Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ottawa, Illinois and Skydive Chicago

Popcorn wagon in downtown Ottawa, Illinois
Margot and I visited Ottawa for my 40th class reunion. Had a GREAT time. It was fun to catch up with a number of people. I left the camera in the car. Go here to see some pictures from the reunion. OTHS Class of 72 Reunion - Facebook

Read this article before you skip your next reunion. Class Reunions

We had a little time to kill on Saturday. Here is picture of the famous popcorn wagon at Washington Park. Looks great. I don't know if it is the original, but if it is they are taking great care of it.

Lincoln and Douglas statues in bronze at Washington Park in Ottawa, Illinois

Here are statues of Lincoln and Douglas in the park to commemorate the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858. I'm pretty sure these are relatively new. They are surrounded by a nice fountain.

The downtown area of Ottawa looked great. Lots of flowers and trees. There are a few empty storefronts but overall it makes a nice impression when driving through.

Many years ago I couldn't understand why Lincoln-Douglas Park was out by the swimming pool. Why not name this downtown park after Lincoln - after all this is where the debate was held. Not sure how long it took me to realize it was named Washington Park before the debate took place!

Wikipedia - Lincoln Douglas Debates  Many people don't realize that Lincoln actually lost to Douglas in the U.S. Senate election that year.

Civil War Memorial at Ottawa, Illinois

This is the Civil War Memorial near the statues. The inscriptions in the marble have faded significantly over the last 140 years.

There are new granite plaques listing the names on the monument near the base.

Nancy Savage Playground at Ottawa Opportunity School at First Presbyterian Church in Ottawa, Illinois.

While we were downtown we stopped by to take a look at the Nancy Savage Playground at First Presbyterian Church - Home of Opportunity  School.

The hot weather has been tough on the grass but otherwise it is maturing nicely.

On Friday evening we had dinner with long time friends at the Uptown Bar and Grill in LaSalle. Here we are with (left to right) Paul and Terry Youngstrum, Lisa and Dan Mestelle, Margot and Tom Savage, and Diane and Mike Farrell. For those of you not from upstate Illinois that is pronounced Lay-Sal.

Parachutist at Skydive Chicago in Dayton, Illinois

When we got up Saturday morning we could hear planes overhead. When we looked out we could see parachutes coming down.

We drove out to Dayton to take a look and see what was happening.

Skydive Chicago, as the operation is known, was very busy. Lots of activity, 2 planes taking 20 or so jumpers up at a time more or less as fast as they could go up, drop them off and dive back to the loading spot.

Really colorful. Lots of activity.

It seems like they have a lot of control as the glide down. Many are making a lot of twists and turns.

The only limit seems to be that you are always going down. No do-overs if you don't like where you are headed. They have to plan ahead.

Sometimes, if you aren't paying attention, you hear them first. Sort of a whoosh sound as they zoom by.

This guy barely cleared the taxiway. Almost all of the experienced jumpers land on their feet. They take a couple of steps then start gathering up their chute.

This is a shot of the plane loading up for the next flight. In a couple of minutes they are roaring down the runway.

Here is the plane taking off. You can see folks from the previous flight gathering their gear.

Notice the clear roll up door on the jump opening.

You can hear the plane engines working hard as they climb up. They get so high it is hard the spot the  planes and you can just see little specks in the sky when they jump out.

The plane engines go quiet and you know they are bailing out. I imagine the ride down in the plane is pretty exciting, too. They must dive down pretty steeply. Sometimes the plane lands before the last jumper hits the ground.

Here is a sequence of a guy landing.

As you can see, his glide path is pretty shallow.

One of these days I'll remember my camera has a video mode on it and I'll give it a try. That would have been fun here.

Every plane load seemed to have 2 to 4 students with instructors jumping in tandem rigs.

That is the student in front.

They glide in and land on their butts. That's why you see the legs up posture.

Here is another pair. It looks like both are holding the controls. I imagine the instructor can over ride if the student makes a mistake.

I think you have to do at least two tandem jumps before you can go solo.

Learn more here.

I asked this guy if I could take his picture as he walked back to the hanger. He said sure but tried to talk us into jumping that afternoon.

Notice the video camera on his helmet. We saw a lot of those. They seem to make a point to photograph and video the students and their own jumps I suppose.

Interesting vibe at the place. Very friendly. Everyone having a good time. As with many extreme sports it seems to attract its fair share if individualists, non-conformists, etc.

This guy, however, looks like he stepped out of the pages of Esquire or something. Ex-military, maybe?

Skydive Chicago building

Here is shot of the hanger and operations and training center.

Here are couple of shots of the chute packing area inside the building.

Click to enlarge any of the photos.

It is all very open. We just walked in like we owned the place. Got a drink at the snack bar, walked around, took a few pictures.

Here a group of four are planning the maneuvers they will perform during free fall on their next trip up.

Notice all the boards off the side. They can accommodate a pretty big group.
Student and trainer at Skydive Chicago

Here a student gets some training from her instructor. Notice the videographer recording the experience. I imagine you get a tape of the whole experience to share with your friends and family.

This old DC-3 looked out of place at the airport.

If you want to visit, drive to Dayton. Just on the west side of the bridge turn north and drive a mile or so north of town.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Cabo Tiñoso

View of Mazarron Bay for Cabo Tiñoso

Several of us took a ride out to Cabo Tiñoso on Sunday afternoon. Cabo Tiñoso is a mountainuous peninsula between Mazarron and Cartagena.

The view is from the top of the mountain looking toward Mazarron.

Click on the map below for a larger view.

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Anti-aircraft fortification on Cabo Tiñoso
There are a series of relatively new fortifications on the cape. These were built to defend the port of Cartagena which is a major Spanish Navy base.

The section shown here is an antiaircraft site.

