Aloha From Kona!

Cool beachside  by captleon51.
(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)
Once again I am “Island Hopping”!  It has been a couple of months since I have had an island trip, so this trip to Kona is somewhat refreshing.  I forgot just how nice the islands can be this time of year.  No rain, no snow, no thunderstorms, just Sun and a mild tradewind to make you feel relaxed.
After a few days off and going to the NASCAR races last weekend in Phoenix, it is good to put on my uniform, climb into the cockpit, and be back at work……………..NOT!!!  (I couldn’t resist a little “April Fool’s” gag in November!!!)  An old wise Captain once told me, “there is no trip as good as a day off son and don’t forget that”.  He was so prophetic, it is the truth sports fans!
To some this job seems to be so cool and the benefits so great, but after 29 years as an airline pilot plus 6 years in the US Air Force flying C-141’s, the “honeymoon” ended many years and 2 bankruptcies ago!
Oh well, I guess I digressed.  Anyway, I am hoping that I can stay awake long enough to see the beautiful Hawaiian sunset this evening.  It might be very difficult, since I had to get up at 3:45AM AZ time.  It is now 5:00pm Hawaiian time and I have been awake for 16 hours!  Ah yes the glamour of aviation!
I keep forgetting that “I am living the dream”!!!!!!!

Checked Baggage Anyone?

016 Photo Courtesy of Leon Hammack)

When was the last time that you have travelled on an airplane?  Have you noticed the way passengers try to “stuff'” their over sized carry on luggage into the overhead bins?

When the brilliant airline executives decided to charge extra for the services rendered that were once all inclusive with the price of the airline tickets, air travel changed forever and not necessarily for the best!  The most obvious change is the way that passengers try to avoid checked bag fees by trying to “stuff” their over sized bags into the overhead bins!  These days the passengers throw caution to the wind in regards to the rules on carry on baggage!

They have figured out just how to bypass the charge on checked baggage.  The passengers have figured out that if they can’t get their mammoth bag stuffed into the overhead bins, then the airline will gate check their bags for FREE!!

BINGO! I think we have a winner!

It is absolutely hilarious to watch these people drag their gargantuan bags onto the airplane, knowing full well that it won’t fit into the overhead bins.  When it obviously won’t fit into the overhead bin, the flight attendants will take the bag, put it on the jetway, and then the ramp personnel take the bag and put it into the cargo compartment.  Now they have bypassed and saved the checked baggage fee that is normally charged at the ticket counter!

This has created a bottleneck in the passenger loading process.  The aisles are clogged with people trying desperately to get those monstrosities into the overhead bins.  This is causing delays in the boarding process, making flights late in leaving the gate for their destination.  These same people complain about the airlines’ tardiness, all the while being part of the problem with all their insistence on “stuffing” their stuff into a space that it will not fit into!

We have all seen these inconsiderate travellers climbing on the back of the seats or on the seat itself trying hopelessly to cram all their belongings into the overhead bins like a person on amphetamines!!  These same people are equally entertaining when they try to retrieve their belongings out of that same overhead bin!  All in all, it kind of looks like a Keystone Cops movie from the 20’s and 30’s!!

Are you with me on this?

Breakfast In New York City


(photo courtesy of Leon Hammack)

This morning I got up from my hotel bed and decided to head on out on the streets of Manhattan to grab some breakfast.  As I got out of my hotel on the corner of 32nd St and Broadway, I yielded to fast movers, then merged in with the foot traffic.

I made my mind up to go get myself a fresh, hot New York bagel.  So I headed up Broadway to the corner of 35th St. and Broadway to one of my favorite places in this part of Manhattan, The Metro Cafe.  As I crowded into the cafe, I was delighted to hear the New Yorkers bantering with each other, as only they can do!

I ordered up a  toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese, YUM!  Once I received my “treasure trove” I headed over to the cashier to pay.  The 20 something Puerto Rican girl working the cash register mumbled something to me that I couldn’t understand.  I asked her to repeat what she said.  Again I couldn’t understand what she was saying.  I said,”Huh?”  Finally I understood that she was saying my bagel was going to cost me $2.68!  I just then realized that I have been gone too long from New York City, and have lost my ability to discern “New Yorkese”!! ( I left New York City on Memorial Day Weekend 1982.)

