A visit to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.

Douglas F4D-1 (F-6A) Skyray.
Douglas F4D-1 (F-6A) Skyray.

I often drive down Miramar Road past the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. When I do, I usually turn my head to see if any people are outside investigating the dozens of unique military aircraft that are on display. Few people seem to visit.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, located at MCAS Miramar, is open free to the general public. It features all sorts of airplanes and helicopters that have been used by the United State Marine Corps over the decades.

When I first visited the museum last year, I was floored by the extent of its collection. While many of the aircraft might not be restored to pristine condition, they each represent a fascinating era in U. S. military history. Visitors to the museum can also see other equipment that has been used by the Marines, including tanks and artillery pieces.

Most impressively, the museum owns the actual helicopter that was last to leave Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. That Sea Knight helicopter’s call sign was Lady Ace 09. If you’d like to see photographs of Lady Ace 09, and learn a bit more about that moment in history, click here.

The following photos depict just a fraction of what you’ll discover at the museum.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum seems to be a little known gem in San Diego. Those who are interested in 20th century history, aviation or the United States Marine Corps should definitely swing on by!

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, open free to the public, is located at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, open free to the public, is located at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
Inside the museum, a variety of exhibits detail different modern aircraft that have been used by the United States Marine Corps.
Inside the museum, a variety of exhibits detail different aircraft that have been used by the United States Marine Corps.
Dozens of historical Marine aircraft can be viewed outdoors at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego.
Dozens of historical Marine aircraft can be viewed outdoors at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego.
Beechcraft T-34B Mentor.
Beechcraft T-34B Mentor.
General Motors FM-2 Wildcat.
General Motors FM-2 Wildcat.
Northrup F-5E Tiger II.
Northrup F-5E Tiger II.
Grumman F9F-2 Panther.
Grumman F9F-2 Panther.
Hawker-Siddeley AV-8A(C) Harrier.
Hawker-Siddeley AV-8A(C) Harrier.
Bell AH-1J SeaCobra.
Bell AH-1J SeaCobra.
Sikorsky HUS-1 (UH-34D) Seahorse.
Sikorsky HUS-1 (UH-34D) Seahorse.
Bell 214ST.
Bell 214ST.
McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk II.
McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk II.
Visitors to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum learn about the history of one airplane in their large and fascinating collection.
Visitors to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum learn about the history of one airplane in a very large and fascinating collection.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Art exhibit paints colors of Southern California!

Earthlab, 2017, by artist Eva Struble. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Optimistic and energetic colors depict small San Diego farms.
Earthlab, 2017, by artist Eva Struble. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Optimistic and energetic colors depict small San Diego farms.

Today I enjoyed some stimulating artwork at the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park. Their current exhibition is called High-Key: Color in Southern California, and for a very good reason.

Palm greens, desert tans and ocean blues are primary colors in our region’s sunny landscapes.

Additional vibrant colors live in our diverse urban centers. Like neon and surfboards, lowriders and pinatas, our local culture is saturated with bold, bright color.

High-Key: Color in Southern California can be enjoyed at the San Diego Art Institute through August 12, 2018.

If you visit Balboa Park this summer, you might want to check it out!

Visitor to the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park absorbs the exhibition of High-Key: Color in Southern California.
Visitor to the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park at the exhibition of High-Key: Color in Southern California.
Chaparral (II), 2018, by artist Audrey Hope. Canvas and hand wound rope. Swaths of colorful fabric are suggestive of San Diego's natural landscape.
Chaparral (II), 2018, by artist Audrey Hope. Canvas and hand wound rope. Swaths of colorful fabric are suggestive of San Diego’s hilly, arid natural landscape.
Green, Red-Orange, 2018, by artist Michael James Armstrong. Acrylic sheet, fluorescent light, spray paint.
Green, Red-Orange, 2018, by artist Michael James Armstrong. Acrylic sheet, fluorescent light, spray paint.
Untitled, 2018, by artist Joshua Moreno. Watercolor, watercolor pencil, gouache, marbling, spray paint.
Untitled, 2018, by artist Joshua Moreno. Watercolor, watercolor pencil, gouache, marbling, spray paint.
Cleaning Portrait; Whisk #1, 2017, by artist Claudia Cano. Acrylic on paper. A cleaning tool used by a hardworking Mexican immigrant laborer.
Cleaning Portrait; Whisk #1, 2017, by artist Claudia Cano. Acrylic on paper. A cleaning tool used by a hardworking Mexican immigrant laborer.
More artwork splashed with the vibrant colors of Southern California.
More artwork splashed with the vibrant colors of Southern California.
Rhubarb Moon, 2018, by artist John Oliver Lewis. Porcelain, acrylic.
Rhubarb Moon, 2018, by artist John Oliver Lewis. Porcelain, acrylic.
Paradise Prototype, 2018, by artist Allison Wiese. Cast sugar. Patterned concrete blocks were popular in Southern California architecture in the 1950s and 60s.
Paradise Prototype, 2018, by artist Allison Wiese. Cast sugar. Patterned concrete blocks were popular in Southern California in the 1950’s and 60’s.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Comic-Con banners in Balboa Park’s Federal Building!

