Sunday, April 30, 2006

Trip report: April 2006 Tehachapi Mountains

About this post
This is a trip report from a trip south, to the Tehachapi Mountains from San Jose, April 28 to April 30, 2006. I have no Internet access here, so I will post this when I return.

Lost Hills in Morning

Sat. Apr. 29, 1:00 am -- I am right off Highway five. I am in the San Joaquin Valley. I am in Lost Hills, California. I am at a Motel Six. This is the first trip in my new Subaru Forester. It now has 300 miles on it.

On the way down I alternated between listening to my old Modesto country western radio station (KUBB Country) that I used to listen to when I lived in Patterson and listening to CD's.

My first CD was the Eagles, Motel California. The "Motel California" (the one pictured on the old record album cover) is outside of Los Baños, but it is no longer called Motel California. I think it now is a Budget Inn, or something like that. Anyway, tonight driving down the valley the sweet smell of the fruit tree blossoms is over powering. A late bloom this year, likely caused by all the rain.

Driving at night. I put on the Grateful Dead, "Trucking" seems like the perfect song for going down I-5. "What a long, strange trip it's been." So many trucks, so many cars, so many people, so many trips.

Memories are strong driving at night. I sat the cruise control at 72. The Subaru kept its own pace. I thought of the past and people gone; my parents, my sister and my first wife (who died on a country road at night.) I thought of friends, now married, now parents and now moved away. I thought of others who have gone on trips totally out of my life and gone. I looked out into the darkness and wondered where out there their trips have taken them. I thought of my sons trips through life, their wives and all the roads that led to the present. I thought of Susie and her mom in London. I thought of the lunch today I had with Kenneth and how he shared a conversation he had with his new boss about his uncle, the wine maker, Susie's brother John. I thought about my wonderful granddaughter Madison and all these roads that led to her, including the death of her grandmother. I thought of how if they had not been traveled just the way they were, she might not even be here to start her own trip.

We all owe our existences to roads others have taken and often arbitrary decisions so many others made. Seemingly insignificant decisions: turn one way and not the other, take this elevator or that flight sometimes change everything. And the song plays, "What a long, strange trip it's been." I am in Lost Hills, California. I am at a Motel Six. I have my window open and outside my window I hear all the cars going by on their own long strange trips. When I step out my door and look out I see their lights coming out of the darkness and fading into the darkness.

Mojave, California, Motel 6
Sat. Apr. 29, 11:00 pm -- It was warm by 9am this morning. That is the valley for you. I am listening to an Eastbound (Southbound) Union Pacific frieght head past the motel. I love this place only $36.99 and you are so close to the tracks your teeth almost rattle when the trains parade through, that is so great!

International Power Set

International power set
There was an amazing number of trains today. The railroad through here was strained to support this many trains. Trains moved slowly from siding to siding. I saw my first freight train with locomotives from The US, Canada and Mexico. We ship raw materials to China and import finished good from China and much of that cargo travels by rail. Another train is going by right now. The parade seems endless.

I made a new friend, a fellow from Austrailia named David. He is passing through on his way to moving to London. His family owns Satui winery in the Napa Valley. Satui is a big name, so I guess they are doing pretty well. David and I have been hanging out together. His room is right next to mine. We may railfan together tomorrow.

I got pretty sunburned today. Must use the sunscreen tomorrow!

Tehachapi Loop, Walong Siding
I am at the loop

Sun. Apr. 30, 1:00 pm -- I just shot a train and another one is coming up the hill right behind him. I lost David this morning. He slept in and was not up when I got up. I thought about knocking on his door, but didn't. I really wanted to do my own thing. He wanted me to show him around. But, I wanted to be alone

The new Subaru is really a ball of dirt now with mud and dust. It has been so great being able to go to off-road places I have not been able to go since I sold the Explorer. There are still places I used to go with the Explorer that I can't with this vehicle. But, that list is very short. I am really going to have to clean the Subaru up when I pick up Susie and Fran.

This is snake country. Yesterday when I was at the top of tunnel two, I had to scoot under a barb wire fence to get to a photo spot. At one point I put my hand down on the ground and saw I had placed it about an inch from a snake that was starting to coil. I immediately withdrew my hand and placed it elsewhere. It made me think of Kathryn who got bit on the ankle by a rattle snake.

