Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rodent Prince Returns

Jack is back and fast asleep.  Likely this post will be replaced by one from him when he wakes up.  But, for now a fine executive summary:
United 777-200 taxiing out at Guam
The trip back went well, the biggest downside was he misses his Thomas family.  The B777 lifted off from Guam on schedule at 0635L, which meant an 0400 wakeup!  But, the best part was he was onboard!  

The leg to Honolulu was unremarkable, he had an aisle seat in Premium Economy and sat next to a family from Guam going to Honolulu for a holiday.   There was a fairly short 3+12 layover which involved a ride on the Wiki Wiki bus in Honolulu.  The flight left Honolulu at 2108L with a full bird, but with Jack on it!  The big bird that used to have a golden tail arrived in Los Angeles at 0518L.  He missed the first commuter from LAX to San Diego, but made the second one.
United Express bringing Jack home
The flight from LAX to SAN is only 0+41 airborne, so we needed to leave when he boarded to get to the airport on time!
Landing in San Diego, right over our office!
 He called us when he boarded, we drove down and picked him up.  Timing was impeccable, we pulled up as he walked out of the Commuter Terminal.  Pretty painless.
Dru and the Rodent Prince
Timing being everything, Jack made it through until 1900L and is now fast asleep.

Thank you to United Airlines for making the trip possible.  Thanks to all of you who followed Jack and prayed for his safe return.  Thank you in particular to the Thomas family, specially Kurt and Mary, who made his trip so special.

Hap, Dru and Jack

The whole trip was not serious, there was a bit of levity

Did you wonder if they had any fun while they were out there?  Did you wonder if they were concerned about us here on the mainland.   Did you ever wonder if they had a sense of humor?

Check out the video!

Guess that answers that question, does it not?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spanish Steps, Spanish Fort and the Chamorro Village

Today, I awoke for my final full day in Guam with the quite lovely and wonderful Thomas family at 0600 as usual. 

This morning, I had the usual coffee on the porch with Kurt, Mary and Emme and we saw that it was calm enough to fly Kurt's R/C Corsair. So after we finished our coffee, we headed over to the Driving Range, where there was nobody out yet, and had plenty of room to fly the Corsair. The fight was a tremendous success, and Kurt even got to dogfight the local drongo birds with the Corsair, eventually scaring them off.
F-4U Corsair Radio Controlled Aircraft
 Then we came inside and made preparations for breakfast, which was a delicious meal of eggs and toast made by Mary. Then we decided that we would go hike down the steep Spanish Steps again, but before that, we would go shopping at the NEX for Bug Repellant, which unfortunately, the NEX did not have. So at 1215, we departed the house and left for Spanish Steps, seeing an old bunker and some Spanish fort ruins on the way.
View from the top of Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps Beach
Me, almost to the bottom of the steps!
Spanish Steps was the same as the last blog post, so I am going to skip ahead to the Chamorro Village, which was pretty interesting, with all of the locals cooking food and offering various items for sale. I even got my picture taken with a crab and a monitor lizard!
Not exactly relaxing with the lizard and crab!
Afterwards, we headed home and Kristyna and I drove Mitchell in the Jeep out to the beach and are relaxing at home.

Tomorrow, I am sad to say that I am departing Guam for San Diego, and will miss the Thomases and their friends dearly.


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Monday, July 9, 2012

Certification and Shopping with Kristyna!

Today was a big day for Mary and I, for today was the day that we would receive our open water dive certification and do two boat dives. I awoke at 0600 to begin this very exciting adventure and had my usual morning coffee with Kurt and Mary.

We had the usual breakfast of Raisin Bran w/milk and we had to eat quickly as we began eating at 0730 and had to depart at 0745 for an 0800 arrival at the boat. I devoured my Raisin Bran and gathered up my diving log book and both of our gear (water shoes, fins, and masks/snorkels) and stuffed it into the gear bag.

Mary then got a backpack for our logbooks, towels, sunscreen and my watch. We all piled into the Jeep (Kurt, Mary, an extremely sleepy Mitchell and I (not sleepy, thanks to the coffee!) and departed at 0750, thankfully arriving at 0758 at the MDA (Micronesian Divers Association) dock on time for the 0800 arrival.
Great morning for diving!
We waited until Ashley, our instructor arrived at 0805 and we began loading the tanks, our scuba gear, our gear and the backpack onto the boat. Upon embarking, we were briefed on the boat rules and after waiting for the five other divers, at 0840 (10 minutes after schedule) we set out for our first dive at Barracuda Rocks.

