JUST 2010: Joe's U.S. Tour
BentProp Team member Joe Maldangesang arrived in Washington, DC on the afternoon of Monday, 26 April, after a 27-hour trip from Palau.
He participated with the rest of the BentProp team in the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) honoring the crew members of B-24 #42-73453, which was shot down on 1 September 1944, and whose crash site was located (after a 10-year search) by the BentProp team in January 2004. Over the course of three recovery missions, teams from JPAC and MDSU-1 recovered remains of all eight crew members of that aircraft from the underwater crash site. Remains of the crew members were honored and laid to rest at ANC on Thursday, 29 April 2010.
Several team members stayed in DC for the next few days, doing some sightseeing and sharing the sights and chunks of our country's history and culture with Joe, who has never been in the U.S. before.
Joe began a trek across the continent on which many of us wish we could join him. He's going to travel by car, light plane, and train to visit and hang out with various team members as he makes his way from our nation's capital to sunny San Diego.
Reid Joyce begins the story:
On this first leg, I had the honor of driving Joe across the beautiful springtime Allegheny Mountains from Arlington to my home north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before leaving Arlington, we had breakfast with my son-in-law Greg Kovacs and my two grandsons, Reid and Clark. Greg and I were both members of the 2000 BentProp expedition (P-MAN II).
We stopped briefly at the National Air and Space Museum annex at Dulles airport. Joe got to examine an F-4U Corsair up close, but the aircraft he's been wanting to see for several years was an OS-2U Kingfisher (there's an object that we think is part of a Kingfisher tip float in the mangroves on the south side of Airai).
We drove back through the Virginia countryside - Leesburg and Winchester - then up through Berkeley Springs, West Virginia and on to my home in Valencia, Pennsylvania.
Joe's day in Pittsburgh started with a ride on the "Duquesne Incline," an inclined railroad that runs up the side of Mt. Washington, a ridge that borders the south side of the Monongahela River as it passes downtown Pittsburgh, and a bit of the Ohio River beyond downtown. Spectacular view, looking down on the city's Golden Triangle.
After the big overview from Mt. Washington, we took a 1.5-hour tour of Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, on whom Joe has won considerable money over the years. Among the things Joe saw were press boxes, a breathtakingly plush high-roller's suite, the field up close, and the locker rooms.
After the tour of Heinz Field, we walked across the street to the Carnegie Museum's Science Center and toured the Requin, a submarine built in 1945.
Before heading back home we stopped by Fidelity Flight Simulation's shop. That's the place where I spend some time as an instructional and aeronautical consultant. Joe got to see several simulators in various stages of construction, including a very special Beech King Air that's going to train people who fly some cool and dangerous missions in a faraway place. For example, we got to see it flying around the air base where BentProp team member Mark Swank is presently stationed. Another cool simulator under construction is for the control room of a big, deep-water offshore drilling rig. In fact, it's modeled after the control room of a specific rig that I've visited a couple of times, which happened to be about 7 miles away when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up a couple of weeks ago...
This morning, Flip Colmer flew the family Meyers 200 (it's Rebecca's...she lets Flip fly it) down to an airport near us and picked up Joe and me for a quick flight to let Joe see the cemetery on the hill above Friendly, West Virginia, where some of the ashes of B-24 pilot Jack Arnett will be interred beside his parents on 15 May. We had great visibility and a slightly bumpy ride, passing directly over downtown Pittsburgh twice. After dropping me off back in Pennsylvania, Flip took Joe on the next leg of the adventure, back to Chelsea, Michigan, near Ann Arbor. There, Joe will spend a couple of days with Flip and Paul Schwimmer before departing on Friday for Memphis.
Flip Colmer takes over the narrative:
4 May, continued
I picked up Joe from Reid and we headed west to Michigan. Once we were safely airborne, I gave Joe control of the airplane. He's as good a pilot as he is a boat captain. Enroute from the Greater Pittsburgh area, we toured Cleveland and Lake Erie, Put-In-Bay and the Perry Memorial, my house, and finally landed in Tecumseh, Michigan. We raced up to Chelsea as we were pressed for time. We had a dinner planned for Joe, but it was also shotgun night at my gun club.
