Thursday, December 31, 2009

Appliance Joy

Appliances and joy do not seem to be related words. Over the past few months I have been accumulating building supplies where I found them cheap. If one waits and watches without the immediate need to buy there are fantastic deals out there. Many prices are way down in the slow economy, like 50% of 2006 prices. One of my favorite sources is a non-profit organization that gets construction donations from all over, much of it surplus or NOS (new old stock). Mom and I walked into their outlet a week ago and an appliance distribution warehouse had donated appliances... NOS, in the box appliances. We are a year from needing appliances up north, and I figured on checking here and there for decent used stuff. Standing in the outlet with stars in her eyes Mom reasoned we might be better off with new since there would hopefully be less repair problem in the remote of Alaska. (I think she has other motives but knows how to reason with me ;-). The result is we have new refrigerator, drier, washing machine, & microwave stuffed in the garage. We got it all for about what we paid for our house refrigerator five years ago! We also had a small used freezer donated to the cause. The only appliance we lack is a stove/oven. I feel like the Lord is bringing lots of pieces together without us even trying. Early in this adventure I prayed that if we were making a mistake or out of His will we would hit roadblocks or some other clear indication we were to put the brakes on. With the exception of some property negotiations where the seller was disingenuous the opposite has happened throughout. It is like He is greasing the way. We have a lot of logistical difficulty ahead and in light of these events I am resting and watching for how Sovereignty will work out the details. It's actually fun.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From Fireweed to Firearms

Alaska has the largest percentage of people owning firearms in the nation. No application is needed to buy and no permits necessary if you want to carry a concealed handgun. In other words they deem irresponsibility to be abnormal. I wonder if it is coincidence that AK also has about the lowest crime rate in the nation? That is quite a contrast to the lower 48 flavor that gun lovers are extreme or nut cases and resultant pressure to restrict and regulate guns, and now even ammunition in California. In AK if you do not own a gun you may be the one considered abnormal. Nearly every rural home I have been in has a rifle or shotgun prominently in view. Kids learn gun safety at a very young age. Walmart, K-mart, and Fred Meyer all sell shoulder arms and handguns over the counter. Sporting goods shops even market toward girls and women. This picture was taken in a Fred Meyer. I have to confess I have never seen a pink stock before. Don't faint but mom was saying she might like to have one of those pink rifles for Christmas next year. I might have an Alaskan woman on my hands.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


They call this plant fireweed and it is how the locals follow summer. The blossoms begin at the bottom and open successively higher as summer progresses. When the blossoms reach the top of the plant there are about three weeks of summer left. They make a beautiful picture with green spruce trees and snow blotched valley for a backdrop. Found this pix on the web. Click to view full size. It's worth a click.

When we mention building in Alaska we usually get one of several reactions. Winters? Mosquitoes? I have heard the interior has quite a mosquito problem for part of summer. I endured a mosquito onslaught while tent camping in Siberia for two weeks, and nights were torture. But on our trips to southeast I don't think I've see a dozen mosquitoes in seven years. In fact I can hardly recall seeing any bugs other than a spider web here or there.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sweet Sorrow

After our Monday departure from Texas Jayden told his mom he shouldn't go to school that day because every time he thought about us leaving he wanted to cry. Gracie tried to console him by saying we were only at Mercy's, and would be back the next day. Somehow her mind felt most comfortable with that explanation.

We fondly remember things like the first morning when grandkids quietly came into the bedroom and whispered at us until we awoke so they could crawl in bed with us. Or hiding with Norah and Gracie until Jay gave up looking for us. Or teaching Jay how to shoot the nail-gun and seeing the wonder in his face when he made that first shot. I bet he is the only kid in his class to have used one. For me all the grandchild interaction gives the work and sacrifice of raising our own family added meaning. I really miss those little twerps!

Many thanks to Adam and Jamie for the improvements to guest room. Very comfortable.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Texas in passing

We arrived in Texas on schedule after what I thought was a little trouble with the truck. I couldn't be sure. Various efforts to troubleshoot a problem showed nothing. So after 7 days pestering grandkids and various other constructive pursuits we headed home about 4:30 Monday morning with a sendoff committee of one... Jayden, who was suppose to be asleep. A storm front moved in during the night and we departed in wind, cold, and rain. The temp all across Texas that day stayed at 34˚. We hit fog and then a snowstorm in El Paso... big flakes coming down thick. Snow compacted on the bottom of our windshield as the wipers tried to clear it. I wondered whether to get a motel or continue west. I didn't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere on snowy roads. A quick call to a motel in New Mexico revealed cold but no snow there so we pressed on. The next morning we learned El Paso had three inches of snow. We just beat that weather or we would have been stuck until the snow melted. Monday we detoured to Tombstone, AZ for some sight-seeing. The place is a historical tourist trap, but I actually enjoyed the town and would love to go back again. We pulled into 2530 about 6:30 PM to a chilly house and the first act was to turn on the heater. Good to be back home.

