Saturday, February 27, 2010

Someday we’ll watch one of these from the water …

…. because we didn’t really have very good seats today.

While we were driving around San Diego we happened to notice a sign announcing the pending launch or “christening” as they called it of USNS Charles Drew.  Despite warnings of severe rain the launch went ahead early this morning and we were there to see what we could. 

What we could see was mainly images on a huge video screen because we didn’t qualify for any of the good seats.  Even some of the dignitaries who initially qualified for good seats got bumped on account of the rain and ended up watching the launch from the cheap seats alongside peasants like us.  When we arrived we could see the prow of the huge ship towering over the dockyard, festooned with balloons and streamers.  In fact that is what reassured us that we were in the right place.  I hadn’t bothered to check the map before we left home this morning and we ended up a little bit too far downtown but we doubled back and soon recognized the prow of the ship.  It seemed incongruous that a ship like this would have red and blue balloons on its prow so we correctly concluded that it was about to be launched.  

The ship to the left of the Charles Drew is the next T-AKE which is scheduled to launch sometime this summer.  The vessels are part of a 14 ship order which will end up in the US merchant navy acting as supply boats to warships or as supply vessels in relief efforts.  It is impossible to convey the immense size of these vessels in a photograph.  This particular ship is so large that there are only 2 days a month when tides are high enough to launch it.  It is also unusual to find a North American shipyard that still reverse launches new vessels.  I believe that the the more common practice now is to flood the area where the ship is built and float it in that manner but I’m not sure about that and I’m too lazy to research it right now.

The weather was so miserable when we left that I didn’t take time to take the obvious twin photo to the one above.  The departure of the Charles Drew left a huge hole along the waterfront but the General Dynamics yard was full of pieces to begin laying the keel for the next vessel in the order.  One of the speakers referred to the process whereby they subcontract assembly fabrication to a welding facility in Mexico.  The path that we followed through the yard to the launch site was lined with huge components waiting to be put in place for the next vessel.  And if I thought the ship was huge the cranes that they use to put them together are unbelievable.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Simply looking at boats

As long as I can remember I have loved looking at boats.  When I was little I can remember traipsing over docks with father, all the while worrying about falling between the planks but still loving the boats.  When our kids were small we spent many a happy hour wandering the docks in the days before everything was locked up in every harbour.  I’m not sure whether they worried about falling through or not – the little buggers could swim if they did which was a significant improvement on their old man.

So it was no hardship to spend most of today looking at boats in San Diego.  I’ve been holding myself back all down the coast but when we got here I sent some emails off to brokers and one of them got back to me.  I made sure she understood that we weren’t ready to buy and she seemed OK with that so she showed me the boat that she had listed and then found 3 more that met my criteria. 

I put the Hershine first because it is just so damn beautiful.  Dea didn’t actually have the listing for it.  The listing that she had which initially caught my eye was the Grand Banks.  As it turned out it didn’t quite have enough headroom at the helm or in the galley – there was a surprising difference between it and the Hershine.  The Hershine was listed with another broker.  I had spotted it online and sent an email to the listing broker but so far haven’t heard bugger all from him/her.  However we’ve seen the boat and as I told Marilyn, its a good thing we aren’t ready to write a cheque because I sure loved its lines.

The last boat we looked at was in commercial service as a sword fisherman.   That contraption on the bow sticks out about 25 feet in front of the boat when it is lowered & I gather you stand out there to fish – I didn’t inquire about the details because it is butt ugly and would obviously have to come off.  There’s also a vertigo inducing cockpit about 25 feet above the waterline that you can’t see in the picture.  This example was pretty rough but it showed us that we need to expand our target vessel into those in light commercial service because it was obviously more rugged construction than the other two we looked at.  Interestingly enough it also had significantly more headroom throughout. 

Because we were in the working harbour to look at the Skallerud there were fishermen around fixing their nets.  There was also a fresh fish market and these guys obviously knew a good thing.  They were all just hanging out, waiting for lunch and looking at boats, just like us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The border war goes on

Here at Pio Pico south we’re about 5 miles from the Mexican border.  And the border patrol is here too.  Yesterday afternoon on our way home from being mildly lost in the vicinity of Jamul we passed three of their Suburbans close to the campground.  It looked like one was patrolling the east side of an open field and the other two were working the west & south sides. 

