Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Big Blue 'Yak

I have been wanting to get out on the water for years.

For a brief time I had a boat I was trying to restore:

That's a half-truth - I had two of them!

And honestly, if I had room at our new downsized house, I would have brought another one home by now. But they got swept away in the great depression, and that is how life goes sometimes.

Meanwhile, we've had a rubber raft for years which we have taken out to paddle around many times. It's fun, but it's not comfortable to use. It paddles hard and slow, but it has been fine. Still, I've had my eye on getting a nice kayak for a long time. Particularly a [particular brand that will remain unnamed] fishing kayak. They are supposed to be wide and stable, and really well designed. I've been keeping my eye on them for many years. So I was excited to actually find out the local kayak shop was having their free paddle weekend at the lake (I usually find out about it after it's over!) On that Saturday morning I headed on down to Vancouver Lake bright and early to check it out.

Dave was at rehearsal, so I was on my own. Since I'm kind of shy, I just sort of walked up and down the beach, peeking at this and that and listening in on other people's convos. I found a guy at the end talking a lot about fishing, he was the Jackson Kayak rep. I'd never heard of Jackson. He went through his whole schpeal and was moving on to another couple who had question when I thought I'd pipe up and ask some questions about their big tandem fishing kayak. He happily set me up, handed me a paddle and launched me off on my own to try it out.

I was immediately amazed at how confident I felt in it. My last kayak experience, when we'd rented kayaks on Lake River a couple years ago, had been scary, the kayak felt wobbly, and the current was working against us, and I had a miserable time. But this kayak was stable, and smooth, and I was jammin along in no time, paddling around the lake all by myself. I was in love!

I got back to shore and asked him how much they were, and he said $1800, and I immediately gave up any hope of having one. Why do they have to be so expensive?! My last car cost that much!

I wandered on down the beach and watched some water rescue demonstrations and took a short 'How to paddle' class, and eventually wandered back to the beach and found they had brought out a couple [unnamed brand I'd been pining for for years]! After all this time I finally had a chance to try one out!!

I waited in line for my turn to try on the [unnamed brand] pedal kayak (you sit up high and sit back and pedal like a bike), and I wobbled out to the lake, steering by way of a rudder, and...I HATED it! All this time I'd been waiting to try an [unnamed brand], and it was just not my thing. I pedaled it back to shore quickly and was relieved to get off it without dumping myself in the water!

I meandered around a bit more, and found another brand of fishing kayak that looked interesting - Eddyline. The sit-on-tops looked sleek and stable, and had all the goodies, including what looked like comfortable seats (one of my biggest complaints about the raft was that discomfort always forced us to call it a day quicker than I wanted to). So I took one of those for a spin.

It was ok, I liked it fine, but I didn't feel super stable,. The guy manning the Eddyline booth was really helpful and directed me to another Eddyline sit-on-top to try out and I took it for a spin. It was better. I paddled it around a bit and considered if we were to get a kayak, would it be better to get a tandem (big and heavy), or two singles (lighter, but more expensive overall). Was it better to get a sit-on-top, or a sit-inside?

I brought it back in and went down to Jackson again. That Jackson Kilroy DT sure had paddled nice, and comfortable, and was adjustable to be tandem or single. It had a flat deck so you could even stand up in it. It was basically the Cadillac of fishing kayaks, and if you can only have one...

So I told Dave the bad news, and he said 'you know, if you really want one, you can afford it, just make sure we'll use it'! I did some research (I'd never heard of Jackson, and now that [unnamed brand] was off my list, I had some catching up to do). By mid-week I was down at Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak on my lunch break asking what they had in stock, how much was it, if I wanted one how long would it take to get it, and the end result was that by that weekend:

We were the proud owners of a beautiful Jackson Kilroy DT in the only color they had available - but it is actually the color I liked best anyway - black and blue! Since that bad boy weighs almost 100 lbs, I bit the bullet and went with the Thule Hullivator for the Flex. The Hullivator tips down along the side of the truck to load the kayak on, and then lifts back up into place with gas struts to help you lift it (though it is still VERY heavy), which makes loading the beast easier. What a pair, don't you think?

We took it to Horseshoe Lake in Woodland for our initial paddle.

Paddlin' and Fishin'! It's so comfortable!

And back at home, it sits neatly on top of the Mustang. It's 14ft long, which means it is as long as the Mustang!

We've taken it out three more times, each time to Lacamas Lake, which is much closer to home than Woodland (though I really like Horseshoe Lake, so I'm sure we'll be back there again). The first time there was a church group of paddlers there, and we paddled quite a ways down the lake with them, then stopped to fish for a while.

Another day we took it out and hung out on the end of the lake near the bridge to Round Lake, and watched other paddlers sneaking under the bridge. We'll wait for the water to go down a bit more before we try it!

