Saturday, December 27, 2008


I wasn't looking forward to traversing the southwest again, but somehow we made it to Texas in two days. We hit just about every kind of weather imaginable. We had to scrape the ice off the windshield when we left home at 4AM. The trip across the California portion of the desert was uneventful. The closer we got to Tuscon the worse the weather looked. I could see snow on the hills ahead. A local radio station took a call from a guy who said he was getting snowed on. I filled the gas tank just in case. We headed out of the gas station into a snowstorm. I was praying it would not get worse as we climbed toward New Mexico. Thankfully the roadbed was warm enough to melt any accumulation, but there were inches of the white stuff on the roadside as we pushed east. After about twenty miles we broke out ahead of the storm. I-10 across New Mexico was a breeze (literally). 20 mph with gusts to 30. RV's pulled off to wait it out. The radio advised El Paso was expecting 22 degrees that night. We traveled as far as Van Horn, Texas, an 850 mile day, and stopped for the night. The breeze we had gone through caught up to us some time during the night, and we awoke at 1AM to rattling windows and wind moaning through the trees and anything else it could whistle around. I awoke after a restless night at 5:30. We were on the road a little after 6. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, except watching gas prices fall the farther east we traveled. I saw one station at $1.33 a gallon. We pulled into Adam and Jamie's about 3:45 PM, thankful they don't live on the far side of Houston, and unwound by goofin with grandkids and eating a great fish dinner.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where is global warming when you need it?

Last night was chilly for SoCal. . After dark I went out to plug in the RV and turned the heater on low to keep the RV pipes from freezing and was surprised to see an inch of snow on the ground. I took a little of the white stuff off the car trunk and made a small soft snowball, and shared it with Mom. (That is to say it missed her by four inches as she was baking in the kitchen. You can imagine her reaction.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Texas Anyone?

I can't believe we leave for Texas in only about a week. I'm barely recovered from the 3200 mile drive for thanksgiving day, and not looking forward to forcing my body to do that marathon again.
I am trying to decide whether to take the truck or the Toyota. I guess it depends on the weather. I probably won't make that decision until we are on the verge of loading the vehicle.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Spirit

I wouldn't be surprised if Mom asked me to put the tree up on July 4 one of these years. She loves getting ready for Christmas. This year a condition for going to Texas for Thanksgiving Day was the tree had to be up before we left. I managed that, but we broke a water pipe in the yard which required two days of attention to repair. Consequently the tree was naked when we walked in the door after Texas. A few days after getting home I put the lights on it, and then Mom did her thing with the rest of the decorations. We reminisced about our families having a tin foil tree with either blue or red balls (very late 50's), or a flocked tree when we were kids. I was IMing with Jamie and she reminded me of the time we came home and the tree had fallen over in our absence. It did that twice due to cheap tree holders and off center natural trees. So I made a super-duper tree holder out of a car wheel, which we still use today. We made a few of our own Christmas memories back then.

Monday, December 1, 2008

T-day Texas Style

We are home. We did a long day Sunday, overnighted in Deming, NM, on the road again about 6AM and sort of like a horse heading for the barn pulled into the yard at 2:35 PM Monday. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight!
I thought I left my camera on the kitchen table at home for half the trip. I accidentally discovered where I put it on Thanksgiving Day. Here are a few of my favorite pix of what followed....

Above: Preparations for the BIG dinner. Everything was great. Good to see Tom and Mercy, and Brian and Jen too. I think Brian spent half his day trying to sort out a file transfer problem for me. Thanx Brian.

I was changing clothes in our bedroom and heard a little noise. Then I saw two tiny fingers come out of the armoire. I spied a little more and there sat Nora. The closet is just "Norah" size. She sits herself down, pulls the doors closed, and seems content in the security of that box. She has such great motor control that she pulls the doors closed on herself without pinching those little fingers.

After dinner I tried to get a few pictures, mostly candid. Here the ladies realized they were being "framed" and hoisted glasses.

Computer savvy Jayden at his perch in front of the iMac. At times a grandparent wonders if he will lean back tooooo far?

My morning ritual was to have a bowl of Cheerios. Grace always seemed to sense when the pantry door opened and would come running. Several bowls is as easy to make as one and Grace and Norah liked to join me at the table for the first course of breakfast. When Grace finished skimming the Cheerios off the top she walked away and I called her back saying she needed to finish the milk too. To that she picked up the bowl, put it to her lips, and slurped it all down in one long chug.

Then she put the bowl down, and, knowing I was trying to capture the moment, smiled up at me with that impish "I did it" smile.

We greatly enjoyed the time in Houston. The five days flew by too quickly.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I filled up the car today in Houston. A fillup cost a little under $20 @ $1.59 a gallon. I smiled.... but Houston is worried. The economy here is hinged to oil, so if the price falls like this folks might get laid off.