It is overcast and 70 degrees, which is fine since it is mid-day and the sun would be too high in the sky for good photos otherwise. Another train is coming up the hill. I am shooting mostly slide film this trip. I have shot some digital and about an hour's worth of digital video. But, I like slides. I like being able to tray up the slides and have a slide show. The days of being able to do that are numbered, very numbered.

I just talked to Susie. She is in her Hotel in London. It is so amazing that I can be sitting in my vehicle next to the railroad tracks and on a tiny hand-held device can talk to her in London. I had to cut short our conversation for a train. Freaking amazing really when you tink about it. Of course, here I am typing about it on my computer between trains as well. Another train is coming. Gotta go!

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Friday, April 28, 2006

London calling

Susie is having a great time
I have spoken with Sue several times since she has arrived in London. She is having a great time. Today she said, "this city is unlike any other place I have ever been. The Indian wedding is tomorrow, I guess. It goes from about 10:30am until about midnight. There hsa been three days of events building up to it. I guess the idea is that by the time the wedding is over the families will know each other really well. According to the Indian students at the help desk, the reason it is only a three day wedding is because it is in London.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Editorial: A driver's perspective

Even cyclists can be jerks
I, as a cyclist, have had some bad encounters with car drivers who are jerks. I know many of the cyclists in this list have too. The other day I as a car driver had a bad encounter with a cyclist who was a jerk.

The other day I was driving up Kennedy and passed a cyclist well short of the summit. I gave him plenty of respect and clearance when I passed. I stopped at the summit and took a picture. Then drove down the hill, still well ahead of the cyclist. I am a cautious driver and drive the speed limit on curvy roads with limited lines of sight. The speed limit going down Kennedy is 20-25 mph with sharp turns, a double yellow line, few if any turnouts and limited lines of sight. The cyclist caught up with me on the downhill. He rode my bumper. I felt really pressured to speed up to a speed faster than legal, faster than I felt safe and not slow down for turns. I also was afraid to touch my brake pedal for fear of him not being able to react in time to avert a collision.

Once we came to a climb I, of course, pulled away from him. Had I not been a cyclist myself I may have taken hostility from that incident into my next encounter with a cyclist. Being a cyclist, and understanding that cyclists need to be safe on the road and not tail gate, I just told myself that even jerks can ride bicycles.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Evening with Madison


Madison has great time with Dad and Gramps
When Jeff and I watched the Sharks game Nicole went out for a break. We had a great time and Madison loved it. She is such a sweetie and has an amazing vocabulary for being less than two.

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Susie and Frances go to England

The day in phone pics
Today Sue and her mom left for London. I took them to the airport. Fran did not know about the truck and was very surprised to see me go to into her driveway in the truck.

Sue and Fran at airport

The trip to the airport & the mark of the beast!
When we left Fran's house I looked at the odometer on the truck. It was 66.6. So, they started their trip with the number 666. The truck was great. Easy entry and exit and plenty of room for all and the luggage.

Free ice cream today at SJSU
Ben and Jerry's next to SJSU had a free ice cream give away. It was great, the help desk staff took turns getting free ice cream. We had a lot of fun.

Jeff with new truck

I spent the evening at Jeff and Nicole's
Jeff and Nicole really liked the truck! Jeff and I watched the Sharks game and I had a blast playing with Madison. She is just too cute!

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Zippy is gone, like our youth

Zippy going away

A part of me will always miss Zippy
Cars coming and cars going from our lives are as good a way as any to mark the passing of time. Cars not only take us where we think we want to go, they shape where we decide to go, how we get there, what we can do when we get there and how we spend the journey. They are a reflection of us, our dreams and where we are at the time of our lives when we own them.

They say that 40 is the old age of youth and that 50 is the youth of old age. Zippy, our 1999 Acura Integra, was the car of Sue and my forties. Zippy was the last sporty car of the waning years of our now gone youth. I love my new "truck." But, Zippy will always make me think of driving on highway one, of Susie zipping around in her little sports car, Zippy was the coast, Zippy was warm nights with the windows down and the stereo on. Zippy was driving to Santa Cruz. Zippy was driving across LA in Indian summer with the sun roof open, the Santa Ana wind blowing and the stones blasting on the radio. Zippy was a car of a decade, an era, a youth that is gone. Zippy was the second car Sue and I bought. A year and a half ago we sold Rhonda (for Our "R" Honda) [Link] that was the first car we bought together. But, it was Zippy that came to reflect our short youth together. But, this era was really not ended by the sale of Zippy, it was ended by turning 50, by Susie's car accident [Link] and grand parenthood. Yes, when I dream of Zippy this picture, taken awhile ago, is the way I will always remember her:

Susie and Zippy

She was a fun little car to drive. You could almost think this car down the road. Zippy had that rare quality of being "flickable." It was very fuel efficient. But it was not very practical for more than two people and it did not have very good ground clearance for some of the off road places I like to go. It was fun, it was young, it was zippy!