They make regular passes over us in their helicopters during the day but last night they had to be on some extra big mission.  Starting about 3:00 AM there were multiple passes directly over the campground for about an hour.  It sounded like they were going to land behind the bus.  This morning there was a green & white Suburban prowling around the campground regularly. 

Dad – there’s a serious problem with the sewer

capilano My oldest son pointed out that I missed a memorable campground in my list of places we’ll never willingly go back to.  The KOA that used to be in Vancouver (or more accurately Burnaby) probably should have been on that list.  But in fairness to the campground it is no longer a KOA and with any luck it has also changed ownership since our stay there many years ago.  I’ve looked online and tried to figure which is the guilty campground but I’m just not sure so all I will say about the current campgrounds in Vancouver is that we have stayed at several of them and now we will only stay at Capilano.  The story that follows has nothing to do with Capilano but if somebody is looking for a park to stay at in Vancouver then Capilano is the one to pick.

RJ was probably 6 or 7 at the time and very much into helping.  He was pretty good at guiding me while I was backing into sites and Marilyn willingly gave up that duty as soon as we were sure he was capable of it.  But he was also 6 or 7 so when he very solemnly announced “Dad – there’s a big problem with our sewer”, I probably didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.  We were all climbing into the truck for a trip into Vancouver to see my old aunt and one of the items on the day’s agenda was picking up a sewer hose extension.  The sewer hookups at that campground were right at the road and we didn’t have enough hose to hook up.  So whatever the sewer problem was that he was referring to I knew it wasn’t of our making.  I remember noticing a faint sewer smell in the air but didn’t think much of it at the time.

We were gone all day returning home in the early evening with a sewer hose extension only to find a note on our door saying “report to the office immediately.”  So Marilyn headed off to the office and eventually I got around to hooking up the new sewer hose.  About the time that I was hooking up the hose, Marilyn returned from the office.  That meant that she was in the trailer when RJ came out to “help” me and promptly returned to the door of the trailer puking.  The “big problem” with the sewer turned out to be a plugged drain somewhere downstream from our site.  All of the sites in our immediate proximity had little puddles of raw sewage that had pushed up from underground.  The stench and sight of that had brought on RJ’s puking.  The worst part of the whole situation was that somebody at the campground had remedied the problem during the day but hadn’t bothered to clean up the obvious mess at more than a dozen sites upstream from the blockage.

When I got done cleaning up our site and got us hooked up Marilyn told me the reason for the summons to the office was to tell us we hadn’t paid for that night’s stay and that we had to move into the overflow section.  I had the credit card receipt clearly showing that we were not only paid for that night but the subsequent one as well so that wasn’t going to happen.  Before I could head off to yell at somebody Marilyn asked if she could deal with it.  At that stage in our lives she was working hard at becoming more assertive and she thought this would be a great opportunity to practice some assertiveness.  So I wasn’t there for the rest of the story but I have heard it enough times that I think I can retell it.

woodallsWhen she showed the owners the receipt they acknowledged that they had a mistake in their reservation system and that we could stay where we were.  Then Marilyn asked what the W logo in their sign meant and they said it was a rating by Woodalls.  Marilyn then asked for the address for Woodalls and the camp people asked why she would want that.  “So that I can send a formal complaint about this campground.”  And things escalated from there culminating in a screamed accusation that “people like you make it bad for everybody” aimed at Marilyn. 

Eventually Marilyn returned to the trailer to tearfully tell us that we were going to be thrown out of the park.  When she had calmed down a bit she told us that the owners had said they were going to call the police and have us ejected.  My response was that it was unlikely that they really wanted to involve the police when they still had raw sewage sitting at all the sewer hookups surrounding us and as it turned out my assessment was correct.  We left when our initial reservation expired but that wasn’t the end of the story because Marilyn did write the letter she had threatened to write.  In addition to Woodalls she sent the letter to KOA.