Having a great time spoiling grandkids. I'm all bruised from tussleing with them. Jay almost broke his arm (no kidding) coming after me this morning.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Heading for Texas... 11 hours and counting

The car is half loaded. The rest goes in tomorrow morning. We have had a busy week with unexpected events. A plumbing pipe bust. ( got to rebuild a sprinkler box so it won't happen again. That took about two days. The rent check didn't come. I had to drive to Orange County this morning and get it. Between these two events I'm a bit tired.

Two grandkids were going to accompany us to Texas as a surprise, but one got sick, including a fever, the day before we were to leave. So between the parents and kids it was decided it would be best not to go. That give us a bit more room in the car. On the other hand we were prepared for them to come along and the pullout was bittersweet.

On an up note I tanked up with gas in California for $1.85 at Costco. It's been a while since we saw gas below $2 a gallon in Calif. Usually Calif is about $.40 cents above the rest of the US due to higher taxes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nothing of Interest

I know this won't interest most of you, but last night I got yet ANOTHER buggy. This one is somewhat unique in body style. The guy first told me to just come get it. But I gave him a little something for it. He was walking away from his house, had to get rid of it, knew I do restores, said he would rather see someone like me have it if possible.The car is a total mess. I think I have pix of JJ in every buggy so far. It wasn't intended that way, it just sorta happened with the first few buggies by accident. We hope he is able to meet this one too some day.

I know it's ugly. On the positive side it was so unique when it hit the market that Dune Buggy Handbook gave it two whole pages. And manufacture happened right here in San Bernardino in the late 60s. Like I said, It's ugly ...but a swan is in there somewhere. My friend Richard said I should tell people it's a retired Disneyland Autopia car. LOL.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Little Lobbyists

We linked up with Houston on skype yesterday. It's amazing how kids love to see themselves on the screen. There we were wanting to talk to them ...but all the while kids were vying for camera time so they could stick their tongue out, make funny faces, or look at their tonsils. Then Gracie started telling secrets on the internet. She was too stinking cute, even with J holding up fingers behind her head. Gammie was hanging on every word. What with all their lobbying looks like we are heading to Houston for T-day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A day with Thomas

My friend Marvin volunteers at the Orange Empire Railroad Museum and told us Thomas was back for five days. What better way to spend Veterans Day than with grandsons riding and viewing old railroad trains. Click on any pix to enlarge it.

First stop was at an old flatcar with a crane on board. Micah was delighted when I hoisted them up top. Seth was a little less sure-footed and looked for something to hang on to.

Then we wandered up to "Grizzly Flat." Sound like Disney's California Adventure? It should. There is a ¾ scale train engine there made for an early Disney Exec to take his grandkids around his back yard, which has now been donated to the museum. Here OUR grandkids are in front of Baldwin Locomotive #2, a full size locomotive. The ¾ scale engine is out of view.

Next, to the Trolley ride around the park. Compared to a modern amusement park the rides are tame. The trolley pitched and rolled like trolleys do when tracks are uneven. Here the boys are disembarking on their own. Seth is getting taller and becoming the master of the "Big Steps."

First glimpse of Thomas as the little engine backed the passenger cars up to the loading platform. Don't get too excited Jayden!

Gammie and the boys with what Seth calls, "The blue train."

Our heroes riding high in the caboose train. This was Seth's favorite. When we asked which he liked best he said, "The yellow train." I couldn't figure it out at first, until I realized this caboose was yellow. He seems to take his cues form colors. If Seth was color blind I don't think he could explain the day.

Last stop was the fully functional old steam engine which they still use to pull visitors around the museum grounds on occasion. Seth wasn't too sure about standing on the tall step alone, so Micah gingerly sidestepped over and put a reassuring arm in front of him. Way to go Micah.

The grandsons were very well behaved for us. At one point they sat down on the trolley in the first available empty seats. The next empty seats for us grandparents were about five rows behind. I thought about switching with Seth, sending him back to Gammie, but decided to leave the two alone up there. The conductor said everyone had to stay seated while the trolley was in motion. They were perfect gentlemen.

Being Veterans Day, on the way home I asked Micah if he would like to see where my parents are buried, fully prepared for a no answer. This was a bit confusing to him and he said they were in Heaven. What followed was a simple discourse of how we die when our spirit leaves the body. The spirit goes with Jesus, and body stays here and gets buried until Jesus comes.I suspect the concept was a bit much for him to comprehend, but he acknowledged with an, "Oh." Once we found the grave site we explained again this is where my parents bodies are buried, but they are in Heaven with Jesus, took this picture, pointed out all the flags decorating the cemetery and explained Vets day. I also showed Micah how to find his great-grandparents grave sites. Which tree Micah?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let your Yes be Yes

I know some folks who planned a get-together at their house and had RSVP responses. They bought food for respondents. The day of the event only about half of the folks who replied showed up. The spread was awesome, but the open-house folks had to deal with all that extra expense and food.... and the disappointment.