Comic-Con banners have been hung inside the Federal Building in Balboa Park, former home to the Hall of Champions, and future home to the Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture!
Comic-Con banners have been hung inside the Federal Building in Balboa Park, former home to the Hall of Champions, and future home to the Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture!

Look what I spied today!

Just before noon I entered the Federal Building in Balboa Park–former home to the Hall of Champions, and future home of the museum-like Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture. My stomach was grumbling, demanding a cheeseburger from the Home Plate Cafe, where I often eat lunch on Sundays. (While most of the Federal Building is now vacant, the cafe remains open just inside the historic building’s entrance.)

Being tall, I peered over a partition that runs along the perimeter of the old Hall of Champions lobby, and look what I saw!

Several Comic-Con banners have recently been hung inside the building!

According to what I’ve read, the Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture will open in 2019, but funds still need to be raised. It’s my understanding that sales of the exclusive Comic-Con 2018 Mondo print will be part of the fundraising effort.

I don’t know if an event of some kind will be held in the Federal Building during 2018 Comic-Con. Whatever the reason for the recent appearance of Comic-Con banners–it’s definitely a cool sight that got me excited!

If you’d like to see what the Hall of Champions looked like just before it closed, click here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The little-known studio of an amazing artist!

A small army of Japanese kokeshi fill the James E. Watts Studio in downtown San Diego.
A small army of life-size Japanese kokeshi fill the James E. Watts Studio in downtown San Diego.

I had an utterly amazing experience today.

I was walking through downtown San Diego, along Seventh Avenue, when I noticed a small table saw out on the sidewalk. It was set up in front of an unmarked door–one that I’ve passed many times over the years. When I peered through the open door my eyes nearly popped out of my head!

Through that mysterious door I saw a wonderland!

A friendly person told me that I might step inside. That very cool, funny and interesting guy was James E. Watts, a local artist who has been creating unique works of imagination for decades in San Diego. His pieces have appeared in a variety of exhibitions and at important museums, including both the San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Why the table saw? James Watts was just beginning a new sculpture of Quasimodo, and wooden blocks would be used to form the interior structure. Thin aluminum sheets nailed to the surface would produce the sculpture’s skin.

As you can see from the above photograph, his studio is dominated by a series of these large sculptures. They are based upon Japanese kokeshi, and his fun, symbolic pieces represent all sorts of characters from literature and history. He showed me a female Atlas, Don Quixote (with two small horses), Prometheus, Pandora, Jonah and Leviathan, and Joan of Arc. The humorous, collage-like skins were originally lunchboxes, signs, cans and other bits of colorful aluminum.

Another cool piece he showed me appears to be a combination of the Shroud of Turin, a horizontal religious shrine, and that wacky game Operation. Human anatomy is partitioned. Old age is contemplated. Bones fill box-like compartments. Colorful foam dots and dashes spell out a message in Morse code around the perimeter. The word BEAUTIFUL appears beneath the skull. (If you decipher the Morse code message, please leave a comment!)

And so I found myself standing in the middle of a fantasy world turning my eyes every which way. Rampant creativity jammed every wall, crammed every corner, was stacked high upon the floor. I could have happily lingered in that extraordinary studio all day long.

Thanks to James Watts for showing me around his artistic playground! There’s a special, little-known nook in the heart of San Diego, where one man’s imagination produces great treasures, and now I recognize the door!

James Watts near some artwork in progress. The wood blocks will fill the interior of a hunchbacked Quasimodo. I was told a bell will be placed atop the literary character's head!
James Watts near some artwork in progress. The wood blocks will fill the interior of a hunchbacked Quasimodo. I was told a bell might be placed atop the literary character’s head!
On the left a female Atlas holds up the world. To the right Don Quixote appears ready to tilt at windmills.
On the left a female Atlas holds up the world. To the right Don Quixote appears ready to tilt at windmills.
Many nudes also decorate the walls of the art gallery. They are done in various styles, reflecting famous painters of the past.
Many nudes also decorate the walls of the art gallery. They are done in various styles, reflecting famous painters of the past.
James Watts opens up a brain pan to reveal a brain!
James Watts opens up a brain pan to reveal . . . a brain!
So much cool artwork that I could barely take it all in.
So much amazing, cool artwork that I could barely take it all in.
Like a playground for a creator whose imagination seems to have no limits.
Like a playground for a creator whose imagination seems to have no limits.
I was told this abstract piece represents that brave person who stood in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square.
I was told this abstract piece represents that brave person who stood in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square.
An imaginative piece that represents the artist's contemplation of aging. Those colorful dots and dashes form a Morse code message!
A playful piece that has emerged from the artist’s contemplation of aging. Those colorful dots and dashes form a mysterious Morse code message!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Photos of historic centennial U.S. Air Mail flight!