Some time later she got a phone call from the president of KOA who thanked her for her letter and then informed her that the campground in question was no longer part of their system.  “Just because of my letter?”  No, apparently they had many other complaints about that location and Marilyn’s letter was the famous straw that broke the camel’s back. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Doing the Waskesiu shuffle in San Diego

When the kids were little we used to like to stay in Beaver Glen at Waskesiu because we could have campfires on that side.  In the trailer park we had full hookups whereas in Beaver Glen the best we had was electric but we could have a campfire.  One year I remember sending the kids off with 2 pails to refill the water tank so I know we didn’t have water hookups that year & I don’t remember ever having them except when we were out in the trailer section.

Even in Beaver Glen you had to know how to do the Waskesiu shuffle but it became particularly important as we started spending more time there without the kids.  You absolutely had to know the Waskesiu shuffle in order to stay in the trailer park for any length of time. In theory it was possible to make reservations in either Beaver Glen or the trailer park but in practice you might as well not have bothered.  We tried one year but it appeared that the minute the reservation line opened up some very determined people camped on the phone line until every possible site was booked.  And they had lists of relatives so that they could sequentially book the same site over the course of the summer.

What we eventually learned to do was to move into the trailer park in late June, before the summer rush hit.  There was a set percentage of the sites that were saved for first come first serve and if we went before the first of July weekend we could be certain of getting one of those non-reserved sites.  And then began the Waskesiu shuffle. 

We could only stay in one site for 3 consecutive weeks before we had to leave the park and re-enter it.  At that point, if the site we were previously occupying was still open, we could re-occupy it for another 3 week period.  If we were foolish enough to check out on a busy weekend there was a waiting list.  They actually handed out those little bits of numbered paper like they do in Canadian Tire at the (non)service desk.  So if you left on a busy weekend you could find yourself spending some time in Beaver Glen before you could move back into the trailer park. 

On the other hand, there was no penalty if you left early, before your 3 weeks were up.  They would refund your money in full for however many days you had left when you left early.  So the trick, or the Waskesiu shuffle, was to deliberately leave early.  You would simply wait for a quiet mid-week day at which point you would go tell the gate nazi that you wanted to check out and check back in.  They knew how the game was played too but they did insist that you left the park.  So you would throw your sewer, water & electric lines on the ground, roll up your awning, move the lawnchairs and BBQ out of the way, hook up and pull out the gate.  Then you would immediately re-enter on the other side of the guard house.  Marilyn would usually go up the lane to check to see if anybody was coming in before I made the quick exit and re-entry.

If you did the Waskesiu shuffle a couple of times over the course of the summer you could stay in the trailer park more or less indefinitely.  When we arrived here at Pio Pico it turned out that they have their own version of the shuffle.  This park only has sewer

connections in half of the sites.  In a similar fashion to the park at Morgan Hill they also only have one functioning sewer dump which would have made it a pain to dump if we had stayed in the site they initially assigned us. 

So this morning we made the rounds of the sewer side checking out all the sites where somebody was checking out.  There were 12 sites coming vacant and about half of them would have been suitable for us.  We made a rough list in order of

our preference and then waited in line for Pio Pico’s version of the shuffle.  They had a pretty well organized and fair system.  I was surprised at some of the sites that went first – 2 that we considered least suitable were the first picks of other (obviously less knowledgeable) campers.  Eventually we got down to only one that we thought we could accept and people kept not taking it.  Finally enough people still hadn’t taken our preferred site and our turn to pick came up so we took it. 

Other than getting moved we didn’t accomplish a whole lot today.  I did pull the outside dual on the curb side and take it to be fixed.  When it was raining so hard up in Ramona I took time off from cursing the rain to notice that I could hear a tire leaking.  On closer inspection it was obvious that I had a slow leak around the valve stem.  That tire has had a slow leak for over a month now & I have never been able to figure out where the leak was so the rain wasn’t all bad. 

When they took the tire apart today we could see that the hole around the valve stem insert had corroded badly.  A mere $44 and at most 10 minutes later they had a new valve stem installed.  I got the tire wrestled back onto the hub and torqued down and that was pretty well the end of my day. 

Yesterday we were parked next to a 1956 Flxible.  I spoke briefly to the guy who owned it and got directions to a tire shop but those directions turned out to be worse than useless, thereby confirming my opinion of Flx owners.