We put an event in the bulletin and the outing was announced publicly. Enthusiasm was high. 32 guys took the time to find the sign-up list. I emailed or called everyone who signed up two days in advance. The day of departure I received six cancellations. That left 26 for the outing. The evening we were to leave we arranged to meet in a parking lot. Only two of the remaining 26 showed up. I waited extra time for late comers in the event some were delayed. No one else called or showed.

Perhaps I'm old school but these things trouble me. I was raised that a man is only as good as his word. Am I wrong to expect we should be different from the world around us? Give me your thoughts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Night Sounds

Sometimes a night can have strange sounds. I awoke in the middle of the night to hear, "Sit down please Jonah." The words were clear and persuasive. Then all was quiet again. When I mentioned it, Mom, who realizes she occasionally talks in her sleep, cutely said, "I really said that?" No more information was forthcoming. It's kind of tough to put together what the dream was about when one only hears one line of the script. I hope Jonah sat down.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Prehistoric Desert Dwellers

Last weekend we joined other buggistas in the Anza-Borrego desert. A private party has commissioned a metalworking sculptor to create life-sized facimilies of creatures that, according to the fossil record, once lived in the area. The figures are positioned throughout the desert, and though not widely known about, are starting to generate their own tourism.

Ancient Desert Camels. The baby has a strange hump on it's back.

Apparently three-toed sloth mothers carried their babies on their backs.

A sitting Giant Three-Toed Sloth. The grandkids will have fun picking me out in this picture.

I called this creature an elephant but was quickly corrected by a local resident. I forget what he called it, but it definitely isn't an elephant according to him. It has upper and lower tusks. The look is long and somewhat strange, but after seeing the other creature likenesses this representation must be what the non-elephant really looked like.

Mexican Standoff with whatever it is.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oct 4 Weekend revisited.

These pictures were taken at the 9000 foot level in the Inyo Mountains. The road up was quite a challenge, even for a buggy. Early in the last century, before refrigeration, salt was a very valuable commodity used to preserve foods. An elaborate tram was constructed to take salt from Saline Valley over the range and down to the railroad on the other side. Most of the Salt Tram stanchions are still standing. One wonders how they built it and got the cables strung 100 plus years ago. You can barely see one of the remaining cables extending down in the picture below.

Looking the other way (west) across Owens Valley towards the Sierra Nevada range. Mount Whitney, at 14,000+ feet the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states, is to the left in the background.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jo's New Abode

An excited JoAnna and Family got the keys to their new house yesterday. We went over last evening and got to see it... from the inside this time. What better way to get to know a house than to play hide-n-seek with the kids. I think I got to see every closet. :-) There is something nice about a new house. The kids had sleeping bags rolled out on the floor, prepared to spend their first night.

Micah and Seth in their new room. Check out Micah's hat rack. Don't burn the place down bud!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A few minutes to kill

I had a little time to kill while waiting for our bank to open, so stopped by JoAnna's. As I left the thought hit me that this was perhaps the last time I will be visiting with her in that house. I'm happy for her. Next time I'll smile while I am waiting outside the bank.

This is the last official day the "Store" is open. The tenant says she will lose less money if they are closed than if they have to pay utilities and salary. They expect to vacate the premises within two weeks. The lease is still in force for a few more months, but we are definitely transitioning along with the store.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Grave Situation

I like to wander old cemeteries. A few years before GG died she took us to a secluded cemetery down a dirt road in the East Holland, Mich., where her grandparents and some of our other ancestors are interred. Though she hadn't lived there for nearly fifty years she was able to direct us to the approximate area from memory. I was amazed. The cemetery was small, perhaps only twenty-five graves, wooded on three sides, and unmaintained except for occasional cutting of the sparse grass by some volunteer. I enjoy these connections with family past and was surprised to learn cousins who live in the area didn't know this tucked-away family plot existed. There is now only one headstone to mark the four or five family graves. Some well-meaning relative of Mom had what simple markers remained removed, and put in one larger stone with only the family name on it. Trouble is over time we are left to wonder what their personal names were. I only remember that my great-grandparents and my grandfather's sister Jane, who died at 12 in the late 1800's, are interred there.

What brought that to mind is our latest desert trip. Old trash sites reveal a bit about when and were small communities existed, often dating back to the 49ers who came across the desert seeking gold. We drove a dirt road along an old narrow gauge railroad grade, tracks now gone, and chanced upon the remnants of such a dump. We stopped to check it out, looking for clues and old glass. My friend Dale chanced to see a marker in the distance. Closer inspection revealed about eight graves, though some were spaced well apart so there may be more between, now reclaimed by weather and the desert.

