Category Archives: Travel

moving on

Sepi and I went to Southern California not last week but the week before. I already posted about going to Norman’s Rare Guitars and I hope to do a whole post on her nephew Jon’s recovery from surgery.

But a thing happened on the way back. We stopped to get gas at one of those places along I-5. They’re not really truck stops. Maybe one gas station caters to trucks but there are three or four others. There were some fast food restaurants. We wanted to eat but not fast food. Our choices were Denny’s or Harris Ranch. We chose Denny’s because it was on our side of the freeway.

We parked carefully right in front of the front door. We chose seats so that we could easily see the car. After our food had come, we noticed that a family was out there milling around their car. At one point, the young boy – about 10 – went over to my car and looked right in the window. He was just a kid, but still . . .

I got up and went out there. This is what I saw:

My first thought was the Tele. I walked around to the other side and looked in. The Tele was still there. I thought everything was still there, but then I realized that my back pack had been in the back seat . . .

. . . and now it wasn’t.

It turned out that the other family had had their car broken into in the same way. The two kids were wailing over the loss of their iPad and Kindle. The Mom kept telling them, ‘It’s just stuff.’ I thought that was awesome.

My wallet was safe in my pocket but the backpack had some stuff in it: my iPad, my voice recorder, a headlamp, some memory sticks, my work IDs, my headache pills. Losing that stuff didn’t bother me that much. But the backpack was Zach’s and I had kept two of his special pens in it. Now they’re gone. That bothered me.

All the way home I stewed about it, but ultimately I realized that this is the universe telling me to move on. I filled out a police report. I talked to the insurance agent. There is a minuscule chance that I will get Zach’s backpack back. Minuscule here really means none. I’m moving on. It’s one more step.

PS. I looked up my earlier post about Zach’s backpack. It’s not bad. Check it out here.

Spokane

Sepi and I got over to Spokane last week from Jeremy and Ashley’s in Duvall. We visited my cousins Dan and Nettie and my old friends Peter and Nanci. Sepi bonded with both women to the extent that there were times when I thought I was invisible. I was just as happy to stay out of the kitchen where they seemed to spend most of their time.

Peter’s friend Charlie restored a 1938 Chevrolet pickup truck that belonged to Peter and drove it up to Spokane last year. We guys decided to get it out and give it a spin.

It hadn’t been driven since last summer. Charlie had called earlier in the day and coached me through a couple of things I needed to know to drive it. He couldn’t have know that it was out of gas, though. In the end, Nanci had to go down to the local gas station to fill up their gas can, get it into the truck’s tank and then pour a cupful of gas directly into the carburetor as I cranked it. Thanks to Sepi’s brother Ike for generous advice over the phone that led to the cupful of gas solution.

Peter was very happy. In this picture I am still clenching from the 5 minute ride we are here just returning from. The truck is a very different beast from what I’ve gotten used to.

On Thursday I walked to the Japanese Garden at Manito Park with Dan where the azaleas were blooming. It’s a beautiful spot . . .

Epiphone Century

Rather an opaque title for most people. It refers to the brand and model of the guitar I am playing in this photo.

Sepi took the picture on the front porch of Peter and Nanci’s home in Spokane last Friday. The guitar is Peter’s. When, after Peter’s stroke, I visited them for the first time, I saw this guitar on a stand in their living room. I couldn’t believe it! It was the first real guitar I had owned! I learned to play on it! I had sold it to Peter years ago and forgotten all about it.

In subsequent visits I cleaned it up and did some other work on it. It plays great but sadly, Peter can no longer play guitar. I play it when I’m there but I suspect that’s the only time anyone plays it.

Last fall I asked Nanci if I could buy it from them. She said Peter really liked the guitar and didn’t want to let it go. She did say she told her daughters that I was to have it after their passing. I really don’t need any more guitars but it would complete a circle. It will always be Peters’ guitar though.

now it can be told

A bit melodramatic, our title is, but the whole thing seems a bit melodramatic sometimes. Nothing will bring Zach back but I still have questions about the night he died.

To that end, I traveled back to Baton Rouge on Tuesday. I never wanted to go back, but I did. I only told one person where I was going because I didn’t want to have to justify it ahead of time. I’ve been calling it my ‘white whale’ because it sometimes seems like an ill-fated obsession.

Well, I’m home safe now, so ‘ill-fated’ it wasn’t. My apologies to Micah and Julie for not letting you know I was in town. I had to maintain my focus and I only had a short time there. I also didn’t (don’t) want to drag them through that experience for my benefit. It’s my obsession, dammit, and I’m keeping it to myself.

