Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Smith Rock State Park

The park, located near the small central Oregon town of Terrebonne, attracts rock climbers from all over the world.  Hiking, backpacking, mountain biking are also popular.

Back in the day, I was a member of the Portland-based Mazamas mountaineering group.  I took their basic class which included rock climbing.  It held no appeal for me whatsoever.  It takes a lot of training, a lot of equipment, at least one other climber who is at least as skilled as you, and most importantly - a strong death wish.  No thanks.

The one thing I did enjoy was rappelling.  I'd already trained in that, Jungle Warfare School in Panama.  There, we used the bare-rope method instead of carabiners, descenders, etc.  

Below, you can see one of the numerous hiking trails.

Why is it called Smith Rock?  Not sure.  Most historians think it's named after US Cavalry Private Volk Smith.  He lost his footing during an Indian battle in 1863 and fell to his death.  Cavalry boots are not recommended climbing gear.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rental Car Blues

Last year Payless Rentals did a job on me.  They charged me for the collision coverage even though I declined it, and caused me to miss my flight because their shuttle was slow and they apparently only have one shuttle.  I have to share the blame on the missed flight, though: the navigation feature on my smartphone routed me to a funeral parlor instead of the rental place.

This year I'm using Avis which is connected to the airport, no waiting for infrequent shuttle vans.  But, the car check out line was unbelievable, about 30 people ahead of me, took an hour to get my car.  Wait.  It get's worse.

Found my rental car, radio blaring some Latino gibberish.  Punched every button on the info screen trying to turn it off.   No luck.  Did manage to turn the volume down.  The rental car garage is deep in the bowels of the airport.  It's dark, can't see crap, no idea where the dome light switch might be.  I turn on my smartphone to shed some light on the subject, and enter the address of my hotel.  No luck. Phone signal is blocked by a zillion tons of reinforced concrete.

Keys?  Where are the damned keys?  The rental desk gave me paperwork but no keys.  Turns out the ignition is keyless, just push the 'start/stop engine' button.  Okay, got it started.  But, hold on: how do I unlock the car later, without a key?  Turned the phone on again, looked around, finally found a key fob cleverly hidden in the console.  

There are 3 exits, the car ahead of me takes the right exit so I follow it - and 3 cars follow me.  Lady in booth at middle exit hollers, "No!  Over here!"  She comes out of the booth and directs traffic, backing up each car in turn until I can maneuver over to the middle exit.

Next challenge is the rat maze of sharp turns to access the highway.  The signage sucks, arrows pointing every which way for rental car returns and various exits.  I make a wrong turn - right into the Avis car return area.  Shortest car rental ever!  5 cars pull in right behind me.  Now I'm totally surrounded by parked cars.  The check-in lady is 8 cars ahead of me; I walk up to her and relate my sad story.  She's distraught, dozens of cars to check in and this bozo comes along, messes up everything.  She doesn't have a radio to call for help, directs me back to the rental counter.

The guy at the rental counter gets on his radio, calls another guy, tells him to move the cars that have me surrounded - which he does in short order.  Oh boy, now I get to chat with exit booth woman again!  The one that hollered at me.  The one that already regards me as the village idiot.

I find the correct exit this time, head out of the airport onto the freeway, clueless about the route I need to take.  So, I take the first exit, park on a side street, get the navigation going on the smartphone.  By now, I'm 2 hours behind schedule, into rush hour traffic.

Finally, I arrive at the hotel, hop out of the car to check in.  Something's beeping in the car, don't know why.  I hit the door lock button on the key fob.  Nothing happens.  Beep, beep.  Door doesn't lock.  Hit the lock button several more times.  Nothing.  Beep, beep.  The hell with it!  I enter the hotel and check in, then retrieve my bag and backpack from the car.  Beep, beep.

Went back out to the car a bit later, discovered lock/unlock symbols on the door.  Pressed the lock button.  Voila!  The doors lock.  No beep, beep.

I have really bad rental car karma.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bend River Walk

The City of Bend does a lot of things right.  The Deschutes River runs through the middle of town and they've done a fine job of enhancing the natural beauty with parks, paved walkways, upscale shops and homes, restaurants, sculptures, and so on.  These pix were taken along a portion of the river walk.

Cool kayak sculpture in center of roundabout.  The Bend area offers virtually every outdoor activity imaginable: biking, hiking, downhill and cross country skiing, kayaking, river rafting, rock climbing, the list goes on.  And, of course, pickleball.