Monday, November 16, 2009

125 Gustavians

125 Gustavians (sounds like a planetary group on Star Trek) are pictured saying farewell to their old dock. A new dock is being built to accommodate a ferry. This is a great picture of the general area. When we transferred money for the purchase the gal at the bank asked if we had purchased our parkas yet. I laughed. Click to see the full picture and look at the summer attire on a sunny day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I copied this account from an internet blog... an objective description.
The next morning we set off via small charter plane to Gustavus, a tiny coastal frontier town (pop 400) which is only accessible by plane (no ferries or roads). It's adjacent to Glacier Bay National Park. To give an idea of the size - “downtown" Gustavus is a 4-way intersection with a pizza place, a gas station and an ice cream store. No power lines are visible (all buried underground), making for uninterrupted wilderness meshing with an occasional small house. The scenery in Gustavus is breathtaking. The town is surrounded by white-capped mountains, but in July the temperature is perfect (upper 60s and low 70s). Tall, majestic spruce trees are everywhere along the roads. There are many clearings with gorgeous red, purple, or gold wildflowers. Salmon River runs through town, and as you can guess, the salmon run there in mid-July. There’s also no way you can miss the bald eagles. Down by the docks, you’ll see dozens just hanging about, or from a distant shoreline you can easily make out their white heads scattered among the pine branches.

Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska last summer. At the 4th of July parade in Gus she sort of showed up.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Human Connection

Gustavus is known for Glacier Bay, a pristine fresh environment, world class fishing, and abundant wildlife. So most everyone tends to post pictures of bald eagles, whopper fish, moose, whales, or glaciers. Those features are indeed awesome, but not the whole picture. Here is a look at the personal charm of the place. Have fun studying the faces.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Strawberry Point

I googled for pictures of Gus and for some reason that palm tree pix came up. So I posted it last week as a joke. Back to reality: Originally the area was called "Strawberry Point" because of the abundance of wild strawberries that grow there. The city seal is a strawberry. I actually like the name Strawberry Point better than the present name, which was assigned because of an error interpreting an early map.

Trivia: The State of Alaska is as large as the combined area of all the States east of the Mississippi River.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pseudo Names

The town is often called the "Banana Belt of Alaska" or "Baja Alaska" due to the warm ocean currents that make the weather much more mild than one would expect. That fact is a pretty closely guarded secret by the locals. The town has at least one other name too. I'll cover that one next week.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I thought I'd change the day to day monotony of the header photo.
This picture is an aerial view of the Salmon River in Gus. The property is about an inch in from the left edge about 1/3 of the way down from the top in the picture. (Hope I'm not boring you with too much of this stuff.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


After ten days the flood repairs are about finished. The new carpet is installed. Looks very nice. Makes the recital room look completely different. About all I need to do yet is clean the carpet in part of downstairs. At least the store is presentable enough to show again.

The news/weather people said we were suppose to get 1-4 inches of rain between last night and this evening. They billed the storm as the largest October storm in 4 decades. I made elaborate preparations at the store and house. In our rain gauge we got.... zero, zip, none, nada. Reminds me of the boy who cried wolf.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Flood progress

I filed an insurance claim for the flood damage figuring I'd let the insurance company take care of dealing with the city for reimbursment. The adjuster came up with way more damage than I envisioned. Us getting in there early with a wet-vac and fans saved the floor and prevented mildew or this would have been much worse. The particle board cabinets are history. The water causes the glue to fall apart. The water only wicked to about 1/4 of the carpet, but the carpet can't be saved requiring the whole room to be re-carpeted. Drywall and paint damage down below caused him to authorize the whole ceiling be painted even though less than ¼ of it got damaged. All that without any prodding by me. I mentioned I need the building presentable in case someone wants to look at it so the adjuster gave me a voucher and told me to get a contractor and get going. I asked if it was ok to do the work myself since I built the building and am essentially unemployed. He said yes to that. Doing it myself I get contractor wages to fix the damage. So the adversity has turned into a blessing; our mourning into dancing. Doesn't that sound like the Lord?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes

I painted on the exterior of the store this morning. When I arrived back home the store neighbor called and said he saw water coming through the back wall of the store. I asked the neighbor to turn off the water to our building. Last week the City broke our water line and hooked us up temporarily, but bypassed the pressure regulator to do so. That meant excess pressure went direct into the store. I figured a line had ruptured due to the pressure. When I arrived I feared I would see water running out the front door. Nothing showed as I pulled into the parking lot. We went inside. So far so good. I walked toward the bathrooms. The ceiling in the back room was wet and dripping in a few places. Upstairs about 200 sq feet of carpet was saturated in the vicinity of the cabinets in the recital room. If the neighbor had not called who knows how much damage would have been done. Mom and I quickly bought a wet/dry vac and picked up our floor fans and headed back to the store, vac'd up what we could, pulled back saturated carpet, and turned on our portable fans. I'm just glad the neighbor called when he did!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Trying to make progress

The cabin plans arrived. The blueprints actually call them "cottage" plans. Simple dwelling, approximately 800 square feet on the ground floor with a large loft, great room, and lots of openness. The design is a structurally sound shell and then you put windows, walls, and rooms where you desire. My pencil played with a lot with layouts over the weekend. I think we have one that we both like.