While I was fixing the tire Marilyn tracked down the laundromat and figured out the local system.  This place has some bizarre laundry system that involves selling us a card that we won’t be able to use anywhere else and will no doubt have lost long before we come back here.  The card was only 2 bucks and it would cost much more than that to make a point by going elsewhere so she swallowed her pride and coughed up the 2 bux. Mind you, she had to pre-load the card with money and the money machine only takes increments of $5 and the machines take $1.75 so the scam continues.  I think we’ll stop somebody on the way out and sell them the card.  At least at Waskesiu we could have gone to Julie’s laundromat – Wash-ka-soo.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not being GW just isn’t enough

All he ever stood for was not being George Bush.  He managed to walk the line between being almost black and almost white and he fooled enough of the electorate for long enough to get the most important job in the world.  But eventually even the liberal media figured out that the emperor has no clothes.

Robert Fulford said it best last week.  To paraphrase Fulford, Obama was a hell of a campaigner but he never had a plan.  There never was any substance and its painfully obvious now. Now all we have left is a stuffed shirt holding news conferences. 

Ultimately the chosen one’s greatest achievement will be that he will surpass Jimmy Carter’s record of uselessness. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The generosity of strangers

We left Western Horizons Ramona Canyon in pouring rain this afternoon.  It pissed rain while I was tearing down, took a break while I had my shower and then dumped on us while we were hooking up.  Now we have broken overcast with a fair bit of sunshine but it still looks like it could get wet at any minute.

We just moved a few miles down the road and now we’re in the parking lot at Harrah’s Rincon Casino which is on the Pasqual Indian Reserve, more or less inside San Diego. 

Les McGirr would wet himself if he was here right now.  The Indian band has obviously just taken delivery of this

ladder truck which puts anything Nipawin owns to shame.  Les did a pretty good job of filling the Nipawin fire hall and I’m sure if somebody had sent him a picture of this truck a few years ago there would be one of them parked in Nipawin right now.  The Indian kids on the fire brigade are having a great time manoeuvring the monster around the pylons they have set up in the parking lot.  There’s a man in both ends and it steers from the front and rear axles.  Its got some wicked cut angle on the axles too so they can almost scoot it sideways.

If somebody has Brian Starkell’s e-address you might want to forward this to him.  I think its a shame that some Indian Reserve in southern California has a better fire truck than the town of Nipawin and its high time Brian learned to spend that capital budget.  I can’t remember which of the geniuses on Nipawin council told me years ago, when I complained about the nearly annual new Cat graders, that they didn’t really cost me any taxes because the money was already in the budget.  The last new Cat grader that I remember was purchased because the grader operator didn’t own a toque. 

I phoned the casino this morning and they said “come on in”.  Its a good thing I phoned because I would have been worried otherwise.  We’re the only RV on the lot so far, along with about a dozen tour busses. 


Three more RVs showed up so we don’t feel so lonely.  We went into the casino, found the players’ desk and got our cards.  Because it is the first time we have ever been here they gave us coupons for $20 worth of free play on their slot machines as well as coupons for $20 worth of meals in their restaurants.  And we EACH got that.  Now I detest the whole premise of casinos – you can’t get something for nothing anywhere in this world and certainly not in a casino.  So I don’t mind taking from them but even I felt just a twinge of guilt accepting all those freebies knowing full well that I won’t spend 5 cents of my own money in this casino or any other one for that matter. 

Later in the evening I parlayed my $20 of play money into $10 of real money, took it out of the pay station and promptly left the casino (just in case they changed their mind).  Marilyn still has $15 of play money so maybe she’ll turn that into something real yet and we still have our meal coupons.  The restaurants are seriously overpriced but when we’re not spending our own money it doesn’t seem so bad.

Places we won’t rush back to

We have been to lots of fun places and seen some scenery to die for.  Those places get lots of mention, I post pictures of them and we go on ad nauseum about how much we like them.  But Nick Russel reminded me that there are also some omigod-I-hate-that-places which never get mentioned.  So this post is dedicated to all those places that we won’t willingly ever go back to.

Reno to Salt Lake City

This forlorn stretch of highway still stands out in our minds as one that we never want to experience again.  Periodically we will be going down some mind numbingly boring piece of pavement and one of us will say “at least its not as bad as that stretch between Reno & SLC.  Even the run from Medicine Hat to Swift Current is downright exciting compared to this gawdforsaken chunk of pavement.

