Sprinkler Fun

Your humble Yard Warrior had just finished slaying the Large Green Lawn Monster when Yak 6 showed up with the Four-Legged Bundle of Energy in tow … who was very interested in the weird-looking creature stuck in the maw of the really, really long snake between the house and the big tree.

Amusement enfolds.

Godzilla and Irish Nachos

In honor of The Bear’s birthday, we trundled off yesterday to see The Livin’ Large Lizard’s Latest Legend.  There are numerous reviews out there for you to peruse if you are insufficiently familiar with The Large One. This latest installment does not fail to do the series justice.

Following the film – I know a tough act to follow – it was time for the birthday dinner. The original plan was to attend the North Florida Food Truck Cook- Off at The Landing on the river in downtown Jacksonville. Unfortunately, sore backs precluded this idea, no matter how much we wanted to try the shrimp tacos from the number one food truck in J-Town – On the Fly.

Plan B had better be good, and it was. We all piled into the car and headed out to the Beach to Culhanes’ Irish Pub and Grill. Earlier in the week Yak 6 had seen the restaurant on a rerun of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives  and the Birthday Bear decided he wanted to scope it out. Disappointed in missing the Food Truck Contest, it turns out, we were not. Atmoshere, service and food were all top-notch.

We started off by sharing Irish Craic Nachos:

Irish Craic Nachos

Crispy crinkle cut chips loaded with “SWEET” Shepherd’s pie, queso, shredded cheddar cheese and topped with jalapenos, scallions and sour cream. Enough to feed an army!

These were over the top delicious, with homemade (we think) potato chips instead of tortilla chips and their Shepherd’s Pie instead of chili. However, the shepherd’s pie looks and tastes a lot like a sweet chili. Mouthwatering!

On to the main courses:

Yak 6 ordered the Kyle’s Fish and Chips:

 

Best Fish N' Chips in Jax

Fresh Atlantic cod dipped in beer batter fried in peanut oil to a crisp perfection. Served with seasoned fries, tartar sauce & lemon wedge.

The menu proudly claimed these to be the best in town and we would be hard pressed to argue with them. The fish was perfectly done, not greasy and very flavorful. The “Chips” were good sized, slightly seasoned and fried just right.

The Birthday Bear decided upon the Guinness Beef Stew, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and in Guy’s Cookbook- “Guy Fieri’s Favorites.”

 

Guinness Beef Stew

Certified Angus Beef braised in Guinness beer and slow cooked with barley, baby portabellos, carrots, onions & diced potatoes in a savory gravy.

Even though it was not a cold winter’s night in the River City, this tasty dish sure warmed the belly and put smiles our faces!

Your humble scribe chose the Bourbon Guinness Ribs:

Bourbon Guinness Ribs

Baby Back Ribs Marinated in Bourbon, Guinness, herbs and spices slow roasted to fall off the bone tender. Served with seasoned steak fries and collard greens.

Note that I substituted the collard greens with corn salsa. They were not kidding about “fall off the bones tender” – when I went to slice off a couple of ribs for the Birthday Bear, they literally separated as soon as my knife touched one of the ribs. These were the best ribs I have had in more than a few years! The corn salsa was well received – tasting very similar to Yak 6’s recipe, minus the black beans. The steak fries (“Chips”) I thought were just right, but the Birthday Bear would have preferred just a bit less spices.

After the main courses were devastated, Jenny (our server) recommended the bread pudding for dessert. She was right – it was delicious. Unfortunately for posterity, no photo was taken, but it was of good size, with whipped cream on the side, and a large scoop of vanilla ice cream mounted on top.

We unanimously decided this was a “Go Back Place” and can’t wait to return! Since it was our first visit, Jenny gave us a discount coupon for our next visit and since my natal anniversary is right around the corner…

Saturday Afternoon Hawkers

Here at Yakhuset we are always looking for ways to enrich our culinary awareness, regardless of the source. Many an hour has been spent drooling over recipes being prepared by the legion of Food Network™ Stars, some of which have even made it to the Yaktable. Reconnaisance missions (to local restaurants) also provide us with ideas.

Hawkers Entrance

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Hence, a lucky drive-by sighting of a new eating establishment (Hawkers) in the historic Five Points neighborhood of downtown Jacksonville a week ago called for a reconnaissance in force this weekend. So Yak 6 and I met the Bear (younger son) there at 1pm this afternoon. Hawkers Asian Street Fare opened eight days ago and the word has obviously gotten around since we had to wait 25 minutes for a table. Hawkers are street vendors (food) in Asia and that’s what this restaurant specializes in. It reminded me of Singapore’s melting pot of different cultures and foods, with dishes from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand. It proved to be worth the wait!