A quick hello to Rebecca and out we went with a promise to be back by 6 p.m. Joe had never fired a shotgun before, so this was going to be a new experience. Guns of all kinds are illegal in Palau and if you get caught with just one bullet, it's a 15-year mandatory sentence. We arrived and had the trap range to ourselves. One of our club members is an instructor and took Joe under his wing. Our entire club knows about Joe because both Paul Schwimmer and I are members and have told many stories about BentProp, and Joe, in Palau.
We had time for one round of trap. Joe killed a number of birds (see sequence for proof) and we got home by 6 p.m.
At 6:30pm, the usual suspects showed up at our house in honor of Joe. A great meal, low carb, and fellowship followed. Everyone at the table knows about Joe and really wanted to meet him. We hung out until the chill set in. I think Joe is getting acclimated to below 80 temperatures: notice the short sleeves under his fleece!
We were planning on going Walleye fishing with Paul today but the weather forecast said not to be out on Lake Erie. So, we took Joe to Cabelas and got him some jungle pants for next year. He tasted elk for the first time and got to see animals from all over the world.
Our timing got a bit off as our tour of the Yankee Air Museum's B-17 got moved up to 4pm. So, we putzed around and then took our tour. We had dinner at a locally famous restaurant, Haab's, in Ypsilanti. Then to the Yankee Air Museum's monthly meeting where we introduced Joe to the membership and showed the movie Last Flight Home. I followed that up with the slide show presentation of the Doyle Memorial Funeral and Joe answered questions from the crowd.
Joe is downstairs catching up on the basketball standings while I type.
Joe is still a bit off time zones from his travels across the big pond, so we let him sleep in. Paul came over for morning coffee about 0930 and we rousted Joe out of bed. Today we are continuing Joe's experiences in the shooting sports. I live 500 yards from a gun club so it certainly is convenient. Our plan was to shoot pistols in the morning, break for lunch and then do rifles in the afternoon.
First things first, a bit of firearms safety training. Then some shooting. Then some pointers. Then some training and some more shooting. The bottom line, don't mess with Joe. Joe got to fire pistols from small .22s to .45s. Lots of fun.
We broke for lunch and joined Rebecca and Dana (local friend who is a flight attendant for Delta) at The Common Grill. Back to the range for the boys and the girls did afternoon girl things.
Joe got to try out a World War Two M1 Carbine and a current day AR-15. Again, don't mess with Joe.
This is a great time of the year in Michigan. It is warm in the day, cool at night. It's also a time where you see many people wandering the woods in search of morel mushrooms. A grand Michigan tradition. Rebecca told Joe what we were looking for and off we went into the woods. Like Palau, it can get thick. And you have to be wary of all the predators: the giant ducks and the crouching cats.
And as you might expect, Joe found the mushrooms first. And big ones they were. As for me, the only time I find these valuable fungi is when they come out of the discharge chute of my lawnmower.
A little drive through the countryside and we headed towards sushi. Joe has been suspect of fish since he left Palau. After all, it's as fresh as fresh can be out there. Tuna in Michigan? Could be frozen. When I mentioned sushi he questioned Americans running a sushi joint. When I told him it was run by Japanese, he said okay. And after we tried various kinds, Joe gave his seal of approval to Godaiko of Ann Arbor, MI.
No trip to Chelsea is complete without seeing where all the boxes of Jiffy Mix come from. Even those sold in Palau.
This morning, Joe and I headed to the local barbershop to get the rough edges taken off.
Then I dropped Joe at the train station in Ann Arbor for the next leg of his journey. He rides the train from here to Chicago, and after a 3.5-hour layover, he boards an all-night train to Memphis, Tennessee (that train is the famous "City of New Orleans").
Val Thal-Slocum picks up the story:
Promptly at 630 a.m., the "City of New Orleans" pulled into the station in Memphis and Joe emerged. He says he likes the train and slept all the way from Chicago until the nice lady knocked on his door and gave him a wake up with the "Memphis - 20 minutes!" call.