Today we hung out on that end fishing for a bit, and then paddled over to the first pond full of water lillies, which had yellow blooms all over them. I fished there for a while, casting between the lilly pads and retrieving my lures, then my Rapala fish lure got stuck on a lilly pad! I told Dave 'paddle over there so I can get it back, do you know how much those things cost?!' so he paddled over there the whole time chiding me that all these lilly pads looked alike and there was no way I would find it. He paddled me over to where I said and there it was laying right on top of the leaf it had caught on :D Dave was amazed!

So that's my new toy - I finally got my boat! It's fun and comfortable and easy to paddle, and relaxing, and yet still good exercise. I'm really glad we finally took the plunge and got it. I think this is something we will be enjoying for a long time, taking on trips with our Airstream to try out new lakes farther from home, and generally exploring and fishing.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Peak Miata!

Mr Miata has finally reached 'peak Miata'. I had a vision of what I wanted him to be when I bought him, and over the past few years I have slowly achieved that goal - turning him into a modern rat rod for reliably bombing around town.

Most important to me was using stuff I would have used on a '90 Miata back in the day - the Racing Beat hardboot cover, the genuine Mazda tail, and +1 wheels - Cragar lacy wheels, no less!

Inside I've got handmade red vinyl door panels, a plastidipped center console and tombstone, and igge seatcovers. Oh yeah, and a pool ball shift knob! And a lighted rearview mirror salvaged out of a camaro convertible. I also gave it an upgraded set of door mirrors off a newer Miata.

Under the hardboot cover is a cloth soft top with a glass rear window. A big improvement from the torn top it came with when I bought it.

Most important is that almost all the parts I put on it, were scrounged up on craigslist or in junkyards, or trading with other Miata club members. Second-hand parts for my second-hand Miata! I've also done all the work on it, fixing little things as they came up, most recently replacing the alternator all by my little self. After someone stole my iPod and garage door opener out of it last summer I wired in a secret garage door opener button I soldered together myself and installed in the console.

It's a fun little ride, with 212k miles and still going strong, but it's been overshadowed lately by the Challenger, which is also a lot of fun to drive, and much more civilized. And as you can see in the garage, the Mustang is still waiting for me to get down to business and finish it up. So much to do. I'm tempted to sell the Miata before I spend any more money on it, but Dave says I would just go buy another one later. This is #4, after all.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Digital Artwork

I started out this year with a weekly photo project, but at about the same time I discovered, thanks to another photographer I follow, The Daily Texture. The Daily Texture is a site made by a lady named Jai in Tennessee, who paints beautiful backgrounds and then scans them in and sells them for use in creating other digital artworks. I hadn't really thought of doing anything like this before, in fact I was barely getting a grip on Photoshop layers and masking, when I decided to give it a go with one of her sample background sets.

I had taken this picture of Navi in the snow, and it was a nice picture of her (which is hard to get because she never sits still), but it had all that crap in the background. Just another nice snap, but certainly nothing I would put on the wall.

But, I masked away all that chain link fence and weeds, and applied a background, and found a snow texture to lay over the whole thing, and...

Wow! For my first try, in about ten minutes, I was pretty impressed!

So I ordered several of her background collections, and have since ordered a few more, in fact it's kind of addicting every time she comes out with a new set, I think of something I'd like to do with them. Her hand-painted backgrounds, combined with my photos, turns pictures that were ok, into something amazing.

So this lighthouse, which I thought was nice before:

Is suddenly a work of art which I think would look fabulous on a canvas hanging in anyone's house.

This is one of my favorites. I just entered The Lighthouse into a digital contest at  We shall see how it does!

And these sailboats put up for the winter, which I photographed on a trip to Port Angeles a couple years ago, which were interesting, but the photo was certainly nothing to write home about...

Every time I take a picture it's because something in the scene grabbed me. But maybe the light or the background, or the sky wasn't what I'd like, something isn't quite right straight out of the camera. This gives me a chance to fix it to be just the way I want it. And while mixing and matching layers, sometimes even I am surprised by the results I get.

The other secret to making these fun artworks is applying filters to give the original a more 'painted' look so it will mesh with the painted backgrounds. I do some work on them by hand as well, working with my Wacom tablet and pen to add highlights and get the light to come in the way I want it. I also bought Topaz Impressions, which is a very nice editing tool that I think does a much better job than photoshop filters, and it does it way easier for me. The amazing part of Topaz is that you get to watch it 'paint' the photo, and adjust brush size and shape, stroke size, amount of paint, etc, and then watch the program actually paint it (quickly) stroke by stroke. 

So with the help of a few tools and layers of artwork and textures, I can take something like this goat from the zoo:

And turn him into something I am proud to share.

That is my direction for this year. I am really enjoying doing these, I love saving old photos that were not really something I would share before, and I am enjoying taking photos knowing if the backgrounds or sky isn't right, I will still be able to make something with them. I am enjoying the actual work of creating these so much, I just get wrapped up in them, and when I'm not working on them I'll be thinking about the next one I want to do! As I do more of these I'm learning more and more techniques in Photoshop so I can see my skills improving. This is just a fabulous direction to go with my photography, and I'm so happy I discovered it, and so grateful to Jai at The Daily Texture for sharing her skills in so many tutorial videos to help get folks like me started in using her backgrounds. 


