Warbirds at Lackland Air Force Base

This piece is about magnificient war-fighting planes aka…WAR BIRDS…and the men and women who put themselves in the pilot’s seats and crews to unleash their wrath on our Nation’s enemies from past wars and conflicts.  

When we were parked at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas this past February, we caught up with our RV besties, Tim and Emily from OwnLessDoMore for a couple weeks.  While there, Emily and I took a power walk over to the War Birds Park so she could show me some ‘awesome airplanes’.  She appreciated how much we enjoyed military history so she thought this was just perfect for us to experience.  After they “Timily” (Tim & Emily) set out on the road again, we frequented the park on our walks to score some photos.   

The park’s concrete walkway circled around the ceremonial parade field.  On the outer parameter of the parade field is an amazing collection of ‘War Birds’ of past wars and conflicts.  Nicely manicured landscaping allows visitors an up-close-and-personal look at these incredible aircraft that credits our Air Force’s fighting success.  You can touch the planes and feel their once, vibrant spirit.
Nice to look at, cool to touch but please don’t climb.
This is an ‘outdoor museum’
Chief Master SGT William Petrie

Assembled between various War Birds were ‘…an enlisted story’ plaquards of notable Enlisted Airmen of the Air Force.  Since Lackland AFB is home to the Air Force’s Basic Military Training facility, it’s fitting to have these as inspiration and historical notables of the service’s enlisted heroes to teach our newest generations. We were privileged to attend an Air Force BMT Graduation and wrote a previous blog about our experience; Off We Go into the Wild Blue Wonder. This is just one of the many ‘an enlisted story’ plaques.

One of my favorites was the SR-71 Blackbird!  Like all of the aircraft exhibits, it was cool that we could actually touch and look completely around the Blackbird’s fuselage.  This is one of those, ‘you gotta see it to believe it’. The SR-71 first flew in December 1964; we were only about two years old back then.  It was retired by NASA in 1999.  For over 30 years, this spy plane flew over Mach 3 speeds and was the fastest plane which could outfly any missle.  This bird ranged 3682 miles without fueling.  To put that into perspective, its 2572 miles from New York City to San Francisco.  

The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”
The information below is from http://www.sr-71.org/  
Click the link for more information on the Blackbird.
SR-71 Specifications
Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Length: 107′ 5″
Length of Nose Probe: 4′ 11″
Wing Span: 55′ 7″
Wing Area: 1,795 ft. sq.
Wing Aspect Ratio: 1.939
Wing Root Chord: 60.533
Wing Dihedral Angle: 0 degrees
Wing Chord: 0.00
Wing Sweep: 52.629 degrees
Inboard Elevon Area: 39.00 ft. sq.
Outboard Elevon Area: 52.50 ft. sq.
Total Vertical Rudder Area: 150.76 ft. sq.
Moveable Rudder Area: 70.24 ft. sq.
Rudder Root Chord: 14.803 ft.
Rudder Tip Chord: 7.833 ft.
Height: 18′ 6″
Empty Weight: 59,000 lbs.
Maximum Weight: 170,000 lbs.
Fuselage Diameter: 5.33 ft.
Service Ceiling: 85,000’+
Maximum Speed: Mach 3.3+ (Limit CIT of 427 degrees C)
Cruising Speed: Mach 3.2
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whittney J-58 (JT11D-20A) with 34,000 lbs. of thrust.
Range: 3,200 nautical miles (without refueling)
Some photos of some other aircraft…
Each of the aircraft were provided with a plaquard describing their historic use:
One of the most notable and heartstring-pulling exhibits is the Medal of Honor Memorial that lists all the Air Force Medal of Honor Recipients:
Let’s not forget highlighting the nostalgic ‘Nose Art’.  Military Aircraft Nose Art began for practical reasons of identifying friendly units. What started as simple creativity evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death.  It was a morale keeper for the Troops.