The last drive Susie and I took in Zippy was to Santa Cruz. The first trip we will take in the new SUV, will be to take Susie, her mom and all their luggage to the airport. A fitting juxtaposition.

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I love my, I mean our, new "Truck"

New Subaru Forester

Every fifteen years I seem to buy an SUV
It was fifteen years ago I bought my Explorer. Is an SUV a truck? I remember when I was a teenager thinking it odd that my old friend Paul Burmeister called his Chevy El Camino [Picture Link] (the El Camino was a Chevy Chevelle [Picture Link] with a truck bed) a "truck." I think of SUV's as trucks, so I guess mine is. My new "truck" is as much of a "truck," in my mind, as Paul's was.

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Provident mortgage sucks

We have been paying our mortgage ON TIME with Provident for a long time. We mailed our April payment on time. Provident did not receive it - we have no idea why. All the other checks mailed at the same time, including a tax check, were received by the parties they were mailed to. Either the post office lost this payment or Provident lost it. We have never been late. This is not our fault. Now we are charged with a huge penalty. We asked customer service to waive or lower the payment for a long standing, good faith customer (which we are) and they refused. Other companies waive or lower penalty charges for good customers. Why doesn't Provident? When you choose a company to do business with, do not choose Provident.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Can't see the Fit for the Forester

Subaru Forester, 2006

Today we almost bought a SUV
But, it is a little SUV. After the new Honda Fit turned out to not be one I started looking at other vehicles. I still want off the road capability and good fuel economy. I was ready to walk away from the off the road capability in order to embrace the economy of the Fit. But, that reality turned out to be too spartan for my taste (too bad Honda.) I heard about the Subaru Outback Sport and decided to take a look. We went to Stevens Creek Subaru but were very unimpressed with the dealer, so I went on line and found tons of praise for Santa Cruz Subaru. Susie and I went there. The Outback Sport ended up being an Impreza with fancy trim and a better stereo, but no more ground clearance than an Impreza. "If you want more ground clearance, why not check out the Forester," the salesman said. We did, we liked it, it has 29 mpg, great safety ratings and a fantastic rebate! So, we may get it! Oh yea, it comes in white and they have three white ones with a five speed. Score!

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Side Impacts

Honda Fit

Yesterday I almost had a Fit
I have given up on the idea of getting a new pickup. The cost of gas has just made the purchase of a 4x4 too extravagant for my tastes. Instead, I have been looking at buying a new higher mileage car. My Integra is due for it's 60,000 mile service and estimates for this service have been in the $1,500 range. I have been looking at the new Honda Fit's for awhile. The new Fit costs about $14,000. A local dealer offered me $7,000 for the Integra. The math got pretty attractive. The car is nice. It is small but it has a huge amount of interior space. It is 4 door and is cute in a very European way. It has side impact air bags (my Integra does not.) But to get some of the things in the car I want, like cruise control, you have to get the Fit Sport, and that also includes a spoiler and "ground effects" that makes it look like what they call a "tuner" car and what I call a "punk" car. Why do they do that? It would seem that there is a market for an inexpensive (non-hybrid) second car with a few things like cruise control and XM-radio for us older (above 30) folks.

Anyway, I was in the process of buying a base Fit, and at the last minute I decided I wanted to wait more. Mostly I felt like the dealer (Capitol Honda, San Jose) was pushing me wwaaaayyy too much. So, I walked away from the deal. I would really like to get those side impact air bags. That is one big reason we got the 2004 Accord. Why are side impact air bags so important to me? Read on...

