Sunday, August 28, 2016

Journalist crosses Darien Gap with migrants


This is a much appreciated long-read of the ordeal. Jason Motlagh crossed the Gap with Bangladeshis, Gambians, and even a Cameroonian hairdresser.


And what's better? There will be a one-hour documentary airing in Australia next month.



And what's even better than that? I just found out Motlagh and I have the same personal trainer!


Saturday road trip (Sierra Army Depot and Reno car museum)


You're going to get cars, geopolitics, travel, and food with this post.

Sometimes, my work takes me to some remote places. Yesterday, it took me to Herlong, California. Population 298. It is on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is so remote, in fact, that I had to drive to Reno, Nevada, and then turn back into California.

The town of Herlong and the Sierra Army Depot were founded during World War II by the American military to store and hide munitions from the Japanese. It was far enough inland from the California coast and very dry. After the war, nuclear warheads were stored there. And after the Iraq war, tens of thousands of tanks and vehicles were stored there.

I took the Acura and left at 6:30 in the morning. After passing Reno, I took Highway 395 north. I stopped at Bordertown Casino for breakfast. It was tiny, old, and smelled of cigarette smoke. The only person of color I saw was an Asian lady in the restaurant's kitchen.



Casinos in Nevada attract people with cheap food. I saw a billboard for $4.99 steak and eggs at Cal-Neva casino. The plate that I got was $11.99. A princely sum. It was okay.


The last half hour before Herlong was pretty scenic, in a desolate sort of way.


Just ahead is the turn off to Herlong. To the right is the Sierra Army Depot and a federal prison.


I drove up to the Depot's gate and was immediately turned back. I wonder if they ever anticipate ISIS attacking this place. Outsiders (like me) are easy to spot by the locals. I learned that the Symbionese Liberation Army (of Patty Hearst fame) tried to steal nukes here in the 1970s.


This display was just outside the entrance.



On the way home, I stopped by the National Automobile Museum in Reno. I've been there three or four times already. The visit was more to break up my long drive than anything else.

1937 Airmobile.


At first, I thought this 1966 Studebaker Wagonaire was a Volga.



Some import off-roaders.



This Cadillac was gifted to Elvis's karate teacher, Mr. Rhee.



Fiat 600 Berlinetta.



Frank Sinatra's Chrysler Ghia.


I was just 40 minutes from home when I was dying of exhaustion. So I went to this Japanese restaurant next to Travis Air Force Base. Travis handles more military cargo and passengers than any other base in the country. I found this restaurant years ago and though it's out of the way, it serves consistently great food. Most of the airmen on the base have been stationed in Japan so this restaurant can't get away with subpar products. The portions, as you can see, are huge. The pork was thick, juicy, and flavorful-- not like the paper-thin cutlets they sell at many Chinese-run "Japanese restaurants".

Marconi car museum in Orange County

Two Fridays ago, I flew down to Orange County to celebrate my step-nephew's graduation. Outwardly, he looks like a tanned, laid back, surfer. But he just received his doctorate in environmental science from Harvard. I'm still blown away.

His dissertation, by the way, looks at air pollution across the Middle East. Environmental protection and monitoring, as you can imagine, are non-existent over there. But they do measure the air quality for particulate matters in Kuwait. My nephew was able to match the air quality with Kuwait airport's visibility. Every airport in the world, no matter how backwards, measures visibility daily. So he was able to extrapolate the air quality of every Middle Eastern city with airports. So simple and clever! He hopes to use this information to help American contractors and military personnel make respiratory injury workers compensation claims based on prolonged exposure while abroad.

I had an hour before lunch so I went to the Marconi museum near John Wayne airport. It's the personal collection of a co-founder of Herbalife, a health supplement business based on multi-level marketing. I'll reserve my judgment, but just by saying that I am surely judging.

Nevertheless, dude's got a shitload of cars.

You'll note that when I go to car museums, I tend to gravitate towards the less loved cars. A line of Ferraris? No thanks. A Bentley Turbo RL with a Fastrak transponder and an Azure convertible? Yes, please.


I took these photos of the Countach and Pantera just to show you the atrocious 1970s US-spec bumpers.



The Cizeta V16 has, shockingly, a V16. That's two Urraco V8s, in a looong block. This is the second one I've seen in real life. A quick search on my blog shows I posted about this BMW V16 once.



Here we have a Jaguar XJ220S. I never liked the looks of the regular XJ220. Too long and narrow. But this is much better. No pop-up headlights. A wider rear end. The engine's output was upped from 540hp to 700hp. This is one of six made.



Was there a special name for these removable roof panels on the Jarama?



The Espada would definitely be on my Fantasy Garage short list.


There were several F1 cars. This was Senna's 1988 McLaren-Honda.


Schumacher's 1996 Ferrari.


Simtek-Cosworth Ford. MTV!


Keke Rosberg's 1985 Williams.


This was the highlight, the Ferrari FX created for the Sultan of Brunei.





Here's the project manager of the FX:


Saturday, August 27, 2016

California counties I have not visited


Tomorrow, I'm going to do a post on my epic one-day road trip to Reno and beyond. I visited Lassen County today, which means I have been to 50 51 of California's 58 counties. I have yet to visit the following:

Alpine (population 1,110) (near Lake Tahoe)
Butte (225,411) (Highway 99 corridor)
Imperial (180,191) (southeast corner of state)
Modoc (8,965) (northeast corner of state)
Plumas (18,409) (Sierra Nevada no-man's land)
Sutter (96,463) (Highway 99 corridor)
Trinity (13,069) (between Redding and Eureka)
Yuba (74,492) (Highway 99 corridor)

CORRECTION: I have been to Imperial County as I spent the night in Salton City.


Friday, August 26, 2016

America's military graveyard

I'm going to a remote town in the Sierra Nevadas tomorrow. I Googled it and look what else is there!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Land Cruiser camper conversion

Oh, baby.













More photos and info here.