On the opposite side of the ceremonial parade grounds visitors viewing area (bleachers) is the Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI’s) Building:

More War Birds:

Dan reading an ‘…an enlisted story’ pertaining to this Warbird

At the opposite end of the parade field and on the War Bird Park is a newer memorial (2009) dedicated to our Nation’s Military Working K-9’s.  While we have visited many military memorials nationwide, including several in Washington D.C., this one truly moved us emotionally.  Perhaps it’s our love for animals but mostly it’s because of our appreciation of these ‘war dogs’ that were stationed with our son’s Cavalry units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since we connected on a personal level, seeing this memorial put lumps in our throat, tears in our eyes and exceptional love in our hearts for our military working dogs.  

The Military Dog Handler’s helmet 
was filled with coin donations from visitors
The back of the memorial wall
is a beautifully etched mural of military working dogs 

from all five branches of the military

These are just a few of the many photos I took when there were very few visitors. The collection is much more extensive with other War Birds that you’ll just have to come see for yourself.  If you’re a military historian or military history enthusiast, we highly recommend visiting this fabulous display of military aircraft.  What an amazing place to not only take in the history of our Air Force but also to enjoy a good walking workout.

If you can, include a Friday so you can witness another 700+ men and women marching into their new rolls as United States Air Force Airmen.  You can read about our experience ‘Off We Went into the Wild Blue Wonder’.

Top 12 Cafés and Culinary Corners

I’m just going to put this here.  RV travelers know where to find the best eats and we’ve learned how to play the game.  We’ve become ‘them’…FOODIES!   Our method to satisfying hunger madness is asking the locals or using the YELP app on our phones. 
We can be finicky but we also love trying the local hidden corner booths.  We
look for creativity, local flair (or flare!), affordability, ambiance…oh and clean bathrooms!! So, in our three years as RVers, we’ve
come up with ‘Liberty’s Delicious Dozen’!

are in no particular order…
  •          Gaydean’s Sweet Art in Mona, Utah – We found this adorable café
    when we visited the Young Living Lavender Farm in Mona, Utah.  We asked the staff at the retail counter
    where we could get a couple of good sammiches to bring back to picnic at the farm.  Resoundingly, they all spoke highly of Gaydean’s and
    pointed the way up the road off the beaten path.  We asked for their specialized ‘bag lunches’.  The secret to their success?  Their staff!  They were very personable and interested in our travels.   We took our bag lunches back to the lavender farm to picnic and OH, the sammiches were simple but scrumptious.  

  •          Cajun Greek in Galveston,Texas – Holy moly,
    if you’re in Galveston, Texas and you enjoy Shrimp PoBoys, we found your happy place! 
    We found the Cajun Greek using the Yelp app. 
    We had to park Captain America around the busy interesection corner but
    the short walk was worth it!  We loved it so
    much, we went twice…or thrice…no, make that FOUR visits!  The service was outstanding.  Their smiles made the food
    taste even better.  The PoBoy sammiches
    were overflowing with gorgeous fresh caught Gulf Shrimp and the fries were crispy-licous!  The PoBoys were stuffed so full that we also needed a fork to eat our sammich.


  •          The Tea Cup in Taylorsville, Kentucky – This small town bakery and cafe does it perfectly with their cakes, breads, pastries, breakfast and lunches.  Dave and Laurie always spoil us with an extra
    pump of coffee flavoring and top our warmed bear claws with their homemade whipped
    cream (because they know we love whipped cream)
    Whenever we park at Taylorsville Lake State Park Campground or visit our friends, this is our
    go-to place for breaky just seven miles up the road in the town of Taylorsville.  You enter as friends and leave as family.
Dave and I at The Tea Cup
  •          The Mixing Bowl in Gering,Nebraska – We had
    the Cali Turkey BLT, Broccoli Cheese Soup and the Salted Sweet Potato
    Fries.  The food was fantastic, tasty and
    appetizing.  Service was swift.  This quaint little Yuppie café is in downtown
    Gering.  You don’t want to miss this one
    when visiting Scottsbluff National Park.  Get a lunch bag to go; you won’t regret it!