On the way out, we were briefed for our final class dive, that would earn us our divers certs, that we would have to remove and replace our mask underwater and clear it. Then, we would do our hovering (where you sit and establish neutral buoyancy.)

We then donned our gear, having assembled the gear before we left port, and did our buddy checks (BCDs, Weights, Air and Final Ok). Proceeding next, we had our fins on and masks on and strode in a large stride (as at the Gab Gab Dive) and jumped in.

After making sure we were both okay, Ashley gave us the signal to descend. Slipping beneath the water, deflating the BCD was a sensation that I was now no longer a stranger to. As I descended, I felt the pressure and would equalize as often as possible and if I couldn't, I would signal and we would ascend gently and wait for my ears to clear.

Once on the bottom at 60 ft roughly, we did the exercises and without any significant trouble, we completed them. Then we explored the area and after about a 40 minute dive, we ascended to the surface. I lost my fin as I tried to take one fin off with my other fin in my hand but I dropped it. Fortunately, Ashley retrieved it.

I then decided to solve this mistake that I would only remove a fin at a time and put it on the boat before doing my next fin. This system worked excellently on the next dive, Finger Reef, which is near Gab Gab and San Luis Beach. This was my first pleasure dive. As we dove to our max depth of 54 feet, I was in awe at the blue and the beauty of the ocean.
Just like at home, except not freezing cold!
I saw several species of fish, and even saw a sting ray swimming along, approx 30 feet off to the right of me.
Cool stingray!
After we debarked, we made our way to the MDA dive shop to get our temp dive cards but we will have to pick them up tomorrow as their system went down unexpectedly. So we went home and watched Kurt fix the Acura window with Mary's help! Way to go Kurt!

Then Kristyna decided to drag me along in the Jeep to the NEX to get hair supplies for her and headphones for Kurt. So I was hostage to the whims of a 16 year old driver who was concentrating on her hair!  Fortunately I got to drive back so it wasn't all bad.
Last stop at the NEX for this trip!
So, I am here at home, hanging out with the family.


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A tour around Guam!

Guam from a satellite, I did not take this one!
We departed for a tour around Guam around 1030 today, with Mitchell, Alexia, Kurt, Mary and myself going in the Acura.
Asan Beach
We first headed to the scenic overlook above Asan Beach, where the 3rd Marine Infantry Division landed on Guam and began making their way up the treacherous jungle and hills filled with Japanese. When we arrived it began raining heavily and we waited approximately fifteen minutes for it to end. Finally, it ended and we got out and took pictures and Kurt showed me where the gun emplacements that rained bullets on our troops as they fought their way inland.  Then he showed me the the steep hills where our soldiers ascended and fought their way through the resistant Japanese defenses.

We stayed there for about ten more minutes, looking at the monument located at the scenic overlook then headed to the Magnata Quarry, one of the sites where the Japanese held defensive shelter during the bombardment for the Battle of Guam. We looked inside the cave enterance and tested the echoes in the cave then headed up the coast to Andersen AFB.

Once at Andersen, we went to Taguta Beach and looked at the beautiful ocean before heading back to look at the relic of "Old 100" the remains of a B-52D that had flown over North Vietnam and had been on display at Andersen, until it was cut up as it had severely corroded and blew away into the jungle. 
Tail gunner's position on Old 100
Then we went to see the B-52D that was on display and I got my picture taken with it. It was enormous in person! Just walking around it, gave you a sense of how massive these things are!
Next, we headed to Mount Santa Rosa, where there was an extinct volcano, and where the Jap force commander's headquarters for Guam where located and where he was killed after a fierce battle with American Forces. 
Mount Santa Rosa
After failing to locate the volcano, which we were right on top of, we headed to Talafofo to eat at Jeff's Pirate Cove, which indeed lived up to its reputation of having the best burgers on Guam. We passed Fort Plateau, where the Jap second commander moved his headquarters and was killed. It is also where Sgt. Shodi Yogi, the last Jap hold out was found, in the jungle nearby,
Pratt & Whitney R-985 or similar engine
Not all of Guam is freeway close
From there, we headed through Inanarahan, where Mitchell and I went swimming in a local watering hole and did a high dive, about 20 feet or so into the water, about three or four times before swimming around a bit. 
Jack jumps at Inaranhan
This took us through the southeastern portion of Guam, and we finished the tour by driving through Menzio, where the Japanese committed horrible atrocities to the Chamorros, and Umatec before headed back to the house on the naval base.

