Category Archives: Tourism

The WASP Nest

WASP Museum croppedI recently began another explorative journey with a travel partner, and on Monday we left Tucson with a small toy-hauler, loaded with two recumbent trikes, in tow behind the pickup, heading for parts of Texas, mostly unknown to me.

On Wednesday, as we drove toward Dallas, we saw the sign that read “WASP Museum”, located in Sweetwater, Texas. Being curious, we took a small detour and stopped there, at Avenger Field, the training ground for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II.

The information about these brave and adventurous women is astounding. The museum has handprints of many of the women who earned their wings to fly several different aircraft, often as the first pilots of the aircraft.

Aircraft

In 2010 NPR did a story on these women who filled the void of pilots needed during the war. You can read it at http://www.npr.org/2010/03/09/123773525/female-wwii-pilots-the-original-fly-girls

As mentioned in the article President Obama signed a bill awarding the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by the U. S. Congress. Although this was a civilian award, the WASP eventually were given military status in the 1970s.

Upon graduation from their pilot training they received their silver wings…Wasp Logo

The WASP wings–perhaps the most unique wings in all the world, were designed for the WASP–with a diamond in the center that symbolizes the shield of Athena–Greek goddess of war, take center stage on the floor of the hangar. Standing at the top of the WASP Wings is a bronze statue of Fifinella loaned to the museum by the Sweetwater Woman’s Forum. ( http://waspmuseum.org/about/)

Rather than paraphrase the history of how Fifinella became the mascot of the WASP, here is the explanation provided by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gremlins):

Fifinell 2

The Gremlins is a children’s book, written by Roald Dahl and published in 1943.[1] It was Dahl’s first children’s book, and was written for Walt Disney Productions, as a promotional device for a feature-length animated film that was never made.

The story concerns mischievous mythical creatures, the Gremlins of the title, often invoked by Royal Air Force pilots as an explanation of mechanical troubles and mishaps.[4] In Dahl’s book, the gremlins’ motivation for sabotaging British aircraft is revenge of the destruction of their forest home, which was razed to make way for an aircraft factory. The principal character in the book, Gus, has his Hawker Hurricane fighter destroyed over the English Channel by a gremlin, but is able to convince the gremlins as they parachute into the water that they should join forces against a common enemy, Hitler and the Nazis, rather than fight each other.

Eventually, the gremlins are re-trained by the Royal Air Force to repair rather than sabotage aircraft, and restore Gus to active flight status after a particularly severe crash.[N 3] The book also contains picturesque details about the ordinary lives of gremlins: baby gremlins, for instance, are known as widgets, and females as fifinellas, a name taken from the great “flying” filly racehorse Fifinella, that won both the Epsom Derby and Epsom Oaks in 1916, the year Dahl was born.

Fifinella WASP“It was “The Order of Fifinella” and Fifinella, of course, was our little good gremlin that took care of us and sat on our wings, supposedly. Walt Disney made the design and we got permission to use it and that’s how we started “The Order of Fifinella.” ~ Faith Buchner Richards, 43-W-4, Oral History (http://www.twu.edu/library/wasp-fifinella.asp)

Too often women’s history has been moved aside, allowed to fade, only to become almost a myth, it seems to me. So stumbling onto this museum has given me the motivation to once again put at the forefront a women’s history of powerful, brave, adventurous, and daring women who prevailed during a difficult time in this country’s history. These women were the women of my mother’s generation. They stepped forward into a “man’s world” to show that they could achieve on an equal basis the same as  men, and maybe more.

 

Grand Canyon Land – From the Edge

And you know that unless you take a tour into the Canyon, you only see it from the edge!

011 croppedI spent two nights at Desert View campground, 25 miles east of the main ‘action’ at the Canyon. The campground has 56 sites and for me as a senior with a park pass, it was a total of $12 for my stay. After arriving and resting for the first night, I woke early the next day, ready to explore. At 6:00 a.m. I was at the Desert Watch Tower, and from there I meandered toward the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, stopping in all the overlooks to take in the vistas.

At the Visitor Center I parked and got on one of the free shuttles that take you into the market area. From there I transferred to the Hermits Rest ‘red’ line for all the stops along the Canyon south rim. As I’m usually the one taking pictures I’m seldom in any of them. But I did manage to have a couple of me made with the Canyon in the background.

I enjoyed a little playful exchange with a tall, dark, handsome, gregarious man from California. He was taking a photo for someone else and I told him he did such a good job that I’d like for him to take my photo too. He pleasantly accommodated my request. Later he and his family were having their photo taken by someone just as I walked by. And he called out to me that he could get his photo made too! I told him he was really talented!!! Looking back I wish I’d gotten off the bus at the next stop he did – I might have had more opportunity to flirt. One of his family members asked me if I was getting off and I said I’d catch the stop on the turn-around trip. Sigh…

015In the Lipan Point overlook I met a geologist and another man who were photographing the Canyon, I suspect for some kind of research. When I commented that it was hazy he advised me that in records from previous explorers in the 1800s there was mention of the haziness in the Canyon. So while there has been some influx of pollution brought by way of California and Arizona, there is enough moisture in the Canyon to create haze. I noticed that toward the end of the day some of that haze had dissipated.

I was particularly delighted to experience what seemed to be the vultures playing with me. As one and then two flew close by, into the curve of one of the precipices I was standing on, I tried to photograph them. I didn’t get very good shots. But the more I tried, the more they circled around me (and NO, I wasn’t dead or dying!) and even more showed up – all totaled around six. It was like the more I enjoyed them, the more they wanted to be there. Later as I exited the bus to go back home a man caught my attention and pointed to a condor that was flying nearby. Now I’m wondering if I saw condors or vultures; whatever they were, they were amazing.

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The Colorado River runs through it!

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The Watch Tower is in background

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Throughout the day, at each of the stops I was mindful of the vantage point for my photos and I took the opportunity to expand on viewing the Canyon from the edge. More will come about that as I allow the experience to sink in further.

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Although I’m posting in this blog, being mindful of being on the ‘edge’ at this wonder of the world, I think about the views from the edge that might belong in the other one! I took so many pictures it’s hard to choose which ones to share. These are just a taste.