Now Joe is getting settled in the guest apartment in the Beech house, after having to weave his way past the Beech 18 and T6 that are undergoing their annual inspections. If all goes right the T6 will be done today and Joe may get a ride tomorrow!
He reminded me that it is now 1 a.m. in Palau and he should be sleeping. (it is now 9 a.m. here in Moscow, Tennessee) I hear a nap calling!
So after Joe took a rest, he rested some more, then I woke him up. I introduced him to our daughters Holly and Heather. Holly made sandwiches for us before we headed to Memphis to the Dixon Gallery and Garden. Our good friends, Tom and Laura Bullion gave us the deluxe tour of the Gardens, along with Kathy and John Poynor.
We enjoyed a wonderful gourmet picnic while listening to the Symphony in the Gardens with selections from Mozart, Dvorak and Tchalkovsky as well as Rossini's legendary William Tell Overture.
He is missing his boys, Doyle and Quint, who are at home in Palau with his beautiful wife Esther.
When Joe arrived in Memphis on Saturday morning he was excited that he had finally made contact with his sisters who live in the U.S. He has a sister in Texas and several in California. I also learned that he has a daughter who lives in the States and a grandson whom Joe has not yet met. Joe hasn't seen his daughter in over three years and was not sure where she is living.
By the end of the day today, Joe had made contact with his daughter. She lives in California and he will get a chance to see her when he's there next week. He also received the great news that in addition to meeting his grandson, he also has a 6-month-old granddaughter who will soon meet her Grandfather!
After a nice Mother's Day brunch at my favorite Japanese Grill and Sushi we headed to the Memphis Zoo. Lions, and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!
My friend and fellow MD11 pilot, Kandy, is a docent at the zoo. She joined us and gave us a personalized tour. She knows the names and great facts about the animals.
Kandy took us to the Educational area of the zoo and was able to bring us some animals to get to know better.
When we arrived back at Hawks'Nest, there was aircraft activity! The T6 had just finished its annual and was ready to go flying! There was a visiting Cessna 195, and did I mention we had a visiting PT26 yesterday too?
To finish out our day, we went for a walk and fed the Catfish in our pond, then torched off the grill for Cheeseburgers in paradise. We have had a cold snap here in Memphis and the temps only got into the low 70's today. It was chilly for all, but especially Joe. We put the patio heater right next to Joe's chair for dinner.
Monday morning, May 10th, in Moscow,TN was Wet!
Joe woke to a heavy rain and kept thinking it would pass but by 11 am when it did not lighten up, he put on his rain coat and made a run for the house from his accommodations at the Beech House. A little more ESPN, then we had a little lunch and then made a run to Wal-mart to pick up a few things he needed and gifts for the family back home in Palau. We picked up Holly and Heather at school on our way back.
Heather, Joe and I were about to go on a four wheeler ride to show Joe the property, when Heather made a dash back to the house (at a full run) and didn't see the pitot tube on Yak as she ran....
It was an honor and a pleasure to have Joe visit our home in Moscow, Tennessee. Happy Trails, my friend!
Jim McCarthy, a friend of team members Derek Abbey and Warren Bruce, did us the great honor of keeping Joe out of trouble during a brief layover in Chicago...
Hi, BentProp Team!
It was an honor to finally meet Joe and to spend some time with him! The weather today in Chicago - cold, rainy, windy, VERY low ceiling - was not quite what it should be for this time of year, but at least Joe will be prepared for Seattle!
It truly was an honor and privilege to meet Joe and hear his BentProp stories firsthand. Thank you all for the incredible work you perform in returning American heroes home to their loved ones!
All the best,
p.s. Joe departed on time and is enroute to Seattle!
And Reid Joyce adds:
For anyone who wants to track Joe's progress on AMTRAK's "Empire Builder" train, here are a couple of fun things to read. One CAUTION, though: if you have a tendency to be jealous, you probably shouldn't read this stuff. It's going to make you want to be traveling with Joe!
Rick Smith takes custody of Joe for a few days:
We are trying! Downtown and Space Needle today, Microsoft store and Mt. Rainier tomorrow, day of sailing on Sat. Whew! He is just hitting his stride, and we are already exhausted!
