October 23, 2007

Logical progressions don't always seem so logical

CARMICHAEL, Calif. USA - The move to Mexico in seven weeks away and suddenly all the dominoes are falling: What do we take with us? Are we going to build a house? When will be actually start packing?

The questions didn't get answered over the weekend, but after wrestling with these three conundrums, we bought a travel trailer.

A travel trailer?

Yes, a towable land yacht (sort of) that is big enough for us to carry all of the things we wanted to take to Mexico with us as well as provide a ready-to-use beach house while we ponder the real house we want to build.

A travel trailer?

For two months I scoured the want ads for a utility trailer to haul kayaks, a rowing/sailing dinghy, household stuff, computers & electronics and, of course, clothes. (Clothes aren't that big a deal, given the climate.)

But every cargo-only trailer I looked at was either several thousand dollars - or so beat I would not drive it across town, let alone 1700 miles to La Manzanilla.

I was about to simply drive the Trooper south with whatever we could cram in when we saw a new-to-the-market small travel trailer, manufactured by Thor Industries, that we realized could double as a cargo trailer and temporary beach house. They are light, well thought out (like a boat) and easily towed. But the downside is they are also very expensive - as in the $20,000 range.

That's way beyond what I would pay for an aluminum box to sit on beach, 12 feet above sea level.

But a concept was born - buy a travel trailer.

A travel trailer.

And no, we didn't pay a fortune for our 1996 Aerolite (in the video below). Admiral Fox always gets a great deal and did so on this unit... Of course, now I need to head down to Camper World for all those accessories and then there is the issue of a Honda generator, and, oh, how about one of those outside awnings and....

October 20, 2007

A trip to downtown Napa takes us to memory lane, too

NAPA, Calif. USA - Our friends Mary Jo and Peter - of Healdsburg, Calif, Cape Cod, Mass, & Costa Rica - met us in downtown Napa at Joe's Restaurant on the river for a lunch & catch-up on everybody's lives session Saturday.

I haven't been to Napa in probably 25 years, though it was at the Napa Register newspaper that I got my start in journalism. A good portion of the war stories I tell in class have to do with that newspaper, the wildman editor I worked for (John Shields) and what it was like to be 25 and know absolutely nothing about the business. (I graduated with a degree in English, but got an advanced education in what a reporter needed to know - in about two weeks from Shields.)

Napa Register building
Napa Register - still in the same downtown building..

Mary Jo & Peter are packing their bags right now to head to Cape Cod to spend the winter. Yes, the winter. On Cape Cod. Yes, the same Cape Cod where thousands of tourists flock every summer to vacation.

Every summer.

It seems that Mary Jo & Peter have never spent a winter in the Northeast and decided it would be, well, fun.

We'll check in with them in February, when they haven't seen the sun for, oh, maybe a month, to see how the fun is going.

They still own several hundred acres of land in Costa Rica where at one time we thought we would sail Sabbatical and anchor off the beach. We even had plans of opening a sailing school right there near Domincal, until I read up that in order to import our boat into Costa Rica, we would have to pay a 100 percent duty on it. That's 100 percent of the value of the boat. Ouch.

That plan got scuttled but Mary Jo & Peter did build a nice house that they barely visit, Costa Rica being waaaaay far away from the U.S. by any mode of travel.

They were intrigued with the tale of our traveling hot tub, however and also viewed a lot of our Mexico photos. Peter has built houses on the beaches of Sanibel Island and had some advice on how deep to plant the pilings for our house - eight feet below the sand and eight feet above.

The entire Napa riverfront is being redeveloped with a riverwalk planned and large retaining walls in place to fight the flooding that hits nearly every winter. The restaurant where we ate was a first-class pub and crowded even late in the afternoon when we departed, full of amber ale and cheeseburgers.

Napa River view from Joe's
Napa River view from Joe's upstairs deck

October 15, 2007

Friends drop by and check out the new Flip Video

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Our friends Dan & Lorraine Olsen dropped by this afternoon to say adios on their way south to hook back up with their sailboat, docked in Mazatlan, a pleasant place Sabbatical stayed several times - once for an entire summer.