A vintage biplane is almost ready to embark on an historic flight.
A vintage biplane is almost ready to embark on an historic flight.

Today I witnessed a bit of history. I headed to the Allen Airways Flying Museum at Gillespie Field to watch three vintage Stearman Speedmail biplanes take off on the first leg of the old Contract Air Mail 8 (CAM 8) route.

The very special six-day event marks the centennial of United States Air Mail service, which began on May 15,1918 with a flight from Washington D.C. to New York. Today’s flight, endorsed by the U.S. Postal Service, was the beginning of a 1200 mile journey up the West Coast that will include 12 stops, finally ending at Paine Field in Everett, Washington.

Many hobbyists, pilots and history enthusiasts were on hand to see the trio of vintage biplanes begin their commemorative flight. I read that only seven Stearman Speedmail airplanes survive today; 41 were originally built to transport the U.S. Mail by air.

As the planes taxied down the runway for takeoff, a friendly gentleman provided me with a little more history. I learned the original CAM 8 route up the West Coast took about two days, depending on the weather and the wind. He explained how the highly dependable Stearman Speedmail planes have a powerful 450-horsepower engine, and we observed how they took to the air very quickly. In the early days of aviation, before modern airports with lengthy runways, this was a requirement.

I also learned that many other owners of vintage aircraft flew in for today’s event, parking their colorful planes outside the Allen Airways Flying Museum. The museum itself is home to a variety of cool, historical aircraft, and welcomes visitors by appointment.

Here come some photos!

One of three Stearman Speedmail biplanes which will fly from San Diego to Seattle to commemorate the centennial of U.S. Air Mail service.
One of three Stearman Speedmail biplanes which will fly from San Diego to Seattle to commemorate the centennial of U.S. Air Mail service.
Mail collected at a USPS table is put into a canvas airmail bag. Each piece will be postmarked at the 12 stops along the 1200 mile flight.
Special mail collected at a USPS table is put into a canvas airmail bag. Each piece will be postmarked at the 12 stops along the 1200 mile flight.
The City of El Cajon issued a proclamation to mark the 100th Anniversary of U.S. Airmail Service.
The City of El Cajon issued a proclamation to mark the 100th Anniversary of U.S. Airmail Service.
A Ford U.S. Air Mail truck was on display during the event, courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
A vintage Ford U.S. Air Mail truck was on display during the event, courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
Loading a sack of official U.S. Mail into a cockpit of one Stearman Speedmail biplane.
Loading a sack of official U.S. Mail into the front of one Stearman Speedmail biplane.
Another plane participating in the event awaits nearby.
Another plane participating in the event waits nearby.
People roll the biplane off the grass so that it can taxi away from the Allen Airways Flying Museum.
People roll the biplane off the grass so that it can taxi away from the Allen Airways Flying Museum.
These two planes are ready to safely head out onto the Gillespie Field runway.
These two planes are ready to safely head out onto the Gillespie Field runway.
It's almost 11:45, the time the three planes will start their U.S. Air Mail centennial celebration flight.
It’s almost 11:45, the time the three planes will start their U.S. Air Mail centennial celebration flight.
The first Stearman Speedmail biplane taxis out onto the runway.
The first Stearman Speedmail biplane taxis out onto the runway.
It slowly heads down the runway to prepare for takeoff.
It slowly heads down the runway to prepare for takeoff.
The second Stearman Speedmail aircraft follows.
The second Stearman Speedmail aircraft follows.
And here comes the third. An historic flight will soon begin!
And here comes the third. An historic flight will soon begin!
The trio of vintage biplanes heads down to the end of the airport's runway.
The trio of vintage biplanes heads down to the end of the airport’s runway.
People watch as the Air Mail centennial celebration flight begins in San Diego!
People watch as the Air Mail centennial celebration flight begins in San Diego!
A vintage biplane plane flies north, beginning a 12-stop 1200-mile flight that retraces the Contract Mail 8 (CAM 8) air mail route.
A vintage biplane flies north, beginning a 12-stop 1200-mile flight that retraces the Contract Mail 8 (CAM 8) air mail route.
A wonderful day in El Cajon, and a bit of history, too!
Today many enjoyed a fun celebration of American history at Gillespie Field in El Cajon!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Searching for bats in Balboa Park!