Two graves were marked by old weathered wooden crosses. We saw no fresh footprints in the area so the fresh tracks you see were made by us. You can see from the bushes that the desert is slowly reclaiming the resting place of these early settlers to this valley.

The other sites had stone markers. This broken headstone was laying flat on the sand. We traverse the desert in relative ease. These early settlers had it rough and often lived short lives.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

you tube time

This video is from a friend named Richard taken a week ago. The climb, especially at first, is steep, loose shale, long, and in thin air above 9000 feet. My buggy would hardly run up there. I think the total climb to the summit is about three minutes. For some reason pix don't look as steep as when seen by the naked eye. Take my word for it. The climb was steep. I didn't make it with the JSC buggy and had to be pushed to get going again. Enjoy.

More pix of our Lone Pine outing coming later.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Have you found what you are looking for? Yup

Subject: U2 Joshua Tree.
In the autumn of 2007 Paulette and I searched many hours for this item without success. At April's urging we were back recently, but shifted the search west about four miles due to clues seen in various photographs. I didn't find a single web post that disclosed accurate GPS coordinates, I think because they figure if someone is interested there are enough clues out there to be able to locate the tree, albeit with difficulty the first time. I've decided to observe the same protocol to keep the area from being overrun, lest the authorities close it. Hey, the detective work and chase make the find all the more satisfying. Why would I want to deny anyone else that satisfaction by making it easy. On various web sites some think the tree from the album is in Joshua Tree NP (for obvious reasons). Others say it is on Death Valley NP. The tree from the album is in neither place. (Should I say... where the streets have no name?) We isolated the area by matching the mountains (sort of a visual triangulation) from various posted pictures taken by visitors. A few other buggistas came along for the adventure. Most had no interest, but Wendy, the gal next to Paulette in the second picture, actually owns the Joshua Tree album and was all jazzed by the find. The location area is closed to vehicular traffic. All but two of us turned back after trekking on foot a while. I'm glad Richard (left in 2nd picture) and I persisted. Obviously the tree is not prominent now that it has died, apparently of natural causes. There is no easy silhouette and the various colorful momentos were stored out of view as well. If one has about thirteen hours round trip the site is reachable from Mentone. Here are a few more pix. Click on each pix to enlarge it. ENJOY (especially April and Adam)!!! Also, the large white pipe looking container contains an entry book for visitors, and various items left by admirers.
p.s. I wanted to have "Still haven't found what I'm looking for" play in the background but can't figure out how to do it. Can anyone offer help?
April: I walked away singing "April Come She Will." For real! (for the rest of you it's a private joke.)

Monday, September 29, 2008


"This is not a bailout," said Nancy Pelosi. Reminds me of....
"I am not a crook"
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman"

Well, I guess it depends on what your definition of 'is' is.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Post

Seems like two weeks since I've posted anything fresh. Not much to share. Mom is in the sewing mood, sewing for granddaughters. I've been tinkering with buggy maintenance getting ready for a run and need to replace an alternator tomorrow. We plan to go to the eastern Sierras Oct 1 with a buggy club. The 5th wheel has been parked most of the year and I'm looking forward to getting out in it even if we aren't going far. Our weather turned hot again. Current temp at 2:30 PM is 100° or I'd be out there changing the alternator now.

We live in interesting times of economic turmoil, moral decay, and political uncertainty. Someone told me a speaker at the United Nations called yesterday for one world government. Seems to me our freedoms are slowly being replaced by socialism in this environment, and folks welcome more government ownership of private property in the name of stability. Please make sure you register and vote.

Monday, September 15, 2008

93 hours and counting

After writing in the earlier post that Jamie is the most even person I know she called. They have been without power for 93 hours, and no way to know when the power will be restored. She sounded down. Imagine all the things you do every day that require electrical power. Laundry. Air Conditioning (S. Texas can be hot and humid this time of year). Refrigerator. Television. Computer and email. Cordless telephone. Kids deprived of electronic activities get restless. Plus lights in the evening. Please stop a minute and pray for them, and ask the Lord to restore their power soon. Thanx. (Update: Their power came on about 18 hours after posting this entry. Thanks for praying.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More from Jamie

We received a call from Jamie Sunday 5PM and she sounded rested and close to her old self. (Not that she didn't before. She is one of the most steady people I know.) Still no power and the generator goes back tomorrow. See Busch's blog (link bottom of right sideboard) for things she misses and thoughts on football and air conditioning.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Babysitting Hurricane Ike