The lot is 480 feet deep, so I had this wild idea about a zip line for the grandkids. Mom recalled that the RV park where our family stayed in Montana years ago had one, and it was a blast. I bet all the girls remember. My imagination can see the older grandkids on it already. Ok, I'm dreaming.

Gustavus is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. While googling for ferry schedule in 2010 I chanced upon the following link for a guide service in Gustavus. The pictures are all of the vicinity. Gustavus actually has a beach, rare in Alaska, so the rocky shore scenes are a few miles away. There are more pix of Whales or People in the overhead menu if you are interested.
Gustavus and Glacier bay Pix
Here is a "reflective" sample.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We are in Escrow

We are finally in escrow on the Alaska property. I've started accumulating a few things we will need to build. Nothing too much, just stuff I can find at a dutch price. Escrow should close around Nov 1 if all goes according to plan. Again, there are ways it could fall out. But at this point I am cautiously optimistic.

Thank you for your concern here and in emails about whether I will be able to follow through building a cabin. Truth is I don't know. Without help it will be rough indeed. I can cut down trees and clear land given time, but without help I doubt I can lift a 12 foot wall by myself. I have expressed to Mom that the folks who seemed interested could backtrack when decision time arrives. I ordered a set of plans off the internet this morning for a simple 1½ story cabin.

On the foot front I find one shoe is most comfortable so I have taken to wearing it all day. Usually I take shoes off when I come in the house, but until this is healed I have Mom's permission to wear shoes in our domicile.

Monday, September 21, 2009

If it ain't broke don't fix it.

About three weeks ago I had to bail from a slipping ladder. I was approximately eight feet above the ground. My right foot and hip absorbed most of the landing and the foot has been bothering me but I didn't go to the doc because I had too much to do. After three weeks of minor pain and a foot that didn't seem to be getting better I decided to go get checked out. First the Urgent Care waiting room, then had to hobble over to the hospital for xray, then back to Urgent Care and more waiting. Four hours in all. My assumption was right. They showed me the fracture. It's my driving foot so they are not going to cast it and see how it heals. I'll take it easy for a few weeks. It hurts a bit more after they tried to make me bend it against resistance, and probed around to see where it was most sensitive. But nothing I can't stand.
Mom said we are going to have to pray we don't get sick. There were what seemed to be some pretty contagious people in the waiting room, and we sat there for hours.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Thundering Herd

We spent four days in Portland getting to hold and pray over baby Abram. The three other kids were highly mobile and total individuals (especially Brynne) and we have many memories. It was suggested I pass along a few of the incidents, especially those with Jonah. I was goofing with him prior to dinner and he got in trouble and sent to his room. After a while I went up and offered to take his place in a substitutionary justice since I was partly responsible. To that Jonah said he had done wrong and deserved the punishment and would not let me substitute. I thought, how mature for an eight year old.
We stayed in the basement, and each morning we awoke to what I call the thundering herd; the sound of the kids tromping across the floor above us.
I was especially touched the last evening. I said goodbye to each of the kids in turn. When I got to Jonah he told me thank you, especially for tussling with him. He said he was trying not to cry because we were leaving. And somewhere in the mix he uttered, "I want to grow a moustache." He made this grandfather's day. You go for it Jonah!

Change of Venue?

I have enjoyed Alaska since the first extended visit years ago. Mom liked Alaska too, though she does not have as much pioneering gene. This summer we looked for property to build a small cabin which we can enjoy with family and friends during summer. While in Portland introducing ourselves to Abram I negotiationed for a piece of property. The dialogues were difficult. Folks can be disingenuous. I threatened to back out several times. On the way home we received a phone call from the realtor that the offer had been signed by the seller. From here we go into escrow. If escrow doesn't fall out we should own the property in early November. Tentative plans are to try to clear some trees off the land and build a weather-resistant structure next summer, and hopefully make it rough livable. Then do the finishing in 2010-11. I tell mom the first thing we will have to do is build an outhouse. OK, it's a joke. The property should support a septic system, and has electric and telephone to the edge now. The moose and bear habitat come with the property. ;-)

Thursday, September 3, 2009


For the past week I have been painting the exterior of the store. What a gigantic job. One forgets how big that building is until a project like this brings on reality. We estimated three days to complete. After six days of hot work (had 105-111˚ every day) by two of us I'm estimating the project about 75% done. I'm beat! Tomorrow, Friday, we drive north to meet Abram for the first time. Cooler weather will be welcome!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Made it Home

We arrived home from Alaska late Thursday afternoon. There is a certain ambivalence. I desire to be in Alaska, but have responsibilities in SoCal. I better get with the program down here. Mick and Sherri made an opening for us to have a fantastic two weeks up there. Blessings on them!

In SoCal we have some monsoonal moisture with cloud cover. I caught myself looking out the window and wondering whether we were having drizzle or rain. I laughed at myself. The body changed geographic locations but the mind remained in Alaska.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alaska, Day 12

We are in a few days of rain and cool blustery weather. You can see the gray of rain in the background. My local friends had a conference about whether to chance conditions out there and decided to abandon their original plan in favor of the sheltered side of a close island. We had a decent day of fishing. Along with catching some salmon we saw a pod of Orcas and a few Dahl porpoises. With the rest of what happened (see below) the day was anything but boring.