We talked about travel plans - they are headed south on their boat, possibly as far as Ecuador this year.

We, of course, are headed not quite that far south - just La Manzanilla by Chrismas, where the Olsens say they might be if things work out.

In boating jargon, 'if things works out' really means, We Have No Freakin' Idea, But Would Like To.

But we showed them out latest video toy and insisted that they pick a up Flip video unit for their next travels.

And here they are:

October 14, 2007

Getting Sabbatical ready for the South Pacific

ALAMEDA, Calif., USA - So many things to do and so little time. But that's hardly something that's unique to the Admiral and I.

Still, we need lists to tell us which lists we need to refer to to do what projects and when.

Make any sense? If it does, please explain it to me.

Saturday was turned over to getting down to Sabbatical to give new owner/former owner Don Tiffin another helping hand as he readies the ship for departure to the South Pacific - his eventual goal. Don keeps his actual cruising plans tightly under wraps but it's clear he will likely get back to Australia sometime, where his other boat (up for sale) sits on a buoy.

Saturday's activities showed that the boat is closing in on being ready - we have gotten to the point of readying the wood and steel for the voyage. Both need to be protected from the salt water which is sooooo corrosive.

But I was pleased to see that the engine room - which I help dismantle a few weeks ago - seems back together enough so the boat can move if need be.

Here's a short video from yesterday:

Last night, after stretching our muscles and crimping our butts (almost four hours in the car to drive down and drive back) we had a great dinner with former Sabbatical Chief Engineer Scott Noble and his wife, soon-to-be Counselor Jennifer.

We talked Mexico and Scott's plans for adding a marine division to his carpet cleaning company... And, of course, I shot a few seconds of video of Scott.

'NobleCarpetCleaners.Com' anyone?

October 13, 2007

Launching more songs on the ukulele

LAND PARK, SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The addition of a new set of Bose earphones has opened up hearing songs sooooo much better than with the earphones that came with my Ipod, which are hooked into the computer while I work - or write blogs.

Bose earphones
A late birthday present

And what they have also done is let me hear songs a much more clearly to see if they are possibilities for the ukulele.

Since discovering the Circle of 5ths, I have been busy transposing songs so my fingers can wrap around the adjusted chords.

Get ready for some Sonny & Cher songs, lots of Garth Brooks, one Allan Jackson song, but no Barry Manilow, yet. (Thank God, you are thinking. I know.)

But in keeping with my most likely musical performances - heavy on comedy, a little short on real music - I ran across a neat ditty by rock legend Chuck Berry that I have added to my repertoire.

Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry

Nope, it's not Maybelline, though that's a possibility.

It My Ding-A-Ling, a three-chord song that has, well, pretty funny lyrics.

The chording part is easy, remembering the lyrics is a lot harder.

But the fun part about the song is that when sung in public, it seems like audiences love to sing the chorus.

Here's a short version, in case you want to practice:

My Ding-A-Ling-A-Ling

When I was a little biddy boy
My grandma bought me a cute little toy
Two Silver bells on a string
She told me it was my ding-a-ling-a-ling

My Ding-A-Ling My Ding-A-Ling won't you play with My Ding-A-Ling
My Ding-A-Ling My Ding-A-Ling won't you play with My Ding-A-Ling

When I was little boy In Grammar school
Always went by the very best rule
But Evertime the bell would ring
You'd catch me playing with my ding-a-ling

Once while climbing the garden wall,
Slipped and fell had a very bad fall
I fell so hard I heard birds sing,
But I held on to My ding-a-ling

Once while swimming cross turtle creek
Man them snappers right at my feet
Sure was hard swimming cross that thing
with both hands holding my dingaling

Now this here song it ain't so bad
Prettiest little song that you ever had
And those of you who will not sing
must be playing with your on Ding-a-ling

October 8, 2007

If this video posting works, we have a winner for sure

SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - A student intern at the California Newspaper Publisher's Association - who is actually pretty shy so I won't post here name here (yet) figured out the error of my ways in trying to post videos from the new Flip videocam to this blog.