There's supposedly 16" of snow still up at
Paradise Lodge, good for an iceball fight--hopefully no one loses an
eye. With such a beautiful day on offer, Rainier is not to be missed
(just don't tell anybody about all the sunny days we have up here--it's
"Top 10 Things Joe Likes About the Northwest"
10. Freezing my ass off in 40-degree glacial
Joe came in on Thursday and his departure
on Sunday the 16th still seemed a long way off; we had activities
to do, sights to see, fish to catch.
So I asked him the critical question: "Joe, would you be okay flying to Sacramento?" Long, dramatic, thoughtful pause: "Yes."
So it was a quick call to Dan O'Brien to make sure this was a) kosher and b) wouldn't jeopardize Joe's remaining train itinerary. Then onto the Web to see what could be done. He was very nervous about flying, but apparently navigated his way to the gate, fought the fear, and got onboard. Way to go, Joe!
Dan O'Brien takes over the narrative
Ok, so there I was being wined and dined in Napa Valley late into the night on 15 May, by good friends (doesn't everyone in California hang out in Napa?) and whilst driving home at midnight or so my phone rings and it is Rick and Joe from Seattle, asking the details of Joe's next train travel leg leaving Seattle on Sunday am and arriving in Davis, CA at 7am on Monday.
There appears to be a bit of a problem: Joe wants to be in Davis, CA like right now! No slow, lounging train ride 24 hours later. Why, you ask? 'Cause over the past 18 days the BentProp homestay squad has been working with Joe searching the internet, Facebook, MySpace, etc., looking for a long-lost contact from Palau. And just like in Palau, it takes a local to find the cool stuff: Joe's sister, who lives in Texas, calls him and gives him the phone number of the person he's looking for...HIS DAUGHTER, whom he he has not seen for 20 years! Something about a teenage romance and 2 families that did not like the idea of such a young couple and...you get the picture. So last time Joe saw his daughter in Palau, she was 13 years old...and Joe was 30.
So, Rick buys an airplane ticket, and I have new marching orders: pick up Joe at 9 a.m. at Sacramento Airport, 9 hours from this phone conversation...or 24 hours earlier than his originally scheduled pickup time.
No problem...Semper Gumby!
Same morning, but later, I have Joe and we're headed for Stockton, 1+ hours South of Sacramento...a little longer, with car accidents plugging I-5 with more than a mile of stop-and-look traffic and Joe getting more and more anxious about getting to see his daughter. We arrive where she works and there's hugs and joy and love...
But wait there's more: Jeany and her husband have a 6-year-old son and a 7-month-old daughter....YES, Joe is a Grandfather, twice! Pictures of Grandkids are on Joe's camera and will be downloaded in SanDiego.
I leave Grandpa Joe in Jeany's care.
So the rest of Sunday comes and goes. No Joe.
Monday comes and goes.
Wednesday Joe calls, and says, "Okay, you can come pick me up now." Joe wanted to spend all of his time on this final leg of his USA tour with his daughter and Grandkids!
So, Joe is picked up from the family reunion. I got to briefly meet the son-in-law and 7-month-old Noe.
Next, we headed from Stockton, CA to Marin County and Muir Woods National RedWood Forest, about a 2-hour drive on a good day, but no stopping to download pics. You'll see them after the San Diego download.
In Muir Woods, there are 300-foot- tall trees that are 2,000 years old. Joe was impressed. The Park Ranger giving the 15-minute history lesson was also impressed with Joe's travel story, and with what Joe does with us finding MIAs.
Next stop, Major League Baseball and the Oakland A's night game against the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers won 5-1.
A short 1.5-hour ride later we were back home in Woodland safe and sound, and it was time to call and check in with Esther in Palau. It's 11 p.m. here, 3 p.m. tomorrow there. Perfect timing. The boyz, Doyle and Quint, really miss Dad. Thank goodness for Skype phone calls...and on your iPhone, no less!
And then a short nap later, Joe is on the train at 6:50 a.m. at Davis Train depot, headed for San Diego.
