October 31, 2008

Another hit on the website from our fans in Wasilla

WASILLA, Alaska, USA - I can't say for certain that the Palin family - or their fans - are logging onto the website, The Four Headlamps, but there was another Wasilla hit yesterday afternoon and the referral was from an email.

  • Four Headlamps website

  • It's likely that someone in Wasilla ran across the post and alerted one of the other 6,000 people in Wasilla that they were getting noticed for something other than being the hometown of Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

    Whoops, I mean vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

    Sarah Palin and family
    The Palin Family poses

    If it wasn't so damned cold up there most of the year, The Four Headlamps might consider going there to put on a little musical program.

    Little being the key word right now, but we'll do better in 2009.

    October 30, 2008

    Captain's Blog and Four Headlamps have a Wasilla connection

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - In my perusing of the site meters on the various websites where I post, I ran across that someone from Wasilla - yes that Wasilla - had taken a peek at the site, looking for, of all things, the lyrics to the song Chunder.

    Chunder, if you ever look at the website The Four Headlamps, you know is one of the songs that I think the group will be adding to its repertoire.

  • The Four Headlamps

  • Hmm... I might have mentioned that song here already, now that I think about it.

    It's doubtful that it was Sarah or Todd Palin who was looking at The Four Headlamps site. They seem to be pretty busy doing other things, bashing about the country right now. Still, considering how few people there are in Wasilla, there could be a Palin connection.

    Maybe the whole Palin clan will travel to La Manzanilla for an open mic night at Palapa Joes when we perform Chunder.

    They should have a lot of time on their hands after Nov. 4. And I'm sure the State of Alaska will not hesitate to pay for the governor and her family to fly south this winter on some kind of official business.

    Wasilla logs in to the Four Headlamps
    Sitemeter posting showing Wasilla

    October 26, 2008

    Not a World Series game, but plenty of action anyway

    ROCKLIN, Calif., USA - The Priority One text message came through at 8:30 a.m. this morning: The softball tournament was on for this morning, with granddaughter Samantha's team set to play at least one game, maybe three if they won the first two.

    Yikes. Put down the Sunday paper and grab the shoes.

    That news put a spin on things because we figured that the team was out of the running in the girl's softball tournament held in Rocklin's Lone Tree park, when we didn't hear Saturday night after the first round of games concluded. But as today was the last set of games of the entire season, we kicked into gear, packing cameras, sunscreen and roared up Interstate 80 to the ballpark.

    (The roaring part was a lot of fun. Gawd, I wish I had some lights and a siren on my pickup truck.)

    The 30-acre park is a sports nut's dreamscape with beautiful softball and baseball facilities, and a professional-style snack bar that was busy most of the day selling hot dogs, hamburgers and enough Coca-Cola to give the jitters to the entire population of Northern California. I had two Supersized Cokes (along with a cheeseburger and Doritos) and expect to see what kind of late night programming there is on Sundays. And maybe I'll check out the sunrise, too...

    Food for the hungry
    Snack bar menu

    We arrived mid-way through the first game, immediately scooping up our other granddaughter, Kami, who was toddling about on her 13-month-old legs with various girls from the softball team shepherding her so she wouldn't get into too much trouble while her mom (daughter Anne) attended to the team in the dugout, one eye on the field, the other on the ever-toddling Kami.

    Michael and Kami reading at the softball game
    The Captain and Kami read while the game goes on

    Grandma and Kami on a stroll
    The Admiral on stroll patrol with Kami

    The games went fast - really fast - but unfortunately neither broke in favor of Samantha's team, coached by her dad, Steve. Samatha got several good hits, made several great plays (ok, I'm her grandfather, but damnit, they were good). The rest of her team played very well too, losing to girls teams, the members of which looked like they were an average of 30 pounds heavier.

    And most of that extra weight seemed to be muscle.

    Sami ready to run
    Samantha at third base, right before she scores a run

    Coach Steve Allen huddles
    Coach Steve huddles before the play

    Trish yells encouragement
    The pitcher's mom yells some encouragement

    It was a beautiful warm day, maybe our last warm weekend of the summer as the forecasters are now calling for a chance of rain, falling temperatures and really cold weather in the mountains by the end of this coming week.

