August 28, 2009

Back in Sacramento after winning the US Airways luggage lottery

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Admiral Fox and I arrived back in Sacramento Wednesday night and won the luggage lottery, getting both of our checked 49.5 lb suitcases off our US Airways flight from Philadelphia.

While there was no movie on the plane, we were entertained for part of the 5-hour flight by a belligerent, middle-aged woman seated four rows ahead of us who was ticked off at the flight attendants (and life in general). She drank way too much and then - hold on tight - lit a cigarette while sitting in her window seat.

Yup, she puffed a couple of times before the flight attendants took away her lighter and smokes.

Perhaps more unbelievable, she simply walked off the plane and into the darkness in Sacramento. The betting on the plane was leaning heavily towards handcuffs and cops at the gate.

(NOTE TO THE ALMIGHTY: Please God, don't have that woman be a returning student who wants to study journalism at our university.)

CFA president, Lillian Taiz
CFA President Lillian Taiz

On our university campus Thursday, the talk was all about the 10 percent pay cut faculty and staff and are taking. University President Alex Gonzalez gave a speech in which he said times would be tough, but it was an 'opportunity to examine ways to operate more efficiently.'

Most faculty would like the pass on the opportunity, thank you very much.

The few students who attended the president's semester opening remarks - and whose fees have increased 32 percent this year - seemed pretty sanguine, perhaps more worried about the increases in book prices across the street at the bookstore.

Faculty heard a different story from California Faculty Association Lillian Taiz about how the furloughs were being implemented at all 23-campuses of the California State University and that there is a pressing need to let the public (and the students) know that these pay cuts will have consequences. Less pay, less work?


Grey Goose II with slideout, out
Grey Goose II, last December

But there was good news late in the afternoon from an unlikely source: the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

I had received a bill for nearly $2,000 for re-registering the Grey Goose II Express trailer, the unit sitting safely (I hope) under a ramada in Arroyo Seco under the watchful eye of my neighbors Chena and Chon. The actual registration was $1,100 with the balance representing late fees charged because my mail had not caught up with me in time to send the DMV a notice of 'non-operation.'

It turned out my letter to the DMV - pleading the case that the trailer was not in California and thus was beyond the reach of the DMV - had been received and the trailer is off the books. It shows the trailer as being out of state and not subject to any state fees. (Woo-hoo!)

And that's a good thing. When the trailer title was transferred last year, the DMV clerk who entered the data made a math error and said the $9,000 trailer is valued at $900,000, and in order to get that changed, the trailer needs to be inspected, in California.

I think we'll keep it right where it sits in Arroyo Seco, Jalisco, Mexico.

Unless, of course, someone reading this would like to buy a nice barely used trailer for, say, a bargain price of $875,000. I'll even deliver it.

August 16, 2009

A Peachy Dandy sailboat race ends with a towboat

HAZLITT BEACH, Hector, New York, USA - The 2009 Peachy Dandy Sailboat Race started with the sharp report of a starting gun and the Red Rocket sailboat second over the line, only to find (about an hour and a half later) that the wind had dropped to zero and the race, alas, was over.

But it was a grand race for the first hour or so, with the usual tacking duels. As crew, my sister-in-law Beth Crosby handled the jib and kept us on course, spotting the marker buoys. At the first mark we rounded the buoy soooooo close we nearly snagged its anchor with our centerboard, but in doing so pushed ahead of our main competitor and felt pretty smug, for a few minutes anyway.

It was my first race in the Red Rocket and the conditions (light wind) were good for the vessel, not so good for the heavier displacement boats in the race. Still, when the race committee (like retired prizefighter Roberto Duran) cried out, No Mas, No Mas, Beth and I were happy to head back to shore (under tow) where pitchers of blended Peachy Dandy cocktails waited.

jockeying at the start
Jockeying at the start

Red Rocket gets towed in
Red Rocket being towed in

Red Rocket crew shows off champagne
Red Rocket crew with champagne prize

The 2009 Peachy Dandy Race won't go down as a memorable one for sailing, but as a social event, it was over the top with great food, great drinks (what I remember anyway) music and fun meeting with Hector neighbors, some of whom we only see at the annual party, thrown by the Hazlitt family. And as an added nice touch, my cousin Kathleen McAvoy from Virginia - the first person I ever sailed with - was on hand on our pontoon boat with Adm. Fox, helping with emergencies - and towing during the race.

Our Canadian amiga Laura (who left earlier this week) has already put in her request to stay with us during Peachy Dandy time next year, both to crew and party, I suppose.

A tablefull of Schamels
A table of Schamels with friends

Peachy Dandy party on beach
Party in full swing on the beach

Today, dealing with the after effects of Peachy Dandiness, the lake was flat again, temperatures were up near 90 degrees and we declared another SLAD (Seneca Lake Appreciation Day).