We drove up to the top of the fort. It isn't for the faint of heart. Shear drops and just a few rocks to mark the side of the road here.

Another view of anti-aircraft fortification on Cabo Tiñoso

Here is another view from a different vantage point. I think this is from the communications antenna site. More on that later.

Entrance to the Castillitos battery at Cabo Tiñoso
This the entrance to one of the main sections of the fort. This place was built between 1926 and 1933. It uses an interesting construction technique. The portions facing the sea are sort of camouflaged with a natural rock look.

Stores at Castillitos battery at Cabo Tiñoso

This website describes the rest of the facility as Disneyesque.  Cabo Tiñoso

These two pictures are of the Castillitos Battery. I think this is the stores building.

Huge cannon at Cabo Tiñoso

There is nothing Disneyesque bout these guns. They are 341mm or 13 inch guns and can shoot a shell 20 miles.

That is a fire control post in the background.

Here is a picture of Jia Wei standing next to one of the guns to give a little better perspective.

These things are 17 meters or roughly 55 ft long.

17 meter cannon at Cabo Tiñoso

Here is one of the guns in the context of protecting the harbor.

According to the website above these guns were fired in anger only once in 1937. I saw another reference to them being fired on April 26th 1973 by Republicans at a group of Nationalist cruisers.

This is the Jorel battery. It had 3 smaller guns for shelling closer-in shipping. We didn't walk down to this one. It was a pretty good hike.

The fort was abandoned in 1994.

Here is a view of Cartagena Bay. There were a number of ships at anchor. The harbor at Cartagena is at the far end of the bay.

There is a matching set of guns on the other side of Cartagena harbor.

View of La Azohia from mountain

Here is a view of the harbor at La Azohia. The dock there was built to unload the cannons.

Greg, notice the beach scene on the right hand side of the picture.

Click to enlarge.

This is the communication tower on the west end of the cape. I have no idea how much radiation I was exposed to getting this picture.

 Notice the observation post in the background.

view of Campillo de Adentro from mountain

This is a view of the valley at the north end of the cape. This area is known as Campillo de Adentro.

There is one restaurant in the little town there but otherwise the place is devoid of any services.

I think this was a barracks for the fort. It is located in the valley some distance from the fortifications.

This is about the only wildlife I've seen in Spain other than birds.

It looks a little mangy, though. Maybe it is still losing it's winter coat?

And finally, this is about the only bright color we saw on the day. It is all pretty brown or the green of scrawny pine trees and cactus.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Caravaca de la Cruz

Bell tower of church in Caravaca on medieval street

On Saturday I took a drive to Caravaca de la Cruz. Caravaca is a medieval city with a long history of conflict between the Moors and the Christian kings of Spain. It has, of course, been witness to the tumultuous history of Spain over the last five centuries.

Santurario de la Vera Cruz in Caravaca

The city is best known for the Santuario de la Vera Cruz. The present structure was built in the early 1800s on the site of a former Moorish fort.

You can see an example of the double arm Caravaca cross above the door.

Click to enlarge.

Paintings depicting the story of the Vera Cruz at Caravaca
These pictures from the 16th and 17th century chronicle the story of the Vera Cruz or True Cross.

I'll paraphrase the story. In 1232, May 2 to be exact, the Moorish king was speaking to prisoners at the castle on this site. One of the prisoners said he was a priest. The king said he'd like to see the priest perform a mass. So they rounded up some vestments and then the priest began. All of a sudden he stopped when he realized he didn't have a cross.

Side view of the Santuario de la Vera Cruz in Caravaca, Spain

Suddenly two angels came through the window carrying a double arm cross made from the cross on which Christ was crucified. All were amazed, of course. The Moorish king was so moved that he converted to Christianity. Things get a little fuzzy for me about the history of this relic  for the next 700 years but it was apparently stolen in 1934. Pope Pious XII gave the church two splinters form the Lignum Crucis in 1942 to replace the stolen cross.

You can get more details here ---> History of the Caravaca Cross

This a side view of the sanctuary from the museum.

View of Caravaca from the Santuario de la Vera Cruz

Here is a view of the old quarter from the fortress area at the top of the hill.

Plaza in Caravaca

These old towns are fascinating to visit. Not sure I'd want to live in one, though. Very narrow streets, small living spaces, people walking or driving just outside your door or window.

This is the other side of the sanctuary.

As I read a little bit about the history of Spain I was struck by the constant wars, political instability, etc. not to mention frequent outbreaks of the plague, yellow fever, etc. that decimated the population.

Even this door looks old.

This church was granted Holy City status by the Pope John Paul II in 1998. It is one of 5 Holy Cities in the world along with Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Santo Toribio de Liebana.

Archaeological Museum in Caravaca, Spain

This is another museum. I didn't have a chance to visit this one. It was closed from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM for lunch.

You can get a sense of the streets here, also.

Fortification in Calasparra, Spain

On the way back to Murcia, I drove through Calasparra. This is another old town. This fortification is actually a Christian fort built shortly after the Moors were chased out of this area. Like Lorca, it acted as a fortress against the Moors still in Granada.

You can learn more here. ---> History of Calasparra

Marble quarry near Caravaca, Spain

We passed this marble quarry between Caravaca and Calasparra. For a mile or so the mountain was carved up on one side of the road and a series of  marble factories were on the other side.

Almond tree in Cartagena, Spain
Here are a couple of miscellaneous pictures.

Ok, this is a test. Who can identify this tree?

Put your answer or guess in the comments below.

I'll post the answer in a few days.

I thought this was sort of ironic. This is in the suburbs of Cartagena. It is a nice sort of river walks. There are picnic tables, walking path, etc. Only one problem, no water in the river. These tend to be more like drainage canals - dry until it rains then they run full for a day or two.