A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Anniversary Dinner

We celebrated our one year anniversary of being in our new home by going out to a fine restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately we were well into our dinner of salmon and baby back ribs when I remembered the camera sitting by my side. A half eaten meal isn't that photo-worthy but the desert sure was.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Venturing Out

Now that I have my own car I can travel to new places to hike and bike. Its like being sixteen again and the freedom I experienced with my first car. My first excursion was just 6 miles down the road to Sugarloaf Ridge State park. With this park and Hood Mountain park so close by I have many miles of trials to entertain me for awhile. In just this short little hike I came across rushing streams
cascading waterfalls

and new flowers.

My guidebook said there would be Dutchman's Pipe or low growing Indian Warriors along this portion of the trial. I had to wait till I got home to see which one this was. Neither as I found out. I don't need another field guide to lug around so flowers will continue to be nameless. I'll just enjoy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Car Update

I stopped by the place I bought the car to pick up copies of its service record. Yes, one should have these in hand BEFORE buying a car but I like risk and gambles. Not really, but I just had a good feeling the first day I drove it. Let’s call it woman’s intuition – I was in tune to my feminine side at the time. See, when I first saw the car the lady at the dealership, a small outfit that sells electric cars, said it was a bank repo – no history. When I went back two days later Len the Russian advised me that it was not a repo but they were selling it for a customer. This was good news. I went on his word as to what had been done to the car since they had been servicing it in the past two years. After the purchase, the owners couldn’t produce any records so they printed out their copies for me. The paper work eventually showed over $1000 of work including a new alternator, starter, timing belt, water pump, Bosch spark plugs, filters, all in the last 6 months plus oil changes regularly. I got more of the story from Len.

The owners were well off (“Lots of money with BMW and Lexus) and had an only daughter who was going to school in San Francisco. They wanted the car to be in good shape and reliable for her commute to the City. This lasted till the end of her first year when she told mommy and daddy she wanted a brand new car. So rich parents bought their little princess a Toyota Yaras and thus, didn’t need an extra car. I had asked Len to check with them if there were any attachments for the roof rack. Initially they said no, but when I returned for the service records he told me the seller now says he has a bicycle carrier. “He said he sell it to you for $160. It cost over $300 from Volkswagen. It like new.” I smiled and told Len how just that day I went to a couple of bike shops and they said I would have to get one from Volkswagen as it is a VW rack. I stopped by the VW dealer just to see how much. There it was on the wall for $139 and “We’re having a 20% off sale on all racks and attachments right now.” My new bike carrier was sitting in the back of the car as we talked. Len says “This why I no like get involved with people.” I told him if it were me I would have thrown the carrier in with the deal if the buyer had a use for it. “But then I am not rich so I don’t understand the concept of greediness.” Len just shook his head and smiled.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Car Features

I like my car.
Everyday there are more things about this car that I like. For example I can unlatch the seatbelt while moving without an annoying warning beeper sounding off. The View reminds me that I am driving unsafe for about a half a minute before giving up. When I push the remote control button to lock the doors a soft muted honk lets me know all is secure. With the wife’s Honda CRV the horn blasts scaring the bejesus out of me even over 100 feet away. As I drive away from a start-up, the doors lock automatically. That’s nice, especially if I go into the City where hoodlums roam. It is quiet and handles the road real sporty like. Makes me feel young and sporty. I need that. Why else would I have three motorcycles?

About the only thing I don’t care about is the cup holders. At first I thought the car had none. That was an issue for me. But I finally discovered them hidden away in a slot above the radio. When your drink is placed up on the rack, it’s right up there with cold or hot air blowing onto it from the vent, not to mention being right up in plain view. “Yeah, I was just at Starbucks, what of it?”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Car

I have been without a car for a year and a half. Other than the motorhome or borrowing the wife's car, the motorcycles are my only transportation. This worked for awhile but now "awhile" is over. My first thought was an older car of pre-'72 vintage so that I could avoid the hassle of yearly smog checks, plus they are cool. A little six cylinder jobber. Well it soon became apparent that this would take a long time to find one that wasn't an overpriced "collector's item" or a piece of junk. I'm tired of working on and restoring cars. So I readjusted my sights.

I decided a small compact hatchback would work. Something to carry my bicycle or hiking gear around in. The last weekend was spent hitting all the car lots after several days of Craiglist searching only produced one car in the north bay area. Driving down into the Bay Area to see a car wasn't that appealing. I learned a few things over the weekend. One, car salesman are nice people. Not the stereotype they are known for. Hey, they are people trying to get by just like all of us and selling cars has to be one of the most undesirable jobs there are. A car salesman is like a postal worker - someone who had no job career ideals or aspirations for his life. Two, the used car market is slim pickings. The Cash for Clunkers program really thinned out the herd leaving only high priced used cars available. This led to number three, there were not that many hatchbacks to be had. Okay, like none, at least in my price range of under 10K. I could get a brand new Chervolet Aveo for just a little over that. A cute car I might add.

