Monday, September 04, 2017

Eclipse 2017

The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 passed right through the heart of Oregon. As an amateur astronomer, I really wanted to see it. I had seen partial eclipses through the telescope, and lunar eclipses, but total solar eclipses are very rare. I heard last year that the Oregon Airstream club was planning something in Eastern Oregon, but at the time there was no way I could afford to sign up for that party, as I was still unemployed and Dave and I was struggling to keep it all rolling - I was starting up my Real Estate Photography business, and he was doing baggage delivery for airlines all night long. There was not any extra money for the big rally, and I heard it had filled up.

Fast forward to this May: I was gainfully employed again, and Dave had taken over the photography biz, and we were doing ok again, everything was getting caught up. I had to skip Trout Lake because I had done a terrible job of winterizing the trailer and the main water pipe broke, and camping without water is no bueno. But we drove out to Trout Lake for an evening to have dinner with our friends and catch up with everyone. While talking about our plans for this year, Jim Jordan mentioned that there were openings at the Eclipse rally, and I should look into it. We went home and discussed it. Dave might have a play during that time, and it was an expensive rally, so I decided to go by myself. I have never taken the trailer anywhere by myself, but I'm pretty confident I can do it. I drive nearly every trip, so I'm not really worried about it, so I signed up and paid my dues. Now I'm going to see an eclipse!

As we got closer to the eclipse Dave did not get a part in the play he thought he might be in, and as we heard more and more warnings about how many people would be travelling to Oregon to see the eclipse, we started to get worried. Authorities were warning people that grocery stores could run out of food, gas stations might run out of gas, cellphones might not work, and they expected traffic back-ups that would last for hours in 100 degree heat. Dave decided he should come along too. So we asked Scott and Sherry to watch the pups, and prepared for a crazy eclipse weekend.

I took that Friday off from work, and we drove out at about 11pm Thursday to avoid the traffic. People were already talking about crazy traffic in Madras, and that's where we were headed. Our campsite was in Pelton Park on Lake Simtustus, and we wouldn't be able to check in until noon on Friday, so we rolled into the Warm Springs Casino at 1am and parked it for the night. Dave went to play the slots for a bit while I went to sleep. The next morning he went to play a bit more while I hung out in a chair in the shade of the trailer, reading Travels with Charlie while answering questions from curious travelers about our Airstream. It was hot and a little smoky from a nearby brushfire.

Since we were heading for a lake we packed the Yak for the first time on an Airstream trip. I think they fit together just fine.

I was a little worried about heading for Eastern Oregon in August, with no AC, and no electricity to plug into to run it anyway. Turns out Pelton Park is actually a really nice park with lots of trees and shade. I loved our spot with a view of the lake. I wish we'd had one of those front-bedroom Airstreams with the table in the back - the pretty view was out our bathroom window!

Just a small assortment of the Airstreamers filling the overflow lot. I heard there was something like 130 Airstreams, some of which were at the neighboring park where we had the big tent setup (coming up).

The park also had a marina with boats to rent, tackle, a little grocery, and a diner. Very nice! We will have to come to this park again!

At the big tent at the Suntustus campground down the street, we had a mandatory meeting to discuss all the goings-on that were planned for the weekend, and security (they were worried about party-crashers trying to sneak in). Meanwhile the sky tried to distract us with one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever witnessed.

When we got there we immediately found friends, and discovered the Trout Lake contingent were all parked together at the other end of the park. I brought my fiddle and got some tips from Jim on stuff to work on so I could play along with everyone next time, and enjoyed sitting in and listening as everyone played under the streetlight behind Janet and Gary's trailer, since campfires were not allowed.

The next morning we took the kayak out fishing bright and early, and missed breakfast. It was totally worth it because..

I caught a fish!

I didn't know what it was, so I released it. Turned out it was a Northern Pikeminnow and they are invasive, and you're supposed to keep them if you catch them. Oh well. We also saw some deer up on the hills, and a black cow that was just hanging out by itself.

