Friday, October 17, 2014

Eerie Noise from the Sky

Last night - not sure what time, but probably around 9:40 - I was watching TV. Dan had just gone to bed, but was awake, reading.

All of a sudden, a loud, low-frequency rumbling began, our windows started chattering, and my innards were shaking like Jello! I muted the TV and listened for awhile, thinking it would stop, but it didn't . . . A few particularly spooky episodes of X-Files came to mind.

We live close enough to Ft. Hood to hear fighter jets, military helicopters, and various munitions testing on occasion. But this rumbling was different. It went on and on. So, although I was already in my pajamas, I slipped a jacket on and ran outside to see if I could spot the source of this roaring rumble.

I wasn't alone . . . No, not aliens!

Alan, from next door, and another neighbor, were both out in the middle of the street, looking skyward and trying to solve the mystery. We were all three tossing out ideas, none of which quite added up, and then suddenly - very suddenly - the noise stopped. No winding down. No fading into the distance. It just stopped.

I came inside and went to the bedroom to talk to Dan about it. He had heard it, too, of course, but didn't seem to be nearly as curious as I was.

I didn't think I could get to sleep until I figured out what I had heard/felt. So I went on-line, Googling all sorts of phrases like, "loud rumbling sky temple texas." I found that others had heard roaring rumbles in the Temple-Waco area in the past, and some suggested it could be caused by flaring from an oil refinery. Hmmm. Maybe. But I didn't think so. Too loud. Too long. I kept searching and discovered some comments about the noise resulting from rocket tests at SpaceX, in McGregor.

Sure enough, I finally found this brief article from a KWTX-McGregor website titled "Our Town Texas."

MCGREGOR (October 15, 2014) 
McGregor's SpaceX facility plans a louder-than-usual test that could happen as early as Friday. 
The California company tests its rocket motors at its facility in McGregor west of Waco.
The upcoming test "will be significantly more noticeable than the typical tests we run daily," the company said in a brief statement.

"As early as Friday" must have meant Thursday night. McGregor is 25 miles, as the crow flies, from Temple. I can't imagine what the people there, in McGregor, experienced. I guess they are somewhat used to the tests that go on there, but this one was a doozy.

Here's a YouTube video of one of the SpaceX rocket tests that Dan says was probably similar to the one we heard last night.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8-61AzLnlA

Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 U..S. Vintage Racing National Championship

Yesterday was a day to mark on the calendar. FINALLY, after 45+ years of being married to Dan, I agreed to accompany him to a car race, at the Circuit of the Americas, near Austin. He has wanted me to go with him forever, and I think had given up hope. But on Thursday he asked me if I would like to go - he enticed me with words like "old", "vintage", "beautiful" - all of those words modifying "cars" of course. He even compared the event to the Balloon Fiesta, in Albuquerque. And to his utter surprise, I simply said, "Sure."

I had a good time.



It was a very nice day. The steady breeze kept the heat from being too much of a problem, although by late afternoon it was 96 degrees. From the start, I had one goal in mind - to get to the top of the tower. It has fascinated me, ever since we viewed the track from the outskirts, before it was actually open to the public.



So, after a short sit in the main grandstand, and a brief introduction to the venue, by Dan, I was hoofing my way to that tower. It was quite a little hike, mostly uphill, but turned out to be well worth the effort. They charged $15 to go up the elevator (the stairs were closed). And I couldn't hand over my money fast enough. (Okay, to be honest, the money came out of Dan's wallet, but I did the handing over.)



Notice, when looking up at the platform, that there is a section, toward the front, that is glass. The tower is 251 feet tall, but the platform is only at 231 feet. That's not even half -- a little more than a third -- of the height of the Gateway Arch which we visited back in May. But I thought the view from the tower was more awesome than from the Arch. Also, being able to be outside in the fresh air made it a more enjoyable experience.


Here you can see the glass in the platform. The railing around the edge is also clear glass, which adds to the rush when you walk out there.


These two photos are taken while I was standing on the glass, looking down through it. The first one is the structure of the tower itself, from above.









This is looking down on one of the two paddocks and pit areas, which we later walked through and admired some of the cars up-close.



At the base of the tower is a stage and amphitheater, where performers come throughout the year. This is looking down on the stage area from the top of the tower.



Dan walked with me to the tower, but didn't have any desire to go up to the top. He waited for me below, in this "very crowded" grandstand. That's him - the little reddish dot at the point of the arrow. Well, you'll have to trust me on this. When I look at the photo at full size in full resolution, I can see him sitting there. I am told, by Dan, that during the Grand Prix races, the grandstands are all full of people, but this was a smaller race, and it was a weekday. So we had no crowds to contend with.