Late morning we heard a "Mayday" over the radio. Such a call grabs the attention. At first I wondered if the call was a prank. But the person's voice sounded sincere. They said they were going down. Distances out there are great and everyone in proximity is ready to respond. The Coast Guard came on the radio and gathered information and location. There were seven souls aboard. Rich pulled a chart and tried to figure out distance from us. Our time to get to the vessel in rough seas would be about 30 minutes. Rich said at these water temps if anyone was in the water longer than about five minutes they were not going to survive. Several boats closer to the distressed vessel immediately responded their vicinity and headed for the sinking boat, so we stayed put. A commercial fishing boat was the first to reach the scene. We heard their second rescue communication about ten minutes after the mayday. They had picked up five people. A second boat extracted one. Coast Guard kept requesting updates and said the initial report was seven aboard. Survivors confirmed one was missing. The sinking boat had capsized in the waves. More vessels arrived and rescuers managed to turn the skiff over. There they found the seventh person, an elderly man from Orange County, California. He had been in the water a critical amount of time. A State fish and game boat arrived about the same time and began CPR and used their fast boat to ferry the man to a waiting medical response team at the closest harbor. The victim did not survive. This was only the second or third mayday call my two friends have heard in their 20+ years of fishing these waters. I love the ruggedness of Alaska, but conditions can be unforgiving to those who make mistakes. We learned the seven were in a skiff trying to cross a channel abeam of rough seas and think they traversed close behind a small island to avoid the wind generated waves. Consequently they hit a reef. Having seven aboard a skiff seems somewhat overload to me, (we all winced when we heard it was a skiff on the marine radio) especially for those weather conditions. Someone was probably in a hurry to get home and the cost was steep.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


On Wednesday (tomorrow) we head for Gustavus for a few days. It's a trip by small plane of about 55 miles. If the weather is nice it's a great trip. If the weather is yucky it's a bit less restful.

We haven't done much in the past few days. We sorta lay around and relax and watch the tide go in and out. There is a Costco here in Juneau. With a few exceptions the prices are comparable to home, a nice thing considering goods are barged 800 miles. Home Depot recently constructed a store also. Plus a "Freddies" and now a "Wallys." And I spotted a JoAnnes fabric store too, much to Mom's delight.

On a different subject I have a varied background. Once I took an ability test and came out all over the chart. I did not have abilities concentrated in one area. For instance, the first house where we stayed has a small boat that wouldn't run right. The fellow by his own admission has no mechanical ability. So I pulled the cover off the outboard motor and did a preliminary exam. We ended up pulling the carburetor apart and draining the gas tank. Both the gas tank and carb had a bunch of water in them, and jets plugged as well. About an hour later I did some fine tuning and it was probably running better than it has in years.

The other ability involved their chickens. Theresa thought one was trying to crow now that they are reaching adult stage, but was told all of the chicks were hens when she bought them. So I volunteered that I can sex chickens before they show their gender through age. She asked how. I said, "Don't ask." We walked to the hen house and started catching chickens. My diagnoisis: Every one we caught was a female. I never knew that talent would come in handy some day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day three, Saturday

Saturday morning we moved into the house we are suppose to occupy until we leave. A nice home, almost on the water with a fantastic view of the channel and mountains across the way. The big cruise ships are docked about a mile away and if we hold our head right and look up-channel we can see them. Really a very nice location. Mom likes to sit with her coffee in the morning and look out over the channel.

Rain came in yesterday, a light drizzle most of the day. I checked the forecast and it is suppose to be on and off like this until we leave. The fact this is a temperate rain forest makes this place so beautiful. Daytime temps should be in the mid 60s.

They had an unusually dry warm summer here. The little streams coming off the mountains do not have enough water for the salmon to run. The bigger streams are adequate. The Coho salmon have not started to run yet, probably because there isn't enough water in those streams for them to locate the place of their birth (I'm told they find the stream by sensing the mineral content). The fish dock closed to fishing the way we were allowed in years past. Now you have to use a different lure. That greatly diminishes my fun and I suspect the fishing fun of a lot of other people because there are only 1/10 the number of anglers as in past years. I've only been fishing once, the day I fell. We did notice a lot of recreational fishing boats fueling up at the gas station Friday and Saturday. The locals are having to go out a way to get salmon by boat.

Mom helped Sherrie can berry jam. Strange names to us; Nagoon berry or Salmon berry. We had some on toast this morning, and it is great. I wandered a few yard sales while they did that. No treasures found. We are having a great time.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Greetings from the Great White North

Wednesday: We arrived on schedule late afternoon to 82 degree weather in Juneau, a welcome change from triple digits down home. The temp up here broke a record for that day.

Day 1
We got a few groceries, shampoo, necessities, etc. Drove up to Mendenhall glacier to see how far it has receded since we were here three years ago. I can tell the difference, but it's a good distance away so we can't measure it in feet with the eye. Mid afternoon I helped the guy who took us fishing in Gustavus three years ago. We put a new water pump on his boat. Then Mom and I went downtown where the cruise ships come in and walked around a bit. Too crowded with cruise tourists so we didn't stay long and headed back to our residence. They have five pullets, something I have never seen in Alaska in four or five trips. We had to feed them morning and night. I wondered how the chickens survive bear wanderings in the neighborhood? So far so good.

