Friday, December 15, 2017

The Flight of the EB-66C

On September 26, 2017, the first RC model of a Vietnam Era EB-66C made its maiden flight on the dry lake bed in Eldorado Valley, Nevada. The model’s flight was the culmination of nearly two years of work by a volunteer team of 13 people, a labor of love created in tribute to the veterans who flew the actual planes in wartime.

The first thing you notice about the EB-66C model is its size. Second, it's incredibly detailed.

On launch day, I walked up to the model as Tony Accurso, John Morgan, and their team were busily working on last-minute preparations. This 1/8 scale model has a wing span close to ten feet and a body length of nine and half feet--it's big. Every part of the model is astonishingly detailed, especially the cockpit. The team had only photographs to go on and used them to make a 3D printing of the cockpit, which was then hand painted. It even includes tiny maps of Southeast Asia. Tony and John led the team who built the model, and they describe themselves as “a little obsessive.”

With the launch imminent, it was an all-hands-on-deck moment. While the team worked on the final adjustments, USAF pilot and retired Lt. Colonel Robert Stamm looked on. He flew reconnaissance missions in the EB-66C in Vietnam, and he and his wife were both there to see the model take flight. He commented on how accurate the model was.

When the model was ready, the team positioned it for takeoff on the lake bed. “Everybody step back,” Tony told the assembled group. “I don’t want to be distracted by the cameras clicking.” 
All of us dutifully retreated, and the EB-66C taxied along before lifting itself into the air. The desert mountains in the background had just started catching light, and the solar array in the distance almost looked like a lake.


Tony became fascinated with the EB-66C when he saw the 1988 movie “Bat*21,” which was based on actual events.  In the movie, the main character (Lt. Colonel Iceal "Gene" Hambleton, played by Gene Hackman) is the sole survivor when his plane is shot down in North Vietnamese territory. A massive operation takes place to rescue him. It was a film (and an airplane) that stuck with Tony as a young airman--and remained with him.

Years later, retired vets Tony and John discovered there were no RC models of the EB-66C. An 18-month project was born, and it was completed entirely with donated time and funds. The team decided not to accept corporate funding because it wasn’t in tune with the mission they’d given themselves: to honor the men who had flown the plane.

The entire model plane world followed the build, but they weren’t the only ones interested in the storied airplane. Tony contacted the B-66 Association and found Vietnam vets like Lt. Colonel Stamm. I heard about the flight from friends of mine, Diane Ciz and her husband, retired Major George Ciz, who flew 144 missions as an EWO (Electronic Warfare Officer).  
Retired Lt. Colonel Robert Stamm in background. He was an EB-66C pilot during Vietnam.
“You lost a wheel,” someone said right after the takeoff, but Tony was too busy steering the plane through the sky to say anything.

Tony said he had to remember to fly the model just like the real plane, with a long, shallow climb. The real EB-66C was not a powerhouse of speed, and neither was the model. It was, however, an incredible sight.

The plane slowly circled around us twice, then bounced down in a touch and go, soared back up into the sky, and made one more loop before setting back down roughly, skidding a little before coming to a stop. After the dust settled, the team walked out to retrieve the plane, which was sitting slightly askew because of its missing wheel, but that was the only damage.

The flight was a success and truly met its mission to be a tribute to those who served on the EB-66C. 

 You can see the entire video of the flight here:

Special thanks to Tony Accurso for allowing me to be there for the flight and to George and Diane Ciz for letting me know about the EB-66C model project.

Kudos to the team who put the EB-66C together: 
Tony Accurso, Evelyn Accurso, John Morgan, Brenda Morgan, Kirby Morgan, Wade Joos, Birger de la Pena, Scott Ramirez, James Klassen,  Chris Wolfe, Chad Veich, Gary Gioia, and Karen Gioia. 

All pictures by Terrisa Meeks. I'll be posting more pictures from the flight on my Flickr page soon.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Newest Game in Las Vegas: O.J. Sightings

I’m surprised someone hasn’t created an app yet to track sightings of O.J. Simpson, who was recently released from prison and is now living near the Red Rock Country Club.

Allegedly, O.J. Simpson wants to move to Florida, but while he’s trying to get that figured out, he’s taken up residence in Summerlin. While I commend O.J. on his taste in neighborhoods, I have to say it was bizarre to see him strolling around the Tivoli Village Farmers Market last Saturday. I totally forgot to buy half the things I needed.