If the silly one below works, well, we'll keep the camera - and the one supposed to arrive in tomorrow's mail!

Cross those fingers, por favor.

Yet another test of movie uploads

October 7, 2007

One video post and already we are starting to FLIP

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The video added to yesterday's blog triggered a certain receptiveness to the new technology that ended with not one, but two new video cameras in the media arsenal of Captain's Blog and From Where I Sit - not to mention Writing for Money, the Class of '66 and the Tenacatita Bay Bugle.

But I digress.

After viewing the video of both granddaughters posted Saturday and pondering how I could use video more, we wandered into Costco this morning on our weekly food run and there it was: A Flip video camera, a small camera that is as simple as anything I have seen on the market, small and easy to use - and very inexpensive, too.

Flip video
Flip video camera

Naturally, we bought one and after playing with the unit for about an hour at home, we decided that we needed to upgrade one notch to the next version.

Flip ultra
Flip Ultra - more bells & whistles

The software is in this $109 camera (Costco's price). It normally retails for $119. The upgraded version - already in the mail on its way to our house, I believe - is about another $50 but has just enough additional memory and features to make it worth having.

So, what-the-hell? Video?

Since making the decision to move to Mexico for part of every year, I have been in search of the lightest gear possible: lightest computer, lightest camera, lightest video gear, lightest bag to carry all of the aforementioned - and light clothes, of course.

I know that while we are planning on building a beach house, the same wanderlust that kept us pulling up anchor will have us crashing all over rural Mexico in our Isuzu Trooper, exploring riverbeds and climbing the occasional mountain.

I'm still in search of a lighter computer, but this new Flip camera might be the ticket for both video and stills, just the thing for a Backpack Journalist exploring Mexico. More on that concept another time.

Here's the link to the Flip camera site:
  • Flip cameras

  • And here's a short clip taken with the camera we bought this morning which is unedited - if it works at all - because there seems to be a snafu in the software!

    Was the camera too good to be true?


    Que lastima!

    So, after many attempts at getting the blogsite to run the video, I have given up (as of 6:10 p.m. Sunday...)

    But you can see the first Flip attempt here on YouTube

  • YouTube debut with Flip camera
  • October 6, 2007

    At the soccer field with TWO granddaughters

    GOLD RIVER, Sacramento, Calif. USA - The Admiral and I were a little late (ok, it was halftime) for Samantha Rose Allen's soccer match today, but it was a gorgeous fall day and a great family day at that.

    Samantha's baby sister - Kamryn Lynn Allen - was there, too, while mom Anne tried to watch the game and the baby, too.

    Kamryn was a month-old Friday and already is holding her head up and showing signs of being a strong little critter. Yes, thank you very much, I am a proud granddad.

    We took both cameras to collect some video and stills of this newest addition to the clan and also to see if I can make the video function of this blog work. If I can, it should appear right below this...

    In case the video doesn't work as planned, we did shoot about 40 photos of Kamryn and Samantha, though Samantha is such a dervish that getting her to stand still long enough to get a good photo is almost impossible.

    Still, I caught her from a distance in these two shots.

    Sami - finally not running

    Sami with soccer ball
    Practicing a little volleyball

    And you have been waiting for these two shots: the proud grandparents:

    Kamryn with Michael
    Michael clutching Kamryn

    Kamryn on shoulder II
    On Sylvia's shoulder

    October 5, 2007

    Will the Puffin make a return to the Admiral's fleet?

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., USA - As preparations for Mexico get more serious by the day, the debate has shifted to considering buying a trailerable sailboat and loading it with all of the stuff that won't fit in Troupey (our Isuzu Trooper) for the trip down.

    Originally, the idea was to buy an enclosed cargo trailer (still a possibility) but a prospect that is equally enticing would be to haul a small sailboat on a trailer - such as a Laser - and load that trailer with our kayaks, small rowboat and other equipment for the trip down. We don't really need a cargo trailer in Mexico, but a sailboat is another matter.