We had loose plans to head for Houston Saturday, but had a change of plans due to events in Calif and the coming of Ike in Houston. Jamie called from Houston early Friday evening and said the electricity was already out, and the eye of Ike was still 150+ miles away. Since none of us have had any experience with hurricanes I made a decision to try to be their link to Ike info. Had I been in the same situation I couldn't imagine what it would be like in the dark listening to the wind howl and wondering whether the eye was bearing down me. So I monitored several sites with radar and satellite images, as well as National Weather Service, which gave frequent updates and location. Via text-messaging to her cell phone I tried to keep them informed of eye location and path as well as wind speed measured at various locations they would recognize (Hobby 67 mph, Beaumont 79 mph). Some time in the early morning, maps and charts being correct, their location went from tropical storm wind to hurricane force wind. The eye was huge, perhaps 50 miles across, and the wall of the eye passed within about 30 miles of them (using a Rand-McNally map). I figured from that point the situation could only improve for them as they were on the better "backside" of the counterclockwise rotation. I had trouble keeping my eyes open so my final text to her included "zzzzzz" and I went to bed with cell phone beside me. As the sun was coming up in SoCal I got a wonderful text from her, "We made it." I'm sure she will have a lot to add, but their electricity remains out and they suspect it may be out for several days, so we get to wait for her to blog the experience. (She told me she has a pix of Gracie as Grace looks out the window into the hurricane.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

We made it home

We arrive home Monday mid-afternoon after almost two weeks on the road. What a relaxing trip! The buggy outing through the NoCal redwoods was fabulous, as always. Here we are parked beneath trees about 350 feet tall. The first two days in NoCal were hot, then the weather moderated to cool nights and just-about-right days for the rest of the trip.

Portland hospitality was right up there too.

I have pix of many of the young grandkids standing on a buggy seat looking through the steeringwheel at me. So I tried for the same pose from Brynne. Much as I tried she would not stand on the seat or grab the steering wheel. She would buckle her knees and slip down to the floor, turn around and do some exploring the opposite direction.

Brynne looks a lot like her mother at that age (not necessarily in this pix) but is taller. She is starting to get that platinum hair. There is also a bit of resemblance to Jonah IMO. She is a climber. She will climb up on the coffee table, up onto the dining room table, up the stairs, get a leg up on our bed and walk around on the mattress, etc.. The first time I held her she had no shyness whatsoever and a little finger came up and gently felt my moustache for a moment, then retreated. I smiled.

I didn't think about the store problems much while we were gone. So it was an excellent vacation. I didn't want to come home.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Second Best?

We are in Portland for a few days visiting Jon, E, Jo, Ava, and Boo. I took Jonah to see Clone Wars. Second time for me. He liked it. When I took Micah there were 11 people in the showing on opening day. When I took Jonah yesterday we were the only two in the theater!!! Us Two! It was a private showing for us. Well, school is in session here and it was a noon showing. We didn't even have to lower our voices when we talked. It was fun.

Jonah wanted to challenge me to Mario Cart, a Wii game racing motorcycles or cart racers.

Jonah: Papa Mel, do you want to play Mario Cart with me?

Papa: Sure, but only if I can win.

Jonah: (after a long silence) How about if you come in second? That's not too bad.

Grandkids are great.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fishin Fools

We left for fishing Sunday afternoon and arrived Seaforth, San Diego about 7 PM. Got on the boat about 9 and were underway about 10PM. The seas were exceptionally rough that night from an 18 knot wind. It was so bad Paulette almost got motion sickness from me telling her about it. A couple time I was awakened by being thrown around the small berth. The next day the chop laid down and we had great weather thereafter. But I made a terrible fishing mistake. I didn't get new line on three of my reels. I hooked up to enough big fish, but then experienced the dismay of a breaking line: Penny wise and pound foolish. For the whole trip I landed only one fish, about a 30# Yellowtail. I lost more like five. It was heartbreaking.

The highlight of the trip was when one angler hooked into a marlin! Marlin are almost unheard of this far north and I suspect the charter boat had never had anyone hook one before. That fish was prob six feet plus long from bill to tail, and did some fabulous tailwalks across the swells for the first few minutes. These are not a merely the fish jumping out of the water and going back down. The fish literally stands vertical on its tail and seems to walk across the waves for what seemed like five to ten seconds at a time. When I got my camera the fish dove deep and was never to be seen again. The fisherman had the estimated 150 lb marlin on only 30 lb test line, so it was doubtful from the beginning whether he would ever get it in. Marlin are usually fought with huge equipment and a special seat called a "fighting chair." His rod looks very small for such a huge fast fish. Sure enough, after about a half hour the fish broke the line and a collective groan went up from everyone on the boat (We all pulled in our lines so as not to get in his way while he fought the awesome fish). I had never seen a marlin in person, much less one doing their famous tail walk across the ocean surface. That was an awesome first hand experience to put in memory. These first two pictures are of our angler standing in the bow with a pole that looks like it is about to break. The guy in the yellow hat is my friend Mike, who invited me to go fishing with him.