He’s just as gracious as you’ve heard. When I first saw him, I spotted him because of the small group of people standing around him taking pictures. I recognized O.J. immediately. While I could’ve easily walked right up to him and asked for a photo, I didn’t... because: a) I was raised not to bother celebrities in public, regardless of how infamous they might be; and b) it just felt wrong. 

Instead, I snapped a pic from a distance--but he had seen me and smiled and waved for my picture. And yes, I smiled and waved back. He’s charming, even from a distance and even if you know all about his history.

Now, the new game in town seems to be who can spot O.J. while he’s out and about. If I had spent nine years in a prison in Northern Nevada, I would be outside every chance I got, no matter how many people took pictures of me. Apparently O.J. feels the same way because social media and local news have had a steady stream of O.J. Sightings. Apparently he likes Grape Street up in DTS and Wahoo’s over at Boca Park. Considering how many great restaurants Summerlin has, I imagine he’ll find plenty of places to try.

I’ve heard from at least one person who plans to go out this weekend in pursuit of an O.J. Sighting. I don’t think he'll have to look too hard.

Summerlin and Brentwood could be cousins, ambiance-wise, which makes me wonder if that’s part of the reason O.J. seems to feels so comfortable here. We even have a Rockingham Drive. (Random Factoid: Simpson’s L.A. home on Rockingham Avenue--the house we all saw on TV--was demolished in 1998.)

While it’s incorrect that the Las Vegas jury or judge had any “payback” in mind with the robbery verdict, O.J.’s incarceration for robbery was related to the murders, if you think about it. While he was acquitted of the criminal charges, he was found liable in a civil lawsuit and was ordered to turn over assets to go toward the $33.5 million the Brown and Goldman families were awarded. O.J. and his pals hid his assets to avoid turning them over. He claimed the items he was “recovering” here in Vegas were stolen from him, which is obviously debatable considering his scheme to hide property. Pursuing legal actions to get the items back would have subjected them to the dreaded turnover order. Had he not been trying to avoid the order, he probably wouldn’t have had a reason to rob anyone. 

And if he would have taken the plea deal he was offered for the robbery, he would have been sentenced to about 30 months.

He could have been out working on his golf game a whole lot sooner.

Would you take a picture with O.J? Leave your answer in the comments.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Restaurants List Updated

I've updated my list of local Las Vegas restaurants with ten new entries, including Andre's Bistro and Marche Bacchus. Check out my list of restaurants to see all of my current favorites.

Marche Bacchus at Desert Shores
What are your favorite local Las Vegas restaurants? Leave your suggestion in the comments!

Photo by Terrisa Meeks

Friday, October 13, 2017

Photo Friday in Las Vegas: Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

I was downtown today and stopped at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health to take photos of its signature twisty Frank Gehry design, including inside its incredible event center.


All photos by Terrisa Meeks

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Las Vegas Farmers Markets

Visit a farmers market and you’ll never want to buy tasteless grocery store produce again (I’m looking at you, tomatoes).

I believe the old truism, “Food is medicine,” and as a result I’ve been spending more time at farmers markets lately. Eating more fruits and veggies is a good idea no matter where you buy them, but if you want produce at the peak of its taste and nutritional value, farmers markets are the way to go.
Tivoli Village Farmers Market
You can find farmers markets throughout the week at a variety of places in the Las Vegas valley. While most of the produce comes from California, you’ll find locally produced honey, eggs, herbs, and micro-greens. These markets are small in comparison to what you’ll find in greener areas, so if you're looking for something on the scale of a farmers market in California or Oregon, dial down your expectations. 

Since we’re in the desert, much of the food at our farmers markets comes from further away than the locavore’s gold standard of being produced within 100 miles--but the 400 miles between Vegas and Fresno is far less than the miles most produce travels before hitting the grocery store shelves. It’s also been allowed to ripen before being picked, which is why it all tastes so good.

Summertime’s bounty of fruits has just passed us, but we’ll soon see apples and citrus (as my favorite fruit vendor told me a couple of weeks ago). Can’t wait. My family is so excited to find out what fresh apples taste like.

Another way to get fresh produce is to pick it yourself at Gilcrease Orchard, or sign up for a CSA, which is a subscription-type service from a community farm. You can pick up local eggs and honey on weekends at The Farm, which is also an animal rescue, and you can check with the Vegas Roots Community Garden to see what they have for sale.