On the way back to the dock a sheriff's boat stopped us and said he could see we had PFDs, but did we have a noisemaking device. I said yes, we had a whistle. He said ok and said, but do you have an Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species permit? Well, no. He told us we needed to get one before we go out again, somewhere up the road at a fly shop. We didn't want to go out because of the warnings about traffic and craziness in town, so we packed up the kayak for the remainder of the trip.

That didn't put an end to all the fishing fun though, because they had a Fishing Derby planned for the next day. So I signed up and went out with David and Laura, who were both very experienced fishermen and kayakers, and also have a small farm so we had plenty to talk about! They were super nice and helpful and we trolled up and down the lake all morning.

The landscape along the lake is amazing! Very cool rock formations.

I've never seen rock formations quite like this. When you have a question about rocks in the NW, the answer is almost always 'Volcanoes'.

Got a picture with a little Pikeminnow I caught. I caught two of them, and one little Rainbow Trout, which I gave to David to cook up with the ones him and his wife caught.

That was a blast! Then there was a charity hotdog lunch to support local firefighters. While standing in line someone's beagle got away from them and was running around refusing to get caught. After I got my hotdog the pooch made a pass and I offered her a piece, but she only sniffed and kept running, so I handed it to her dad (he had camped with us at Trout Lake last year). But then she made another pass and I offered her another piece and she stopped to sniff it, then have a nibble. So I got down on the grass with her and set the hotdog down in front of me and she slowly snuck up on it, and didn't even notice when I gently took her collar. Her dad was grateful and the crowd clapped :)

While I was fishing Dave went to the Casino, then we both crashed the rest of the afternoon. What a great place to crash!

This might have been the night we had dinner and got a tour of the constellations from our friendly astronomer-in-residence Brian from Fresno. Or it might have been the night we got to see Antsy McClain do his stuff. He's awesome, what a treat!

Monday morning came, and it was time for the big event. The eclipse was going to happen at 10:21am, so we all gathered at the big tent for viewing, and then afterwards we would have brunch and have an astronaut come talk. It was a little smoky from nearby brush fires, but it looked like it was still going to be ok.

We found our friends and pulled up chairs to sit with them.

We tried out a box with a pinhole projection going on to see the eclipse as it progressed towards full, and checked out the telescopes, including Brian's fabulous funnel-projection setup on his 8" dob.

Big crowd for the main event!

Dave and I lookin' fab in our eclipse glasses!

And the big moment...


I didn't take any pictures of the eclipse! This was actually on purpose. If I had tried, I would have been fiddling with my camera. There are lots of people who did, who enjoy that, who were happy to spend their time that way, but I just wanted to spend the whole two minutes watching the eclipse, and I did. I watched the last of the sun disappear behind the moon, whipped off the eclipse glasses to see an inky black hole in the deep blue sky with white rays stretching out from it. A parachute opened near the sun as some daredevil jumped and enjoyed his eclipse from the air. Venus was visible. It was kind of like twilight, but not quite, and it was sunset all around. It was amazing. Absolutely jaw-dropping amazing. And then, less than 2 minutes later, it was over. The instant it was over, and the sun came out form behind the moon, it was immediately too bright to look at with the naked eye. So the difference between a 99.9% eclipse, and 100% eclipse is everything! It is a completely different experience.

Afterwards we had lunch, and the astronaut talked to us and answered questions, and then we helped clean up, folding chairs and stacking tables. There was no cell service there, so to get reception you had to drive up to the top of the hill, and you could also see the highway from there. After brunch we had gone up there and saw the highway was crawling with people heading back to town, so we went back to camp to relax. Back at the campground we crashed for a bit, then while Dave was napping I went to see what Janet was up to. I didn't find her, but I found Carolyn and Loren. I just started visiting with them, when Janet popped up and said Gail had rented a boat and there were two more spots! Carolyn didn't want to go, so I went for it. We had a pontoon boat! Gail drove us down to the other campground and then down the lake a ways. Gary was stretched out on the front deck, Jim had his mandolin out plunking away, everyone was chatting and telling stories, it was fantastic!

