A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hiking, Biking, Motorcycle Riding, Oh My!

Today I made a point of going on a hike. I looked back in my log and the last time I went on a hike was 27 days ago. That's shameful. Of all my activities, hiking I enjoy the most. But I enjoy riding the mountain bike too. Then sometimes I seem not to have any time for either (or energy, I've done too much) so I go for a walk, which too I enjoy. I don't even know when the last time I got one of the motorcycles out for a ride. I want to do it all and just cannot. Why can't we be retired up to age say 60, then work for the remainder of our lives? I'd much rather be tired, worn down, sick, infirm, geeked up and plain worthless on the job than when I am free.

Upon returning home from my hike I see a brand new 2010 Volvo convertible parked on my side lawn. Well actually it is the golf course, but I like to think it, the greens and fairway across the street, plus the pond are all part of my estate. Anyway, big tournament today and the car is a prize for a hole-in-one on the 13th hole across the street. In the year we have lived here there has been two hole-in-one's on the 13th, one of which was during a tournament and the guy got $10,000 for that. I checked to see if they left the keys in it for me to take a spin but none were there. Oh well. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trauma Day II

Our 30 day trail period for the AT&T cable service is coming to an end next week. We decided it didn't live up to the expectations we were told it would deliver, so we're crawling back to Comcast. So I sit here waiting for the Comcast guy to show up. Yes, it is requiring a service technician to set everything right once again. This is not what we were led to believe three weeks ago when the sales reps were here from AT&T. We thought it would be a simple do-it-yourself of hooking the cable back up. Of course we were led to believe too that we would have just as fast interent speed also, one of several reasons for dumping AT&T. Not only that, but it is going to cost us $99 to get our telephone back from AT&T! I'm not done with them on that one. If that wasn't enough, not only will AT&T NOT send a techincian out here to unhook everything and put it back the way it was, but it is our responsibility to send all the gear back to AT&T. We're to take it down to a UPS store and supossedly they'll box it up and send it off for us. This I got to see.

The Cable Guy just arrived. He has no idea why he is here. "Welcome back the world of Comcast." Jeremy is sneezing all the time. I ask if he is allergic to cats. No, just an allergy thing he says. After three sneezes with mucus on his fingertips from pinching his nose, he returns to the truck to make some calls to headquarters. Meanwhile I get a Lysol wipe and clean my hands (I shook hands with him). He returns and an hour later has everything operational once again through the Comcast pipeline. There was an issue with the telephone line which is to be switched over on a seperate order a week from now. But with some creative thinking on Jeremy's part he was able to keep the phone running through AT&T on a seperate cable line.

I'd guess we've had close to ten Comcast techs at our home in the past year and only two really seemed capable. So can one safely say you have a 1 out of 5 chance of getting your service done correctly and smoothly with Comcast? During one of Jeremy's several trips out to the truck, I called UPS. "Yep, just bring it down here and we'll do the rest." I asked if they've done this before for AT&T and she replied "all the time". Now is there a message there for you and I dear reader?

I thanked Jeremy for everything and sent him on his way. Back into the house and another Lysol wipe.

"Now, what all did he touch?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First Time Blossom

I have had this cactus plant for a long long time...I mean like 20 plus years. It's spent all of it's life in a pot until we moved to our new home last year. That is when I stuck it into the ground. That is also the same time my wife began to take an interest in my cactus garden. When I am not looking she feeds my cactus plants food, hormones and steroids. The results are multiple blooming of the cactus plants and some for the first time, such as this little guy. I don't know what the long term effects of all these supplements and chemicals will have on my cactus - their DNA may be altered, they may develop cancerous growths, or they may become another Audrey (Little Shop of Horrors film) but the blooms are definitely unique in the plant kingdom. Yesterday a lady returned from her walk, parked her car, got out and took some close-ups of another cactus in bloom. I went to open the door and yell out "That will be a dollar please" but she was too fast for me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hiking with Grandkids

I took the Grandkids out for a hike today on that nice little trail I discovered at Sugarloaf State Park earlier this year. Then the creek and waterfall was full flow but now only standing pools of water remained, flowing underground then re-surfacing later on down stream. But I don't think the water mattered much to them, climbing rocks held more interest.