  •          Giovanna’s Pizza in Phenix City, Alabama – When we
    want pizza, we go for the real deal. No chain stores even come close. While we were staying at Fort Benning, we meandered
    out to search for this Yelp recommendation after a local hockey game. 
    Their Greek Pizza brought back awesome memories of our days living in the North End and Little Italy in Boston.   They don’t mess around there.  Pizza done the way it’s supposed to be.
  •          Childress Vineyards in Lexington,North Carolina
    Beautiful entrance to and setting owned by NASCAR Teams Owner Richard Childress!  We sat in the Bistro Terrace Dining area that
    overlooked the beautiful grounds.  We
    were there in the late spring so everything was a lush green.  I had the Reuben with Tomato Bisque and Captain Dan had a Club
    sandwich.  We each enjoyed a glass of
    their signature Classic White and Classic Blush wines with our meals.  Classy and quaint with seasonal lunch menu.  We were glad we dressed accordingly on a beautiful May day. 

  •          Frida’s Café & Bakery in Largo, Florida
    We visit this European style bakery and café every time we visit our friends in
    Largo, Florida.  They truly are a sweet
    lunch spot before heading to the beach to catch some rays.  We had the Turkey Guacamole Sandwich with LTO
    and Dijon on gluten free bread.  Their
    side of coconut bread is always a nice treat! 
    Their Broccoli Soup didn’t disappoint. 
    We picked up some individual sized Italian/Greek desserts for later. 
  •      Camp Verde General Store & Restaurant in Camp Verde, Texas – A part us doesn’t want to tell anyone about this secret place nestled in Hill Country of Texas but we just have to brag about it.  Who knew this cool little gem could put out such a wonderful lunch.  They are only open 11:00am to 3:00pm and were advised to not come on weekends because they are so busy.  Their specialty sandwiches hit the mark as did the friendly service.  Clean and tidy aprons and servers with manners made this one of our favorites.  We had the Hotsy Totsy (grilled onions, pepper jack, smoked turkey, black forest ham with their signature hotsy sauce on grilled marble rye) and Classic Chicken Salad on a sweet jalapeno bread.  We even enjoyed a couple beers to go with our wonderful meal.  Not enough stars for this galaxy of vittles! 

  •          Four Kegs Sports Bar in LasVegas, Nevada
    Don’t let the word ‘bar’ scare you or when you get to the entrance to the
    establishment.  We both had Philly Steak
    Subs (we are Pennsylvania raised!) that literally required a shovel to eat with
    because they were overflowing with steak, peppers and onions.  Our friends got the Stromboli that was so
    big, they took half home with them…and that was the small.  Expect ‘the family’ type sports bar
    setting.  Oh, and Four Kegs was featured
    on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Dives and Drive-ins, so you know it has t

    o be good!  When in Vegas, find this place!   

  •          Bingo Burger in Pueblo, Colorado – If you like good grass fed
    beef burgers, look no further!  After
    trekking to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, our friends RV Wanderlust and
    we decided to close the day with dinner here. 
    The burgers were outstanding.  We
    all seemed to get the ‘build your own’ third pounders.  We especially loved the caramelized
    onions!  The fries were outstanding
    too.  We ordered from the counter and since
    it was summer, we all sat outside in the courtyard and were entertained by a
    small local band.

  •          Symphony’s in Pahrump, Nevada – (PahrumpValley Winery) This
    upscale yet casual ‘dine by the vines’ is a perfect lunch and dinner escape
    with white linens and servers perfectly dressed and pressed. While Liberty was
    moored at Wine Ridge RV Resort, we walked over to Symphony’s for lunch…three
    times!  The hostess always let us pick
    our table out on the white enclosed porch that have views of the small
    vineyards.  Their lobster bisque is a
    perfect start to lunch.  We’ve had the French
    Dip, Fish and Chips, Grilled Chicken and Grilled Beef Paninis; all of which
    kept us happy.  Their wine selection is
    outstanding.  Since we visited often, we
    sampled them all…and took some back to Liberty also!

  • Southerleigh Brewery in  San Antonio, Texas is undoubtedly, the best surprise brew house eatery sprung on us last minute when meeting another RV couple for lunch.  It was a bit to get to due to construction however, once we got parked and walked to the ‘Pearl’ courtyard, it put huge smiles on our faces.  Our lunch bill was only $35 which paid for a draft brew, bottomless ice tea, Galveston Bay Spicy Shrimp boiler with drawn crystal butter and celery root romoulade and Wood Fired Chicken Wings with molassas chili glaze.  The meal was absolutely awesome and the ambiance was a fun ‘old brewery industrial’ feel.  This is now one of our favorite ‘go to’ foodie finds in San Antonio. 

