Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year End Blog

Today I went to the DMV again. Seems that I have been there way too many times this year plus The Auto Club's DMV counter. Today was the quickest, although not the cheapest, visit of the year. Back in January my mutant teenager required a visit for his license, his written test, his driving test, the two cars he acquired, and later my two dirt bikes. One of the bikes I have had for several years, but it had never been registered, that took three DMV trips plus two additional visits to the CHP office. That mess required hours of waiting, 40 miles of driving for each of the trips (three total) and much frustration. The second dirt bike took less than ten minutes after a three week wait for an appointment in spite of the fact that there were several errors on the pink slip, wrong name and dates. The lady at the counter said "when did you buy the bike" as the sale date entered had not occurred yet. My explanation was that the seller post dated it as to have plenty of time to register it and she said, "No problem, I will just change it." When using the Auto Club counter nit picking problems can make a simple transaction a nightmare but that will take more time than to explain than I care to spend now.

Last week the high desert was covered with snow and a week later the snow was all gone except for patches . The riding was great as there wasn't any dust, mud or puddles. Mother Nature knows how to drain things much better that the Corp of Army Engineers. When ever the lake bed get wet the rangers close it to protect the surface from all the crazy folks that want to drive on it and make great ruts and holes, plus getting stuck causing more damage. The Southern California Association races cars and motorcyles across the lake bed when it is dry and has been doing that for probably seventy years. My first trip there to see the races was in a new 1956 Dodge. The surface needs to be smooth as speeds exceed two hundred miles an hour on the faster rides. Going really fast on a rutted course is not a lot of fun. Been there done that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Riding in the Snow

Well the rain and snow that came through Wednesday left its mark in the desert. My plan for Saturday was to go out to El Mirage and ride my Yamaha but I was afraid it would be too dam cold. The weather report for the area was showing a low temperature report of 14 degrees in the morning and a high of 41.
So I included bundles of clothing and a blanket but that wasn't necessary as a t-shirt would do as the sun was bright and the blanket of snow reflected the sun's energy to make for a more than pleasant day. Riding with a parka on in the snow made you to warm and trying it without it made you too cold. The effort to stay straight and upright required a great effort in muscling the handlebars. You never knew if the rear tire would break through the snow and give you some traction.
If you got the bike moving fast enough it would float through the snow making riding woops or sand washes a total blast. Powder would blow up off the front wheel and your rear wheel would throw up a giant rooster tail which would land on the back of your seat. After a while your butt would get wet and cold so would would have to stop and dry out and rest your arms. There was snow everywhere and without tracks as nobody had been out riding since the snow dumped.
The lake bed has been closed since the previous rain but with all the snow cover cross country skiing may be an option (if you like it flat). All the white flatness reminds me of Bonneville.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spending Money To Jump Start the Country

I have always said that the cheapest part of motorcycle ownership is the initial purchase of the bike because as boat owners know the upkeep will keep you poor. Owning a boat and several motorcycles not to mention several push bikes keeps my bank account in negative numbers.

A few months back I sold one of my dirt bikes as it was not being ridden as the trip out to the desert at $4.65 a gallon for gas created a hole in my wallet that was painful. (Saturday the price in the desert was $ 1.55 a gallon) Then my senior daughter expressed a desire to go out to the desert and try riding. Our remaining dirt bike, that my teenage mutant quit riding is only a 125cc but was a Super Cross Pro race bike. This dirt bike has a seat high enough that a ladder or large box is necessary to get on. My daughter was able to ride it on the dry lake but had a problem climbing aboard.

With the economy in the sewer there are so many deals out there so we went shopping. I was not in the market for another bike until the Super Cross bike, that just finally passed the state registration, promptly died. So I found a pair for sale, his and hers, on Monday I picked them up and we went riding the next day. The smaller bike made for simple starting and we had a blast riding all over the desert together.

Beside the purchase price of the larger bike I have had to shell out mucho pesos for the following:

1. A annual pass to ride in the desert
2. A renewal of my AMA license so I can race in the desert
3. A desert race number
4. A gas can for four stroke gas
5. A new rear tire
6. A new rear sprocket with different gearing
7. An oil filter(s)
8. Oil
9. A clutch lever (after falling over)
10. A new rear chain
11. A new tail light for my trailer after smashing the light

This outlay is after one week of ownership and two trips to the desert to ride. Oh, I forgot I bought two magazines. Really only needed one but I left the first one in the shopping cart in the market parking lot. Some days I find it fortunate that I don't leave myself behind.

Building a Snowman

Here in Southern California it does snow in the mountains when it is cold enough and the weather is right. Yesterday was the third day of rainy weather here as winter is just around the corner.

My mutant teenager decided to go to Mt. High at Wrightwood to do some snowboarding. They took his friends pickup truck as his VW is lowered and not suited for the crappy roads and a parking lot full of snow. The 15 interstate was a disaster as snow was blocking the summit over to the desert and chains were required at a lower level.
Fortunately they had chains and after many delays were able to reach the ski area. All day long the weather dumped snow and filled up the pickup bed. It was cold enough that the snow made it back to lower elvation without melting and the mutants made a snowman in the driveway.