Candy leaning on Nova

Candy died 15 years ago yesterday
Fifteen years ago yesterday my first wife was killed driving home late at night on a lonely country road. She lost control of the vehicle she was driving. Her vehicle went into a slide. It slid sideways into a telephone pole. The impact was on the driver's side door. She was killed in a side impact.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Edupodder Podcast: Linux on Campus

The SJSU Linux Users Group
Keith Callenberg, Evan Luine and Casey Miller; SJSU students and members of the SJSU Linux Users Group [Link] have a conversation with Steve Sloan about their user group, Linux and open source software. This users group is a recognized student group at SJSU.  They discuss Linux, its use and its potential use on the campus. Recorded April 20, 2006, 25:50 min, 23.7 MB. To hear this podcast click on button below:

Podcast Here

Other Options:

Whine and Dine Rides for 2006

Whine and Dine party

April 19 was a cycling day
Yesterday evening was the first time I have ridden my bicycle in a long time. Even though I am still sick, I am well on my way to health. I lead a short and slow whine and dine ride, my first such ride for 2006! Jeff led a faster and further group. We had 23 riders on our ride. Tyler had a large turnout on his ride as well. These whine and dine rides go every Wednesday at 6pm from Summit Bikes [Link]. They are very social. We totaled around 40 riders. With the three rides we had we had about a ride for everyone. After the ride we had a great social gathering at Una Mas. This was the two-year anniversary of the bike crash in 2004 that ruined that season [Link]. On this year's ride we saw a coyote walking along Kennedy road and a herd of deer on Shannon. It was great to see the friends and meet the new folks who turned out for the ride.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

1906 Quake Anniversary

Quake Memories
Today is the 100th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake. It made me think, I should get out the pictures I shot the day after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. That day I went to Hollister and Watsonville and took pictures and made memories I will never forget. I was a photographer for the Manteca Bulletin. I have been through three big shakers. None like the quake of 100 years ago or he one that can strike at any moment.

Two restaurant reviews
These are on my opinion blog. Tony Soprano's revisited [Link] and Taco Del Mar [Link].

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Hope folks had a great weekend

Health issues
I am still struggling with poor health and have had to ration my time. Family and friends come first, work second. I hope to be back in the swing of things soon.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fun Family Easter

Madison and daddy Jeff

A great Easter with family and friends
We had a very fun Easter at Jeff and Nicole's. Despite the intermittent rain we had a nice barbecue and even an Easter Egg hunt. Quite a contrast to other years where I remember having Easter swim parties. No matter, every one seemed to be enjoying themselves, especially Madison. Kenneth was also there as was Sue's mom Fran and  Nicole's mom, Kathy, and Nicole's brother Brian and Gabby his wife. Brian Roadie was also there and some other friends of theirs.

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Bike club newsletter

The May edition of the bike club newsletter is done. This is the newsletter I put together each month for the Almaden Cycle Touring Club.

The final version is here. This is how it went to the printer [Link].

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rain on a Saturday

Jim and I at Gilroy Hotsprings

A week after the Tierra Bella
It is gloomy and raining again today, not like last Saturday. I am still feeling lousy, it will be two weeks on Monday. I really expected to be better by now. I have a weddding to shoot today. It is too late to back out now. Today is Tupper's 12th birthday. Today Diane and Owen Chauncy are leaving for North Carolina. I am rambling, I gotta start getting ready for the wedding.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Birdfeeder is Cat TV

Dove in bird feeder

The never ending cold
I am still sick, it has been about ten days now. I wonder if health will come before the sun does. The rain has been never ending. This picture was taken at our bird feeder the other day. The bird feeder is just on the other side of a cat tree we have in our family room. The cats sit on the cat tree and watch the birds. It is like cat TV. Occasionally Pixel will hurl himself at the window trying to get the birds. The birds have figured out the cats cannot get to them. For the most part the cats have too, but sometimes Pixel forgets. When I was home sick I did not read or watch TV much, so you gotta get your entertainment somehow.

Palo Alto Creamery Review
Last weekend Sue, her mom and Diane went to the Palo Alto Creamery in Stanford Shopping Center. They did not have a good experience. More about that is here [Link].