I couldn't find video but finally located this pix on the web as a demo of what we saw for a few minutes. The fish in the pix seems to be about the same size as the one the guy hooked on the boat. Still photos don't do the wave dance justice.

I had a fabulous time, came home this morning totally wiped out. Tonight is a study night and I need to get up around 4AM Wednesday before teaching, then will head home about 8 AM, finish loading, and drive 400 miles to Sacramento, overnight, and then another 350 miles Thursday. I'm thinking I overextended. I forgot my ambitious life is trapped in a 60 year old body.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Plans, Store, and Trips

I got invited to go deep sea fishing off Mexico on a 1.5 day charter. I made an emotional decision and quickly accepted. Over the next few days I repented at leisure. I almost hoped a hurricane would cancel the trip. Unfortunately the weather looks good. So I'm going to reluctantly live up to my commitment.

The store lease activity has been very quiet. I think I have had two calls in the past six weeks (one was an oriental guy wanting to rent 200 sq. ft. LOL) I counted eight fwy frontage retail stores for lease within two miles of our location. On top of that our tenant told me she is closing. I visited the store this afternoon to show Mom the new vinyl flooring and the young man who works there said it looks like she is going to close the end of this month. She is still on the lease, but once she is out I can imagine she will be more reluctant than ever to pay the lease. I've been very gracious so far, but she takes advantage of my graces.

We were in Costco today and I got chatty with a middle aged gal boxing purchases. I noted how few people were shopping compared to usual. She said this local Costco laid off 10 people that morning. The Inland Empire is hit a lot harder than most of the rest of the nation. Our unemployment is now approaching 9% according to the newspaper. It isn't pretty.

We canceled all summer plans because of the store lease situation and I did so willingly to try to help our struggling tenant. Lately I've had a change of heart and feel free to be gone due to the fact the tenant has not lived up to her commitment to bring deteriorated areas up to good condition to help merchandise the building. So we decided to take in a buggy run in the Eureka, CA area, and continue on to Portland to see kids and grandkids for a few days . We plan to leave home next Wednesday, arrive in the Eureka area Friday afternoon, and head for Portland Monday or Tuesday. We are in flux as to when we will return home. In retrospect I desire to be here if the store is going to close so am re-evaluating. But we will probably go north (partly due to a strong lobbyist named Gamma!).

Friday, August 8, 2008

Straw hats

Been a while since I posted so I thought to give an update. The update is: not much new. Still working a bit on the store though I have slowed down. I ordered some flooring for a restroom and the main entry. After that's done all that remains is touchup painting. Calls have dropped way off. Uncertainty due to economy and election??? I suspect so. I'd be reluctant to commit to a lease in this environment.

Price reduced. New reportedly was $1,500,000. Now asking $450,000

There is an old adage, "Buy your straw hats in the winter." Contrary to the economic trend we made an offer on a boat a few days ago. (It's about 40 feet shorter than the one in that picture, which Mom likes VERY MUCH). My offer was below what the seller was asking even though they had already dropped the price $10,000 over the past year. My logic is with fuel prices where they are, and most folks now being unable to use home equity for major purchases (= less buyers), values of something like a boat, which is very energy inefficient and costly to maintain, must come way down. I see ads trying to unload boats everywhere, especially ads for big boats (see above). I counted 650-700 postings on one Craigslist boat site in one day this week! But so far most folks with trailerable boats are reluctant to take less than they think the boats are worth. They didn't accept our offer. I think the market will gradually adjust. Even now I see some that have been for sale a while and the sellers are into their second, third, or even fourth price reduction... and still no takers. So we're sorta watching for a deal on a straw hat. It doesn't matter whether we get one or not.
I guess I feel the same way as the boat sellers. Our 5th wheel is prob worth about half of what we paid for it (due to fuel costs and economic slowdown), but I wouldn't take that.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Meme'd Again.....

7 songs. I was going to say "April Come She Will," just cuz she meme'd me again. lol (actually I do like the song/poem)

I decided to just go for it without giving the subject a lot of thought. No particular order or priority to them.

1. North to Alaska by Johnny Horton
2. Sloop John B by the Beach Boys
3. A Living Prayer by Alison Krauss
4. This Magic Moment by Sweetness
5. Would You Go With Me by Josh Turner
6. Any Mark Zeeman piano arrangements
7. Waitin for the Sun to Shine by Ricky Skaggs

Saturday, July 26, 2008

James and the Giant Peach???