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Going to David Duchovny's Concert

(An excerpt from what I wrote to Heather about going to see David Duchovny's Hell or Highwater concert at the Aladdin in Portland.)

It was a beautiful blue sky/puffy cloud sunny day (I know, what the heck?) and so I was just in an awesome mood. I wore my Mulder t-shirt to work. Dave had a performance that night so I was taking my friend, Michele, who I finally talked into watching XF this year and she liked it, so she came along without even hearing any of his songs just because she liked him. She goes to a lot of concerts, and she happened to know that the concert venue, which is an old theater, has a little pub attached, and if you go to the pub before the show for dinner, you get in a short line to get in. So we did that, I left work at 4, picked her up, drove over to Portland, and got there just after 5, had a nice dinner, got our wristbands, and we got in the short line, and we were like behind six other people to get in first!! Brilliant! Usually I am in the long line, wondering how the special people got in the short line, but this time I was the one in the short line - ha ha ha!

We started chatting with the ladies behind us in line, and they were there for their friend's birthday 'girls night out', and their friend had gotten the $120 ticket to go in early and watch the sound check and get to meet him. Pretty soon she comes out and she's just bouncing up and down happy. "He hugged me!!!!" So everyone was like "OMG, what was he like?!" and she was just bubbling over "He was so nice and kind, he's so sweet!" And then I'm kicking myself for not going for the $120 ticket - lol!

Finally they open the doors and we stroll on in ahead of the crowd and I spot the perfect spot - 5 rows back, and on the outside aisle, but I can tell they are going to keep that aisle clear and all I have to do is watch over the heads of the crowd down front at the stage. Awesome seats. We considered going up and standing at the stage, but I don't care for getting into a bump & jostle crowd, I have a thing about crowds, and I don't think that would be fun for two hours. And we were literally about 25 ft away at our seats. I think this is the first concert I've been to where being short didn't result in me listening to the music while staring at people's backs the whole time (which is what happened at  Barenaked Ladies a few years ago - ugh).

I'm sorry for the crappy phone pics, cameras were not allowed, so I left mine home. Though getting a pic of him would have been the highlight of my photographic life :) This will have to do. They had an opening act that was really good, then after a pause to setup their equipment their band came out and then he comes bouncing out and the SOLD OUT crowd goes wild! I was so stinking happy to see him, like there he is - in real life, just a couple yards away. I was smiling like an idiot, and Michele elbows me and she's laughing and says 'I don't think I've EVER seen you so happy!' I mean, it was HIM, right THERE!

He does a couple songs, and then he moved over to the far right where I couldn't see him well, and took off his jacket, and I hear my friend say "Oh My God!" and I leaned over to see and said 'What?" and she says "Look at his arms!" Yeah, his arms are actually pretty magnificent.

He rolled through some songs from his album, and some songs that will be on the next album, and threw in a couple covers, one was a David Bowie song. He said some nice things about how this is a tough time for everyone but maybe it's good because people will learn who they are and what they really stand for. He played around with the audience by reaching down and touching the folks down front, pretending like he was going to crowd surf off the stage, and at one point hopped down into the crowd and worked his way back to the seats and climbed up on the seats and then worked his way back up on stage. He was trying to get everyone up dancing, and our section was sitting down, and he points right at us and says 'you guys sitting down, dance in your chairs, whatever makes you happy' - he was just totally engaging with the whole crowd!

After an hour or so they pretend they're done and all run off stage, the crowd goes wild screaming for an encore. After a short break they come back out and by now everyone is up on their feet, and he does his big song, which is Hell or Highwater, and maybe another one, I don't recall. Then they are done, say goodnight, and head off. Everyone cheers for a while, and then the lights come up and the back doors open up and it's over, so folks start filing out, then they come out AGAIN!

He comes out and says some more nice stuff about being kind and loving each other (the whole night just felt very full of love - everyone in the audience was a huge fan, everyone was totally mellow and being nice to each other, he was talking about loving each other, and brotherly love and stuff like that), and him (and the rest of the band) puts on pussy hats (you know those pink hats all the protesters have been wearing) and they do an awesome cover of The Weight (Take a Load off Fanny), and everyone is singing along - it was magical! It was just the greatest thing ever!

Then at one point he comes down into the audience again on the far side, works his way halfway back, starts coming over our way and it looks like he's going to loop right by us, but then gets blocked up and changes direction about ten feet away - I almost died with excitement for a second there! But I was too happy with the whole experience to be disappointed :)

I was so happy, I was still happy all day Saturday :) It took that long for the endorphins to wear off. It was the best concert experience I've ever had. Better than I possibly hoped for. It was just ridiculously awesome! Love love love love.