Sunday, July 31, 2011

7/31/2011 Tanks!

Saturday, we got a tour of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation museum -- one of the largest private collections of military vehicles in the world -- which mostly means a whole lot of tanks!

The absolute coolest Dad I've met -- who homeschools his 2nd-grader (how many dads homeschool?) -- organized this tour for other homeschool kids. I met this Dad when Julian was in pre-K -- his son and Julian were friends -- he's a lawyer who's originally from Taiwan, but decided to homeschool his son when he entered kindergarten.

Gabriel claimed no interest (sucker -- he'd have loved it) and Katrina is still too young, so we found a highly overqualified (but skilled and very nice) nanny to mind Gabriel and Katrina while Dave and I took Julian. It was a pretty drive on windy hilly roads into the depths of Portola Valley, onto private property where we parked amongst 4 massive metal sheds housing hundreds of American, German and Soviet tanks -- and even a few from Switzerland and Sweden. Who knew the Swedes made tanks?

The tour was 2-1/2 hours and covered 4 huge warehouses filled with tanks, and so much information transpired I can't begin to recall, let alone write it. I didn't take notes so I'd get the technical information wrong too.

But it was fascinating, and I learned a lot more about WWII history. Not all tanks were WW-II era but most of the interesting stories about how designs were cobbled together or didn't work, came from that era. I also learned a lot I didn't know I didn't know about explosives, munitions and combat. Lots of these tanks just plain didn't work right and were deathtraps for their users, and it only took the guys driving them a few minutes to figure that out what pie-in-the-sky designers safe at HQ couldn't figure out.

The famous American Sherman tank (on the left), with a German Panzer (I think) on the right, that was far superior in every way except one: the Germans didn't make as many of them.

The business end of the Panzer.

1936 Japanese gun. Note the rifling in the barrel.

The tour included 4 enormous sheds filled with tanks, jeeps, some motorcycles, amphibious vehicles, and even an enormous Scud missile launcher (which somehow I didn't get a photo of).

The tour guide knew how to deal with kids, especially a group of inquisitive question-peppering homeschoolers, and gave them lots to do with handling real (de-armed of course) guns.

Kids were also allowed to climb in some of the tanks.

This cat named Hitler followed us for some of the time. I took this photo to show my Mom, who had a favorite cat as a child named SchickelGruber -- Hitler's original name.

More wildlife peeking through a window.

The tanks in the sheds are all restored, but they arrived at this facility looking more like this one.

A fun, fascinating afternoon! We brought Julian home and left again to go out to dinner -- we had a sitter, why squander the opportunity? She was great; unfortunately she's moving in a few months. She's a part-time nanny and is used to younger kids, and younger kids who are so used to nannies that they're not used to entertaining themselves. Our kids are notoriously self-entertaining -- she said she didn't know what to do with herself. Katrina kept her entertained much of the time though, by changing into a dance outfit and "performing." Gabriel also impressed her with his piano-playing.

Today, Sunday, my goal was to go nowhere, do nothing and see no one!! And I did it!!


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