The Madrone trees were shedding their bark and I told the kids how they are sometimes called "paper trees" for you can use the bark to write or draw pictures on. Miles began looking for just the right size piece to take home with him. I think he had several pieces in his collecting bag by the end of the hike.

We probably covered about a quarter of a mile looking at everything of interest along the way, before the first grumblings of  "I'm tired" came from Gavin with a "I'm hungry" response from Miles. We picked out a spot and sat ourselves down in the quiet forest for rest and snacks.

Miles of course had to be on top of the biggest rock where he worked on his granola bar,

meanwhile Gavin plopped down at the first available spot...next to me, and selected his fruit wrap from his backpack. Fruitwraps are not the ideal snack food to have when you are 5 years old, in a forest full of pine needles, dried leaves and dirt. These items love sticky hands. I was eating my apple and helping him try to get the flat fruity material free from the folded wrapper. He would stuff the wadded substance in his mouth as each piece broke free. In the end we both did fairly well keeping any foreign material off hands and out of mouths.

Done with our break a vote was taken whether to continue on or head back to the car. I abstained from voting and the car was the popular choice, so back we went.
We were keeping track of how many falls each person had. Gavin won with five, but Miles got the award for the most dramatic. But he never let loose of his Madrone paper.

We arrived back to the car with an elapsed time of 1 hour and 15 minutes, the 15 minutes for rest and dealing with fruitwraps. Total distance covered, less than a half a mile. The only thought now was to go to Grandma & Grandpa's house and eat lunch, play with toys and watch TV.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

le Tour de Santa Cruz Heckler

I've taken some time off to go see the Tour de France as you can see above.  

   No, just kidding. Really, that's not me. Honest. Actually it is televised each day and watching this thing burns up about 4 to 5 hours of my life each day. I'll be glad when it is over. In fact today is a "rest day" for the riders and it truly is a rest day for me too not having to watch it.

   I was able to take a motorcycle ride and test out my new front tire. The old one was getting close to the rope showing so best get a new tire. In fact I have bought 5 new tires this past week and not one was for a car. The new-to-me Santa Cruz bike needed tires front and rear. A mountain bike tire cost almost as much as the new Dunlap motorcycle tire for the Honda did. Amazing. Then when I went out for a bike ride on the Fischer 29 incher last Sunday I realized the tires that came on the bike when I bought it back in November just aren't cutting it anymore. The trails in Annadel are now all dry and dusty, like talcum powder on rock. I was really noticing how slippery things were and had to take it slower. So I had to buy a pair of knobby tires for it also. I asked the boys in the Trek Bike Store where I bought the bike, as to why Trek (who owns the Gary Fischer brand) would put such a mild grip tire on a mountain bike. I learned that being the bikes are made in Wisconsin, the terrain there is not like what we have out here in the west so... Hmmm...guess I wouldn't like to ride back there then.

Anyway this post was to be about the maiden voyage of the new-to-me Santa Cruz Heckler. I've read reviews from owners old and new and they all love their Hecklers. I see what they mean. The bike is light and I found it easy to maneuver around rocks and lifting the front end over obstacles. The rear suspension works really well as I found myself barely noticing any jarring even while sitting on the seat. It wasn't shifting too well so I couldn't really experience the bike as I should. It needs some more fine tuning but I know I will enjoy this bike. But it will not replace the Fischer 29 incher for the fast rocky downhill fire roads which I love. Oh by the way, that's not me either. I don't have anyone to take my picture, even when crashing. But it is a Heckler.

   Back to the Tour though. I watch it partly for the race and equally as much for the scenery. The French countryside is very nice and I enjoy the helicopter shots of the mountains, fields, villages and chateaus. But not sure if I would want to go there though unless I could take the View and Sinbad.

