Where Old Diesels Soldier On

Green Bank Radio Telescope
One of the places we visited on vacation was The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, home of The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope as well as several others. The GBT is a 100 meter dish that’s able to be positioned to point at any place in the sky above 5 degrees. It’s huge and it’s awesome.
Because the telescopes on the property are radio telescopes and the GBT in particular is so sensitive, special restrictions are in place for the surrounding area. First, there’s a huge ‘National Radio Quiet Zone‘ covering a large part of south eastern WV and north western VA. Second, all electronic devices give off some kind of radio waves, so all cell phones and digital cameras had to be turned off once we left the main parking area of the Observatory. The picture above was taken at the max. zoom on my camera from the observation point.
One of the other restrictions that interested me was that only diesel vehicles are used on the property as the spark plugs in gasoline engines create interference. As a result, there were a fleet of neat old diesel vehicles around the property. I assume that they use these old cars and trucks because of the lack of computers that could cause interference, although the tour guide did say that they had a newer fleet as well.
GBT BusThis was our tour bus, an old 1984 MCI tour bus. It was a little worse for wear on the inside, and they made no attempt to identify it as a vehicle of the Observatory. Still wore the yellow stripes and orange seats of its former life. Simple and did it’s job.

GBT Suburbans and VW Truck Our friends who were with us had been here 11 years ago. They didn’t have a bus then (and the GBT was under construction), so the tour was conducted in these late 60’s diesel Chevy Suburbans and here are these nearly 40 year old trucks still in service. If you look to the left, half out of the frame, you’ll see a mid 80’s diesel VW pickup. I saw two diesel Rabbits there of the same vintage too.

GBT InternationalAt first I thought these were more Suburbans, just darker blue this time. But look closely, they are International Travelalls. The Suburbans were three doors (no rear door on the driver’s side), these have four. And that’s an International Scout pickup hiding behind those two.

GBT CheckerThe piece de resistance – a diesel Checker Marathon wagon. I gotta believe that not too many Checker wagons have survived, I wonder how many have diesels? If you can look past my grainy picture taken from a moving bus, it looks pretty darn solid, too.

There may have been other diesels, but I didn’t catch them.

Five for Friday – Saturday After Vacation Edition

WCBE LogoWe just got back from a camping vacation with friends in the beautiful Seneca Rocks area of West Virginia. We got home Thursday night and spent yesterday cleaning up and drying out our rain soaked gear. Our friends have gone home, so now I can do my belated FfF.
So, Media Player on random, here we go.

  1. David Mead – She, Louisa from WCBE’s Lucky Seven, Mixx on the Fly, Volume 7
    WCBE is one of the local NPR stations and they’ve put out a series of CDs from live performances from artists coming to the area to play. This is from his the luxury of time album. Nice singer and his guitar track.
  2. Sisai – Llorando Se Fue (Lambada) from the CD Florecer
    This is a CD we bought at a street fair when we lived in Detroit. A trio were playing Andes music and had this for sale. I don’t think this is their CD, although the music is very similar. Great background music for having dinner guests.
  3. Petra – Chameleon from Never Say Die / Washes Whiter Than
    This is old school Petra with two of their original albums on one CD. I guess this was pretty radical stuff for Christian music in its day.
  4. Norah Jones – The Long Day Is Over from Come Away With Me
    Slow, bluesy song.
  5. The Cranberries – Disappointment from No Need to Argue
    This song makes good use of Dolores O’Riordan’s voice, flipping as she does from full voice to falsetto chest voice to head voice (My sister tells me I had the terms wrong. A woman doesn’t have a falsetto voice, rather a “head voice”).

Hmm, 5 relatively obscure songs.

Five for Friday

The Smithereens - 11Daniel Ross at Alien Soil has been doing Five for Friday for some time and I always enjoy it. He borrowed the idea from someone else and I’m borrowing it from him.
The deal is this. He fires up his iPod, sets it on random and hits play. First five songs get posted to his blog. I don’t have an iPod, so Windows Media Player will have to do.

  1. Smithereens – William Wilson from 11 (1989)
    I love this CD, prettty much everything. I heard them while a freshman in college on somebody’s boom box and I was sold. I borrowed the CD and played it endlessly in my discman for a day and bought the CD later. This isn’t my favorite song from the disc, but I like it. I always felt like there’s some hidden meaning going on but never figured out what it was.
  2. U2 – Until the End of the World from Achtung Baby (1991)
    Not a song I’m familiar with, but not bad. I’ve got the CD so it’s on my computer.
  3. First Call – Snap to It from Undiviided (1986)
    First Call is a jazz vocal group very similar to Manhattan Transfer. My sister turned me on to them years ago. This one is a snappy (get it? Heh.) a Capella number. Fun song. If you like vocal harmonies, you’ll like this. This reminds me a bit of Take 6.
  4. Paul Simon – Under African Skies from Graceland (1986)
    Great CD, I’ve had this one since High School maybe.
  5. First Call – True Love from God is Good (1989)
    Wow, all 5 from my college years and two from First Call. This is not a Capella and is not nearly as good. A pretty mediocre pop-ish religious song frankly. This reminds me of a cross between early Amy Grant and Michael Bolton. Yeah.

Four Wheel Drive Corvette

4WD Corvette
I need to reclaim my blog’s manliness after over two weeks of purses (cool, automotive purses, but still – purses) at the top of the page. This ridiculous four wheel drive Corvette ought to do it.
Nothin’ brings a Tim Allen ‘Argh, argh, argh’ like a couple acres of polished diamond plate and monster mud tires on a Corvette.
I saw this thing pulling out of a neighborhood near my house and I immediately turned around and gave chase to capture a picture.
So what we have here is a late70s / early 80s Corvette mated to what, a Peterbuilt? Likely a GM truck chassis, actually. The 4WD Corvette of this era has been done before, but not to this level of, ahem, polish. I mean, wow, look at all that polished diamond plate!
Judging by the finished undercarriage and the massive cow catcher inspired front air dam (more polished diamond plate, naturally), this was not made to go mudding. I’m not sure why it was made, but I find it both ridiculously absurd and fully awesome.
I wish I had gotten a picture of that nose, it was a sight to behold. I tried, but the camera phone malfunctioned.
I’m hoping this guy lives in that neighborhood and isn’t just in town for the annual Good Guys hot rod show and was just turning around. If it’s local and lives nearby, I’ll likely see it again adn might get some better shots.

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