Instead of large meals, they focus on smaller servings (think tapas as a comparison) which allows for the tasting of a variety of dishes in a single setting. We ordered the following dishes:

  • Hawker Wings (grilled, with Sweet Thai Chili sauce)
  • Grilled Hawker Skewers (beef and chicken)
  • Roti Canai ( Malaysian flat breads served with their signature spicy curry dipping sauce)
  • BBQ Pork “Char Siu” (roasted pork tenderloin lightly basted with an Asian BBQ sauce)
  • Pad Thai Noodles (they simmer it for six hours before stir-frying it with shrimp, chicken, vegetables and red chili peppers)

Both the wings and the skewers were grilled over wood coals and they were outstanding! The Pad Thai dish was an excellent example of its kind, but if you don’t like or are allergic to shrimp, you might want to ask if they can do it without. We were also pleasantly surprised by a complimentary order of their Southeast Asian Chicken Curry, which was outstanding!

Trying to determine which of the above were our favorites was tough, but we agreed we preferred the chicken skewers over the beef. The Roti Canai was an extremely pleasant surprise – it was like a flat croissant that melted in your mouth. Excellent without the dipping sauce, it was even better with it (it went well with the Southeast Asia Curry sauce as well)

The Bear ordered Vietnamese coffee and Yak 6 ordered their Thai tea, both of which were very good. Later we shared both their flan special and their Rodi desserts. Although we liked both, the Roti and ice cream, dusted with cinnamon was the clear winner.

We were very impressed with the quality of the food, service and atmosphere – it made for a perfect Saturday afternoon meal. Prices were reasonable, with most dishes in the $5 range. Yelp reviewers (21 of them) have given Hawkers in Jacksonville a 5/5 star rating – and we couldn’t agree more!

Raining Dauntlesses

Seventy years ago today, a few hundred naval aviators and aircrew turned the tide of the Second Great War of the twentieth century. When the sun set on the Japanese fleet skulking westward at the end of the day, the days of Japanese expansion were over. Never again would the offensive might of Imperial Japan be used for conquest and expansion.

Okay, they had some help from the Marines and the Army.

The Battle of Midway was the first of three major Allied victories in 1942 that put the Axis powers on the defensive for the rest of the war. The Battle of El Alamein in western Egypt stopped the German advance on the Suez Canal, the loss of which would have severely impacted the British ability to continue the fight. Later that winter, the Battle of Stalingrad (ending in February 1943) would the turn the tide on the Eastern Front.

There were a lot of great airplanes in WWII, some of which had great impact on the war efforts of their respective countries; the British Spitfire, the Japanese Zeke (Zero), the German BF-109 (ME-109), the Russian Sturmavik, the American B-17.

But I think the greatest of them all was the Dauntless dive bomber. It sank more Japanese ships then any other aircraft, and on a morning in early June, seventy years ago, it saved the world. And it did it in five minutes.

For six months, the forces of Imperial Japan had been running roughshod over the Pacific and Indian Oceans, stopped only once, at the Battle of Coral Sea in early May.

Although our primary carrier weapon was supposed to be the torpedo bomber, problems with their torpedoes rendered them fairly combat ineffective. Although they did have some success during Coral Sea, due to special maintenance on the newest lot of aerial torpedoes in the inventory, the torpedo bomber squadrons suffered from the same problems their submarine counterparts did, fuse problems that thwarted detonation upon impact with their targets. Then current air wing tactics called for a coordinated attack using the dive bombers to distract the defenses so the torpedo planes could sneak in for the crippling blow.

 Act I

The early morning hours of June 4, 1942 saw the Japanese carrier task force approaching Midway Island (the westernmost island in the Hawaiian chain) from the northwest. Their first attack, at 06:30, although fairly effective, failed to cripple the island’s defenses. During this attack the Marine air defense fighters lost 16 fighters, leaving only two flyable. They shot down 4 bombers and 3 fighters.

Act II

Now it was the defenders turn. A number of Army Air Corps B-17s attacked first from 20,000 feet. The Japanese, recognizing the futility of level bombing attacks from that altitude did not even bother sending fighters after them.

During the next few hours the following Midway-based aircraft attacked the Japanese carrier strike force:

Model Went In Came Out
B-26 Marauder (Army torpedo bomber)

4

2

SB2U Vindicator  (Marine dive bomber)

11

9

SBD Dauntless (Marine dive bomber)

16

8

TBF Avenger (Navy torpedo bomber)

6

1

Please note that the Marine Dauntless pilots were untrained in the high-angle dive bombing attack profiles and used a glide-bombing technique that was less accurate and more dangerous.