Friday, July 16, 2010


   If you have been following this blog for the past year you will know how much I enjoy having Annadel State Park as my own personal playground right outside my back door. Be it hiking, jogging or riding my mountain bike I never tire of the place. I have explored all of the trails in one way or the other except for one, Marsh Trail. This is a 4 mile trail on the south edge of the park and it involves a couple miles of trail just to get to it. So I am saving it for a long day in the future.
   I would guess that at least two thirds of the over 40 miles of trails are of a narrow rocky single track. This is great for hiking and challenging on a bicycle. Make that bicycle with 29” wheels (most mountain bikes have 26” wheels) and that ratchets up the challenge factor a few degrees. Now add my advanced years and lack of skill and courage, and things cease to be fun sometimes. So for the most part I stick to the open trails and fire roads while on the bicycle.
   Having sold the Honda Trail 90 I got to thinking of getting another bike; one suited more for those “not so fun” trails. I felt I could get away with having another bicycle much easier than getting another motorcycle. I would get a standard mountain bike with 26”wheels and maybe I could do better in the technical stuff. I would buy a used bicycle one rather than new as I did with the 29 incher. This way I would have something to putter around with fixing up and such. With a brand new bike all you can do with it is ride. The bike in mind slowly evolved into a full suspension bike rather than another hard tail – one with no shock absorbing system in the rear.
   When buying a new full suspension bike the cost jumps up from anywheres half again as much to double of that with front suspension alone. As I perused Craigslist this held true for used bikes also. Anything of quality was hundreds or a thousand more than I wanted to lay out. Add to this me limiting a purchase to the North Bay communities only (I really didn’t want to drive into the Bay Area for anything) proved the pickings to be quite slim. I would just be patient and wait it out till something interesting showed. This last week my patience was rewarded.
   It was a Santa Cruz (high end quality mountain bike maker) Heckler (a model for cross country riding, not jumping, downhill racing or other special types requiring different geometry in frame design and components) and at a low price for it was 13 years old. Santa Cruz still makes this model due to it being such a successful and popular bike. The bike originally belonged to a bike mechanic/racer in Santa Cruz and the current owner bought it from him 10 years ago. He since moved to Petaluma and mostly rode the bike around town. I immediately liked the bike. It was funky looking with its quirky rear suspension design (this was only the second year of production) and one that hasn’t changed that much over the years. Most everything was original and all in working order. It just needed some TLC and new tires. I made the bike mine and took it to it’s new home.

   The forks and rear shock are basic bottom of the line by today's standards. The brakes and shifting are primitive in design but all were state of the art 13 years ago. For example disc braking is the norm today but that doesn't bother me that this bike has the old style braking system. In fact this may be a benefit for me in preventing my going over the handlebars as I did early on with the new bike. The fun part though, all of this leaves me open for upgrading components as time goes by.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Gavin

Today is our grandson's 5th birthday. We took him and his seven year old brother Miles out to play peewee golf. A miniature golf course can be challenging, especially for a 5 and 7 year old. Well for grandparents too. Why anyone would want to play a game like this on a grander scale is beyond me. The best way to play golf is to not take it seriously, and neither did the four of us. We played by our own rules which changed by each hole.

Early on in the game we had our first injury. The excitement was too much for Gavin to contain and it was impossible for him to move from one place to another in anyway but running. Miniature golf course have a lot of uneven surfaces which he soon discovered. As much as we tried to get him to not run he kept forgetting and ultimately paid the consequence. After a good dose of tears he was back to running again. We gave up and I finally told him he could run all he wanted but if he crashed and burned again, he couldn't cry. Fortunately he didn't fall anymore.

We made it through most of the course with only one lost ball over the fence. The 13th hole would be a pivotal hole in the game. The birthday boy tee'd off first at each hole. Here Miles chose to stand behind his brother. "Miles, get back. Miles, stand over here. Miles, you're going to get hit. Miles..." It was over in a second and I missed it. Gavin has a great follow-through and Miles now had the knot on his head to prove it.

After some more crying he went on with the game, with a bit less enthusiasm. And yes, he stood behind his brother again on the 14th hole.

The design of miniature golf courses are quite devious in their layout. Once the game is concluded at the 18th hole where your ball drops away into oblivion, never to be seen again, there is no way to exit the facility without walking through a huge complex full of video games and other money hungry machines. A near impossibility to navigate children to the exit without it costing you the down payment of a car. But Miles and Gavin are two exceptionally great kids and no tantrums were thrown. It also helps to convince them that they are hungry and a fabulous lunch at the place of your choice awaits. This was left to the birthday boy and our fate was sealed - Taco Bell. It could have been worse...the big M.