Once I'd gotten my trip to the top of the tower, we went to the paddock to see some of the cars. These, of course, were what Dan came to see. It was fun seeing some of these vintage cars all dressed up for the prom, so to speak.


Dan seemed to be most interested in this Benetton Car - what he called "a true F-1 car." He might have been a wee bit prejudiced, though, considering what kind of engine was inside  (below).


I was looking for pretty, shiny cars to photograph, but Dan kept wanting me to take pictures of things like this, which I did, and which he says is a "great picture." Hmmm. I guess it might be, if I knew what I was looking at.


Here's the car that the above belongs to.


A Selfie!


 This fellow was a little reluctant to pose with his Porsche, but Dan talked him into it for me.







Finally, we sat down in the grandstand and watched a race. Those cars are LOUD and FAST. I should have taken my Nikon with me, because my Panasonic bridge-type camera just isn't as responsive as a DSLR, making it hard to snap the shutter at the right time. But I caught a few of them as they zoomed past me, including Dan's favorite, with the Judd engine (leading in the first picture).



It was a fun day. And it was a good thing we went yesterday, because the rain moved in over-night, which would have been a spoiler for going today.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's Here Again - My Favorite Season

Fall stirs something deep inside me! I love it!




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mother Neff State Park

Dan and I drove out to Mother Neff State Park this morning. It only takes a half hour, or less, to get there from our house. We wanted to scope it out for Chris and Kelsey, since they love camping in the various Texas State parks, and haven't been to this one yet.

It was a beautiful fall morning. The temperature was around 80 degrees, so it was perfect for getting out and walking. Mother Neff is a small, forested park, with a few hook-ups for campers and some nice day-use areas. We spoke with one of the rangers, who was doing some maintenance there, and she said that in a couple months they will be completing an expansion that has been going on for a year or two, which will add considerably more camping spaces to the park.





The park sits alongside the Leon River, and fishing is allowed from the bank. In the 1930s the CCC worked there, quarrying native limestone and milling local timber, to construct the pavilion and a couple other buildings, which are all still in use.





There are numerous hiking trails with some points of interest, such as a Tonkawa Indian cave, a stone tower, and a pond. We didn't go to the tower or the pond, but did climb down the rough, rocky stone steps to visit the cave. I was a little nervous about Dan going down those stairs, since he's just seven weeks out from his last knee replacement surgery, but he did great!










Thursday, September 11, 2014

Homestead Heritage Village

It's been quite a summer! Between moving Mom here and taking care of Dan during his recuperation after having both knees replaced, summer has sort of passed me by. That's okay, though, since I was more than happy to be there for both of them. But now it's FALL, my very favorite time of year, and I have been feeling a great need to get out with my camera to somewhere beautiful.



I had heard about Homestead Heritage Village, just north of Waco, some time ago, and was again reminded of it this week, by a friend who had been there recently. So I set out late this morning to explore it. (Dan's new knee wasn't quite up to an activity like this yet.) What a wonderful place! I'll be going back as often as I can. It's open to the public Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It has a working gristmill with a store that sells its flours; a forge, where blacksmiths work; a pottery workshop; a fiber crafts building, for carding wool, combing cotton, beating flax, spinning, weaving, and knitting; a woodworking shop; a gift shop; and a cafe/bakery. They offer classes to the public in the various crafts. 

The weekend after Thanksgiving they hold a big craft fair with demonstrations, live bluegrass and gospel music, food, and hands-on activities - for adults and children. 

THE FORGE




THE GRISTMILL

This waterwheel powers the mill

The mill store, where they sell flours and baking mixes, as well as homemade jams and jellies.
THE CAFE/BAKERY
I had lunch here, and it was very good. I was sorely tempted to have a dessert, as they looked absolutely wonderful - but I didn't.
THE FIBER CRAFTS
A class, framed by one of the large looms



This woven piece, still attached to a loom, was in process.

Some completed woven scarves
THE POTTERY BUILDING



A class was going on while I was there, and a man was working on this piece. He used a grape leaf to make the impression.

THE WOOD SHOP


This very tall chest was made in the wood shop and is now displayed in the gift shop. 

This is the top of the chest shown above. You can only see the top from the upper story of the shop, but even this "unseen" portion was beautifully crafted.
THE GIFT SHOP




These are scented soaps. They slice bars from the long slabs.
 THE WINDMILL



ANIMALS

On fair days, they offer horse-drawn hay wagon rides, but on non-fair days, they only have a few animals in a petting zoo area, such as this llama, who seems to have a severe under bite ;-)



 Although the Thanksgiving Fair would be a lot of fun to attend, I really enjoyed going on a day like this. There were not many people there (except in the cafe/bakery), and it was so peaceful and quiet.