Or, how about Sarah and the giant zucchini? We are watching the three local grandkids overnight. I deliberately waited to harvest some fruit of the garden so they could help. First, to the beans. Sarah and I scoured the bushes for mature beans. We found a great number and handed them off to Micah and Seth to put in the bowl. Then I took them to the Zucchini plant to show them the monster I had been saving for them. I lopped it off and gave it to Seth but the oversize veggie was a bit much for him so he dumped it off on Sarah. Finally, over to the cucumber where we found a ripe one. Seth thought the cucumber was about right for his size, and I got them to pose for this pix. It remains to be seen whether all the kids will eat the beans. We are hoping they will at least try ONE.

We brought the veggies in and I uploaded the one picture I took. The pix looked a little fuzzy, so I tried to get the kids outside again for a curtain call. They didn't look at it as a curtain call, more like a grudge-match. Micah decided it was too hot to go back out. Seth, who was at the door and ready to exit until Micah decided to stay in, did an about face and followed his big brother's lead. Sarah, always a trooper, did their duty willingly. The beans were already being washed so Gamma made them AWOL.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Daughter April "meme'd" me. At first I thought the word had something to do with warming up to sing (just kidding). According to my computer dictionary.....
Meme (mēm): an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means or imitation.
I think the idea is to have others learn by observing things we share.

April listed some rules, but I'm not necessarily going to pass them on cuz she meme'd almost everyone I know in the family already. So I'll spare you the rules except to say I am suppose to list seven things about myself generally unknown to others.

1. I cut my own hair. I think I've been to the barber only a half dozen times in the last 10-15 years. (no latent jokes please). I've learned that the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut (If I goof doing the chore backwards while looking in the mirror) is about five days.

2. I love riding motorcycles. I have had several. My first at 15 ½ years of age (one could legally drive one on the street back then with only a learners permit) was a Triumph, then came a Velocette, next a Harley Davidson when I got back from Vietnam, and finally a Kawasaki I traded for when the kids were young. I quit because I saw too many people get maimed or disabled in motorcycle accidents and Paulette wasn't comfortable with me riding, and didn't like riding with me. I have a few scars yet to prove they can be dangerous. My Mom (GG) wrote once that something she always wanted to do was ride a motorcycle. So I took the Kawasaki over one afternoon when she was in her late 60s and took her for a ride!

3. I eat most anything set before me. That includes Zebra in Africa, or fish innards in Asia.

4. I can fix most anything (not news to some of you). We haven't called a repairman in perhaps three to four decades, except one time when an item was under warranty. (though on very rare occasions I do take a car in for repair.) I change my own oil. If an appliance breaks I fix it. If I can't fix it I replace it. Kids call and ask me how to fix this or that or stop a toilet that won't quit running. Elisabeth and Jo asked me to look at ovens when they wouldn't light. I went to get a part for our washing machine and the parts counter rep told me parts were no longer available because the machine was 25 years old. I had been repairing it that long.

5. I tried to fix broken clocks as a kid. I enjoy intricate mechanical details and trying to figure out how things work.

6. I have been carrying a pocket knife since I was in sixth grade. I earned it in a contest at school (how things have changed). It never got me in trouble at school back then. Several times since 9-11 I have had problems related to carrying a knife. Once I actually got it on an airplane when I forgot it was in my pocket. I made it through the metal detector and past the random screener. Several times I had to bring the knife back to the car before a Marshall would let me into a courthouse. It's a tool, not a weapon.

7. When writing stories, thesis, etc., I have to redact twelve or more times before I like what I have written. I'm jealous of someone who can write once and be done.

This exercise is neat. At the risk of sounding conceited allow me to add a few more for the benefit of other generations
• I enjoy a project (as long as it doesn't take toooo long). I like the sense of accomplishment when the project is finished. Then I stand back and think, "I did that and it is good." That is part of imago dei in me.

• I have a strong bent toward horizons, and I like bringing them close until I can see over them. I have seen things and done things few people on this earth have been able to see or do. (Mom and April have urged me to write them some day for the benefit of the grandkids. Perhaps when all the horizons I see are gone.... but there is always another.) Getting down to the level of the people in a different culture is often difficult on the body but opens fantastic doors. Without it I would never have seen the Salt Cathedral in Columbia, or tramped the footpaths of equatorial Africa, or met a boy raised from the dead. I've heard it said, "Man knows not his time." Me either. I wonder if I would have been an explorer or an aviation pioneer in another era.

• I love teaching and seeing people transfigured by what they are learning. I have come to see the best teaching is not lecture. I relish being a peripatetic teacher.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Farmer Mel

We have five rows of veggies, along with a few mounds of zucchini, cabbage, and three tomato plants hidden behind the young orange tree. The carrots and onions hardly show up in the pix, but are doing well. The small plants in the foreground are bell pepper. They seem to be doing ok, but are slow growers compared to most everything else. I think they are the late bloomers of the garden.