So there
you have it!  Oh trust us, we’ve eaten at
so many other places but we had to pick just ten that we remember and
recommend, these are ours.  In your
travels, check them out!

Other foodie joints we’ve enjoyed in our travels:

Loveless Cafe in Nashville, TN (Comfort Food!  They make the best biscuits and gravy!)
Blue and Gray Bar & Grill in Gettysburg, PA (Wednesday Wings and Yuenglings!)
Wintzel’s Oyster House in Mobile, AL (Seafood Galore!!)
Mom’s Diner in Pahrump, NV (best breakfast in town!)
Star Drug in Galveston, TX (old fashion soda fountain diner)
Red Snapper Inn in Surfside Beach, TX (best Red Snapper!)
Toucans in Mexico Beach, FL (Blackened Shrimp sammiches rock!)
Snoopy’s Pier in Corpus Christi, TX (Fried Seafood…YUM!)
Mollica’s Italian Market & Deli in Colorado Springs, CO (Mmmmm deli sammiches!)
Big Texan in Amarillo, TX (Awesome steak on Route 66)
Calico County in Amarillo, TX (Good ole fashion country cooking!)
Dot’s Burgerz & Brewz in Big Spring, TX (Captain Dan loved the burgers!)
Le Chat Noir Eatery in Castroville, TX (awesome French breakfasts…no longer open)
Bahia Oaks Island BBQ in Galveston, TX (BBQ at its best!)

Why RV Ownership is Better than Home Ownership!

We recently wrote a blog piece 10 Things we should have known before going full-time.  It was our list of challenges we have faced since full-time RVing.  We hope that didn’t scare those of you who are contemplating this lifestyle.  Though being brutally honest, we hope it saves future RVer’s sanity or helps to better prepare them, then that piece was worth sharing.  We certainly don’t want to be a downer.  Ya just gotta see the grit and dirt.  We get asked a lot about full-timing and the romance of it but sometimes that may obscure the real deal.  So, take that for what it was intended.  Nothing is all puffy clouds and rainbows; RVing included.

Okay, now that we got THAT out of the way…

We’ve come up with our own list of Why RVership is Better than Homeownership.  This is a fun list we put together for your enjoyment and perhaps may be that nudge you need to push yourselves over the edge into selling it all to go on the road.

1)   LAWNSCAPING – We hope we never have to pull the cord to a lawn mower ever again…or firing up a chain saw or weed wacker.  Our dreams of never having to pick up a shovel to dig holes to plant things or worry about our hard-worked gardens and lawns drying up in the heat of the summer have come true.  Admittedly though, it is fun to sit in our chairs outside with our cold beverages while watching others do it.  That said, we aren’t total jerks; we always offer a cold bottle of water or ice tea to them as they painstakingly do their chores.  Sorry…not sorry! 

Our water garden (we built) at our former sticks & bricks home.
Though it was beautiful and serene, it required maintenance.

Now we enjoy gardens without ever having to pull a weed or water.

2)   ALL DAY HOUSECLEANING – Never do we miss a day of taking three days to thoroughly clean our former 3600 square foot home.  NOPE!  No more lugging that big monster Kenmore vacuum up and down the stairs, dusting four bedrooms, laundering curtains and washing window, organizing the never-ending craft room mess, scrubbing floors, and constantly wiping knicknacks and wall art.  It always seemed to be endless chore after chore. Now, we can have the bed made, dishes done, bathroom cleaned, deck swabbed, pillows fluffed, lateral surfaces dusted, etc. all in the course of…*drum roll*…ONE HOUR.  Can you imagine?  Our 380ish square foot 5th wheel doesn’t need massive cleanings anyways because we always keep it clean and picked up.  We have to or we’ll trip over it.