So instead of staying home and rereading the back of the Bayer aspirin bottle, we headed out again for another day of boating adventure, meeting up with amigos all over the lake, including Barney and Marsha on their pontoon boat and Eric and Tina Hazlitt who were cleaning up the beach area from the party. And, of course, we took Arnold the Wonder Dog, who declined an invite to swim, but did allow people to pour cups of lake water on him.

We went to the middle of the lake, turned off the engine and swam in the lake water that is getting close to 80 degrees. Ok, maybe 75-80, but is was very refreshing and relatively warm - the warmest of the summer.

Sylvia talks to Arnold
Admiral Fox tries to convince Arnold to jump in

The good news is that the forecast for tomorrow is for another scorcher - probably in the mid 90s - and that we are planning another SLAD. The bad news is we went through the entire beer and ice supply today and need to go to the store in the morning.

We'll cope.

August 9, 2009

Watkins Glen turns out for a NASCAR night

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - It was NASCAR weekend in Watkins Glen and Friday night and the village closed down many of the side streets and filled the place with music.

And some of music was provided by our amigo Brad Phillips, owner of Arnold the Wonder Dog who has been staying with us on and off all summer. Brad's band, Ragged Sole, rocked the downtown area for more than three hours Friday night with a mix of music that had people out dancing.

Brad on the microphone
Brad shouts it out

Besides the music, there were NASCAR and food vendors everywhere and the state open-container law - the one that says you can't wander around with a beer in your hand - appeared to be suspended for downtown. I rarely saw a person without a Budweiser, Miller or Pabst cup in their hand. And the bars were serving people beer outside - a lot of people and a lot of beer.

Unfortunately, most of the customers also had a lit cigarette in their other mitt, which they puffed on mightily before tossing the butts on the ground. I think I inhaled more second-hand smoke in the hour or so we were downtown than I had in the last two weeks.

Horses of courses
Sylvia says hello to one of town horses

Sylvia and Laura check the wine line
Checking out some wines downtown

Adm. Fox and amiga Laura and I wandered the Watkins Glen streets for about an hour, then headed up the lake to the Stone Cat cafe for a late dinner/snack/glass of wine with amigos Eric and Tina Hazlitt. We talked about plans for Mexico travels, the upcoming Peachy Dandy sailboat race - and a vintage ski boat I have my eye on to add to our armada of vessels.

The ski boat is a Glaspar G-3, a boat manufactured in the early 1960s and a dream boat of mine ever since that time. A friend had one in the mid 60s with a 75 horsepower Evinrude on the transom that could almost catapult the boat out of the water when you floored it. Another had an 80 hp Mercury on his boat and could do more than 50 mph on flat water.

I found a used G-3 - with an old 60 hp Johnson outboard on the transom - for sale at a neighboring lake. If we were to buy it, the first modification would be to put Mercury outboard on it to replace the Johnson. Given the weight of a 1960, 60 hp Johnson, I could probably put a 2009 90 hp Mercury - and have less weight on the transom.

A 90 hp on that boat?


G-3 to buy
How fast will it go?

August 4, 2009

Cottage gets a facelift and the weather finally warms up

VALOIS, New York, USA - The arrival of our amiga Laura Warner from Calgary meant that Casa Fitz/Fox has had two energizer bunnies in residence for the past week or so, resulting in a long postponed project getting underway: painting the trim on the house.

The cottage has always been kind of Wal-Mart white all the years I have been coming here. And in past years, one side of the house at a time, I have continued with that tradition, slapping on a generous coat of white paint, sometimes capturing spiders and other insects into the patina of the house.

Archeologists will probably thank me for preserving the bugs for study.

Sylvia and Laura paint front of cottage
Laura and Sylvia painting the blue trim

The effect is dramatic when added to the new open view out the front. With the cutting down of some huge trees that shaded the house (and kept a nice crop of moss growing on the roof), the front of the house is now the focus.

I don't know if the project will continue all the way around (as I put on more Wal-Mart white), but it dresses up the front quite nicely.

Arnold and Laura
Arnold and Laura getting to be good friends

At the same time as Laura and Sylvia have taken up painting as a hobby, the weather suddenly shifted from 70 degree days to 80-plus. And add some humidity into that. The net result is that we have been boating almost every day, including simply going out and letting the Spirit of Louise drift around while we go swimming.

We forgot our float toys the first day out and had to improvise. Laura showed us a Canadian invention that allows you to bob around in the water, and still have a hand free for the beverage of your choice.

And it works.

Life jacket floating diaper
Laura suits up for a water expedition