The Visa Collector

A blog about travelling with a Filipino passport, and life overseas

Tag Archives: hobby

Visiting the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation museum


How often do you get an opportunity to park beside a T-55 Main Battle Tank?

For folks who visit the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation in Portola Valley, CA, that is mere routine.

A friend with a passion for all-things military visited me in February. So I put together a sightseeing tour that would prioritize military exhibits. This Jacques Littlefield creation was simply something that couldn’t be missed: the largest private collection of armored vehicles in the world.

This museum is situated within the founder’s “Pony Tracks Ranch” at 499 Old Spanish Trail, Portola Valley. GPS directions to the property are notoriously unreliable, so drivers are advised to pay special attention to the directions to the property that are given in response to a request for a visit. I didn’t, and ended up trying to enter someone else’s private property, as per my beloved Garmin’s instructions. It was apparently a common occurrence.

Visits are by appointment through the museum Website: Tours are typically scheduled on weekends, with one tour held in the morning and another in the afternoon. Special tours, however, could be arranged during the week. As of the visit, the admission fee was at a reasonable $20.

Our morning group was handled by Phil Hatcher, the second gentleman in the video above. It was an excellent tour, filled with bits of trivia about the vehicles in the display in general, and on the specific pieces in particular.

The vehicles on display are a scale modelers dream. My friend, who had made more than his share of Sherman tank models, paid special attention to the number of Sherman versions in the collection, and reveled in the differences between US Army and US Marine Corps color schemes. Such is the attention to detail that modelers focus upon their subjects. It was only fitting, therefore, that the employees and volunteers at the museum, and even the founder himself, had an affinity for assembling replicas. The collection was actually an off-shoot of this hobby.

On my part, the following vehicle, a Sturmgeshutz III, brought back memories as it was the very first tank model I ever made.

The sheer number of vehicles and equipment, from Scud missile launchers to Main Battle Tanks, were simply too much to take in on a single visit. I will definitely come back to this place sooner than later.

If there was a take-away from that visit that was a tad disconcerting, it was about the future of the collection. The founder had died in 2009, so the millions that had been poured into the collection in years past was no more. A foundation was now in place to preserve what was already in the collection. But the various vehicles that were still in different stages of restoration would, in all likelihood, would no longer be completed.

A return visit, therefore, is not merely an indulgence, but a show of support for a unique vision.

Mar 13, 2011

The iFly experience


Part of this article has also been posted on

While on the way to Tribu Grill in Union City for a Pinoy dinner with friends, we passed by this gem.

I’d heard of this company offering time on their wind tunnels for folks who wanted to get a feel for a skydiving, but in a safe environment. iFly had a tunnel somewhere in San Francisco, and I had planned to check the place out . . . eventually.

But when we passed by this place — a mere 20 minutes from home — I just had to go. So off I went the following day with a friend and his 10 year old son in tow.

It was awesome. Check this out.

A real buddy jump, where you jump out of a real plane strapped to an experienced parachutist, can cost you up to $200, for a 40 to 50 second jump. Wind tunnel time is only $54 — for two 45 second sessions. Its true that you don’t get the view that you get in a real jump. But given that competitive skydivers use the facility for their own training, that’s saying something about the reality of the experience.

We went on a weekend, so it was a pretty full day. The slot we eventually got was for 9:30PM, despite having arrived at noon. Die-hard iFlyers reportedly come in during the week to avoid the crowds.

Hoping to go for the real thing some day . . . but this is cool for now 🙂

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Filed under US, California
Sep 3, 2010