3)   COLLECTING STUFF/CLUTTER – We simply can’t be collectors of stuff anymore.  We don’t have the room and we have to be mindful of our weight.  Every few months, we purge.  If its not been used since the last purging, out it goes.  We buy ‘disposable’ holiday decorations.  When the holiday is over, ‘out, out damn spot!’  If its good useable stuff, we usually put things in the RV park or campground laundry rooms.  Two or three hours later, we’ll notice its gone which means others enjoy our givings.  If they are big things or clothes, we’ll donate or pass them on.  Our choice donation centers are on military posts/bases where young military families can get our contributions for nearly nothing.

4)    HOUSEFUL OF FURNITURE – When buying an RV, it comes completely outfitted with furniture and even decor.  Sure, we’ve picked up a couple pieces of small basket holders and purchased a better mattress but that’s it.  We have a couple photo frames and two small table lamps.  We may pick up a piece or two of wall art but when we put up the new, out goes the old.  We usually buy less expensive decor so we don’t feel bad about getting rid of it when its time.

We still can’t believe ‘all’ the furniture we had in that huge house!

5)  PAYING REAL ESTATE TAX – While some may this might seem selfish, it’s not.  We paid dearly for years while we owned three homes at different duty station locations.  Don’t think we get off scott free; we still pay federal tax on Dan’s military pension and our contract work, sales tax on purchases, taxes on fuel and road tolls, and truck/RV/motorcycle registrations but we don’t miss having to set aside upwards to hundreds a month for real estate taxes…a savings of about $4000/year (seriously!).

6)  SHOVELING SNOW – NOPE!!  We prefer consistent 70’s and 80’s but unless we’re in Cabo San Luca, that’s not going to happen.  We have been bit by cold snaps a few times so we’ve quickly looked at our map’s latitude lines and told each other, ‘let’s head for better weather!’  Once in awhile we have to run our furnace…and we hate it!  

7)   OBNOXIOUS CABLE BILLS – Some RVers have Direct TV or Dish Network.  We prefer not to.  For fun watching, we subscribe to Netflix or Hulu for occasional movies and we have a case full of DVD movies or we swap-borrow.  If an RV park or resort has cable tv in their hookups that’s part of their rate, fine but we won’t pay extra just to have it. Its not important to us.  In fact, all of January and most of February, we’ve not even turned the television on.  We went hiking, walking, sightseeing, played cards, visited friends, and just enjoyed the other things.  You can’t believe how liberating it was not having to watch the elections leading up to the Presidential Inauguration.

8)   WASTING FOOD – Rarely do we throw food away because simply, we don’t have the room for two loaves of bread and bagels, numerous boxes of crackers, etc.  We don’t do a monthly grocery shopping anymore or bulk shopping at Costco or Sam’s.  We plan out our meals each week and shop for those provisions accordingly.  We don’t cook for an Army (er…Coast Guard) anymore; its just us and perhaps a couple more servings for leftovers for lunch the next day unless we’re entertaining.

9)  JUNK MAIL – We don’t get bills in the mail because we ‘went paperless’.  Not only are we conservation-minded, we have more time to do the things instead of opening mail, putting it in a pile, sorting and shredding it.  To read about how we handle our physical mail, read our blog piece You’ve Got Mail.

10)   SAME BACKYARD – Seriously, with our nomadic life, our aft picture window views change frequently.  Sometimes we have the beach or mountains, and other times we have the forest or desert.  Our neighbors change also; if it’s not us that’s relocating, its them.  If we end up with boring scenery, we hitch up Liberty and find something better to look at or interesting places to go.  Even Krissie and Kandi, our nomad cats, enjoy seeing different views.  

As you have just read, while it may sound like we’ve gotten lazy, we have not.  We fill our time with exciting activities like hiking, ADV motorcycle riding, visiting friends and family, playing tourist, blogging, writing, jewelry making, etc. We even volunteer sometimes!  We keep busy.  Our days still start early (just kidding!) and our nights…well, we don’t have set bedtimes anymore either.  What’s funny though…it may seem like we have all the time in the world, we manage to live one moment at a time.  We now have time to really ‘stop and smell the roses’.  We’ve learned how to LIVE and enjoy it living in an RV instead of a big McMansion.