    That might put a crimp in our plans to take the Grey Goose Express II to the mountains next weekend for a trial run. Perhaps a lowland expedition will be a better choice.

    In the meantime, I have several huge files of video taken today at the game to go through. But below is a sample, the first segment of which shows Samantha getting a single.

    October 25, 2008

    Dreaming again of La Manzanilla and Arroyo Seco

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The days are getting short, daylight-wise, and also short until we load up the Grey Goose Express II and head south to Mexico again for another season of, well, I don't want to bore you.

    Ok, I'll bore: swimming, surfing, boating, hiking, eating great food, drinking cervezas and margaritas, playing music, dancing, writing and, and, and...

    It is extremely hard to grade student term papers these days - or prepare lectures for my four classes - when what I really want to do is practice the ukulele, draw plans for developing the Arroyo Seco lots and develop my new website, called The Backpack Journalist.

    That website isn't ready for prime time. But if you are reading this, you will be the first to know when it is.

    But when I was looking around at some Mexico photos, I found this one, taken by someone in the last year or so in La Manzanilla.

    Fool pulling tail of crocodile in La Manzanilla
    Pulling the tail of the croc

    What the gentlemen with the double-digit IQ doesn't know, is that the crocodile can turn around faster than he can stand up - and can also run faster than he can for probably 30 or 40 yards.

    Plenty of time to make the double-digit IQ tourist into a snack. Ok, maybe a full meal. I don't know how much a full-grown croc eats, but I bet the croc in this photo would be willing to share with the hundreds of other crocs in the lagoon.

    I understand that the croc lagoon overflowed out into the bay in front of La Manzanilla quite dramatically this summer with the heavy rainfalls, possibly sending more than a few lagoon residents - like the one with the tail above - out for a swim into the ocean.

    Anyone ready to go surfing?

    October 24, 2008

    Grey Goose II rolls off the lot and goes to - storage?

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA- The Grey Goose Express II left the RV Max sales lot this morning shortly before noon after we had received a thorough briefing on all systems by Mike the mechanical guy, not to be confused with Mike the owner guy who sold us the unit last Sunday.

    And with Mike the owner guy, we had a nice conversation again about his business and how he would really like to open a branch in Mexico.

    He said it would be damned good excuse to visit the warm climate in December and January when it is cold, even in Sacramento.

    We motored out gingerly with a special hitch made to distribute the weight evenly, but even at that, we knew we were towing a huge package behind us. A new electric brake system took most of the terror out of it.

    But still...

    After a short tool around the city, we went to the Costco in Rancho Cordova (close to daughter Anne's house) and parked out on the outskirts (so we could turn around and leave). We loaded up on a few items and then had a nice lunch - with the slider popped out.

    Costco run for trailer
    Basket of goodies for the Grey Goose II

    Truck and Grey Goose II at Costco
    Grey Goose II parked - with the slider popped out

    After lunch, we checked out the napping spots (many) and the Goose II passed that test without any problems.

    And it passed the maneuverability test, too, when we motored to Allstar Storage where we had rented a slot that was about 18 inches wider on each side than the Grey Goose II. After several attempts - and several pleas to various deities of Christian and non-Christian origins - the Grey Goose II slid into place nicely.

    However, if the trailer didn't have a back door, we would not have any access without moving it.


    Tomorrow the Admiral and I will start preliminary packing for our departure to Mexico with a tentative first cruise next weekend to see if all the systems work as advertised by Mike the mechanical guy.

    The best thing is, if they don't work, both Mike & Mike said to bring the Grey Goose Express II back for fixups. It's all part of their service.

    Is this a great country or what?

    October 23, 2008

    A neighborhood house bites the dust, with a lot of dust

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Between grading papers and dreaming of Mexico, the Admiral and I try to get plenty of exercise by walking, riding our bikes and heading to the Capital Athletic Club where the Admiral and I go almost every day for swimming and to work on the machines.

