog itself works. I always hated reading posts in reverse sequence so I finally found a plugin that let me change the sequence and number of posts of selected items. I have set Categories and Archives to display in chronological order so you can follow the story line without reading from bottom to top. I find it enjoyable to read through our Alaska trip and other places we have been. I have also set both options to show up to 31 posts at a time so it requires much less clicking and more scrolling.

I also added a widgit that condenses the archives by year but still allows expanding to individual months. It is much better than showing all the individual months. It was getting to be a long list.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yuma Proving Ground

Yesterday we visited the museum at the Yuma Proving Grounds. It is located on the base about three miles from us. We learned a lot about the history and current mission of YPG and both of us found it interesting.

YPG began in early 1942 when George Patton was tasked with setting up a desert training center. They needed a place to train soldiers to fight in North Africa and other desert locations. There were huge chunks of desert land appropriated for the purpose, most of which was already owned by the government, and several camps were set up. The camp nearest to here was Camp Laguna which is just a couple miles from the current main base.

There were lots of pictures of men during their training. It was one of the most harsh and primitive places used for training during the entire war. Some of the men who trained here have donated photos and letters they wrote while here. Most do not have pleasant memories of the place.

Even during the war the area started being used for testing military equipment. Strangely, one of the many things developed and tested here during the war was river fording equipment. We saw pictures of the temporary bridges built on rubber rafts that were used to cross rivers in Europe during the war. The ability to control the amount of water in the river by using Imperial Dam gave them a tool to test different flow rates and develop a system that worked. During the testing several tanks were dropped to the bottom of the Colorado.

Starting after the war in 1950 the current Yuma Proving Grounds developed. They have tested every piece of equipment used by the US Army here and in the other two test areas that are managed from here. This is the desert test facility but they also manage the polar test facility located in Alaska, and the tropical test centers located in Panama, Honduras and other locations.

They told us that there are currently about 1,000 different items being tested, including devices used in Iraq. They actually constructed an Iraqi city to look like Bagdad where they could find ways to locate and destroy IED's. That program is still under way and even included testing to see if bees could be used to find the devices since they are drawn to some of the chemicals found in explosives.

When driving by or visiting the housing section of the base where we were, the impression you have is that not much is going on here. In fact there are about 3,000 employees working here every day, of which only about 100 are military. The rest are civilian contractors. It is a very busy place.

One additional thing we learned is that this is the training facility for HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) teams. About 1,000 paratroopers go through the school here every year. They learn to parachute from very high altitudes and free fall to an area that may be miles from where they jump before they open their parachutes at low altitude. It it a technique used mostly by special forces. The Golden Knights, the Army parachute demonstration team, also trains here from the middle of January to the middle of March each year. We have seen them at air shows several times.

A few years ago I remember hearing about George Bush senior sky diving on his 72nd birthday. The first time he had parachuted was bailing out of his airplane when he was shot down during WW II. That birthday parachute jump was done here at YPG, the only time a president or past president has ever visited the facility. By the way, he has since made additional jumps, the most recent was just last year at the age of 83. He parachuted in to the reopening of his presidential library in College Station, Texas.

Earlier in the week I toured an outdoor exhibit where some of the vehicles tested here were displayed. One was the 175 MM Self Propelled Gun I worked on in VietNam. In fact, I fired one once while at Fire Base Bastogne into the Ah Shaw Valley where some serious fighting was going on near Hamburger Hill.

We enjoyed ourselves and found all this interesting. If you are interested in learning more you can visit their web site. Yuma Proving Grounds

We will only be here a few more days and then we are off to San Onofre.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Imperial Dam

We moved from Quartzsite to Imperial Dam today.  We are about 20 miles north of Yuma along the Colorado River.  There is another Long Term Visitor Area here where we have all the same services we had in Quartzsite, and our pass from there is good here also.

I remember when Mom and Dad spent some time here.  We visited them where they were parked along the river.  That is no longer possible unless you want to pay $15 per day.   The area we can stay in is located up on a mesa on the California side of the river.  It is very different from Quartzsite which is level  ground with a few dry creek beds running through the desert.  Here the land is mostly hilly since the river has cut down through here sometime in the distant past.  It is also 3 to 5 degrees hotter here than in Quartzsite because it is lower in elevation.   It got up to 89 today, which is hotter than we enjoy.

After arriving this afternoon we rode into Yuma to do some shopping.  The road runs along the river for a few miles and then through fields of produce.  It is actually quite pretty and the green fields are much cooler.

When we returned home I set up the satellite and TV dishes while cooking a turkey breast on the grill.  It came out very good.

While in Quartzsite we didn't do a whole lot.  We rode down to Yuma once and to Blythe once for shopping.  We also took a trip south of Quartzsite to Palm Canyon on the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge.  The only palm trees native to Arizona live there in a very narrow canyon.  Other than that we just did the normal stuff; hauling water once or twice a week, grocery runs to town and taking walks in the evening.

We plan to be here until we move to San Onofre where we will spend the summer.  That move should happen on April 1.  Until then we are just going to try to keep as cool as possible.