Cruising in general

I know some people really like getting onto a butt ugly floating apartment building with 45 hundred of their closest friends and eating cafeteria food to excess for a week but I just don’t get it.  First off “boat” implies something graceful and elegant – the ultimate combination of form and function.  By that definition cruise ships are definitely not boats.  Then there’s all the people jammed into what could be any mall anywhere in North America.  Unless you happen to be on deck you can’t tell whether you are in the Mall of the Americas or off the coast of Florida.  Mind you, if it wasn’t for the active stabilizers you would know right away because the clumsy excuse for a boat that you are riding on would induce non-stop puking in the hallways between the overpriced trinket stores. 


Will somebody please explain snow removal to the government of Idaho?  When we made our annual trek down I-15 we could always tell when we entered and exited Idaho without reading the road signs.  Just like you can tell when you enter Saskatchewan from the west by the way your teeth start to vibrate, you can recognize Idaho by the dismal state of their winter roads.

Mexican border towns

We detest the transition from the US to Mexico.  There’s a no-man’s land for about 20 miles north of the border and 40 miles south of the border where the human and man-made garbage piled alongside the roadway makes us wish we were somewhere else. 

The green slime lake from hell

St. Annes something or other is its official name but it will forever be the green slime lake from hell for us.  Try to imagine if you can skiing for a half an hour looking for a small clear spot on the lake where you can drop without instantly turning your body into the slime creature.  The fact that we were staying in a campground “managed” by a raving lunatic hasn’t improved our memories of this miserable excuse for a lake.  The only saving grace was that we were visiting good friends there but I think even they have since given up on this hole.

Tourist traps the world over

It doesn’t matter whether it is a herd of Mexican beach vendors, the sleazy pimps handing out business cards on The Strip in Las Vegas or main street in Banff.  Tourist traps are the same the world over and they all give me gas.

Overpriced restaurants

14 bucks we paid for a cup of coffee and a draft beer in that frog casino in Las Vegas.  What’s that about?  There were some really nice restaurants in that section with really good value but we got seriously hosed when we stopped for a drink while we waited for Don & Darlene.  It doesn’t happen often because we are pretty canny restaurant customers but it pisses me off when it does happen.  I’ll put overpriced wine in this category too.  No matter what they tell you nobody can really tell the difference between 10 dollar wine and 100 dollar wine if you take away the bottle.  There’s good wine and there’s bad wine – the price on the shelf doesn’t guarantee a damn thing.


Its not so much Los Angeles as the way they drive.  You can be zipping along an interstate barely keeping up with 4 lanes of traffic at 70 MPH, come flying around a corner and the whole bloody issue stops.  Not just slows down but actually stops.  And an hour later maybe you haven’t moved a mile.  How the hell can that happen?  And eventually you crawl around a curve or over a hill and then everything takes off again.  I hate that.  I can’t imagine living like that and I will go a long way out of my way to avoid driving through it.

OK – Nick was able to list 10 places that he detested and I was only able to come up with 8.  That plus the fact that I cheated by using items like “Overpriced Restaurants” just confirms what I have suspected all along.  Which is that I am just naturally a more cheerful type of asshole than you usually meet.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The evolution of a climate change skeptic

I’ve never fully believed in man-made global warming but there was a time when I wondered.  I remember when Bob Dyck was president of CAAR – maybe 12 years ago now.  Bob was the head cheese at Cargill Canada so I thought he should have some serious smarts.  I have a lot of respect for Cargill as a company – they don’t put dummies in any position and they certainly wouldn’t put a fool in charge of Canada. 

We had a big debate at the board wherein Bob flat out stated that not only did he not believe that humans were causing global warming, he didn’t think that the globe was getting warmer for any reason.  I remember re-evaluating my opinion of him at the time because it seemed obvious to me that the world was warming up for some reason.  Maybe mankind wasn’t causing the warming trend but the data at the time seemed to clearly indicate that something was causing the world to warm up.