Walking back to my hotel room after breakfast, I realized that the sidewalks of Manhattan are very similar to a restrictor plate race at either Daytona or Talladega!!  As I exited the cafe, I had to find a hole in the foot traffic and stick my nose into it.  Next I had to determine just which of the lines were moving , verses stagnating.   So I quickly looked to my left and “whipped” out into that lane and tucked into a good “drafting position” on this heavy guy.

Having a very good knowledge of aerodynamics, after all I am an airline pilot, I knew that the 300 lb dude in front of me would bust a big hole in the air!  Once I was established in the lane I started looking for a new and faster drafting partner.  I slipped in behind this rather fast looking female that had a burst of speed as she passed me on the sidewalk.  Again I tucked in really tight for a few steps and with a huge burst of speed, I blew right by her and caught the green pedestrian light at 33rd and Broadway!

Now just one block away from my hotel, I got “up on the wheel”, I “mashed the loud pedal”, I increased my walking speed!!  Just as I got to the corner of 32nd St. and Broadway, I noticed this little old lady making a run on me on the inside, so I pulled a Carl Edwards and moved down to block her.  She didn’t get out of the gas and before I knew it, she had punted me and it was all I could do to keep from collecting up the other pedestrians into a huge sidewalk crash!  WHEW!!

After I got inside my hotel, I surveyed the damage.  All I got was a doughnut on my right side tennis shoe from her high heel!!  So as ol DW ( Darrell Waltrip) says, “it is success if you can drive it into the hauler”!  I made it back to my hotel without a major disaster!


One Oh Ten!


(photo by Leon Hammack)

A couple of days ago I bought a USA Today in the LAX airport and I was just appalled at the transaction of dialog that took place!

I walked into the newsstand  in terminal 7 at LAX to pick up a USA Today to read on my flight home to Yuma.  I grabbed the paper and headed over to the  cash register to pay for it.  The lady in her South of the Border, heavily accented, English told me that would be “One Oh Ten”.  I repeated one oh ten??  She confirmed, one oh ten!

So I reached onto my pocket, grabbed a $1 dollar bill, handed it to her, then told her that I think that I have the oh ten in my other pocket!  I gave her the dime and reiterated here is the oh ten!

The previous exchange was very humorous, but somewhat understandable with all the influx of “quasi immigrants” to California and the rest of the nation!  But I am finding that I get these types of exchanges from people who have spent their whole life in our education system in this country!  It appears that our society is successful in teaching our youth to set extremely low goals and that it is alright to fail miserably to attain them!!!  Go figure!

My parents were the victims of The Great Depression.  We were inspired by them to get an education, it was our ticket to prosperity!  What changed???

What I see these days are baggy pants, baseball hats turned about 1/4 to 1/2 off center, tattoos galore, low self esteem, and a general free-fall in morale fiber and character!  Every generation, since the founding of this country, has out-performed and succeeded more than the previous generation.  However, it appears that string is about to be broken.   What happened?  Anyone got a clue?

If my observations are all screwed up, then I guess that I need to come to the party!!! 😉 Maybe it is me who needs to lighten up, do  you think?

Who knows my next purchase  at Mc Donalds may cost me “Five Oh Forty Nine”!!!!!! LOL

Anybody got some size 51 Levi pants for me to wear?  I need a NY Yankees hat so that I can put the bill over my right ear.  Man, I just about there!!  Now I just need to learn how to hang those bad boys just below my butt cheeks and walk so that the pants won’t fall all the way down to my ankles.  Can anybody teach me how to strut??

Somebody help me please!!!!!  I am a good student!

Is the sun setting on our civilization?