In the end I bought the first car I went to see. This has happened to me more times than not, so I don't put much stock in the old adage, "Don't buy the first thing your see". I was prepared to go get this 2002 Volkswagen Golf monday morning when a 2003 diesel variety popped up on Craiglist the evening before. I am a diesel fan after buying the View so I just had to go see this car in San Rafael first. It was the same color, a year newer with a few more miles and a two door. I gave it a test drive and it seemed nice but I just had this feeling that I shouldn't. Back home I took the wife with me to see the 2002 gas version. She liked it from the first moment. That helped. It also seemed nicer all around and the extra two doors will be handy. Plus I got it for $3000 less.

Two days later I have it all detailed out and am loving my new car. The only thing it needs is a better looking headlamp on the driver's side (already located on on eBay) and five little knobs for the radio. Oh yes, I need to get a carrier for my bike to fit the rack. That rack will work out much better than putting the bicycle inside.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Learning Day

I read yesterday that the Madrone tree is sometimes called the "refrigerator tree" for they are always cool to the touch. I did not know this. So I took a hike into Annadale today to see if this was true. Here is a Madrone standing right out in the sun and sure enough, the smooth part was cool. The rough fire scarred portion did not feel as so though.

The young bucks are growing out their velvet covered antlers.

In this blog I follow the author takes these wonderful photographs and each day he has a new selection to view. Even the most simplest of subjects he makes interesting with his camera. One was of Volunteer Oats - which I didn't know were called as such until I read his blog. Okay, he is who I learned about the " Refrigerator Tree" from. Anyway, I thought I'd try an oat photo.

At my lunch spot I disturbed a Canada Goose family with downy fluffed babies tagging along. The parents guided the little ones away, left them unattended in the reeds somewhere and returned thinking I would toss them a handout. At least they are not teaching their offspring their bad habits.

Also there was a first for me, a Ruddy Duck. I didn't take this photo, but wanted to show how pretty and unusual they are.

So I learned a few things and saw some new things today. A good day overall. Now if I could only learn how to take really good pictures or not have to steal them from the internet.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Day Out

so we took a drive over to Glen Ellen and toured the

which we didn't really know was there all of this time living so close by. It is a unique and beautiful Asian woodland in the Valley of the Moon, on the rolling hills above Glen Ellen, California. Founded in 1987, Quarryhill is one of the pre-eminent Asian botanical gardens globally, featuring one of the largest collections of documented, wild-collected Asian plants in the world. It is a quite large expanse honeycombed with trails. Everything is identified in their latin names so I will not even try to repeat any of it here. You are first greeted with this sign                     
                                     but try as I did, none were found.                                     


A nice swallowtail that kindly posed for a picture.

Afterwards we drove on in to Sonoma and found a Portuguese restaurant that looked inviting. We were not disappointed.                

The menu...........................
refreshments..... a Portuguese beer and sangria made with pomegranate juice

with a little appetizer (on the house) a type of salami, some mystery item and topped with a green olive

and then the food - a pulled pork sandwich and crab filled pita

It was a nice setting at the end of a courtyard of shops
selling items like skinny jeans that someone had held up to a grinder and table saw then priced at $315. But today they were marked down to $100. What a bargan. I would have taken a photo of them but though I might be charged for that.

We browsed through some galleries

and then sat down to people watch while the time ran out on the parking spot. It was at this time I made the discovery of the...well I'll just say last few years for that is how long I have owned my little point & click camera. In messing around I zoomed in on the architecture across the street and took a picture. The little camera shoots images to the equivalent of 37mm normally and fully zoomed in 4X to a 124mm.

I accidentally pushed the lever to zoom once again and noticed the image in the LCD screen get bigger. I didn't know it could do this. Will it take a picture like this too I wondered.

It did! I sat there thinking back to all the pictures I could of had over the years had I known this little camera could do this, not to mention how stupid I am. "Read the manual." The above image is as if I had a 585mm telephoto lense on a 35mm camera. Not bad for hand held.

When dinner time came around we could not think about eating. The lunch was still with us. But dessert, now that is another matter. We went to the Union Hotel.
I forget what they called this. It had a hard chocolate bottom, an almond ice cream center, topped with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup. I am surprised this wasn't against the law, it was so good.
My wife opted for something less sinful. Ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup on top of a large chocolate chip cookie. We were full. On the way home we discussed if it were possible to not ever eat dinners anymore and just have a dessert instead. Could one lose weight that way?