Day 2: I got out early to catch low tide off a spit of land about 15 miles north of town. It's a rocky walk, and at low tide moss and other sea creatures are revealed. I've fished there before and enjoy the remote of the area. I could hear whales blowing up channel. You can hear them across the water for great distances. By the time the sound reaches you the whale has usually sounded so you don't get a visual. As the morning progressed the sound got closer. When they dive you never know where they will come up. There I am fishing off the shore. The water in these glacial-cut fjords gets very deep quickly, sometimes almost a vertical drop. Suddenly a 35 foot, 35 ton adult whale came up on its side, left flipper in the air, so close I could have hit it with my fishing lure. No kidding! It happened so fast it startled me. Coming up on its side makes a huge disturbance in the water. She was there for only a few seconds and slipped below the surface. I figured there was only one whale. Then another blow a few hundred yards behind her. It was her calf, probably 18 feet long, following slowly behind mama. I stood in awe. I have never been that close to a major sized whale, even when we watched them breaching in Icy Strait years ago. If I had a camera close it all happened so fast I couldn't have gotten a pix of the encounter. It made my whole day and perhaps the whole trip.

I caught a pink salmon earlier, decided to filet it and head back before the tide came in. I pulled out the filet knife and slipped on the sea moss and went down on my left forearm and right palm. I thought on the way out to the point, this is rough. If I fall and break a hip I am in trouble. I guess that's why I sacrificed the arm and hand. The barnacles cut me pretty good. I finished with the salmon, stuck the filets in my pack, and walked the 3/8 mile back to the car. Once home I cleaned up the cuts which bled pretty good, and decided they were not deep enough to need stitches. Paulette found some disinfectant which we applied. Saturday morning the area is looking healthy except for one spot on the fleshy part of the thumb that shows a little infection. Nothing to worry about.

We spent the afternoon looking for a real estate agent, visiting a Catholic retreat area near the spit so I could show mom where I saw the whales, and wandering an arboretum just opened to the public. When we parked at the retreat center a motorcycle couple was getting off a Harley. Paulette struck up a conversation asking if they were touring. Then asked where they were from... Ans: So Cal. Where in SoCal? San Bernardino - Redlands area. Whereupon I said we were from Mentone. He asked, Mentone Beach? They then said they were from Yucaipa. Small world. But it gets smaller. I asked their name. When they gave the name and said what they did for a living Paulette and I both knew them immediately. Turns out I sold them a few pianos 30 years ago. There we are 2000 miles from home. Amazing.
I brought up the whale sighting to myself the rest of the day. Paulette brought up the people sighting and couldn't wait to tell her sister, who knew the couple very well.

When we got back to our domicile the folks who were on vacation had come home early. They insisted we stay. We could use the boys room with its bunkbeds. I feigned terrible arthritis trying to get the bottom bunk. No luck. And I fell and hurt my arm. No luck. The mattresses were harder than we are use to so a difficult night on our arthritic hips, but we survived and are grateful for the hospitality and a roof over our heads for a few days.
We now have moved to the location where we will be the rest of the trip, and have some internet. We are not taking many pix so far. I guess it's old hat being here.
Mom says Hi to all.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

AK Anyone?

Tomorrow morning we leave for Alaska. Many thanks to Mick and Sherri for finding us a place to house sit. The weather forecast states 74˚ when we get off the airplane. Quite a switch from 100˚+ here. We are traveling light. Only one checked bag. I dream of taking along a grandchild or two some day. I'm taking the laptop so hopefully can post a few pictures.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's HOT

Not much going on. I work in the garage in the morning while it's cool. Then retreat to the house.

I've been writing again. The Manx Mania gave me my own byline about a year ago. I try to do light stuff with clever wording and wit. Get a few compliments. Also working on the Christian Essentials manuscript again. I taught it for 10 weeks, just concluded. I got fired up to do a few more subjects. That keeps me occupied in the house afternoons.

Last weekend was the Big Bear buggy run. 110+ buggies showed. Fun but congested. Temps up there were only low 80s. Nice. We jammed all 110+ buggies on a parking lot for a photo. Ours is back there somewhere but you can't see the proverbial tree for the forest.

Got a call from Alaska saying they found us a house to house-sit for a few weeks if we are interested. Interested? It's 100°+ here. Juneau is 66° today. No contest. It'll be late summer there when we arrive. But we'll escape the August monsoonal heat here, hopefully.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fun Time in Idylwild

This video is too big for blogspot to take it, so I'll post a link. Greg, now retired, use to do this professionally so the editing is great. Plus he throws in some humor and does his own music. ENJOY!
Exploring Idylwild video

Monday, June 29, 2009

Brynne question

If Jonah looks like Papa Mel, and Brynne looks like Jonah, does that make her a fe-mel?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

April's Wedding

The happy couple

The whole enchilada! Double click the picture to enlarge)

I love this picture.... Pretty Maids all in a Row.

Norah eating grapes before the wedding.