Bend (originally Farewell Bend) was where the pioneers forded the River.  Logging operations began in 1903 (ponderosa pine) and 2 large timber mills were established in what is now the downtown area.  Draft horses did much of the grunt work.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Gold and The Founder

Wifi in most RV parks is too wimpy for streaming so we rent Redbox movies now and then.  Darn few new-release films appeal to us.  Redbox machines are capable of holding 600 discs, a mixed bag of movies and games.  If we're lucky, we may find 5 movies that interest us; of course, there are also several we've already viewed via Netflix streaming/DVD.

Since leaving LHC we've watched 2 true-story movies that we really enjoyed, Gold and The Founder.  Both involve big bucks, big greed and big time wheelin' and dealin'.

Gold is about a mining scam that resulted in huge investor losses.  It stars Matthew McConaughey and he gave his usual outstanding performance.

The Founder stars Michael Keaton, another great actor, in the role of Ray Kroc.  Ray was the guy behind the franchising of McDonald's.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Crescent Dunes Power Plant

Not yo mama's power plant, the Crescent Dunes solar energy concentrator generates enough juice to power 75,000 homes.  It's located 15 miles northeast of Tonopah, NV.  The proprietary technology is owned by SolarReserve, a Santa Monica, CA-based company.

The system has 10,347 tracking mirrors (heliostats) measuring 37' by 34' for a total of 1258 square feet of surface.  Each unit has its own IP address and software that directs the motor to move the mirror to the precise angle needed to reflect the sun onto the 100' tall receiver, the upper black portion of the central tower.  The receiver contains molten liquid salt which is heated to 1050 degrees F.  The molten liquid is piped to storage tanks and then to a steam turbine that generates the electricity.

The good news is it's renewable energy with no fossil fuel usage and no pollution.  The bad news is, or was, that it roasts birds.  During testing, 115 birds were incinerated.  The engineers researched, tweaked the system, and solved the problem.  I'm a bird lover, don't want to hear about birds being killed.  But, lets put it in perspective: cats kill an estimated 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds per year in the continental US.  So, okay, I can live with sacrificing 115 birds.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Tonopah, NV

Tonopah is a town of 2500, half way between Vegas and Reno.  We spent a couple nights, wanted to do see the local points of interest related to silver mining.   Tonopah's heyday started in 1902, a typical boom and bust southwestern mining town, the boom lasted 12 years.  Mining continued until 1948 but on a much smaller scale.

Lots of neat old buildings, many constructed by masons using cut blocks of stone, all built between 1902 and 1910.  The courthouse above boasted a rocket ship.

Why does The Tonopah Liquor Co building, below, have a 2nd story door sans stairs?  Careful there podner, that first step is a real doozy.

The fixer upper above is one of the more elaborate mining shacks scattered around town.  

Did you know Studebaker made wagons before they made cars?

Old and new fire department buildings, above and below.  The new one has 7 Tesla charging stations beside it.  What the hell?  Small town in the middle of nowhere needs 7 charging stations?  Which politician came up with that brilliant idea?  Were the handful of local voters key to winning the election of a state or federal congressman?  Anyway, if you're a Tesla owner, be sure to include Tonopah in your trip planning.

Above and below, pix of the Mizpah Hotel (1905) lobby and cafe.  Many famous people stayed here, including Mae West, Annette, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My First Piece

Meat and potatoes.  Potatoes and meat.  Except for breakfast: pancakes and meat.  Meat and pancakes.  For 18 years.  Well, not quite 18 years; I was probably eating some kind of revolting mushy stuff the first couple years.  The high school cafeteria had a slightly more varied menu, but nothing memorable.

Mom was a decent cook but lacked the time and energy to be creative.  Feeding a family of 10 plus related household chores was burden enough.  Even if she had the time and energy, culinary creativity wasn't in the cards.  Dad liked meat and potatoes.  Fried.  Always fried.  The more grease, the better.

It was early September, 1962, when I headed off to college.  Shortly thereafter I had My First Piece! Pizza!  OMG!  Thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  Burned the roof of my mouth.  Didn't care. Couldn't wait to bite into that glorious stuff.

Pizza was coming on strong in the Midwest back then, probably a couple years behind the coastal cities.  Pizza restaurants popping up all over, grocery shelves stocked with DIY pizza kits.  Remember Chef Boyardee?  Pathetic excuse for pizza!  If you were blindfolded and someone gave you a taste of CB pizza, could you tell what it was supposed to be?  Maybe.

By the way, the Chef lives on, is still available at your finer (?) grocery stores.  Another once-popular item is also still available: Spam.  Pull out all the stops some evening, take a culinary trip down memory lane: chop up some Spam, spread it on your CB pizza, fire up your lava lamp, play your Henry Mancini album.