Tomorrow, I am headed on my last class dive which is a navigation with compass dive, off a boat, after which I will be certified as a PADI diver! And then I will also have one pleasure dive also.


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Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Long Scuba Filled Day!

San Luis Beach
At 0600 this morning, I awoke from my bed and began my long and arduous day scuba diving. I had a good breakfast, unlike our hurried granola breakfast yesterday. We prepared for the day by getting our rash guards and trunks on, applying sunscreen, then getting our fins, masks and snorkels.  At 0745, we departed the Thomas House to go to our second open water lesson at San Luis.  First a shallow skills check, which included the neutral buoyancy/ fin pivot, where I deflated all the air in the BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and I controlled my buoyancy using exhale/inhale breathing.  Then mask flooding/clearing using air suction, inhaling through my nose. Then we did hovering, were you are essentially free floating underneath water and not up or down, which took some serious buoyancy control.
In the ascent!
Then we did the CESA (Controlled Emergency Surface Ascent), where you are out of air, but your dive buddy is not near/ or too far away, and you then take a deep breath, and exhale continuously until you reach the surface with your left hand deflating the air in your BCD so you don't ascend too rapidly, and your right handin the air to guide and protect your head, this works from 30 feet or so. We practiced it horizontally, which took me 2-3 tries to get it right, but I kept trying until I got it right. My patience was rewarded, When Ashley, our instructor gave the thumbs up, we then went on a dive.
Not the way to make an Emergency Surface Ascent!
We explored the area, descending to about 40 feet. And this time I made sure unlike my first open water dive when I went down to 45 feet, I kept periodically checking my SPG (Scuba Pressure Guage) and my dive computer for air/depth and deth respectively. 
Scuba Pressure Gauge
For communication hand water, we had to learn in our first class the 25 main hand signals (for checking air level, low on air, out of air, share air and ok for examples) for communication, as without fantastic electronics, talking underwater is impossible to understand. We went at 40 ft for abut 15 minutes, until everbody had 1800 psi, I had about 1600 or so, as I started with 3000-3200 roughly.

After San Luis, we headed to Gab Gab Beach, where we first started compass navigation lessons on land, before we took it to snorkeling and then eventually under water. After we suited up, we learned how to do the enlarged step dive, from Chris our instructor. You step until our toes are over the edge of the pool, you keep a hand on your loose objects (SPG) and regulator and mask and step forward with an enlarged stride and enter the water.
Gab Gab Beach for Nav Training
We then navigated the Gab Gab pool in pairs with our compasses, one of us would navigate, the other would make sure we didn't hit other people/divers. Then on the way back, we would switch roles with our partners. After we had mastered navigation in the pool, it was time to hit the harbor! We went under the buoys and snorkeled to our dive float, then waited for Chris to secure it. We used the five point descent system (SORTED, Signal, Orentation, Regulator, Time, and Equalize Ears and Equalize Often and finally Desecnt by deflation of your BCD holding the inflator/deflator straight up as you descend, rembering to equalize. If your ears will not equalize, ascend a few feet and wait until they equalize, using either popping your ears, wiggling your jaw, blowing through your blocked nose, or a combo of the latter two.

We first descended to about 15-20 feet, to work on fin pivoting, orally inflating your BCD, by removing your regulator, exhaling, then putting the inflator/regulator hole in your mouth and pressing the button while blowing into your piece, then taking it out and putting your regulator in. Before this, you would deflate your BCD with your deflate button.
Clearing the mask
Then we worked on the mask clearing and while the others were working on fin pivoting/mask clearing, we would work on hovering. We got a bit of navigation, then we checked our air tanks, and I was done to about 1100 from 3300 psi at the start of the dive and we had been down for about 45 minutes. We ascended about 1706 having gotten in about 1620 This was improved air usage for me compared to other dives. We practiced the CSEA but this time ascending from about 15-20 feet and I got the maneuver on the first time. We then snorkeled in, removing our fins, and ascended the stairs and began removing our gear, starting with unstrapping our chest straps and putting the BCD down, then turning off the air on the tank, letting air out of the regulator and then disconnecting the first, second stage regulator, alternate air and SPG unit and putting it down. Then I disconnected the Tank from the BCD and laid it down and rinsed the fins, mask and snorkel, and the BCD and the other units off and then putting it away.