I gave up on Christmas lights and decorations years ago so our house stays unlighted but we can brag as we and the only real snowman on the block not a plastic fake one.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Tail of Two Turkeys

Visits during the winter season can change as plans change. When Turkey Day approaches in is important to keep in touch with the pilgrims if you are going to get fed. Having two cooks in the family that can prepare a great dinner why not eat twice. Well there was some uncertainty on where to go as senior daughter was not sure and middle child was in Frankfort until the last minute. To eliminate stress on the weary traveler we decided to have dinner with a valley view instead of one of a downtown view but the plans had been already been set in motion by middle child. Both of my fair daughters live at hill tops, steep ones, even scary steep. So Thursday we left the plastic home-owners burbs of Orange County and headed north to Los Angeles not knowing how long the trip would take on the suckey freeway. We didn't go very early and left at noon. The freeway was actually smooth sailing going north and on the larboard side it looked really bad southbound. With one dinner early and one dinner late our troop ate twice with a ten minute trip on the Hollywood Freeway between hilltops.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Smoke and Ashes

Last weekend the winds came up in the early AM and blew all day Sunday. The weather predictions were for somewhat of a repeat with lots of wind Saturday and a little less on Sunday. So with this mind I set off for the boat and as the approach to the freeway came near a large black cloud was seen rising over the the foothills. It wasn't a cloud of welcome rain it was the horrible sight of a fire out of control. As I drove west towards San Pedro the smoke stayed on my starboard side and the fire in the Santa Ana Canyon fueled by acres of dry brush blew west in the direction I was headed and we finally met at the marina where the ash began to settle as the winds slowed. One of my first chores is to clean the boat for Sunday's sail but the ash kept falling so cleaning was put on hold and there was zero wind. Listening to a classical music station does not keep you abreast of all the current events and after turning to AM radio I became aware of all the fires in progress then I promptly turned back to classical music.

The wind for Saturday stayed around 1 knot most of the day in San Pedro while winds with destructive fires blew in the east and north. When the sun came up Sunday morning the ash falling had ceased and the cleanup crew began. There was a litttle light breeze going out from the dock into the ocean but a total lack of waves and in some spots the water was mirror smooth with areas of small patches of pertubation possiblly casued my schools of small fish. Something was in the water as there were lots of birds and seals swimming about. There was enough air to get a hull speed of 8 knots for a while and the boat never heeled more than ten degrees. Usually in the afternoon the entrance back into the harbor by the light house is met with white caps and 25 to 30 degrees of heeling but what a pleasant surprise it wasn't.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Windy Weekend

The seasons change somewhat in California, some trees shed their color of leaves, some years the rains fall late in the year bringing welcome new green and some years the sun just keeps on shining. Saturday was a trip to the tropical island of San Pedro which is actually in the City of Los Angeles to scrub and holly stone by boat. Yes, the sun was shining bright and as usual I forgot to bring something from the house, like my shorts. There are two closets on the boat and plenty of places to store things plus a dock side stowage where I keep my sails but the feeble brain that directs my actions tends to forget and almost every trip leaves a forgotten item on the kitchen counter or in my bedroom. Washing the bird crap off the boat's deck and cabin top can get you soaking wet and Saturday I not only forgot the shorts, it was nice and warm outside, I forgot another pair of long pants to change into. So to help our President Elect create a stimulus for our weaken economy I ventured to beautiful downtown Pedro and went to the war surplus store where I have been wanting to visit. Unfortunately their selection of shorts did not meet my surfer's choice so I meandered over to West Marine on Harbor Blvd. and bought a couple of shorts with lots of nautical pockets. This purchase, when viewed, was not accepted by the waisters and lubbers a day later. These teenage mutants who spend 24 hours a day playing video games complained loudly about the length of my new shorts. The length of the shorts were not within the limits set my creatures who idea of fashion does not consider anything pragmatic, as they the shorts did not reach my ankles as most basketball players do so they booed and their cries of Prop 8 rallied about the house.

Meanwhile armed with dry backup clothing I returned to swab my decks. Then I got ready to sail my sabot and the wind just quit working, similar to the people who write speeches for Sarah Palin. It is not hard to fault her speaking or writing unfortunately for me it doesn't earn any money.

So the lack of wind caused me to switch to rowing as a form of entertainment and I did so. Well tomorrow will be better and getting an early start will allow for a nice sail. While sleeping so nicely Saturday night/Sunday Morning mother nature decided at 2:20 AM to start blowing and actually howling. And did she howl. When I was a kid there was a TV Show which featured Gale Storm as a young woman as the star of her own TV Comedy.
I don't know where Gale Storm is today but her ghost came to visit me after a very calm day Saturday. We had 45 knot winds in the Gulch. I am sure veterans creatures of the Gulch have seen greater but as a novice it was a little bit more than casual.

About the ohotos: Every weekend the cruise ship sails from our island of San Pedro headed towards other destinations that are close. The pictures of the cruise ship leaving the channel next to where my boat is are actually a far piece but since the ship is so large it's actually looks very close. Close enough to hear the music from the ship as it heads toward the breakwater and out to sea.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Pictures

Not much to say here cause these are too scary for words.