So I got to play with Joe for only one day on his adventure, BUT I got to bask in the joy of Joe with his daughter and Grandkids!
Over to you, Derek and Warren in San Diego!
So Joe arrived here in San Diego bright (well not so bright out) and early (very early) at 12:55 a.m. Mellanie (my girlfriend) and I picked him up and jumped in my car for another 25-30 minute drive back to my place.
Joe was wide awake after getting plenty of sleep on the ride from Davis to San Diego. Once he started talking, I found myself wide awake too. His journey across our country has been amazing. I enjoyed hearing his experience as though I had never stepped foot in my own country. He had several stories from each place he's stopped and visited as well as some from the time between stops. Have we mentioned that Joe is a story teller?
I was really interested in what Joe thought of my own home of Washington state. He had visited one of my favorite places in the world, Mt Rainier. There he had seen and touched snow for the very first time. Well done Rick and family! There were all sorts of tales from the college kids who started to throw a party on the train from Michigan to Memphis to the ranchers who tugged his ear from the middle of Montana to just before Seattle. From family reunions to grading sushi in America. Amazing stuff!
By the time we got back to my place, I was again pooped. I visited a little more with Joe while he caught up on ESPN before I crashed for the night. I had an early rise because I was off to REI to catch their yearly sale. Planning a camping trip of my own to Washington this summer. After the early rise and some big scores at REI, Mellanie and I made it back to my place as Joe was waking up. Joe woke up ready to go. He knocked down a cup of coffee and we were out the door.
Our first stop of the day was the University of San Diego. There had been several professors that were interested in meeting Joe, as we zipped in. As we were driving onto campus, we noticed a large amount of Marines and Sailors in the dress uniforms walking around campus. I realized that today was the day that all of the graduating students attached to the NROTC were being commissioned. I joked to Joe that they had heard he was coming and got dressed up for him.
So we did a quick stop into a couple of offices and there was no one in site. We stopped for a couple of pictures and I decided I could not let Joe leave without a USD shirt so we started off for the bookstore. When we rounded our first corner, I spotted the Dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, Dr Paula Cordeiro. Usually I would do no more than offer my daily salutation, but she had recently read an article about BentProp and had sent me an email complimenting the work. So she had to meet Joe. She was pleased to meet Joe and offer her thanks for the work that he and all the BentProppers have done. Joe met a couple of other friends and got his USD shirt before we found our way off campus.
We finished off all of our burgers and shakes and jumped in the car again. This time to Mt Soledad. Mt Soledad has the best view in San Diego. You can look up and down the coast, into Mission Bay and Downtown, you can see North Island and Miramar, and there is a beautiful veterans memorial on top. I told Joe that I did the best that I could with the weather, but I couldn't quite get all of the haze burnt off. It was still beautiful. While we were on top Mt Soledad, we made plans to meet Joe's sisters that are in the San Diego area. One would be later on today and the other will be tomorrow.
When we finished on top of Mt Soledad, I realized that we still had some extra time before we were going to meet Warren. So we drove down into La Jolla. I stopped down by the beach and told Joe that it was so he could see the Pacific from the other side. Really I was bringing him down to the cove so he could see where hundreds of seals come out to rest on the beach. He was surprised to see them all laying there when we walked up. He was also a little mesmerized by the waves that were crashing against the seawall. While Palau is in the middle of the Pacific, it usually doesn't see large waves. These waves weren't huge but they were beautiful.
Next stop MCAS Miramar. We were picking up our tickets for Disneyland on Sunday and meeting Warren. Warren was still stuck with work so we wasted our time at the famous Miramar Officers Club. Not as crazy as years past, but still a nice place to grab a drink and relax. We spotted a picture of an SBD Dauntless on the wall flying over a burning Wake Island.
After a little time there we drove to Hangar 1. Hangar 1 in the past housed TOPGUN and it was where they filmed some of the movie of the same name. Now it is the home to a squadron that is dear to my heart and flew off of Peleliu in WWII, VMF-121. VMFA(AW)-121 is currently in Japan, but we got a picture of Joe by the sign.