Click the link for a lot more pictures.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Having a Ball... literally

Most of the grandkids have been here for five days. The reunion aspect is wonderful. We have done several picnics, including episodes of playing catch and hit-and-run. Gracie knows she has to run but isn't sure where so makes up her own bases, mostly in extreme foul territory. So far Jayden has escaped injury and is a pretty good fielder for 8 years old. Micah caught a deflected ball on the jaw, and Sarah a soft lob on the forehead. Even thought we use a soft version a baseball can hurt. Micah jumped back in about a half hour later. On the swings Gracie wants to go ever higher. She has more coordination in her little toe than this grandpa. When Seth saw me go completely under her to give her max elevation he wanted the same treatment. OK Seth, but don't let go! Then Norah thought she deserved similar. She is a bit young yet for that and we kept her closer to earth. All considered these are fun times. We should do it every year!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

While the Cat's Away... The Mice Will Play

JoAnna dropped off the boys this morning and somehow the following happened.

Seth said it was a Disneyland ride. He wasn't too sure at first, but then started raising his hands like he was on a rollcoaster. Micah wanted to go up again and again. Seth asked me to go all the way to the top, but decided twice was enough after he learned it only goes six feet in the air.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Birthday Pleasures

Thursday was my B-day. It was the best. My favorite things that day were picking up a phone three different times and hearing separate little choruses sing Happy Birthday. I am blessed. Thanx.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Many thanks to all of you who called and sent cards for our 40th anniversary (!) a week ago. Forty years is a milestone and it made us feel great to be so appreciated. Thanks. Mel & Paulette

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Refrig problems

Our refrigerator died while we were in Portland. We had an extended warranty given us when we bought the refrig seven years ago. Because of the extended warranty we called the store where we bought it. Three days later the tech came out. The diagnosis: a bad compressor. I showed them the warranty. Trouble is the warranty did not cover labor, only parts. They gave me a price for labor that was over half what a new refrig would cost. Just the labor! I couldn't fathom what could cost that much labor in a simple refrigerator. I don't know if we were being scammed, but suspect the price of the compressor was built into the labor number. I called a friend who does refrigeration and air conditioning. He said we could do the repair if I got the part. So I called the warranty company in Missouri, and explained the situation. A very nice lady did some research and said they could ship ME a new compressor, and even include free freight! (Major kudos to Associated Service Corp. in St. Louis). Tuesday the new compressor arrived. Wednesday night we reclaimed the refrigerant, did a compressorechtomy. I spent most of Thursday trying to get the refrigerant charge right as we had nothing to go by. After lots of tweaking I think I got it correct. The refrig now gets colder than it ever has! We had the small refer in the RV and an ice chest in the house. Major kudos to Mom for her patience while I tried to keep the costs under control.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It lives!

Work is essentially completed on most aspects of the store interior so I have taken on new projects. I like tools. Good tools seldom depreciate. After years of this lift laying out back in the weeds I finally moved the lift components up to the front of the garage and got the mechanism operational. The task wasn't easy. Typical of a remodel I hit new obstacles at every turn. I had to build a phase converter to make the correct power for the lift, dig out old concrete and pour 1.5 cubic yards of thicker concrete (which we mixed out back!) and borrow a few industrial tools for installing anchor bolts. In the end we prevailed. I still have some technical final wiring things to do. Now that the lift is operational I'm feeling better about the project. Just like God standing back and looking at his new creation, this wayfarer loves to see a project complete and say, "It is good." On the other hand, Mom says something else. (Women don't seem to understand garage bling. Don't tell her but she is right. I hope to camouflage the lift somewhat with garage color paint). We had a refrigerator repairman over (only the second time in our marriage we have had a repairman) when she made an "ugly" comment, so I knew I had a male jury, and asked him if he thought the lift was ugly. He replied, "It's SWEET!"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Annual Portland Trip

We made our annual migration to Portland the first weekend of April. Friday Jon and myself did the largest automotive swapmeet on the west coast for the fifth year in a row. We took Joe along this year. Jonah even bought some tools with his own money, but after four hours got a bit weary of watching Jon and me rummage through items we found interesting. Overall he did well for his first time, and even pushed the hand truck around a while. Elisabeth was gone for most of the first three days so we got to spoil grandkids at will :-).

Here Brynne and Ava are seen enjoying ice cream for breakfast. The kids were ecstatic when they heard about the possibility the night before, and quick to remind us when they got up the next morning. ( I think we started a new family tradition of ice cream for grandkid's breakfast in Houston over New Year.) Also, Brynne is really growing and finally getting some hair.

Jonah had his first Little League Baseball game of the season, and is also taking piano lessons. Here he is doing his thing at the keyboard (in baseball uniform) before a game. He needs no prodding to get him to practice piano. Trying to get him out in the yard to throw and hit a baseball with Papa Mel is another matter. He'd rather be at the keyboard.

On the way south we stopped in Sacramento for a night with friends. One night stretched into two as I got my arm twisted to seek out a guy selling dune buggy parts in the foothills. The extra few hours ended up putting a bunch of parts in my truck bed for the trip south. (Like I needed more stuff in the garage.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Buggy Blog???

This picture needs no explanation. Waitin for June.