Well, not really, because I’m writing about it here. Here’s what I did: I got up early and took a non stop flight to New Orleans, arriving in the early afternoon. I rented a car and drove to Baton Rouge and got a room. I then headed over to the stretch of Lee drive between Perkins Road and the site of Zach’s death. I had a camera, my voice recorder, a laser rangefinder, a notebook. It was about 5 pm and rush hour (I can only assume) was in full swing. Cars were pouring through that intersection without letup for the whole two hours I was there. Actually, by the end I thought it might have lessened somewhat but I also thought perhaps I was just getting used to it.

With the rangefinder I measured the distances all along Lee Drive. I had bought one of those rangefinders designed to be used for hunting that was good for up to 600 yards because I thought I might want to measure the whole distance all at once. In the event, I used the telephone poles along the street that were only about 25 to 50 yards apart. The accuracy of the rangefinder is 1 yard so it wasn’t civil engineering. Actually, the whole thing was pretty ad hoc but I’m not displeased with the results.

I drew a simple map of the street showing the side streets and the distances along Lee. I took pictures and video of the cars surging down Lee with special attention to how and where they merged and where exactly the pavement was no longer two cars wide. I spoke my impressions into my voice recorder.

Oh, and I brought one more thing, a stopwatch. The old fashioned kind that has three buttons on top. Actually, the old fashioned kind only had two buttons. This one is digital and had a clock mode, hence the third button. I wanted this style so I could watch the cars go by a certain point and time them along a known distance. I didn’t want to be fussing around with ‘buttons’ on my smart phone.

It worked great. I stood by one of the telephone poles and timed cars going by at the point near to where I believe Zach was hit. When I got back to the hotel room, I calculated their speeds and tabulated it all in a spreadsheet.

(I will omit a long digression where I first forgot how to calculate rates, then found that I had measured a critical distance wrong. So that last part actually took quite a while.)

I’m going to save the details for another post which will be based on a letter I will write to the Baton Rouge District Attorney asking him/her to reopen the case and file more significant charges against the driver, Shawn Allen. I also think the driver of the other vehicle, Reginald Herzog, Jr, has culpability as well as I believe the two drivers were racing each other and not paying proper attention to the road. My information is that criminal charges can be filed up to 4 years after the incident.

In the morning, after a restless night, I went back to the vicinity and made a video driving through the Perkins intersection from College onto Lee so times could be extracted from that although I did not have a camera on the speedometer.

I took some more photos, particularly of the bike, which is still there. The post accident story of the bike is here.

After that, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was still early, but there was nothing else in Baton Rouge for me. I drove slowly back to the New Orleans airport on back roads and flew home.

back in the saddle

Home. My little apartment. I got back last night after a day of travel: driving from Spokane to Seattle, to the hotel where I rented the car, then walking to the Transit Center to catch a bus to the airport ($2.75, a deal!), hurrying through checking my bag and through security to the gate where the plane was 30 minutes late. Then it was an hour, then another half hour. I got to SFO at nearly 7, twelve hours after I had left Spokane.

I makes me think I should just drive all the way next time.

Today I did laundry and caught up on the myriad things that the real world demands: bringing my checkbook up to date, paying bills. One bill was for car insurance. My traffic light indiscretion last year cost me nearly $500 at the time. Today I found out that it will cost me another $300 on my insurance. Grrr . . . . As far as I can tell, there is no mechanism for removing the one point I now have by any kind of traffic school so I guess I’ll have to eat the increase for the three years! the point is on my record.

There is a thing called Mature Driver Discount that AAA will give me if I complete an online class so I started that today. I thought about shopping other insurance companies but it makes me weak.

Then there is work. I called in and the Christmas crunch is getting rolling. We’re ok through next weekend but after that I may be working 5 or 6 long days each week. That’s 60 or more hours for those of you who haven’t been paying attention. Welcome, real world!

Museum of Flight

Or, as the sign in front say, ‘Museum of Fligh . . .’

Really, it was a nice museum. Yesterday was the day all four of us would have together and going to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle was the chosen activity. When we walked in to the main hall, we were greeted by the sight of dozens of aircraft, some on the floor and some hanging from the ceiling. An SR-71 Blackbird dominated the whole scene.

I thought it looked great, but at that moment realized we were there with a 4 year old. OK, almost 5 but still very young. But at that moment, we saw right in front of us a nice young man inviting us to the kid’s project table. They were going to demonstrate how to build a catapult in just a couple of minutes. Rosalie listened attentively to the presentation using a tablet and stood patiently in line to get her materials but was less interested in the details of actually building it. It was actually a simple little trebuchet built with popsicle sticks and rubber bands. Given the task of decorating the sticks, however, Rosalie came to life.