    (OK. I don't go on the machines at all, but I do try to get in a quarter-mile of thrashing through the water. And, no, I missed today, but...)

    In my walk this afternoon (to make up for skipping my swim), I ran across a house (506 S Street) a block away that was being torn down, a 100-plus year old casa that had been taken over by some local homeless people. For California, the demolition guys were pretty casual with only a couple of sawhorses out front warning people from getting too close.

    Neighbors parley about demolition
    Neighbors chat with demolition man

    Across the street, two city building inspectors talked about what a wreck the house had been and, for a moment, wondered aloud if they had made sure the natural gas line to the place was turned off. (Uh-oh!)

    When I heard that, I moved back a few feet.

    The house could not be rehabilitated, they said, it's foundation was virtually none existent and dry-rot filled the beams and walls downstairs.

    Putting water on the house
    Worker sprays water to hold down the dust

    Jaws munch the house
    Jaws take a bite out of the house

    The demolition drew quite a few sidewalk superintendents - me included, of course - who hung around for nearly an hour, waiting for the big bang and crash when the last of the place hit the ground. The company was very careful as it worked - the derelict house was less than 10 feet from an apartment house on its west side.

    But we were not disappointed in the finale.

    Here's a short video the event.

    October 19, 2008

    It's official - the Grey Goose Express II is set for Mexico

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Timing is everything.

    A week ago today, we were steered by several people towards a used RV lot here in Sacramento called RV Max , but it was late on a Sunday and so we decided we would wait until we had exhausted all the private-party sales of trailers we found through Craigslist.

    And we found plenty of those. And by late yesterday afternoon, we were exhausted.

    We found light trailers, heavy trailers, little trailers, big trailers, cheap trailers, expensive trailers - even wrecked trailers with dubious titles.

    But today we decided to swing by RV Max and talk to owner Mike. Yup, Mike, who came highly recommended by everyone in the business. Mike had a unit for sale we thought might work. We had seen it on Craigslist, of course.

    Admiral with Grey Goose Express II
    Admiral in front of Grey Goose Express II

    When we arrived, we were sad at first to see that the unit we came to look at - a 30-foot behemoth that weighed at least 8,000 pounds - had been sold already. It didn't matter much, because the trailer was at least 2,000 pounds over anything we should consider towing with our Toyota Tundra. And after last year's narrow escape of problems with the Isuzu Trooper, I wanted a relatively light trailer. No more cooking transmissions, if I could help it.

    But on our way onto the lot, we walked past a unit that had just arrived the afternoon before from the trailer auction, where owner Mike had found it and thought it would make a good addition to his lot.

    Just arrived! The afternoon before!

    We did a quick walkthru, talked with Mike, and within 15 minutes had:

    • Bought a 26-foot trailer at a bargain price, including a special hitch and a guarantee
    • Made a friend in RV Max-owner Mike, who is dying to come to Mexico
    • Found a Spanish tutor for me, one of people who works for Mike at the lot

    Here's what the trailer looks like on the inside:

    Grey Goose couch with the admiral
    Admiral by the couch and front door

    Grey Goose galley
    Galley and refrigerator at right

    Grey Goose dinette slideout
    Dinette slideout

    The slideout makes all the difference in the trailer, pushing out the living room, dining room, galley area about three feet to make the place seem like, well, a home, not a skinny tube of aluminum.

    And speaking of aluminum, the unit is constructed largely of aluminum and weighs only slightly over 4,000 pounds, well within range of the Tundra's pulling (and more important, stopping) abilities.

    A few hours after making our find, we signed a short-term contract for a parking spot about a mile from the university so we can begin stocking the Grey Goose Express II (known at Goose II for short) for our sojourn to Mexico and Arroyo Seco. Now that we have two travel trailers (the original Grey Goose Express and this unit) we have to decide if one of them should be posted on one of the beach lots, or if both should reside in downtown Arroyo Seco.

    Decisions, decisions. Where to put the trailer? And how much Grey Goose vodka to carry for the trip.