We did not get certified today, I just have a boat nav dive for certification left and a pleasure dive on the same boat on Tue and Monday and Wed are free days.


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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Scuba Lessons!

From approx 0830-1530 today, with a lunch break, I did my first in water scuba lessons!

I did my confined water dive (which is where you learn to operate the scuba equip) at the Navy Hospital, and learned the basics of putting together the scuba equipment and swimming h it.

Then Mary and I got to dive off of the old Jap fuel replenishment pier at San Luis Beach to a depth of 45 feet. Once I adjusted to the water pressure, I had a ball! It was fun hanging down there, watching the schools of fish go by. It was like an underwater forest with the purest of blue color in the bottom! Then we surfaced and worked on removing our gear in water and after a ten minute swim and a float, we put the gear back on in water and practiced changing from regulator to snorkel as we swam in!

Tomorrow, we will do three more dives at the same place and I will get my scuba certification and have a boat dive on Tuesday!


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Friday, July 6, 2012

Jack and the Caribou, aka Klong

Jack is the one standing with a straw hat, not the one sitting with sunglasses.

Hidden Beach

Hidden Beach facing the Philippine Sea
Yesterday I went to the Beach known as Hidden Beach, which also had a ton of junk, washed up from where they dumped the junk,such as engines, winches, etc. after WWII.
Hidden Beach
 We were going there for the family pictures, so while they were posing for pictures, I explored.
Chief Parry Re-Enlistment
Other than that, there was really nothing I did yesterday of note except Chief Parry's reenlistment ceremony which was my first military ceremony in a while.


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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Spanish Steps Hike

Beautiful Spanish Steps Beach
Today, we hiked down to a lovely spot called Spanish Steps at the tip of Orote Peninsula, where the Spanish created a steep, cliff side trail to bring water from the well down in the jungle below. We drove from up the house, after my morning coffee with Kurt and Mary and raisin bran for breakfast, with the kids eating also.

After changing into my swimwear, I applied copious amounts of sunscreen on my person and await for the family to get ready to leave. After a false start, we were soon on the way, all of us crammed into the Acura MDX. It only was about a five minute drive to the trail enterance. There was a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean from the trailhead.
I really did not need the sign to know the path was STEEP!
Soon, the trail dropped so steeply that there was a rope that would run most of the hike down.  We grabbed onto rope and began cautiously making our way down the 30 meter descent into the jungle. It was slow going, as we had to be accurate in our footsteps and grab onto the rope with both hands so if we fell, we would would not plunge over the cliff.

It was worse than it looked!
Shortly, we made our way down a final steep ledge and down we went into the jungle, passing by the old Spanish Well. After seeing the Well, we continued through the lush rainforest, which looked exactly like rainforests in South America and Africa. After a ten minute hike, we made it to the beach and the ocean.

While we were there, we found a propeller blade.  It appears to be from either a Douglas SBD or a Japanese Zero.  That is not as odd as it seems, the Zero used a license built version of the same propeller the SBD used.  Sometimes a commercial success can come back to bite you like an eel.After examining the propellor for markings, we carefully returned it to the jungle
SBD or Zero?
We swam in the water for about an hour or so, relaxing in the nice warm water of the Pacific and swimming around. However, the fun came to an end, when an eel six inches long, white and spotted, came out of the water by Emerson.
Spotted eel, good for scaring girls (and me)
After Kurt and Mary confirmed Kristyna's eel tale, we got out of the water and prepared to hike up the steep precipice of the cliff back to our car.

At the top, we got in the car and headed home. When we arrived, a friend of Kurt's (Chris) who works with him came over and I was introduced to him. Then Kurt had the kids take naps, and as I type this, I am resting in my shared room, and Kristyna has gone to babysit possibly.

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Happy 4th of July!