After it was built, she stood in line for some puff balls to launch and chose two small purple ones. Once explained the technique of launching, she took over and entertained us by launching her purple puff balls for us to try to catch.We walked around the hall. She sat in the SR-71 cockpit with Ashley:She found the kids play area and tested the wind tunnel machine:

Checked out the view from inside a light plane cockpit:

Tried the hurricane simulator with Mom:

Then we had lunch. After lunch was the Hall of Heroes, which is a review of the two World Wars with an emphasis on American planes and flyers. Then we walked across the skybridge to the pavilion which contained, among other things, an Air Force One, Boeing 727, 737, 747, 787, a Concorde, a B-29, a B-17, a B-47 and some others I don’t remember. In other words, lots of planes. We were able to go through most of the commercial airliners and AF One.

About 15 minutes into the ride home, this was the scene in the back seat.

Back at home she perked up. Momma made some chocolate chip cookies for an early birthday party with Gramps. I had found a nice jigsaw puzzle at the Museum store for her so we set to work on that after singing happy birthday.

Hmmm, can’t find the picture. Maybe tomorrow. I got up this morning and drove across the state to Spokane. I am now safely ensconced in a bedroom at Peter and Nanci’s. We took a nice drive this afternoon out Palouse Highway. The fields, some of which were newly planted with winter wheat, were lit up nicely by the setting sun. About half the sky was clear, while the other half was turning all kinds of colors.

outside and inside

Yesterday was outside. After dropping Jeremy off in Preston, I decided to try a different way back home. I was also trying to find some large-ish stores on the way. After my success fixing Mom’s Town and Country last month, I wanted to fix Ashley’s Nissan SUV that had the same problem. The other issue was some blinds in the window next to Jeremy’s computer. He told me that they wouldn’t release and when the sun was out, as it was Monday morning, the computer screen was very hard to see. I took measurements but didn’t write them down.

Going through Issaquah, I spotted a Home Depot so I went in and looked at blinds. As soon as I was confronted with the enormous selection there, I forgot the dimensions that I had measured. What a yutz!

Next I stopped at a car parts store in Redmond. They tried to tell me the struts for that car were different on each side and $70 apiece. Umm, I had looked at them the night before and I was pretty sure they were essentially the same as the T&C. Pass.

OK, just go home. I measured the blinds again and this time wrote the numbers down. Duvall had a car parts store so I went there. They had the pair – each side the same – for around $60. They wouldn’t be in until the next day but that was ok since I didn’t have Ashley’s car anyway. The nearest Home Depot or other large hardware store was at least a half hour away so I decided to wait and went back home for lunch.

After lunch, I took down the blinds to see if I could figure out what was wrong with them. After a little bit of fiddling while watching the mechanism, I discovered that these blinds are very sensitive to their horizontal positioning. Once set flat, they go up and down as pretty as you please. That evening, I found out that the blinds in Ashley and Jeremy’s bedroom had the same problem and the same fix. No more worries about the neighbors bright light shining into their bedroom at night!

On the way back to pick up Jeremy in the evening, I left a little early and went to a music store – not Guitar Center! – in downtown Issaquah. It was nothing special, but the downtown was nice: newer but not mass-produced shops along a Main street. Too bad it was jammed with cars at this hour (6 pm).

Today was more inside, although Rosalie and I started outside after dropping Ashley off at work. We went down to Snoqualmie Falls. The big news there was not the amount of water going over the falls, but the wind blowing over the ridge. 40 or 50 mph gusts were pushing us down the path. We were well bundled up so not cold but not comfortable either. The temperature was in the high 40s.

Here’s Rosalie putting a brave face on it:

We came home via the car parts store and enjoyed the mild, non windy air at home. I put the new struts on Ahley’s car and Rosalie and I played around the house. We even raked some leaves!

For all that, it seemed like an inside day as we spent the afternoon in the house. Puzzles, dolls and drawing were the bulk of the activities. After Mommy and Daddy came home we all went out for pizza and a skillet cookie in Carnation.

Mt Rainier

Driving with Jeremy to his work yesterday – I did it so I could have a car during the day – he pointed out Mt Rainier ahead of us, looming on the horizon in the gray skies. He said it looks different every time he sees it. He told me of a place not far away where on a clear day, one can see Rainier to the south and Mt Baker to the north. He wanted mountains and he got them!

To the east are the Cascades. They’re not as dramatic as Rainier but they’re closer and at around 8 or 9,000 feet elevation, they’re pretty dramatic in their own way. We got a good look at them Monday afternoon.

Washington

<Edited Nov 7 to add pictures.> The end of day two of my trip to Washington. It’s been pretty eventful so far. Yesterday when I got to the luggage carrel at Sea-Tac and looked out the window, I saw fat flakes of snow gently falling down. Going through the door to the outside was a shock to this Bay Area boy. Cold, cold, cold!

But Ashley was right there within a couple of minutes and the car was nice and warm. I was in such a hurry to get in the car that I didn’t think of sitting in my usual spot next to Rosalie in the back. That meant I couldn’t really see her unless I twisted myself completely around. That’s not practical at my advanced age but we talked and had fun grabbing shoes. I commented that she can really reach the seat in front much more easily than before. She’s very tall for an almost 5 year old. Ashley said there were two things on Rosalie’s agenda for Grandpa: puzzles, and tickling. We can do that!