Of course in the last 10 years it has become increasingly obvious that the “something” that was causing the world to appear to be warming up was nothing more nor less than ridiculously flawed science.  Everything from bad data points caused by urban heat islands to outright fraud on the part of the global warming priesthood has been implicated.  The list continues to grow to the point where voices of reason like Lorne Gunter sound like they are piling on.

Catherine McMillan (“Kate” of Small Dead Animals) recently said: 

I know. At this point, posts like this are almost unseemly, there's a nasty sense here of "piling on". All I can say about that to my warmist friends is this - "better get used to it".

My personal evolution was from an attitude of wondering if there might be some truth to man-made warming to a conviction that the underlying cause of any warming was a natural cycle to my current sense that there simply isn’t any warming happening.  We have been sold a bill of goods by whores masquerading as scientists

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this gives any of us the license to foul our nest.  Even a pig knows better than that.  Given the choice a pig will keep its nest clean and we should demonstrate the same intelligence. 

The ubiquitous space images of our planet that have become so much a part of our visual vocabulary in the last 20 years have changed our collective understanding of our place in the universe.  Our parents’ generation could be forgiven for thinking of the world as immense and unchangeable but we have to consider it an island floating in space.  Thinking of our planet as an island fundamentally changes how we view resources and waste.  Like a pig in a pasture we should have the intelligence to not needlessly foul our finite living space. 

At the same time the image of a finite world floating in a vast emptiness should remind us that we have limited resources.  Squandering our talents or labour tackling a “climate change” problem that doesn’t exist accomplishes nothing and makes our collective life more miserable.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hanging out in Ramona

ramona We’ve been chilling in Ramona for close to a week now.  Michael & Christi are great hosts.  I borrowed most of his tools in order to remodel the cabinet that now holds our new flatscreen TV.  I got the cabinet butchered into shape a couple of days ago and Marilyn finished up varnishing & staining it yesterday.  We think it looks pretty good. 

This morning we hung the new door and mounted the TV on it.  We still have to figure out how we are going to keep the door from pulling off the hinges when it’s in the down position but it is completely usable now.  We haven’t filled the storage space yet but we know what will go in there and I’m sure it won’t be long before it will be full.

In between cabinet making I have been helping Michael do some minor maintenance on Mrs Jones, his MCI 102A3.  A few days ago he built some runup ramps so that we could get underneath safely.  He’s still a little reluctant to get underneath but I have tricked him a couple of times.  Yesterday we got his brakes set and fixed a leaky valve stem on one of the duals.  Today we think we got his Jakes working but we won’t be 100% certain until he makes a test run.  We also installed a coupler in his accessory air system so that he can use compressed air from the bus system.  I carry a 3/4” air impact that I can run off the bus system and I’m sure he has similar plans.

Tonight Michael and Christi took us out for supper at Santa Ysabel casino.  I had forgotten but I noticed the casino last Sunday when it was getting dark and we still hadn’t made it here.  As we were driving by the entrance to the place I remember thinking that we should have been stopping there for the night so that we could arrive here in daylight.  We didn’t stop then but tonight we drove back to the casino for prime rib dinner. 

Michael and Christi stayed to play Texas Hold ‘em and we came home.  But not before I had turned the free play that they gave each of us into $92 in real money that I could take home with me.  We don’t make much use of casino parking but after our experience tonight I think we will spend a little more time figuring out how they work.  If they are happy to give us free play money to get us in the door, cheap food once we are inside and a free place to park overnight then it seems pretty stupid if we don’t at least stop in once in a while.  And if we can take home a few bucks occasionally then so much the better.

MissMeYet No it’s not a Photoshop creation.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What a drive!

Yesterday we left Las Vegas in the mid morning and headed south.  I had mapped out a route that would have seen us overnight on a casino parking lot in Indio but when we got there it seemed too early to stop so we pushed on.  We were headed for Ramona, California where Michael & Christi are managing a Western Horizons campground.  I should have known better than to just let Streets and Trips plot a route because that has got us in trouble in the past but i did it anyway.  I knew we were going to go through some scenic country because the route was really squiggly but I had no idea how scenic we were going to get.