This morning, I awoke at 0615 about fifteen minutes earlier than my usual wake up time to prepare for the long and busy day. I had my usual morning coffee with Kurt and Mary and talked with them about the upcoming day. I would be going to FreedomFest 2012 with them and I was excited. There would be games, snow cones, cotton candy and even old cars and a caribou! Then, I had toast and scrambled eggs, kindly made by Mary.

Before that however, Kurt and I were called upon as needed players in a soft ball game near the track where the fair was being held. We were in such a hurry, we forgot sunscreen and when we got there, Kurt had me finish parking the car and locking up, so he could get to the team before they forfeited the game. However, he soon came back and announced that all slots were full, so we turned back around and headed back home where we had breakfast.

At 0930, I set out with Kristyna to volunteer for an organization called "Fur Ever Kind of Love" a dog adoption/rescue organization. I helped set up the tables with doggie treats and other goodies for dogs that would visit the booth. When the Thomases arrived, I split with Kristyna to join them. We wandered around the track, having fun looking at the booths and having snow cons, hot dogs, hamburgers and chips!

We visited the caribou, which I had my picture taken with and I also got to watch a martial arts demonstration about defending yourself and take downs, by a former Army instructor.
Jack and the Caribou.  Jack is standing, not sitting and does not have sunglasses on.
Then, Kurt and I visited the classic cars, which included two Ford Mustangs, an Impala, a Chevy Nova, and best of all a SeaBee HMMV! (Humvee).

Jack in the Humvee
Pair of 1960s Mustangs
Jack and the Carryall
We also watched a schoolmate of Kristyna's perform in a one man band, who played several rock songs I recognize and did an incredible job playing the national anthem as the parachutist jumped onto the football field from the HSH-21 MH-60 helicopter.

MH-60 Helicopter
Parachutist who just jumped from the MH-60
After the fair, I found Kristyna and her friend and we headed back to the gym, where I played my first pickup game of basketball with Mitchell and his buddies. Turns out my team almost won, we lost 9-10, oh so close! Then I worked on perfecting my shots, then Kristyna suggested that I start home so I could finish studying for my scuba class tonight. I agreed and we came home with Mitchell's buddies and hung out in Kristyna's room, all talking as we played on our electronics.

Tonight, I have my scuba class from 6-8 with Mary, which I think I will do well in. Afterwards, we are coming home to a party that Kurt is hosting for the 4th!

Happy 4th everbody, and remember freedom is not free and those who died to preserve our freedoms!


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Monday, July 2, 2012

The Hike to the Corsair with Guam Smith and his companion Mitchell

This morning, I woke up at 0630 as usual.  After freshening up, I joined Mary and Kurt on the back porch for the usual morning coffee routine. We were discussing our morning plans and we decided Mitchell and I would hike to the old Orote Airfield; then into the jungle to see the crashed Corsair Kurt told me about.  Whilst waiting for Mitchell to wake up, I hung out in the living room, catching up on Facebook news and listening to music.

Then around 0930 Mitchell and I went down to the Jeep, after diligent searching we found the mosquito repellent and set out on the hike.  It was rather good for Guam weather, slightly humid and breezy.  However it was rather a long hike, going on the old runway and then through a really rough and moss covered jungle trail.
A long hot hike through the jungle
It seemed to get even more humid as we hiked along, dodging spider webs, leaping over logs and avoiding poison frogs!
Blue Guamanian Poison Dart Frog - Before stepping on!
After what seemed to be eternity, I believed the end was in sight, thinking I saw the Corsair through the trees and vegetation.  But, alas, it was a few more minutes afterwards that I caught sight of the warbird hulk. The engine was gone, the cockpit was totally looted, the rear fuselage and tail was gone, just the middle section of the Corsair was there. I sat, or rather stood, in the cockpit while looking around.
Jack in the F-4U Cockpit
F-4U firewall
Examining the fuselage
Fuselage details
Right Wing
Corsair Left Wing
Corsair Fuselage
Then we began the long and wretchedly humid hike through the jungle back towards home. It was miserable because of the distance and the humidity.
Mitchell gets a Poison Dart Frog, or not.
Nonetheless, Mitchell and I had fun walking back to the house.  Once we got back, I took a shower then a small road trip with Kurt and Mary to drop off their Jeep for A/C work and then returned home for a delicious lunch of chili.


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