It Was The Summer Of 1969!

scan by captleon51.
(Senior picture McLane High School 1969)
The summer of 1969 was the beginning of the rest of MY life, I just didn’t know it back then!
What I was about to witness in the summer of 1969 would define my youth and ultimately define the “Baby Boomer Generation”.
But first I need to tell you what made the summer of 1969 possible.  The happenings of the previous year of 1968 made the events of 1969 all the more historic.  The Vietnam War had become the most unpopular war in the history of the USA.  The war  had dragged on for many years with no end in sight, all the while the casualties continued to add up daily.  The youth of our country had become extremely disenchanted with the Vietnamese War and formed a nationwide, and very organized, opposition to it.
In April of 1968 Martin Luther King, the most prominent civil rights leader in the nation, was assassinated in Memphis, TN.  The very next month, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, CA while campaigning for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination.  Within those two months the hopes and dreams of this country’s youth and the disenfranchised were destroyed!  The country was in disarray and divided over many issues.  As the unhappiness boiled, the rest of the citizens watched the rebellion and demonstrations later that summer in Chicago, as the Democratic Convention convened in Chicago, IL.  It appeared that our very societal foundations were crumbling before our very eyes.
Fast foward to April 1969, an enterprising young man named Michael Lang, along with as associate named Artie Kornfield, had devised a plan to put on a rock festival similar to the festival that had been staged earlier on the West Coast as the Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey,CA.  The only catch is that he needed some investors.  Fortunately for Lang, he came across an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal under the name of Challenge International, LTD: “Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions”
That ad had put into the Wall Street Journal by two young men that had just come into some money via an inheritance.  Those two young men were John Roberts and Joel Rosenman.
Lang, Kornfield, Roberts, and Rosenman eventually agreed and formed “Woodstock Ventures” for the purpose of putting this idea together.
After viewing many potential sites, Woodstock Ventures settled on a 300 acre site at Mills Industrial Park located in Middletown, NY.  On July 15, 1969, just 30 days before the scheduled concert date, the Walkill County Zoning Board of Appeals revoked the permit on the grounds that the portable toilets did not meet the county code.  Fortunately, a farmer by the name of Max Yasgur was willing to allow the Woodstock Ventures to lease his 600 acre farm as the site of the festival!  It was crunch time, could this thing be put together in less than 30 days???  Good old American ingenuity was about to shift into high gear!
Initially, there was difficulty signing up the entertainment, but once John Fogerty and Creedance Clearwater Revival signed up the other acts quickly jumped on board!
The line up looked like this.
Richie Havens
Ravi Shankar
Arlo Guthrie
Joan Baez
Country Joe McDonald
John Sebastian
Canned Heat
Grateful Dead
Creedance Clearwater Revival
Joan Baez
Sly & The Family Stone
The Who
Jefferson Airplane
Joe Cocker
Country Joe & The Fish
Ten Years After
The Band
Blood. Sweat, and Tears
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
Paul Butterfied Blues Band
Jimi Hendrix
Even though there were huge thunderstorms during the weekend, people came in huge masses to experience this once in a lifetime event.  There were traffic jams on the NY State Thruway that were many miles long.  People abandoned their cars and walked the remaining distance to the festival.
Little did the four people that were behind “The Woodstock Ventures” know that there would eventually be and estimated 500,000 people attend this festival.  Additionally there was no way of knowing the wordwide impact that the weekend of August 15-18, 1969  on Max Yasgur’s farm would have on our society!
The legacy of Woodstock is still being written 40 years after that magical weekend on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, NY.
Joni Mitchell wrote a song that Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young made famous about this event.  Oddly enough it was titled “Woodstock”!
Peace, love, and harmony existed for one weekend in August in 1969 at Max Yasgur’s farm in up state New York!!

40th Anniversay of Lunar Landing

2009 Daytona 500 197

(photo by Leon Hammack)

Where were you on the evening of July 20, 1969?

I still remember very well where I was and what I was doing on that evening.  I had just graduated from high school just one month earlier, and had the world by the proverbial, ah um, the lower hanging spheres!!  Just a few days earlier I had witnessed a picture perfect launch of the Apollo/Saturn rocket that would lift three astronauts, Neil Alden Armstrong, Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins to the Moon.  The flight would eventually allow two of those astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, to be the first human beings to walk on the surface of the Moon!