A few days ago Mom saw movement out the front window and exclaimed, "There's a Peacock in the yard." I thought, yeah, right. I then thought, I hope not! They are messy and they are noisy. Sure enough. It was unafraid and strolling around like it owned the place. I got a few pix and it wandered out the front gate and down the street. Haven't seen or heard it since....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Calico Ghost Town

Last weekend I got invited on a buggy run outside Calico Ghost Town. 75 buggies showed up. Six buggies, self included, pre-ran the area a day early and we got into some serious technical driving. We took two hours to traverse 1.5 miles of this narrow canyon. (For comparison, you can walk four miles in an hour.) When we started down we didn't know how difficult it would be. The ranger back at camp told us later it is the most difficult route in the area. Mom stayed home and Sarah came over for a night. They bought Sarah a pattern for a Holland Festival costume which Mom will make for her.

These pictures got cropped a bit by blogspot. if you want to view them in full click the link...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Drivers License Web Site

Thanks to Homeland Security there is a drivers license web site that shows a pix of everyone's drivers license. You have to go on manually and click the Please Remove box like I did. No sense letting everyone know you address and other private info.
Here is the link. Just fill in the simple info and your drivers license will come up, complete with your picture.

Friday, March 6, 2009

End of an era

After 23 years of being continuously occupied the store is empty but for a few fixtures. We have been blessed to have it leased that long. I have been painting for the better part of two weeks and have the interior repainted. It looks good. Mom has been there the last few days cleaning with me. The inside is about done except for perhaps shampooing the carpets some time in the future. Getting the building back in shape has had some unexpected twists. For the last years the staff seems to have been robbing light bulbs from one area to replace burned out bulbs in an area of the store getting higher traffic. I counted 47 bulbs and fluorescent tubes burned out! This business environment is not the best for trying to find a new tenant. I counted eight vacancies in buildings with similar locations, all within two miles of our location. (And that was five months ago.) I suspect the number to be higher today. Finding a new tenant is going to be interesting. Especially with the stock market giving the stimulus plan a HUGE vote of no confidence.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Death Valley Presidents weekend 09

DV weather was a bit chilly compared to two years ago and we got into snow at higher elevations. But we had a great time. For some reason I'm having trouble posting pictures at the moment. Click the pix above and it should show the whole photo. The complete set of photos is on our buggy photo host site. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mojave Road weekend, Jan 09

We did our fifth annual winter desert run this past weekend. The Mojave Road is an old wagon route predating 1850 that crosses the California desert. Not really a road, but more a trail, the route connects water holes where travelers could get necessary hydration in the desert. We try to do the route every year. Instead of posting all the pix here (and eating up blogspot memory) I have pix and story on a host site and posted the link here. Enjoy!!!

A few other pix were posted by someone else. I don't tend to get in my own pix so thought I would post her site too.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mexican Wrestling

John is gone so we invited Jo and the kids over Friday for dinner. I got to wrestle all three grandkids at once. I can still manage all three, but age and time are on their side. Especially if they team up against me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Little buggers

I skyped Jamie late today to fill her in on some details, and Norah was within view of the screen. One of the benefits of a week with grandkids is they know for sure who we are. Norah, who seems limited conversing with a cell phone, saw me on screen and blurted out, "HI PAPA!" It was enough to melt my heart. Next Paulette heard the comment and came into the room. Norah then exclaimed," Hi Gammie!" Very soon Gracie was half visible behind Norah trying to spy out the situation. Mom and I sang a ditty to Grace and got her to smile. J wasn't quite as communicative tonight but I did get him to grin a few times over spaghetti jokes. This is "crown of old age" stuff a grandparent lives for. Who would have thought a 1.9 year old would be the catalyst in a high-tec encounter.

Engaging news

I suspect the ones who read our blog are mostly family, and the family grapevine has perhaps told everyone the latest news even before it reached us. Just in case you missed it, April is officially engaged. The lucky guy is Bela. I've only met him on Skype, and look forward to spending time with him in the future. I find myself wishing my folks were alive to share this moment. Check out April's Blog

P.S. We are back in Calif.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

They're Back

Hurray. We can go back to be grandparents again. We will probably leave for home early tomorrow AM, in an effort to be home Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest. We will have been gone almost three weeks. Where did the time go?

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Cousin Sandy and her husband Dave came over for dinner and Friday evening. We let the kids stay up past their normal bedtime (grandparent prerogative). Norah got sleepy about normal time and went down easily, but Grace did her best to defy her body and keep her peepers open until 9PM. Me,"Are you sleepy Grace?" Grace, heavy eyelids popping open, "No!" A few minutes later she fell asleep almost on her feet. The kids were perfect for company. It was the type of encounter where company left thinking our grandkids are all fabulous polite little angels. Don't tell but there was a bribe involved. Paulette told the kids that if they were good they could have ice cream for breakfast. Talk about incentive. Click on the picture to enlarge it and you will see that is not cereal in their bowls. (We did give them a regular breakfast later.)