Then it was off to the simulator building. Warren had scheduled Joe some time in the F/A-18 sim. Joe took to it rather quickly, perhaps from the excellent coaching he's received from the BentProp aviators. Likely just because he's Joe, though. After tearing up the simulated skies, we went to the flight line to see some real Hornets. Joe walked the flight line and met some other Marine aviators and then it was off to one more stop.
Our last stop of the day was to meet Joe's sister Laura. She lives here in San Diego, so we went to the local restaurant Seau's and enjoyed dinner. Joe and Laura talked for a couple of hours and enjoyed dinner.
After our farewells, we jumped on the freeway back to my place. Once back to my place all quickly found a place to fall asleep and call it a night. Well, except for me. I was going to, but decided to share some more of Joe's adventure.
Tomorrow we are meeting with another of Joe's sisters and Joe will see a casino for the first time.
Today was a slower day for Joe in San Diego. We slept in for a little bit before starting the day. Shortly after waking up this morning we had another small earthquake. We are still having aftershocks from the Easter Day earthquake. So Joe experienced his first earthquake in California.
After a late breakfast at my place, Warren showed up and we jumped in the car for a ride up to Temecula. We were off to meet up with Joe's sister Sabath, whom he has not seen in 24 years. We were meeting her at a casino, also a first for Joe. Sabath showed up with several of her children and grandchildren. Joe spent a few hours visiting with her and her family before we drove back down to San Diego. Despite our urging Joe didn't gamble. Some of us were sure that he would hit the jackpot of whatever game he chose, but he decided to hold onto his hard earned money.
On the way back to San Diego, we made a stop at the local mall so Joe could buy some pants that he wanted to get and then made our way back to my place. There we relaxed and rested in preparation for a day at Disneyland tomorrow. Time to get some sleep!
Sunday was an early day. We woke u,p got cleaned up, and jumped in the car to head from San Diego to Anaheim. We linked up in Oceanside, as there were five of us going (Mellanie, Wesley my son, Warren, Joe and me), so Warren and I both drove. Plus the plan was that Joe and I would stay the night in Anaheim and drive from there to LAX in the morning since he had to be there at 6:30 AM on Monday. So we made it to Oceanside in good time and met Warren before heading North to the Happiest Place on Earth.
Before we arrived, there was a lot of discussion about which rides we were going to attempt to ride, and in which order to go on them. Not sure what we ultimately came up with but by the time we got there, got parked, and took the shuttle to the front of the parks, Warren had made the decision that we would first go to the Hollywood Tower of Terror. After taking a few pictures, we arrived at the ride to see no line. Perfect! A few minutes later Joe was "enjoying" his first theme park ride.
After a couple more rides we decided to take a break to eat at the ESPN Zone. Since we had started on the California Adventure side, after lunch we headed back to the actual Disneyland side. Warren ran ahead to get our Fastpass Tickets. For those of you who have avoided going to Disneyland or other theme parks in recent years, they have developed a system that is more than just standing in line. There are people who develop software on how to maximize the number of rides and how many you go on according to the systems in place at theme parks. I haven't developed that much yet, but I think I got the Fastpass system figured out before the day ended. Of course, it will be another 15 years before I go back to Disneyland and by that time there will be something new.
We made it into Disneyland and met up with Mickey and Pluto. Then it was off to Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and the Indiana Jones ride. Somewhere in the middle, we managed to make time to inhale huge amounts of ice cream and caramel apples.
After a while we were all spent and it appeared that Joe had had his fill of this American experience. After another shuttle and car ride we said our goodbyes to Warren, Mellanie, and Wesley and checked into our rooms. It was perfect timing because the basketball playoff game was starting. So Joe and I got cleaned up and watched the game before calling it a night and heading to bed.
After our wakeup calls at 5:00 a.m., Joe and I met in the lobby and took off to LAX. When we arrived there was a huge line at the ticket counter and the security line. The ticket line ran rather quickly and by the time we got through and picked up Joe's boarding passes the security line had disappeared. So after a quick goodbye Joe was on his way to his gate and closing the last chapter of JUST 2010.