This mission was the culmination of a speech that the late President John F. Kennedy gave on May 25, 1961 to the U. S. Congress that challenged this country to put a man on the Moon by the end of that decade, the 60’s.  It was a time of the “Cold War”, of Sputnik, of the “race for space”, and the race for nuclear arms with the Soviet Union.  It was a time of nuclear fear and national pride!  There was was a feeling in this country that there was nothing that couldn’t be accomplished with”good old American ingenuity!

The images that were relayed back to Earth were black and white, not in color.   Not only were the images in black and white, but the quality was very poor and grainy!  What did we expect, after all the images originated 240,000 miles away on a foreign site…..The Moon!   Apollo 11 was the first mission to land on the Moon, but it was the third manned mission to orbit the Moon.   The first mission to orbit the Moon was Apollo 8 with Frank Borman as the commander of that mission.

We are rapidly approaching the 40th anniversary of that  those daunting odds,nevertheless  the U. S. Space Program succeeded!  In one way that lunar mission seems like just yesterday, and on the other hand I was a mere lad of 18 and now I am 58 years old and a grandfather, to boot!

On July 20th, take some time to think about what happened on that historic day!  Just fathom what was accomplished in just 8 short years after President John F. Kennedy challenged us all to pull on the same end of the rope and put a man on the Moon!!  What we did as Americans in that short period of time may NEVER be replicated again in the history of MANKIND!

I will paraphrase Bob Seger’s song ,”Like A Rock”.  Forty years, where’d they go?  Forty years,I don’t know!    But sometimes late at night, when I’m bathed in the firelight, I recall, I recall!!

Again I ask what were you doing on that evening of July 20, 1969?   I would like to know?

I know that you are wondering who, what, when, where, and why, regarding the picture that I chose to incorporate into this article.  Are your ready?  Well that is not Neil Armstrong  looking up waiting for Buzz Aldrin to come down the stairs of the Lunar Module!  It is my brother Jim at Daytona looking up at me at the top of the tri oval at the start/finish line !!!  For Jim to walk up to me, it truly was not one small step for man, nor one giant leap for mankind!!!  It was just plain breath-taking!!

It is Fall!

P1000557The weather is starting to change here in Fresno and I just thought that I would post a picture from  our four days at Morro Bay last month.   The weather was so great that I forgot that winter is just around the corner!

With the end of fall comes the end of NASCAR racing for the year.   That depresses me greatly (everybody knows that I am a REDNECK)!!  I am gonna miss Tony Stewart,  in all his glory, not shaving for the week!   I am gonna miss the  electricity of the event, the cool Air Force, Navy, and Marine flybys!   But most of all I will miss the camraderie when we hang out and set up camp there with “the relatives”!!!

I guess that I will have to resort to watching the CRIMINALS play in the NFL!!!


PS     For those who are new to my web site, surf around and check it out.    I invite you to leave  a comment and let me know what you think!

The comments are not necessarily those of the management!!!!!!! 🙂

Reflecting on my Family

A couple of  weeks ago  Karen and I took the RV over to Morro Bay for some quiet time.   I had not been there in over 30 years and I forgot just how neat the town is.   It was a very relaxing 4 days.

We met two really nice people that pulled a really cool practical joke on me! Unbeknownst to me, my brother Jerry e-mailed some friends of his that were in Morro Bay to go and pay a visit to his little brother.   They pulled a really convincing practical joke on me… hat is off to Bill and Barb,you were most convincing!!!!

I also had time to reflect on how great it is to be back around all of my family again!   It has been 33 years since I left here and man did I miss a lot of things, but mostly I missed being a son, a father, and a grandfather!

 I really do enjoy being around all of my family!!!  

Thank You!

As I finally get settled in at my new/old location (Fresno), I just want to thank my family and my “special friend” (Blondie, the love of my life)  for their love and support!!  

It has been a long road home.  I left in August 1973 and finally returned for good in June of 2006.   The stops along the way were  Williams AFB, Travis AFB, New York City, Orlando, FL, Atlanta, GA, Kansas City, MO, Denver, CO, Fresno, CA, Denver,CO, and now back home!

Now it time to open up for business the “Hotel California” !!!