Leaving aside the B-17s, 37 bombers attacked the Japanese fleet that morning, 20 of which were shot down, and no hits were made on the Japanese.

Act III

At 09:20 the first wave of carrier-based TBD Devastator torpedo bombers from VT-8 on the USS HORNET commenced their attack runs on the Japanese carriers. Without fighter escort, they were easy meat for the experienced Japanese fighter pilots. To drop their torpedoes they had to fly a suicidal flight profile, under 120 knots, about 100 feet off the water, and in a straight line so they could align the gyros in the torpedoes. All fifteen of them were shot down without a hit.

Shortly thereafter, fourteen TBDs from VT-6 aboard the USS ENTERPRISE followed them in. Ten were shot down. Still no hits.

At 10:00, twelve TBDs from VT-3 aboard the USS YORKTOWN attacked. Ten were shot down with no hits.

To recap: 35 of 41 carrier-based torpedo bombers were shot down. All told, 55 of 78 bombers were downed by the Japanese defenders (again, not counting the B-17s which the Japanese didn’t even worry about), or just over 70% of the American attackers.

Act IV

The American carrier-based attacks to this point had been brave, but uncoordinated and unsuccessful and suicidal in effect, if not in intent. But they served a purpose.

LCDR Wade McCluskey, the ENTERPRISE Air Group Commander, had guessed correctly a few minutes earlier, and arrived overhead the Japanese carriers at an altitude of 17,000 feet, undetected and unopposed, just as VT-3 was making their attack runs.

At 10:22, he started raining Dauntlesses.

What was it like that morning? Picture the best, the steepest rollercoaster ride you have ever been on. You know the one, the one that when you crest the top and tip over, it looks like your going past the vertical? And it lasts for only about 5 seconds (although it can seem like hours for some of you)? Yeah – that ride.

Now imagine that you’re in a Dauntless, hurdling earthbound at about 250 miles per hour, and you look out over the wings and you see these big pieces of metal, all full of holes, sticking up from the trailing edges of the wings, and you realize that your dive brakes are keeping your airspeed steady and allowing you to track your target more effectively.

And you fall, and fall, and fall, for about two and a half minutes, as a Japanese carrier gets bigger and bigger in your windscreen. At 2000 feet, you pickle your bomb and yank back on the stick, putting about five G’s on the airplane as the blood rushes out of your head and down towards your feet, and you grunt and groan to prevent this  – since anti-G suits have yet to be invented.

By 10:27, three Japanese carriers, the AKAGI, KAGA and SORYU are aflame and you have just helped save the world.

Act V

The rest of the day sees the sinking of the remaining Japanese carrier, Hiryu, as well as the crippling, once again, of the USS YORKTOWN, by Japanese torpedo and dive bomber planes.

 Five minutes.

 

You always remember your first time.

It doesn’t really matter what it is. Could be your first solo flight in an airplane.

I remember the surprise and thrill I got on December 17, 1975 when Virginia Hanic, my flight instructor at Skypark, just west of Wadsworth, Ohio, told me to drop her off at Flight Ops; she had cheated death enough for one day, but I hadn’t. She wanted me to go up and throw myself at the ground a few more times before I put the Cessna to bed for the day.

I taxied over to the departure end of runway 05 (heading to the northeast), stopped at the hold-short and did my checklists, while listening on UNICOM for any other planes in the traffic pattern. No voices heard, I looked to the southwest to see if there were any planes on final. None were present, so I taxied out onto the runway, all 2,200 feet of it, set takeoff power, released the brakes and let the Ponies from Lycoming send me skyward. A little bit of rudder to compensate for the crosswind and I was airborne a few hundred feet down the tarmac, grinning, I am quite certain, like the Proverbial Cat. I had dreamed of this moment for 17 years.

I was too busy to really enjoy the moment though, as I turned downwind and commenced the landing checklist. First item on said list was:

1. Please Lord, don’t let me screw this up.

I’m not kidding – that really was the first item on my landing checklist. Written in the scrawl of arthritic doctor filling out a prescription, mind you, but none the less there. I don’t really recall the rest of the flight, but I do know I made several landings before taxiing over to the flight line and facing my biggest challenge of the afternoon.

The hardest part of flying lessons to me was tying down the airplane afterwards. Good thing there weren’t camera phones back then or I would have gone viral on YouTube. Knots and me are like Indiana Jones and snakes. I can tie two knots: the square knot and the slip knot. The second one is always accidental and occurs when attempting the first one. Now you know why I never made it past “Tenderfoot” in the Boy Scouts.

And tonight I soloed again. See checkist, above.

At least no knots were involved.