After lunch, we did puzzles for a while at first but tickling did ensue eventually.

About 5, we headed out for Jeremy’s Fire Academy graduation. It was held in a hotel in Issaquah. There were all the usual graduation accoutrements: bagpipers, a color guard, a chaplain and lengthy speeches. Various awards were given to high achievers. Each graduate had a family member come up to pin the badge on him or her. (There were two woman graduates out of 21 total.)

When Jeremy’s name was called, Ashley went up with Rosalie. Jeremy, who had been stern all evening, picked up Rosalie with a huge smile on his face and held her while Ashley pinned him. Then they all turned to the audience and got their picture taken. Rosalie was somewhat distracted in Daddy’s arms but the instant she realized her picture was being taken, she turned on a huge smile. That generated a laugh from the audience.

After the pinning was complete, three of the graduates made presentations. One was Jeremy, who spoke of his time in the Atlanta Fire Department and the illness of Atlanta firefighter Frank Martinez. Frank reached out to Jeremy in November 2015 when Jeremy needed people to cover shifts while he was with us all in Louisiana. Frank was very sick at that time and couldn’t do the work, but did it in a gesture of solidarity. Jeremy drew the comparison with that solidarity and the group he was graduating into. He also commented that Frank almost certainly got cancer from poisonous substance exposure on the job and his goal was to reduce those exposures among firefighters.

Rosalie was sitting in my lap at that point and tears rolled down my face during his talk. I wanted to just hug Rosalie instead of wiping my face.

Afterwards, many more pictures were taken and we met some of Jeremy’s academy colleagues before heading out for a late dinner.

Today was very quiet. It was chilly and foggy early in the morning but by around 10 it was lifting and by lunchtime the sun was shining.These are out the back door window:

Jeremy slept in and Rosalie and I played with dolls, did puzzles, colored in her coloring book, read books . . . and tickled. After lunch, we went for a bike ride around the neighborhood. The temperature was around 45 but no wind. It was very pleasant in the sunshine. Several houses had the remains of snowmen still extant.

Rosalie experimented with the icy remains of the snow in the puddle in front of the house. Later we went to a local park where we walked across the Tolt River on a footbridge, admired the Cascades lit up by the setting sun, and played in the play area. Rosalie made ice cream from the bits of grass and wood chips there.

Tonight we all had dinner together and made our plans for the next three days. Ashley had a new living room light delivered today and it had a fantastic box for imaginative girls. Who could that be?

end of the trip

The trip was great but by the time we got home from the Sistergold concert and Heidelberg, we were toasted. We mostly laid low at Wilfried and Elisabeth’s house for a day and a half. Mary was interested in the casinos in Baden Baden but when we looked into the details it turned out they had a dress code and a high buy in and the games didn’t start until late in the day – or evening in one case.

No one else was as interested as Mary so that didn’t happen. We were getting ready to go over there Monday and at least walk around a bit but Wilfried and Elisabeth had an unexpected visitor, an elderly man with a shock of white hair. Naturally, beers were brought out and we Americans were amused at his torrent of conversation. I don’t remember what all he was talking about, but he was sure passionate. Wilfried explained later that he’s some kind of artist and collector.

Mercedes has a factory in Rastatt, so after our visitor left we went to take a tour there, then Wilfried took us around the Zentrum. Of course, there’s a schloss.We ate ice cream. Later, we walked over to Schloss Favorite, which is literally 5 minutes from Wilfried’s front door. This place has lovely grounds to go along with the structure.

 

Tuesday we had to leave at noon, but in the morning we went out for a walk through the neighborhood. The open field at the back of Wilfried and Elisabeth’s house has been set up for development: streets and utilities but no houses yet. In a half an hour leisurely walking, we walked around the whole village. The village is called Förch and one of several small villages tied administratively into the larger town of Rastatt.Perhaps I should mention that Elisabeth was unable to accompany us on most of our touring around because she had an operation on her foot and could not walk. She always had something good for us when we came back to her house. Danke schön, Elisabeth!

At noon, we loaded our bags into Wilfried’s car, hugged Elisabeth and headed north. Deutsche Bahn had a major problem in Rastatt where the ground below some train tracks sank on Sunday, stranding thousands of people. Wilfried wasn’t sure how possible it would be for us to get a train to Frankfurt from Rastatt so he drove us to the Karlsruhe Hbf.

There finally we had to say auf wiedersehen to our tour guide, cousin and friend Wilfried. Words can not express my gratitude for everything you did for Mary and me this past two weeks. His only request: that we come back and stay longer! Mit viel Vergnügen!