    New Home for Grey Goose II
    Parking place for Grey Goose II

    October 15, 2008

    The hunt continues for the next Grey Goose Express

    ANDERSON, Calif., USA - The search has been going on feverishly for the past week for a successor to last year's Grey Goose Express. No Grey Goose vodka has been imbibed yet to aid the quest. But perhaps that's why the search is taking soooo long.

    The original Grey Goose Express is safely in Arroyo Seco, but Grey Goose Express II will make a nice addition, when we find it. The Admiral and I have scoured Craigslist and several travel trailer lots in search of a used unit - an experience slightly better than going onto a used car lot. Slightly better. Make that very slightly better.

    But our efforts are paying off as we have discovered that there are a variety of relatively lightweight travel trailers available - and affordable - so that we are less likely to overheat our transmission heading south.

    Yes, we did overheat a little last year in the Trooper pulling the Aerolite 25 (AKA, the Grey Goose Express) on the 2000-mile trip. At one point during that drive, I almost melted a plastic coffee cup which was sitting on the transmission in the center of the car.

    But that's history.

    To the north of Sacramento, in a tiny hamlet called Anderson, we have located a 22-foot Tahoe Lite trailer, a trailer that might be as much as 1,000 pounds lighter than the original Grey Goose.

    Tahoe Lite trailer
    Outside of Tahoe Lite trailer
    Tahoe Lite bed
    Walkaround bed
    Tahoe Lite galley
    The galley

    What makes this trailer also special is that the bed is easily accessed from both sides of the trailer. After six years of Sabbatical's narrow bunk in the aft cabin of the sailboat - and last year's single-entry bed on the original Grey Goose Express - the order from the Admiral was unequivocal - the bed in the new trailer had to be a 'walkaround.'

    In fact, when I have been using Google to search, I only ask for 'walkaround' and 'lite.'

    The semester has been rolling like a freight train on icy tracks with midterms starting and already the countdown calendar is starting to get jammed up with things that need to be done. (Like grade the stack of papers sitting on my desk.)

    At the same time, all of my classes have reached that point of equilibrium - the students are tired, I'm tired and so we compare notes on fatigue, in addition to lectures and course materials.

    Monday night my Literary Journalism class got an infusion of international energy however, when friends of one of the students - who are visiting from Germany - came to class. Both young women contributed their opinions very well. And after class, insisted on having their photo taken with me.

    It's not exactly like being a rock star, but I can pretend.

    And yes, I do teach wearing shorts.

    Michael, Steffi and guests
    The Captain at work at the university

    October 4, 2008

    A stomping good time up in the California mountains

    MURPHYS, Calif., USA - Adm. Fox and I took a sojourn to Camp Connell over the weekend to visit with Sanders and Pat Lamont (the other two members of The Four Headlamps) as well as amigos Randy and Karin who live at the high altitudes near Sanders and Pat part of the year, but who have bought land in Arroyo Seco close to our property for the winter months.

    Randy and Karen
    Randy and Karen in Arroyo Seco last winter

    The weather Friday was perfect for being outdoors, slightly overcast and not-too-hot, which let us take a hike around a nearby park that has some magnificent sequoia trees and enough trails to keep you walking for weeks.

    We opted for a two-mile walk, followed by a lunch at the Snoeshoe Brewery (excellent pale ale and hamburgers) and, well, some quiet time after the hike and the food.

    Although I had my ukulele, the chords and the lyrics along for the band to practice "Chunder," we were too busy to get out the instruments.

    But Saturday morning we zipped down the mountain from Camp Connell to Murphys where Sanders and Pat's granddaughter Delaney and her dad, Brian, were competing in the Grape Stomp, the fifteenth such event in as many years. The grape stomp is just a small part of a day-long celebration for which the town closes the main street and sells food, beer, wine and enough jewelry to outfit a chain of jewelry stores.

    Some heavy rains probably kept some of the more lightweight tourists from attending. But we watched Delaney and Brian stomp their way to second place in their heat. Not bad when the stomper is 11 years old and with about a size-6 foot.

    Here's a video of the action.