We figured they would all sleep in come morning. Jay hates to get up for school at 6:30 each morning. For a kid who likes school you would think he was going to the dentist to have a root canal when we tried to roust him from morning slumber. You can guess what time he was up on a non-school day. At 6:30 our door squeaked, and he and Gracie tromped into our dark room with light sabers blazing asking the Force for breakfast ice cream. Note in the picture it is still almost dark outside. In retrospect we should have offered him ice cream for breakfast on school days.

Norah cut a few teeth in the last couple days. She is feeling a lot better.

Only one more day to go. We have short-timer syndrome and I am particularly antsy to get home.

After ice cream, Norah leaning back in her lounge chair.

All in all a good week.

Gulf weather is strange for a desert dweller. The pleasant breeze was from the Gulf of Mexico last night. When we went to bed it was 74 degrees. When we got up it was still 74. Three hours later a stiff wind blusters from the north, the temp has dropped perhaps twenty degrees, wind chill probably adds a feel like an additional ten degree drop, and the sky is intermittently spitting a wintery rain.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday AM

No news is good news.
Oh, Norah is doing a lot better.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Norah's Nocturn

Norah isn't feeling up to par since last afternoon. She awakened us during the night with her crying, and seems somewhat better but not yet herself this morning. Nothing to worry about. We consider whatever is affecting her normal kid stuff. None of the other kids are affected. Paulette suspects she is teething.
Grace announced this morning that she doesn't like me. A few minutes later she climbed up on my back wanting a piggy back ride. I guess she changed her mind about me. She just informed us with glee that during her morning bath she went pee in the bathtub. Thanks for sharing that Grace. Earlier this morning when I approached her she said, "Shoo." I laughed. Most 3 year olds would would say "Go Away."
Jayden: Jay has a tough life. Between getting up, ready, catching the bus @ 7:15AM, school, bus ride home arriving at 3:30PM, and homework, TEN hours of J's day is eaten up!!! Factor in dinner and a shower and it's almost time for him to go to bed again. I seem to recall I had way more free time as a kid. Who can blame him for not wanting to go to bed at night. Paulette tries to have a special treat for him when he comes home from school.
Paulette just informed me of an OJT lesson: Don't dress the kids til after they have eaten breakfast. Norah is a chunk for her to lift. Norah just walked by her and Paulette said, Bye Sweetie. Norah repeated the phrase but it sounded more like Bye Seaweed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 3.2

Everyone has fallen into routine and the kids are doing fantastic. In fact, I don't think they remember their parents at all! (just kidding). Norah smiles her little twinkle-eyed smile so easily, and does a little jig-skip with one foot in front of the other. She repeats almost every phrase she hears and mimes action done by others, and of recent is speaking three word sentences with relish. Jay does his homework without complaint and expresses his love for his sisters. Grace has the portable DVD player mastered and loves to tease and play hide-n-seek. She has quite a vocabulary for her age. Yesterday she showed up wearing her cowboy hat like it was part of her head. She is learning to do the Hokey Pokey (just part of the corruption going on while the parents are gone). Grace just walked by and I said I need my hug this morning. She replied, "Uh Un" and stayed out of reach. What she really wanted was for me to chase her to steal a hug, but I have the computer on my lap. The two girls are most adorable about 8:30 AM with their hair just done and fresh to take on the day. Morning routine is to follow Gamma into the powder room and beg for a little makeup themselves.

35 degrees here this morning with frost but not a cloud in the sky.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

24 (hours that is).

I recently heard a joke. What's the difference between a three year old and a terrorist? Ans: You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Other than an occasional strong declaration of will by Grace yesterday which made me think of the joke above, life was mostly normal.... at least until it came time to pick up toys. Everyone went to bed on schedule and Grace only asked for mommy a few times. In close succession Nora followed Grace's lead by asking for Gammie (much to Paulette's delight). Bedtime was nothing like the emotional upheaval of the previous night. Jay wanted to know how many days until Sunday? He already had it figured out and just wanted some confirmation. He's a great help and very compassionate towards his sisters. We all got a good night's rest. Today looks rainy and cold.

I was a bit tired yesterday so put my feet up and soon was looking at the back of my eyelids. To Grace that meant open season on a vulnerable Papa. She would try to sneak up (I'd feel her coming) and jump on me with great delight. Then retreat until she thought she had the element of surprise again. Great fun.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Houston.... Do we have a problem???

We have liftoff. Translation: Adam and Jamie are "cruising" and the kids are in our care. Grace figured she could buffalo us at first (typical kid) and wasn't happy with her Mommy for leaving. Jamie called early last evening and all the kids talked to her and there were no tears. I thought... GREAT. A & J gave us a few lists of schedule and stuff to watch for and everything "seemed" under control. Then came bedtime. Bedtime was rough. One would get settled, then the other would cry, then the first would cry. Even Jay was misty eyed in the chain reaction and was unable to sleep. We got through night one coddling little ones until they collapsed, and a little short on sleep ourselves. I'd have been surprised if they didn't miss their folks. This morning they are smiling and fine. We are optimistic each night will be easier for them.

S.S. Minnow...
A & J's bon voyage had a little problem once they got to the port embarcation site. I tried to call them a few minutes ago and ask if it was ok to post the story, but they are either out of range or their phones are turned off. I'll wait and see if they post anything about it since they will have email ability from the ship and I don't want to step on their story.