We hooked up the trailer and had everything ready to roll before sunset, and then relaxed, planning to pull out in the middle of the night again. That night all our friends pulled together everything we had left for a potluck. After that Dave went for a nap, and I hung out listening to music. About 10pm one of our neighbors came back and said he'd been up to cellphone-point and the highway looked normal again. I went and told Dave it was time to go. We rolled home with no issues, and no traffic, and got in about 1am.

I'm so glad we took the time and spent the money to spend the weekend camping with our Airstream friends and making new friends and really enjoyed ourselves. It was the best rally we've ever been to, and then there was an eclipse too! Also, a big thumbs up for Pelton Park, and the awesome folks who run the marina there. We will definitely come back.


The Mailbox

As you can see from this pic of the front yard pre-remodel, the mailbox was a plan black box on a little wrought iron arm. It was black that had oxidized to grey, and had some surface rust, and the post had some rust too. It was also super wobbly and the mount was all rusty. I thought I would use the long Labor Day weekend to do something fun with it.

Disassembly took some time. Dave helped me Dremel off the rusty screws on the mount just to get it into the garage. I cleared off the spider nests and bent the door back into shape. I removed the handle and flag, and scraped off the old numbers, cleaned it and sanded it until everything was fairly smooth. It has a few dents and some marks where it looks like it was shot with BB pellets, and I considered bondo-ing those away, but decided it adds character (I'm pretty sure this is the original mailbox), and the weekend is short and I'd like to have this back up for the mail-lady on Tuesday.

I put my first three coats of ivory on it, and then let it dry as the can indicated, and masked it off for the next color, but discovered the 4 hours they said it needed to dry wasn't an exact science. When I peeled off the masking, it took some of the ivory off with it, so I had to re-mask the blue and re-spray the ivory.

I left a border between blue and ivory on purpose for a silver accent stripe. I tried to apply it with a 'silver paint pen' but that did not work very well. I ended up trying to apply some spray silver I had by spraying it onto a plate and brushing it on with a foam brush I found.

I'm actually pretty happy with how it came out.

I also painted the post and the mounting pieces underneath and used all new hardware so it should be good for many more years to come. I still want to spray on one last gloss top coat, but I wanted to get it mounted in time for the mail tomorrow. I was going to spray it on the post, but there is ash currently raining down on us from fires in the Gorge, so I guess when that is over I will give it a finishing coat to protect it.

The next project will be trim and a cool mid-century paint treatment on the garage door. The Rancho is looking pretty snazzy out front. Next year we'll have to work on the back.


The Front Yard

The front yard at Rancho Relaxo was a bit of a jungle.

 The previous owner had planted a wall of photinias and spikey red bushes along the curb to keep the carny's across the street at bay. He had also sprinkled in a few fruit trees, and a pine tree, and a circulat rock planting bed which was all grown over in one corner. We had to cut back the limbs on the side where the neighbor's driveway was so it wouldn't brush his cars.

The front row had spilled out beyond the curb and onto the street, where Dave and I fought to cut them back so you could actually see the curb. They were a mess.

 Looking into the yard from the house, you could barely see a little japanese maple snuggled under the big dogwood. Really you couldn't see any of these just driving by.

It did do a good job of blocking the neighbors, but the bad neighbors left last year, and the new neighbors are nice folks with a nice neat house. Our yard was bringing down the neighborhood! So we invited a few landscapers over for estimates, and after considering doing it ourselves we decided we wanted it done right, so I handed over a sizable chunk of money, and the guys we picked did this:

We had them remove everything except the dogwood and the little maple (and a little bush that sits between them), trim them up and make a kidney-bean shape around them, and then put down new grass everywhere else. It is so nice! It took a couple weeks for the new grass to start growing from seed, and since it's summer we've had to water it like crazy, but it's looking good. We love the new view of the neighborhood and seeing our cute little house when we drive up instead of an unmanageable mess.


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.