28 March, 2011

Flatlands - Hangin' with Shawn, Day II

We fully intended to be up and about early today.  I mean, early enough that we'd have breakfast over and be knocking on the doors of the Strategic Air and Space Museum by 10am, when they opened.  Yeah.  That's what we planned last night.  Good thing our planning allows for some flexibility for things like... sleeping later than intended...  It's possible we left the house by 10am, but more likely that I was just rolling out of bed around then.
Blackbird - SR71
The museum is absolutely phenomenal!  If you're ever in the Omaha area, you should definitely put this on your list of things to do.  (Most of the plane pictures are thanks to Greg and his fancy-pants camera - my little point-and-shoot just couldn't do the subjects justice.  The picture of the picture is mine...)  You can literally spend hours - and we did - just wandering around looking at the displays.  It's difficult for me to adequately illustrate or describe the colossal size of the airplanes.  It'll have to be enough to say that they're GINORMOUS.

I found it ironic that on most of the airplanes there are emergency instructions for opening and/or ejecting the cockpit painted on the exterior of the plane.  Understandable, I suppose, except that I'd hope there're instructions for those inside the plane to get out.  I mean, if the plane crashes in enemy territory, I doubt those finding the wreckage can even read the instructions, and if they can I doubt they're going to help the crew escape - unless it's to be captured for some kind of questioning...  It would seem the instructions are only good if the plane crashes in friendly (English-speaking) territories - so what do they do in other circumstances?
Peacemaker (B36) - wingspan from side to side in the back
Sabre (F86) - camo suspended above the wing of the Peacemaker
T-Bird (T33) - grey above the body of the Peacemaker
 Photograph of a painting, including the Peacemaker (B36)
One of the most amazing planes I saw there was the Peacemaker (B36) - so called because it could hold tremendous amounts of bombs and fly extremely long distances (peace by intimidation?).  It's an absolutely massive piece of machinery.  Tubular in shape, it doesn't seem like it should be able to fly based on the placement of the wings.  Wing span is approximately 230 feet, the body is 162 feet long, and it was the only aircraft capable of flying to another continent and returning without having to refuel.  I tried to take pictures to show the vastness of it, but my camera is not good enough to truly portray the epic proportions of any of the planes - particularly the Peacemaker.
After we finished touring the Air and Space Museum, we stopped by the Tower of Terror.  At least, that's what I call it.  Locals or people who don't have my phobias might just call it an observation tower in the Platte River state park.  Apparently, if you climb all the way to the top, you can see for miles and miles in any direction - at least partly because they don't have mountains here in the Flatlands.  I wouldn't know for sure though, since I only made it up two flights of stairs - and I'm damn proud of that!!  I was waiting there for Greg and Shawn to get done observing when I felt the tower move as the wind picked up.

I'm not sure if it was real movement or my imagination, but it was enough that I booked it down the tower to stand on solid ground and read about the bot fly, which is native to Nebraska.  There are two types of bot fly - in order to tell them apart you have to look on the belly of the fly (one has some red hair, the other doesn't).  The bot fly looks and sounds like a bee - but it isn't - and the female sprays her eggs into the nostrils of a deer.  (And just so you know, there's no way in sam hell that I'm going to be picking up a fly that looks and sounds like a bee to examine its belly so I know which species of bot fly it is!  I'm going to either smash that sucker flat - with some implement that is NOT my hand - or spray it with deadly bee toxin, keeping the adage in mind: better safe than sorry...)  Ahem.  The eggs gestate inside until ready to hatch, which is when the deer coughs them up.  They hatch then fly around looking for mates to start the whole cycle over again.  Nowhere on the stupid plaque did it say anything that the bot fly is good for - like pollination, keeping real bee populations down, eating mosquitoes, etc.  Now you too know much more than you ever need to know about the bot fly, which is native to Nebraska.  I highly recommend climbing the tower rather than becoming a bot fly plaque reading specialist, if you can manage your phobias enough to do so.
Dark clouds moved in with the wind, and we ended up with snow.  While that was a bit disappointing weather-wise, it didn't stop us from heading out to a local lake to get more pictures and having an absolutely divine steak dinner.  There's definitely something to be said for having steak that's fresh off the range!  Then home again to make some mustard-bourbon barbecue sauce, visit, and play games.  (Note: One of my favorite memories of Shawn is making barbecue sauce from scratch.  While we were here, I asked if he knew a recipe for a mustard-based sauce, since I'm not overly fond of the sweet, honey-ketchup-based sauces.  The results of that test are chilling in the fridge, and I'm excited to test it out!!)  On that note, yet another marvelous day has come to a close.

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