Before we got to the scenic part we damn near killed an idiot.  I’ve threatened to kill idiots in the past but this was all too real.  We had just turned west at Vidal Junction which is no more than a miserable little hole in the middle of nowhere and certainly not one of the scenic spots I referred to.  We were just nicely back up to speed when this moron stepped out of the sagebrush alongside the road, literally in front of us.  He had no shirt, tattered jeans, a major sunburn and wild hair but what was really alarming was that he had a large rock in each hand and he was in the process of throwing one of them as he stepped onto the road.  That one flew in front of us and he immediately prepared to pitch the second one into the side of the bus.  By that time he was beside the bus so all I could do was grab a glance in the rearview mirror and then look ahead waiting for the crash of the rock into the bus or a window.  Nothing happened so I looked in the mirror again to see him staggering around in the middle of the westbound lane.  The car that had been right behind me had disappeared from view – he must have swerved into the eastbound lane.  In hindsight I expect that the moron was so close to the bus that the rush of wind as we went by likely briefly disoriented him and then sucked him in behind us.  He was clearly high on something but killing him would have been a bad thing nevertheless. 

After we dawdled our way through Indio thanks to Streets and Trips routing us through downtown, we headed south on US 75 and almost immediately hit the scenic stuff. 

I would have liked to take more pictures but there just wasn’t any place to stop.  I grabbed a couple from a turnout but I felt that I was endangering other motorists by tying up the turnout.  California has this bizarre law that puts the onus on the lead vehicle in a highway parade to let the following vehicles go by.  That sounds good in theory but what happens in practice is that the following vehicles don’t bother trying to pass which leads to some incredible parades on the highway.  When the lead vehicle in the parade gets to a turnout everybody expects it to pull over and generally they do.  As long as I had the turnout blocked though nobody could pull in so I thought we should keep moving.

A little further up the road we came to what is apparently all too common on this stretch of highway.  Somebody heading west the same way we were wasn’t paying attention.  The road is narrow with occasional sharp drops off the shoulder and it is best described as sinuous.  Apparently the driver dropped a wheel off the shoulder, lost control and spun into the oncoming lane where his passenger was t-boned by a motorcycle.  The motorcycle driver was killed as was the car passenger.  When we drove by the emergency crews were working to extract the body from the car.  The ambulances were gone so I warned Marilyn not to look as we went by but apparently she had already looked and paid the price for that in her dreams last night.

We probably won’t drive that stretch of road ever again but it was well worth making the trip once.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Computers can be frustrating enough on their own without help from juvenile delinquent programmers. I put up with Facebook because it helps me stay in touch with the kids but some days I seriously question that decision. They seem to delight in doing "upgrades" for no apparent reason but whenever they do I have to spend days figuring out what I used to be able to do easily.

Thank god for Google.

The latest episode was when I realized that I could no longer find my Friends list. It used to be so simple - I could click on All Friends and browse whatever had happened on whoever's page I happened to land on. Yesterday I realized I could no longer do that and finally gave up trying. Tonight I chased my blood pressure up about 25 PSI but I finally figured out how to do what used to be easy.

Thank god for Google.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dam tourists

Yesterday we loaded Don & Darlene up and did the tourist thing.  We haven’t crossed Hoover Dam for years now.  It was always kind of a fustercluck getting across the dam with an RV and since 9/11 it has turned into a nightmare so we haven’t seen the dam for several years.  And we had never been inside the dam on the real tour – all we’d ever done until yesterday was wander around on the top of it taking free pictures.  It was raining yesterday so I didn’t get any real clear pictures but the tour was worthwhile. 

Although I could have done nicely without all the left-wing dam sermonizing.  Jeff, our tour guide, seemed bent on convincing us that the dam was yet another example of the capitalist system exploiting the working man.  Which argument no doubt had some element of truth to it but I seriously doubt that was what the US government thought they were hiring him to tell us.

Actually the new bridge was what I was most interested in seeing.  Evidently its behind schedule because a construction crane collapsed in the fall of 2006.  Its a mammoth project – maybe not on the scale of the initial dam construction given the technology available at that time but a huge undertaking nevertheless. 