As evening approaches, people slowly gather by the Balboa Park lily pond to watch for bats. The event was organized by the San Diego Natural History Museum.
As evening approaches, people slowly gather by the Balboa Park lily pond to watch for bats. The event was organized by the San Diego Natural History Museum.

This evening I joined a small group of people by the Lily Pond in Balboa Park searching for bats!

The San Diego Natural History Museum held the dusk event as part of the 2018 City Nature Challenge. The worldwide challenge–which is being held in almost 70 cities– encourages ordinary citizens to use their smartphones to record as many local flora and fauna as they can over a 4-day period. Images are submitted via the iNaturalist APP for identification! (If you want to see San Diego County’s totals thus far, here’s the link.)

Anyway, I arrived at the Lily Pond before sunset and was greeted by a couple of friendly experts representing the San Diego Natural History Museum. I was shown some cool equipment, videos and specimens, then stood by as a super sensitive microphone was turned on in order to detect the high frequency ultrasonic chirp-like noises produced by echolocating bats!

While we waited and the sky darkened, I learned a few fascinating facts. I learned that the bats most common in Balboa Park are the Mexican free-tailed bat, the hoary bat, and the western red bat. I learned some bats are solitary, and feed where insects aren’t abundant enough to support large colonies of bats. I learned bats drink by rapidly skimming above a body of water– which has been observed at the park’s lily pond. I learned some bats can fly as fast as a hundred miles per hour and as high as 10,000 feet! I also learned bats often feed around lights where flying insects gather, often live in the dead fronds of palm trees, and absolutely love hanging out under bridges.

Did we see or detect any bats? None were seen in the darkness, but the microphone did record the acoustic signature of a nearby Mexican free-tail!

When bats fly about and utilize echolocation, a microphone detects the high frequency sound and software produces a sonogram. Different bats can be recognized by their unique acoustic signatures.
When bats fly about and use echolocation, a sensitive microphone detects the high frequency sound and software produces a sonogram. Different bat species can be recognized by their unique acoustic signatures.
Demonstrating a powerful directional microphone, which is mounted on a long pole.
Demonstrating a powerful directional microphone, which is mounted on a long pole.
A friendly volunteer who travels around the county observing and recording bats points to several specimens. The one indicated is a Mexican free-tailed.
A friendly volunteer who travels around the county observing and recording bats points to several preserved specimens. The one indicated is a Mexican free-tailed.
Several people have gathered to learn about bats shortly before dusk. A curious duck listens in.
Several people have gathered to learn about bats shortly before dusk. A curious duck listens in.
Bats often live in the dead clustered fronds of palm trees. I see a passing gull and a nearly full moon above the Casa del Prado.
Bats often live in the dead clustered fronds of palm trees. I see a passing gull and a nearly full moon above the Casa del Prado.
Darkening palm trees above the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Perhaps some bats are hanging out in these.
Darkening palm trees above the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Perhaps some bats are hanging out in these.
Pointing at the cool bat-detecting instrument. As darkness fell, we recorded one Mexican free-tailed bat, but it must have been too chilly this evening for much activity.
Pointing at the cool bat-detecting instrument. As darkness fell, we recorded one Mexican free-tailed bat, but apparently it was too cold this evening for much bat activity.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Cool poster designs at SDSU Downtown Gallery!

Some of the coolest posters you’re likely to ever see are now on display at the SDSU Downtown Gallery! Take a look at a few examples!

The exhibition is titled Give-and-Take: Poster Design by Nancy Skolos and Thomas Wedell. Thirty-four awesome posters by the husband and wife team leap out from the walls and make the viewer feel they’ve entered dazzling, conceptually complex three-dimensional puzzles.

In their posters the two artists have created a unique fusion of analog and digital technology. Skolos is a graphic designer and Wedell is a photographer. Many of the posters were brainstormed and carefully worked out by collaging bits of colored paper and images cut from magazines. The posters in the gallery were produced between 1980 (many years before the advent of high quality digital design) and 2017.

Skolos-Wedell posters have been collected by the likes of the Smithsonian Design Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.

This very special exhibition at the SDSU Downtown Gallery runs through July 22, 2018. Admission is free!

Give-and-Take: Poster Design by Nancy Skolds and Thomas Wedell.
Give-and-Take: Poster Design by Nancy Skolds and Thomas Wedell.
The SDSU Downtown Gallery now has a very cool exhibition concerning poster design.
The SDSU Downtown Gallery now has a very cool exhibition concerning poster design.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!