I have to warn you: if you start shopping at farmers markets and local farms/gardens, be prepared to work it into your weekly schedule. Grocery store produce will start tasting like cardboard in comparison. Trust me. I tried to make pico de gallo with grocery store tomatoes, and it just made me sad. They were tasteless, watery, sorry excuses for tomatoes. Once your taste buds get used to fruits and veggies with actual flavor, there’s no going back.

*  *  *

Here’s my current list of Las Vegas farmers markets. Keep in mind that hours and locations may change, and weather is a factor for most markets. Some markets may also close for winter and/or winter holidays. If you have corrections or additions, please leave them in the comments:

Tivoli Village Farmers & Makers Market, Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Las Vegas Farmers Market at Downtown Summerlin,  Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Las Vegas Farmers Market at Floyd Lamb Park, 1st and 3rd Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
fresh52 at Solista Park in Henderson, 2nd and 4th Saturday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
fresh52 at Sansone Park Place (9480 S. Eastern), Sundays, 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Las Vegas Farmers Market at Bruce Trent Park, Wednesdays, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Las Vegas Farmers Market at Gardens Park, Thursdays, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Henderson Farmers Market on Water Street, Thursdays, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The District Farmers Market - open seasonally on Thursdays, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Downtown 3rd Intuitive Forager Farmers Market - Old Bus Station at 300 N. Casino Center, Fridays, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Do you shop at any of the Las Vegas farmers markets?

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Stand Strong, Las Vegas

On the night of October 1, 2017, a gunman unleashed the equivalent of machine gun fire into a crowd of 22,000 people who were gathered on the Las Vegas Strip for a country music festival. For 10 minutes, he fired in bursts. At the time of this post, 58 people are dead and nearly 500 injured. Some remain in critical condition.

The gunman, Stephen Paddock, used his suite on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay as a sniper’s perch to carry out this mass murder. He killed himself before Metro’s SWAT team blew the door open. His motives are still unknown. Details continue to emerge at each new press conference.

In the aftermath, the city remains in shock.

Like many people in Las Vegas, I woke up on Monday to messages from friends and family who wanted to know if I was O.K. Their messages sent me to the television, and from that point on, everything has felt very weird.

The magnitude of this crime is hard to get your mind around. I’m still struggling.

Many people want to know what they can do. The blood banks currently are stocked due to an overwhelming turnout of donors (although it's worth noting that United Blood Services has pointed out that blood will be an ongoing need). Ditto for donations of water and food to the Red Cross and the assistance center set up at the Convention Center, but you can visit Clark County's Emergency Information Page to find out where else you can donate and volunteer. Vegas Seven's page also has a listing of needs--Metro's Enterprise Area's Command is "In needs of lots of coffee," for instance.  You can donate to the GoFundMe that Commission Chair Steve Sisolack and Sheriff Joe Lombardo started. Its initial goal was to raise a few hundred thousand dollars for the victims and their families, and it's now close to $10 million dollars. That’s not counting the $3 million that MGM Resorts has pledged.

Because I, too, like to be helpful, I’m going to suggest two things everyone can do that are free and can be done from the comfort of your home.

#1 - Don’t contribute to the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories.

By early afternoon on Monday, I had to go for a walk to take a break from the news. While I was walking, I overhead a woman on the phone telling someone she was sure the shooting was some kind of government conspiracy. I’ve seen stories online insisting there was more than one shooter. I even heard conjecture about whether or not the gunman was actually dead, but that was before the crime scene photos were leaked. 

Please, don’t spread these stories.

I don’t personally know the people who are investigating this heinous crime, but I know the kind of people they are because I worked for Metro for 22 years. I know every piece of evidence is being carefully collected and cataloged. I can’t even imagine how long the crime scene analysts must have worked on the concert grounds. It’s mind boggling to think of the size of the scene and how many locations were involved. The pictures I saw of the concert grounds reminded me of a debris field from an airplane crash, although not as large and with one notable exception: instead of body pieces, there were whole bodies littering the grounds. It’s incomprehensible.

The authorities are working as fast as they can to piece this all together. In the meantime, don’t spread disinformation. Make sure you’re posting from a credible news source. Better yet, take a break from social media and the news--it’s too easy to get sucked into the coverage of this story and become overwhelmed.

#2 - Be a little extra kind.