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Podcast Postscript

Podcasting on Tierra Bella

I am still recovering from doing the podcast yesterday [Link]. I have been sick for about a week. It has been very disappointing, I took two days of vacation last week with hopes of going to the Sea Otter Classic [Link] and covering that. The Sea Otter is one of my favorite events and Sue and I went last year and got some good shots [Blog Link.] I have been hating being sick and not being able to go. This year the Sea Otter and the Tierra Bella fell on the same weekend. I hoped to do both, but I barely did one. I totally lost my voice after the Tierra Bella. Today I am resting, no Sea Otter this year. At least the podcast rocked! I really enjoyed doing that. I did the podcast and did many more interviews while Jim Chaskin took pictures. We traveled as a reporter/photographer with me being the reporter. That was a lot of fun. I really like Jim, he is a very nice guy and a great conversationalist.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Podcast: Tierra Bella 2006

Tierra Bella Riders

Almaden Cycle Touring Club Podcast eleven - Recorded April 8th, The Tierra Bella, 2006.
To listen to a High Fidelity audio (20.5 MB) click here: MP3 File Here
To listen to a Small File Size audio (5.13 MB) click here: MP3 File Here
Experience the Tierra Bella 2006 in the words of the folks who rode and put on the event. This podcast goes to various locations on this the annual century ride put on by the Almaden Cycle Touring Club. It is great to hear the folks tell in the own words what a great ride this was and how much fun was had on this lovely April 8, 2006. ACTC Podcast eleven, 22:22 minutes.

As an added bonus you can hear my voice progressively fade away!

My Bicycle Club podcast:

Oh yea, it is also on iTunes!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Podcast: Mutton Master, Bicycle for Sheep Herders

Podcast ten - Recorded Mar 5, North American Handbuilt Bike Show, part IV. Session length 6.5 minutes, 6.3 MB
To listen to audio click here --> MP3 File Here

Special bicycles for sheep herders? In this, part four of a series of podcasts recorded at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show, in San Jose California on March 5, 2006 you will be invited into a conversation with John Norstag of Thursday Bicycles. Norstag is from Pocatello Idaho and makes a bicycle called the Mutton Master. This is a serious working bike with a built in welded on rack made for hard work. I hope you enjoy this Almaden Cycle Touring Club Podcast. ACTC Podcast ten, 6.5 minutes, 6.3 MB MP3 File.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A phone picture from Luci

Cazden and Sam

Recent Bike Club Podcast Shows

Podcast nine - Recorded Mar 5, North American Handbuilt Bike Show, part III. Session length 10:49 minutes, 9.9 MB
To listen to audio click here --> MP3 File Here

This is part three of a series of podcasts recorded at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show, in San Jose California on March 5, 2006. In this show we are having a conversation with San Luis Obispo custom titanium bicycle frame builder Jim Kish. Jim Kish is the owner of Kish Fabrication. He is also an instructor at the United Bicycle Institute where Jim has been teaching the art of titanium frame building to hundreds of students from around the world. I hope you enjoy this Almaden Cycle Touring Club Podcast. ACTC Podcast nine, 10:49 minutes, 9.9 MB MP3 File.

Podcast eight - Recorded Mar 5, North American Handbuilt Bike Show, part II. Session length 8.15 minutes, 1.9 MB
To listen to audio click here --> MP3 File Here

This is the second of a series of podcasts recorded at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show, in San Jose California on March 5, 2006. In this show we are having a conversation with local San Jose steel bicycle frame builder Dale Saso and Texan Custom Carbon Fiber Composite Bicycle frame builder Nick Crumpton. Though Crumpton also builds with steel, the conversation focuses on carbon fiber as a frame material choice for building for all kinds of riders. I hope you enjoy this Almaden Cycle Touring Club Podcast. There are more shows coming. Podcast eight, 8.15 minutes, 1.9 MB MP3 File.

Podcast seven - Recorded Mar 5, North American Handbuilt Bike Show, part I. Session length 15.42 minutes, 3.6 MB
To listen to audio click here --> MP3 File Here

This is the first of a series of podcasts recorded at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show, in San Jose California on March 5, 2006. In this show Richard Schwinn of Waterford Precision Cycles and Hector Chavez of Winning Wheels Bike Shop on the Monterey Peninsula are interviewed for the Almaden Cycle Touring Club podcast. Podcast seven, 15.42 minutes, 3.6 MB MP3 File.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Grand kids grand day

Yesterday was Cazden's birthday
Yesterday Cazden turned six. He is a great kid and I am sorry we missed the event. Hopefully we will get some pictures to post.

Madison Sloan

Madison update
Also yesterday we watched Madison last night when Jeff and Nicole went out. That was just too much fun. She is a sweet kid and her vocabulary is just growing like crazy. She loves to have her picture taken almost as much as gramps likes to take it.

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