Martians on Motorcycles, Elizabeth Taylor, Eagles & Strike Eagles (Updated)

I’m packing for a motorcycle trip to Nevada and Utah, tomorrow through Monday.  In Las Vegas I’ll stay with a friend, visit with the kids and grandkids, and take some day rides around southern Nevada; on Sunday my son and I are going on an all-day out & back ride to southwestern Utah, with Gregory on a borrowed BMW.

These days, when packing, you have to remember camera batteries and chargers for cell phones and electronic readers.  One side pocket of my motorcycle suitcase is reserved for electronics.  There I go, sounding like Andy Rooney again.  I wonder if he ever rode motorcycles.  Bet he did.

I’ll ride I-10 to Phoenix, then Hwy 93 through Wickenburg and Wikiup, catch I-40 to Kingman, then Hwy 93 again to the new bridge over Hoover Dam and Sin City.  I expect it to be pretty cold around Kingman, even though I’ll be riding through during the warmest part of the afternoon.  If it’s going to be cold on the homebound leg, I might jink west to Laughlin, Needles, Lake Havasu City, Parker, then back to Phoenix and Tucson.  Damn, now I sound like one of those guys who volunteers directions to confused-looking travelers at highway rest stops.

Last night I took the headset out of my uncomfortable full-face helmet and remounted it in my comfy half-helmet.  I have a bump on top of my head, a sebaceous cyst I’ve been begging my dermatologist to remove for a year now, and can’t wear the full-face helmet for more than 20 minutes without getting a hot spot.  For some reason the half-helmet doesn’t press on the bump.  To keep the sun off the exposed part of my face I’m going to wear a black baklava mask that covers me from the top of my skull down to my neck.  I’ll look like a bank robber, or maybe this guy I’ll look like Marvin the Martian:

Possible Martian


Barnes & Noble tells me they can’t find any typos in the Nookbook version of We, the Drowned, and that if I reboot/resync my Nook the typos I’m seeing may disappear.  If that doesn’t work, I’m supposed to tell them where the typos are.  So not only did I pay $15.40 for an e-book full of typos, I get to do the copy-editing job Houghton Mifflin Harcourt should have done in the first place.  Without compensation.  Something about this deal doesn’t smell right.


While toasting my breakfast bagel yesterday morning, I was exposed to Good Morning America for about five minutes.  The panelists … is that the proper collective noun for the hosts and hostesses who sit on the sofa and comment on the day’s news? … were visibly relieved and happy to be talking about Charlie Sheen and the royal wedding again.  At least that was my take.  For all I know they’ve been chitchatting about celebrities and royals all along, ignoring Japan, the Middle East, and mass protests over red state union busting.  Now that I think about it, they probably have.  Certainly with today’s news about Elizabeth Taylor, they must be back on the celebrity beat full time. And lovin’ it.

In late 1978, when I was at Langley AFB, Virginia, finishing up F-15 training before heading over to Soesterberg AB in The Netherlands, I drove up the coast to a seafood restaurant where I saw Elizabeth Taylor with her then-husband, Senator John Warner.  I mean I think I saw John Warner … when Elizabeth Taylor was in the room everyone else faded into the background.  She really did have striking eyes, and that’s what I remember the most.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth.


I went out to the air museum again yesterday and audited two more tours: the tram tour of the outdoor display aircraft and an indoor tour of a hanger dedicated to the B-17s and the crews who flew them from England on bombing missions against Germany during WWII.

During the tram tour, the guide gave a somewhat garbled description of the F-15 Eagle on display, calling it a fighter-bomber.  I almost spoke up, but then remembered my place. The tour guide had seen the news photo of the F-15E Strike Eagle that crashed in Libya yesterday, and I guess to him any F-15 is an F-15.  Which is understandable.  But no F-15 pilot would have made that mistake.

The Eagle is a single-seat air superiority fighter, designed to sweep the skies of enemy aircraft.  It carries missiles and bullets, not bombs.  The Strike Eagle is a two-seat fighter-bomber designed for air-to-ground missions.  It carries missiles for self-defense, but it primarily carries bombs.  The two versions of the F-15, other than sharing a common airframe, are different aircraft with different missions.

F-15C Eagle air superiority fighter: single seat, missiles & gun
F-15E Strike Eagle fighter-bomber: two-seat, missiles, gun, & bombs

After the tour, another volunteer guide asked me what my background was.  When I told him I flew Eagles, he told me I’d be their first F-15 pilot.  So I guess I’m going to have to volunteer for the tram tour beat, just to keep the public straight on different variants of the F-15 (although I probably won’t tell visitors that Eagle pilots call Strike Eagles “mud hens”).

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