While this might seem like a suggestion that applies pretty much always, it’s particularly relevant in Las Vegas right now. We’re all in this one together, folks. This tragedy has touched an immense number of people in the valley and beyond. For all you know, that less-than-efficient grocery store clerk you got today might have a loved one in critical condition. Or worse.

Anyone on the Strip on Sunday at the time of the shooting was affected, even those who weren’t at the concert.

One of my husband’s friends was at the Bellagio on Sunday night when the first wave of 40 or 50 people fleeing the massacre burst into the casino. A second wave hit, and the Bellagio prepared to put the property on lock-down, but this man wasn’t having any of that. He’d heard the shooter had a machine gun, and he had no intention of being herded into a ballroom, which was in the process of happening. People thought the shooter (or shooters--no one knew) was on foot and headed in their direction. “I wasn’t going to be a fish in a barrel,” he said, and he and his friends started looking for ways out of the hotel.

He and his pals wound up searching for an exit through employee-only areas, surprising (and scaring) groups of employees they encountered in the process. Finally finding an exit, he and some of his friends made their way to the Rio, where he called someone to come get him. Some other members of his group were separated in the scramble to get out, and those folks spent the night hiding in a pool-side cabana at Caesars Palace.

Impressively, he still made it to work on Monday morning.

You’ve probably seen the video of the man at the concert who was drinking his beer and flipping off the shooter. Some people think he must be a local, since his defiance certainly seems to sum up how a lot of people feel. I just hope he made it out OK.

Las Vegas, keep standing strong. 

In the immortal words of Chumbawamba:

I get knocked down, but I get up again 
You are never gonna keep me down 

Nothing will keep our city down, not even this heinous attack.

Keep that middle finger attitude, my friends.


I'm not sure who to credit for this graphic. If anyone knows the original source, please leave it in the comments.

You can visit these pages for for more information and resources:

VegasStrong on Facebook 

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police - Victim and Family Assistance Resources

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Visit to Seven Magic Mountains

If the neon boulders at Seven Magic Mountains remind you of the colorful rock formations found throughout the Southwestern United States, you understand what the artist had in mind.

Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains inspires strong reactions. I’ve read both derisive comments that question its artistic merit and enthusiastic reviews extolling the giant land art.

I recently visited the piece one Sunday afternoon and found the area full of happy people who were snapping pictures and exploring the stacks of boulders. Whatever the detractors may say, the people I saw were enjoying the sight of Seven Magic Mountains, situated with the dry lake bed of Jean on one side and I15 on the other. 

So, is Seven Magic Mountains “art”? I’ve read plenty of comments from people who think it’s not. That begs the question: What is art? To me, it’s creative work that inspires, enlightens, informs or delights. For some people, it’s all about technical mastery or technique, and they only see art in things like a Renaissance painting or a Rodin sculpture. That’s the thing about art: it’s subjective. 

Rondinone took five years to create Seven Magic Mountains, which is built from locally-sourced limestone boulders. According to an interview with the artist in Art News, he took inspiration from hoodoos and the “meditation practice of balancing stones.” 

Some of the most striking pictures I've seen of the piece were taken at sunrise or sunset when the towers are standing alone in the desert. 

But on the day I visited, the presence of people made it feel like a mini-festival. My hubby, our dog Gigi, and I walked from a crowded parking lot down a short desert path filled with a stream of people. A woman in front of us was carrying a little drone, which we later got to watch fly as we walked around the boulders.

Not long after we arrived, a tour helicopter flew in, buzzing in a quick arc around the towers before turning and zipping back toward town. 

Nearby on I15, the cars and trucks were speeding by.

Despite their 30-35 foot height, the stacks are dwarfed by the vastness of the Mojave, which appeared an obvious metaphor for Las Vegas. 

I loved seeing people wandering around in the desert, taking pictures of not just Seven Magic Mountains, but of the landscape around them. Whether or not you like Rondinone’s artistry, you have to acknowledge the magnificence of the place where it sits. 

Seven Magic Mountains is planned to be on display for two years. It opened May 11, 2016.

Background Note: For those who are concerned about taxpayer funds being spent for the project, don’t worry--Jane Ann Morrison at the RJ reported that of the $3.5 million it cost, only $100,000 came from taxpayer monies via the Nevada Commission on Tourism. That makes sense to me, considering the international attention the installation has drawn. The rest of the funds were raised from donations.

Have you been to Seven Magic Mountains?