It is hard to tell about these evil looking eyes and I am not sure if a "Red Eye Edit" would fix it.

Really can not say what happen to the mummy and how he got in such terrible shape but at least he has some serious helpers.
The two pumpkins heads did the carving themselves and took their own pictures using the auto timer on the Nikon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shopping Spree

Boat ownership can be an expensive, very expensive undertaking and since the economy needs more than a jump start, I thought about spending $150,000 on my boat this weekend to brighten her up, add to her wardrobe, maybe a little sparkle, but my checking account refused to earmark any additional funds so I had to settle for $101.06. This is far below expectations and I had to leave a very soft green towel on the rack and a dapper sun hat ($8.88 and $24.95). Earlier in the month I replaced several worn items and broke down and added a teak towel rack and today the mailman brought me a discount mailer allowing me to spend more money at the marine boat store at greatly inflated prices. The supermarket gave me a "Rewards" card that allows me to buy a loaf of bread for $4.56 and a barcoded card similar to the marine supply store.

A few weeks ago I bought a Jolly Roger to fly when my grandson goes on the boat and I also purchased a new ensign but Saturday I saw a shiny flagstaff that mounts on the transom rail and this allows me to fly a pennant that also services as a weather gauge. My pennants and flags don'y stay out at night or bleach in the daily sun but only grace the ship when we are sailing. My clinometer that been kicked a few times too many and needed replacing. This device tells you how far you are heeling (leaning over) and serves to give you something to brag about. My gauges in the cockpit show knots, wind direction and speed and I also have a wrist watch GPS that allows me to calibrate the knot meter and record time/distance traveled. Someday when I catch an Alaskan earmark I will purchase a fancy GPS like the big boys have.

When day sailing in San Pedro one almost always see a high speed passenger boat headed to Catalina, a large percentage of sailboats not using their sails, the Good Year blimp, seals sleeping on a buoy, a couple of off-shore what-a-be racers, the Coast Guard, the Fire Department boats, tugs waiting for a container ship, the Port Police, and the Life Guards.

Yesterday started with the morning fog and not much wind and a return sail with the normal daily wind that gave Hurricane Gulch its name and warm weather. After a fun day on the water the work starts again as I have to put all the toys away and put the baby in bed. The next day sail washing, drying and folding makes the one day sail a three day work detail.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nunc est Bibendum

Went to the desert over the weekend. Well I went to what is left of the desert and where we camped out is now part of a park ran by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). The area surrounds a dry lake called El Mirage and the lake bed is used by assorted fans of this vast flat surface for racing, sailing (with wheels), jeeps, motorcycles, gliders, normal airplanes and those not quite normal. As of October 1, 2008 the BLM started charging for entrance to park. They had been building a fence around it for several years and the rumor was some day they would start charging and now the day has come. I am not certain when the word BLM came into my vocabulary but among desert riders it was a very hated word then.

And there is my portable mobile hair dispenser who thinks the desert is maybe paradise and she rides shotgun seat or floor depending on her mood. Her name is DeDe, two Ds and she got that name by being a desert dog. She came into our family via a cardboard box that was placed in front of Stater Brothers market in Phelan which is located south of El Mirage and used to be the only store of that size for a zillion miles around. Myself, my son and his friend had stopped at the store for supplies and it was a few weeks before Christmas and I am a sucker for puppies. Her first ride was from the store to El Mirage where we went riding dirt bikes for the day. She probably had her first can of dog food (actually two small tins in the back of a Chevy pickup) and had just been weaned. When she was a wee pup she was a cute little ball of fur now she leaves her hair on the boat, our carpet, the van and anywhere she lays down. DeDe has been to the desert many a time but this trip was the first time she had so many buddies and friends to play, bark and chew with.

Before we left the flat lands to head for the desert we had to climb the feared toll road mountain that divides plastic southern Orange County from the mighty Santa Ana River that runs next to the fastest jam free 91 Freeway. Several wagers were made my the mutant teenagers than the VW van would never make it over the dreaded toll road mountain and the wages were even higher than it would never, never climb over the mountains to the high desert which is between 4 or 5 thousand feet at the summit. I tried to explain than the van was born close to the German Alps and would scoff at these small California mountains and indeed it did. We went flying over the toll road at 42 mph pedal to the floor and crested the summit going over into the desert at a brave 44 mph carrying a full size motorcycle parked inside next to the stove and kitchen sink. And nothing was removed or altered to carry it inside the van.

With several families sharing stories, excellent food, my daughter's Margaritas, and an unending supply of fire wood for the fire DeDe simply refused to get in the van when it was time to go home.
Since I use the word zillion as a simple plural I must guesstimate the number of flies inside my yellow rolling pent house with an upper floor bedroom to be more than a mere zillion but a zillion zillion (that is a zillion squared to those math majors) and the small stubborn flies refused to leave or be blown out by the violent winds that came through my wind wings when I reached 65 mph going down the mountain grade. We are already planning our next adventure to go motorcycling riding and next time will remember to bring matches, cork screw, and fly spray.