When we got home last night our TV had died.  That wasn’t entirely unexpected but it was still a PITA.  We have been waiting for it to die before replacing it with a flat screen TV so today we headed off to our standby supplier, Wallyworld, where we bought a Sanyo 26” flat screen TV.  Its by no means the latest, greatest or high techiest but that really wasn’t our objective.  We had a specific amount of space that it absolutely had to fit within and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  We did some online price comparisons and nobody was close to Wallyworld, as usual, so off we went and returned home with a $300 TV.  About $50 later I had all the necessary cables from RadioScrap to hook the new to the old.  Now we have an intriguing mishmash of old and new technology.  We can watch high definition DVDs, as long as we watch them on the new TV but we can also watch them as composite video.  I haven’t invested in pulling digital cable from the satellite receiver to the front of the bus so we still can’t see high def programming but I think we’ll survive without it.  As I mentioned earlier, we can’t watch blu-ray movies yet but since our movie purchases tend to come out of the bargain bins or 2nd hand sales that hasn’t been an issue either. 

Next step – some minor renovations to the cabinetry so that the TV looks like it belongs in the bus.  Eventually we will end up with a behind-the-TV storage cabinet but that will have to wait until summer when I get back to my compound mitre saw.

Last night we took Don & Darlene down to Fremont Street to see the laser light show.  I didn’t remember it being anywhere near as good as the show we saw last night was.  In fact in hindsight I’m not sure why we bothered going because my expectations were pretty low but I’m glad we did go.  Last night’s show could probably be described as Americana set to American Pie.  Our timing was perfect – we only had to stand in the rain for about 10 minutes before the show started.  It cost us $10 to park for a 6 minute show but it was money well spent.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The city that losers built

Its been a long time since I have spent any time wandering on the Strip.  We have visited Las Vegas at least briefly for most of the last 15 or more years.  but the last couple of times we have been here Marilyn has spent an extended period in town and I have flown to somewhere else.  This time we have been showing Don & Darlene the town and that has given me a chance to see it again too.  I’ll get sick of it pretty soon but so far I’ve been
having fun.

Las Vegas is definitely suffering under the recession.  Apparently the chosen one recently commented that Americans shouldn’t be wasting their money by travelling to Las Vegas when their neighbours were losing their jobs.  That has raised the hackles of the local business community but evidently the travelling public was smarter than their President because they aren’t here anyway.  Its possible to walk down the sidewalks without having to elbow your way through visitors.  The grimy little pimps that hand out the hooker business cards are still omnipresent but there are noticeably less tourists.  Yesterday when we bought last minute tickets for Lance Burton there were Phantom tickets available as well, and at pretty good prices.  We’ve never seen them available, let alone discounted.

Its hard to beat the Las Vegas scenery at night.  During the day it loses a lot but at night the Strip is ablaze with colour. 


I guess Excalibur must be one of my favourite casinos because I came home with dozens of shots of the facade.  Its a pretty impressive sight when you come down the Strip past New York and just as you enter the intersection this appears:

Yesterday we wandered around on the south end of the Strip all afternoon, ate supper at New York (which is kind of a tradition for us) and then went to Lance Burton’s show.  That was well worthwhile – he’s maybe not as well known as somebody like Copperfield but he’s pretty good nevertheless.  We first heard about Burton during a documentary about Peter Reveen.  American readers may not be familiar with Reveen but Canadians may remember his tag line “the man they call Reveen.”  I don’t think he tours anymore but he is managing Lance Burton.  After Burton’s show we went to Paris for dessert.  The two things the French are deservedly famous for are desserts and retreating – last night’s dessert was excellent.

Monday, February 1, 2010

U.S. budget deficit

If I caught these numbers right the budget expenditures are $3.83 trillion.  I’m not sure how many zeroes that is but it really doesn’t matter anymore.  The important number is that the budget deficit is $1.8 trillion.  I’ve listened to this several times this morning so I’m pretty well certain I got that right but it still boggles my mind so if somebody can correct me I’d really appreciate it.

If what I think I hear is true, that’s like one of us making, for easy figuring, $100,000 annually but spending $200,000 annually.  How long can that go on?  As an individual you could argue that you didn’t really spend all that money – some of it was invested.  Maybe you bought a house with some of it for instance – in that case you might be able to justify the imbalance for a year or even a couple of years.  If that’s the case our American neighbours better hope they see an awful lot of bridges and overpasses getting built.