    But what sailboat and what trailer?

    We have a line on a nice Laser (a very fast, very light boat) and several other slightly larger, heavier units, too. But none are exactly what I am looking for, so every day I spend a few minutes on Craigslist looking for boats.
  • Craigslist

  • And then late last night, I found the Puffin.

    puffin 1
    The Puffin at the dock

    The Puffin was son Dustin Fox's boat about 10 years ago - a neat little 17-foot British Leisurecraft that is as good a sailboat as any sailor could ever want. It's twin-keel system makes it soooo stable that it was as comfortable as our former 40-foot sailboat on San Francisco Bay.

    The Puffin was sold when Dustin went on to other interests but the boat always stuck in my memory, largely because it was such a good sailboat and also because maintaining 17 feet, versus 40 feet (or 48 feet in the case of the recently sold Sabbatical) is a relative breeze.

    And now the boat is back up for sale, having been through two owners and the Sea Scouts. The current owner bought it from the Sea Scouts and is ready to part with the ship. The downside is that the boat has no trailer and no outboard any longer.

    Still, what could a flatbed trailer cost? What could an outboard cost? What price can you put on having a great daysailer in the warm waters of Mexico?

    It might be worth it to have the Puffin scooting around Tenacatita Bay and perhaps up in Banderas Bay, too, where Dustin now lives.

    puffin 3
    Puffin's interior - sleeps two, or three really good friends

    puffin 4
    Puffin's cockpit

    October 2, 2007

    There's hope on the horizon for the ukulele yet

    LAND PARK, Sacramento, Calif. USA - Today ukulele lesson introduced the piece of the puzzle that might finally let me make the last leap to playing some of the songs I want to - in a key that I can actually wrap my cranky fingers around.

    My uke teacher, who also is helping Adm. Fox with the violin, showed me something called the Circle of Fifths. (No, it has nothing to do with bottles of either Grey Goose Vodka or Jim Beam, though both are sometimes useful musical accessories when singing.)

    This circle is a representation of musical notes and makes it easy (easy being a relative term) to shift all the chords in a song. In my case, in my struggles with Two Pina Coladas, it makes it possible to avoid the use of a B-flat note, which my fingers just do not like and, in fact, refuse to play.

    With the shift of a few notes, however, that B-flat magically is now an F - a chord I can hit without even looking at the strings.

    Watch out Garth, I'm movin' up.

    Circle of Fifths diagram

    Now I have to go back and look at the other songs I've been avoiding on the uke, most of them with a D chord, which I have found impossible to play.

    It could be that House of the Rising Sun guitar/ukulele throwdown in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico might happen this year after all.

    In the meantime, consider practicing these lyrics so you can sing along:

    Two Pina Coladas
    By Garth Brooks

    I was feelin’ the blues
    I was watching the news
    When this fella came on the TV

    He said I’m tellin’ you
    That science has proven
    That heartaches are healed by the sea

    That got me goin’
    Without even knowin’
    I packed right up and drove down

    Now I’m on a roll
    And I swear to my soul
    Tonight I’m gonna paint this town


    So bring me two pina coladas
    One for each hand
    Let’s set sail with Captin Morgan
    And never leave dry land

    Troubles I forgot ‘em
    I buried ‘em in the sand
    So bring me two pina coladas
    She said good-bye to her good timin’ man

    Oh now I’ve gotta say
    That the wind and the waves
    And the moon winkin’ down at me

    Eases my mind
    By leavin’ behind
    The heartaches that love often brings

    Now I’ve got a smile
    That goes on for miles
    With no inclination to roam

    I’ve gotta say
    That I think I’ve gotta stay
    ‘Cause this is feelin’ more and more like home


    So bring me two pina coladas
    One for each hand
    Let’s set sail with Captin Morgan
    And never leave dry land

    Troubles I forgot ‘em
    I buried ‘em in the sand
    So bring me two pina coladas
    She said good-bye to her good timin’ man