The big event is we are starting to get produce. We had our first green beans yesterday for dinner. Amazingly good! We have been picking cilantro and basil for over a week. Cucumbers are now pickle size. I lopped off our first zucchini this morning. Two more should be ripe in a few days (one plants a zucchini to feed the neighborhood). I don't think we are going to put Stater Brothers Markets out of business. But it will help relieve the increased costs of produce at the store due to fuel prices. And the garden is fun. I plan to plant another row in a few weeks so we get a fresh crop into fall.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Weekend in Big Bear

Last weekend was the Manx Dune Buggy Club annual Big Bear get-together. This is the biggest event of the year and happens in the mountains just up the road from us. We relished the opportunity to get out of the valley heat. A few hours into the setup task the sky clouded over and the heavens emitted lightning, thunder, downpour, and hail. We hunkered down in the RV and watched (and felt) the display. As soon as it was over I grabbed the camera, which works intermittently, and put a few of the bigger hailstones on the step for a picture. They were melting fast. I'm glad we didn't get caught out in the open. Those hail marbles would hurt. I was reminded of talking to grandson JJ when a thunderstorm went over their house in Texas. He didn't like them. I told him they reminded me of the power of God. He seemed to be thinking about that.

Over seventy buggies and their owners attend the buggy event. Saturday morning was Show n Shine, a car show for buggies. The line of buggies stretches around the corner.

We had thunderstorms and occasional hail every afternoon, and got caught out while driving the buggy more than once. One day we got drenched to the skin. That made for a cold drive back to the RV. A hot shower at the RV never felt so good. At first people laughed when we decided to take a golf umbrella. Then they got caught in the deluge.

When we returned to camp those staying in tents found the downpour had washed under the tent and soaked their gear. Another party left the vent over the bed in their camper open which drenched their mattress. We had room on the RV so invited two couples to sleep in the extra bunks. Only one accepted. He was originally from France which turned out to be a providential visit because our daughter Elisabeth is hosting a foreign exchange student from his area of origin. It's a small world.

In spite of nature's display (or was it because of) we had a great time. The rains kept the dust down but weren't of enough duration to make the roads muddy. And the temperatures were fabulous, mostly in the 70's. When we drove down and pulled in the yard Sunday afternoon I opened the truck door and .... 100°. I wanted to turn around and go back up the mountain.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Car Show

Yesterday, the 4th of July, we went to a car show at church. I probably would have stayed under the A/C (about 100° on the grass field and humid from all the watering the grass receives) at home but they asked me to be a judge of the cars. I didn't bother with sunscreen because I didn't figure judging would take long. Several hours into judging 100 entries I was a literal a redneck. My neck still burns a day later. Despite my letting it be known bribes might be considered no one offered. (Can you picture me taking a bribe? Kinda like the Pope becoming a Protestant.) If anyone asked my name I just told them the pastor's name. No sense being subject to recrimination from those who were unhappy they didn't place. It was long and hot and FUN. JoAnna showed up with the kids and Seth was a pistol. In the heat he wanted to be a mama's boy hanging on her all the time. I felt sorry for her. The other two ran off and indulged in the plethora of water activities on the far end of the soccer field. Made me wish I was 8.

I entered our green Tow'd in the competition, (See header picture) which usually does well against others in its class. I have three blue ribbons to prove it. But a non-buggy car show generally goes to the car with the most $ invested. I bet the winner of Best of Show had $40,000+ in his car. A few were for sale for about that. There I was with my meager $2500 (and a few years of elbow grease) buggy. Despite giving my car high marks for subjective reasons I didn't win anything. ;-)

We finished the night at a baseball game with Jo, John, and the kids. Great fireworks show afterward. Then sat in the parking lot for 30 minutes waiting for someone to let me into the outflow line (My thanx to that guy in the red Accura). Got home close to midnight. I haven't done that in a long while.

No pix? Well, my third digital camera decided it didn't like dust. Sometimes it will work if I help the lens extend. But that's a lot of work. I'm looking for another camera. But you know us Dutch guys. It may be a while.

Fishing is hard work

I like fishing Alaska and found this picture on the web. It tells a story so I thought I'd post it. This pix was titled "Fishing for King Salmon is Hard Work." Actually, the fellow was probably so engrossed with fishing that the tide came in and cut off his escape route back to the mainland, so he decided to make the best of it for a few hours until the tide went back out. The tides in Alaska are greater than we experience in California. I have seen them go 12 feet and am told they can go 20 feet on rare occasions. That kind of movement can flood behind you in a matter of a half hour. I've had it happen, but managed to jump across before it was too deep. Swim or wade? Water temp is probably about 45°. I suspect he thought catching some rays for a few hours sounded like a better option.

Alaska has its share of fun names. In the interior there is a town named "Chicken." They actually wanted to name it "Ptarmigan," but nobody knew how to spell Ptarmigan.