Continuing our travelogue

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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We spent most of a day in Yellowstone National Park: the wind blew Old Faithful away when it erupted right on schedule. We saw both the upper and lower falls of the Yellowstone River, and of course, a bear family crossed our road to add to the photo ops.

I am still impressed by the beauty of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. There were rafts of huge logs floating in the water flanking the little town. We arrived next at Umatilla, Oregon, and the fish ladder in the dam on the Columbia River. Our very young kids enjoyed watching the salmon swimming up the ladder behind plate glass windows.

We enjoyed a couple of months with our friends, the Hal Whiddens, on Star Lake in Kent. Their rental house became available on our second trip. Our stay was interrupted suddenly when the Boeing Supersonic Transport was canceled.  

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I headed south with a big trailer behind our Buick as we battled a cold snowstorm blanketing the West Coast. When I stopped at the first gas station to have chains put on, there were two young girls in halter tops and shorts traveling in a Volkswagen. Sunny California was brutal that day, so we did not go to Yosemite. Too bad.

Some 60 engineers found ourselves in Dallas with nothing to work on! Noting that I am from North Carolina, my boss asked if I’d like to go to Hampton, Virginia, to join a group of engineers working at Langley Research Center for NASA. Of course, we had to stop in Birmingham to visit with an Air Force buddy, architect Jack Blackwood.

I still cherish a “pretty” that Jack made for me. It is a turned walnut “vase” with three reeds stuck in it. Jack was not only a master wood crafter, but he also mastered the “deadpan” facial expression (or lack of it). He would tell a funny story, then look at us, all laughing, with that perfect deadpan, as if wondering what we were all laughing about.

Jack was a talented architect, who bought an unbuildable lot and then put an ingenious house on it. He made beautiful drawings of his designs, and helped me decide to become an aero engineer instead of an architect. I did not want to compete with the likes of Jack. Better to be a great airplane designer than a starving architect!

A solar eclipse caught up with us in Hampton. I made a camera obscura from one of our wardrobe boxes, so the whole neighborhood could see the eclipse projected on the bottom of the box. No glasses required! We watched this year’s eclipse on television. No special glasses required, though our son had thoughtfully provided two pairs of special sunglasses for us.

Kevin Vees loaded up the White Oak bus for the men’s breakfast at Nana’s. When Nana’s was too full to accommodate us, Kevin drove us over to Columbus to Zoe’s, located where Southern Manners used to be. The girls pulled tables together downstairs, so we did not have to climb the grand staircase that dominates the room. They also numbered us in order around the tables, and we paid our bills by the numbers! Smart girls!

Next I will tell you about my wonderful experiences flying airplanes. When I was eight years old, my Dad took me out to a big field where a barnstormer was giving rides. My first airplane ride, then, was with my Dad in a biplane. A fitting beginning for a life filled with airplanes, both the ones we owned and the ones that flew off my drawing board as a designer of them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

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