Miles was against going to Taco Bell

I looked at this poor excuse for a taco and felt it to be a criminal act, passing off food like this for people to eat. Then I looked around at the people in there, all standing around eagerly waiting for their order or at a table hungrily devouring this slop. We had little choice to be there. This is what a 5 year old wants. But all of the others in there had a choice and they, like a five year old, come to places like Taco Bell for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It truly amazes me that fast food places continue to exist and thrive. This is not a testament to their food but to the simple mindedness of our society.

But the kids had a great time, skinned knees, clubbed heads and bad food aside, and that's all that mattered. When you can eat, get it all over you, make a mess on the table and floor then walk away, it's all good fun.
"Clean up at table four."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Trauma Day

   A couple weeks ago two young men came to our door. I thought they were Mormons or Jehovah Witness people but it turned out they were from AT&T. We let them in and learned about AT&T services being available here in our area. I will not go into the horror stories of dealing with Comcast when we first moved in here. That would best be saved for a book. As of late though Comcast has slowly been jacking up our monthly fee each and every month as if we would never notice.They didn't know my wife. In the end we found out we could save money on our package of phone, Internet and television services, I could now get the Speed Channel and watch these European motorcycle races I've been missing and best yet, stick it to Comcast by canceling their services.
   Yesterday was the big day when the technician came out and set us up. As the day approached we grew evermore apprehensive. This mainly due to all the issues we had with Comcast a year ago. Were we asking for a new pot full of problems? It was difficult to remain positive. The guy set everything up quite smoothly in comparison to the clowns from Comcast. We sat down with pen and paper to take notes on operating the new DVR for the television. This was one item I was not too keen on...losing the TIVO.
   After the AT&T guy left I struggled with setting up the new DVR with the same settings we had with the TIVO. Basically most all the features are there, just in a different arrangement, one which I will say is not as user friendly and as easily navigable as TIVO. I was pretty well overwhelmed and worn down by the end of the day. Well, to be fair, anything technological will do that to me. Meanwhile my wife was having her own issues with the internet, but to a much lesser scale. Her email was with Comcast and she, well I will not say anymore on that. We both went to bed last night wondering if we made a mistake or not.
   This morning is a new day and I awoke with more acceptance to the new system. I think it will be okay and we just need some time to become familiar with the new territory. We have 30 days inwhich to bail out and jump ship yet the only recourse would be joing the Comcast ship of fools once again and I can't see that happening. We're not that desperate.

Anyone want to buy a TIVO machine? or maybe two of them?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Just "Google" it.

   My son has told me anything you need to know it’s on the Internet. The power of the Internet he would say. “Just Google it.” I am a believer. So many times I would type in ‘how do I -------‘ and there is the solution to my problem. For example when I was ready to install new headlights on my VW Golf I learned you need to remove the front bumper first. But how do you do that? I Googled it and there were several hits, the best being a video on You Tube. I’ve even been so desperate that way back when I first got my new mountain bike and kept flying over the handlebars I Googled ‘how to ride a mountain bike’.
   Recently in a moment of weakness I downloaded the new Google Chrome after being prompted to try it out. Normally I never download anything new and different if the old works just fine. I tried it, didn’t like it and uninstalled it. Later I found my email was screwed up. I Googled the issue and discovered that downloading then removing Google Chrome could be the reason behind the problem I was experiencing. So next I Googled how to fix it. The solution took me into risky uncharted territory of the regedit world of computerland. I ventured in. In the end I fixed the problem through some reprogramming – a first for me. My son would be proud.
   Which brings me to the meat of this post. In viewing other blogs I notice how a small percentage of them fill the entire screen instead having a border of blank space on each side. This wasted space really bugged me ever since I began this Blog . I searched and searched for an answer to fix this with little luck. I asked other bloggers. Either they didn’t understand what I was asking about, referred me to some information that was not what I wanted or it was too complicated for me to understand, or they simply ignored me. The hours I’ve poured over this I don’t even want to know. Very frustrated, I gave up (many times)…until now. Emboldened with my new to me computer skills I took it on yet again.
   The key to “Just Google it” is using different wording in each search. After several inputs I finally found something that might address what I want and it was written in a way I just might be able to follow and understand. Like with the Chrome issue it meant changing programming codes in the blog html. Scary stuff. I don’t even know what html means. I made the changes inputting different numbers and bingo bango it worked!
   The blog is now bigger, and I should be able to put in larger pictures and place some within the text much easier…that’s if I can remember to take the pictures to begin with.