Friday, April 30, 2010
You can read her Blog here.
It took a bit of maneuvering and back and forthing to get out of the parking spot but she was soon headed down the driveway, brakes squealing from the coat of rust they picked up from not being used for six months! She is going for an oil change and then will be headed for the ferry in Nanaimo. She called to say something happened on her way and that I should read the Blog tonight to find out what it was! I can hardly wait!
There were meetings, arguments and presentations and the community was split right down the middle on the issue. We were all owners of CRTV and some of us did not like the idea of a big company moving in. They said they would not raise prices but we knew this was a lie. The sale went through and we were each paid $3,700 for our share in the old Co-Op.
When we got home this year we found we were only getting half the channels we got before we left. They had introduced a "tier" system and everyone was given the option to pay twice as much to keep the programming we had before the buyout. Not being around to "opt in" to the increased charges, we were placed on the lowest tier.
We have had StarChoice (ironically also owned by Shaw) for a few years to use in the motorhome and it was also wired into the big screen TV in the family room. We decided to get rid of Shaw Cable and switch over to StarChoice completely. Our TV costs will be cut in half, leaving plenty of budget room to add a few channels if we want to. The switch also requires buying a couple more receivers for the extra TV's in the house and bringing in a Co-Ax cable from the dish to each TV, something I am capable of doing myself. I will eventually have to install another dish as each dish has four outputs and we have five TV's. No problem, I have an extra dish.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I finished the taxes today and went for a ride to the dump with Rae who was getting rid of some of the leftovers after her RV renovations. She will be pulling out tomorrow on her way back to her summer digs in the Yukon. If you have not checked her Blog out yet, have a look. It will get interesting as she describes her trip back to Canada's North.
The plumbing problem turned out to be aging equipment. The pressure reducer was shot and had to be replaced and the outside tap had been plumbed into the high pressure side of the reducer and had to be relocated. He also replaced the main shutoff and relocated it to a spot I can reach from the crawl space hatch.
We are going to have a few friends over for a party on May 8th. We will do it then because Brooks and Linda are working in Vancouver this weekend and I cannot have a birthday party without them because Linda is making the birthday cake!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
There is a water pipe pounding in the crawl space and I am too "large" to fit through the small access panel. I have been wanting to get the main water shutoff replaced anyway as it is as old as the main part of the house (40+ years) and does not shut all the way off any more. I called a plumber and he will be here this morning. That will make up for the money I did not have to pay in taxes!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The house was in great shape and we spent the day setting up the new TV in the bedroom. When I opened the box I found the remote was broken. I called Toshiba Canada and was told to call USA support as that was where we bought it. I called USA support and was told that since we had taken it to Canada there was no warranty and I was out of luck! This is a brand new HD TV and I am out of luck! They did offer to mail a replacement to a USA address so I will work on that angle and find someone to forward it to me.
I had better luck getting the Windows 7 laptop set up. I dumped a bunch of the bloat and program trials that came with it and got Quicken installed and working so now I can officially get rid of the old eMachines. I have a couple more programs to install and will work on that after I get the taxes done. I am dreading finding out how many thousands we owe...
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
We did not make it all the way to SLC yesterday but stopped about 40 miles short in Springville, UT. Every time we have been through SLC the Interstate has been torn up and under construction and it is a nightmare to manoeuvre a 50 foot long motorhome and tow car through it. I set the GPS to find a Wal-Mart and that is what it did. We had not been parked long before the sun went down so it was for the best. Sorry Heidi, we did not get a chance to get together (again). Maybe next year or there just may be a high school reunion!
I went into Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of things and wandered over to the computer section. I have been thinking of upgrading the ten year old eMachines laptop for quite a while. It has served me well but has a couple of problems. The power cord will not stay plugged in and the screen flickers in a maddening way. Plus, The battery only holds enough for about fifteen minutes. Ten years is enough to expect for a laptop, especially one that has been used and abused as much as this.
They had a Compaq with an AMD Processor and 2 GB of RAM on sale for $348 that looked nice. It is actually a re-branded HP but what the heck, for $348... I specially liked it because it has a built-in numeric keypad that will come in very handy for working with Quicken. I cannot believe the prices of these things. I paid $1200 for the reconditioned eMachines in 1999 and those were 1999 dollars! This Compaq is much faster, has a hard drive that is six times as big and four times the RAM! The only thing I am nervous about is that it comes with Windows 7. I know this is much better than Vista which I managed to skip but I am concerned that some of my software will not install on it. I will wait until I get home before playing with it. Taxes are the first consideration before playing with Operating Systems.
We left Springville at about 9:00 and headed for SLC. The traffic was a nightmare. There was construction everywhere and the lanes narrowed until they were only a few inches wider than the motorhome. I tried driving in the middle of the three lanes to avoid all the merging traffic in the right lane but with trucks passing on the right and cars on the left it was a very stressful situation. We stopped for gas and lunch and headed north and the road soon became much less busy.
We are in another Wal-Mart in Mountain Home, ID. It rained much of the day and came down quite hard before we parked. It is nice now and there was actually a nice sunset a few minutes ago.
Tomorrow we head towards Portland and I-5 up towards Port Angeles and the ferry to Victoria. We will not make it all the way but should make the early ferry on Sunday. We will see Brooks and Linda and, with any luck, the grandchildren. After that it will be a fast run home to do our taxes in time for the April 30 filing date.
It is Friday Morning now and we are driving through heavy winds. We found a truck stop for breakfast with WIFI so you are reading this…
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
We stopped in Shiprock, NM and talked to a Navajo woman about blankets. She told us the stores charge at least double what the weavers sell them for and if we want one, the best way is to get someone like her to take us to meet the people who actually weave them.
We could not stay long as our taxes have to be filed by the 30th and we still have a long way to go. I checked when we left Canada and it was actually the 28th and not the 25th so we do not have to be back until the 27th. This gives us a little breathing room but I still have to sort the mail for tax stuff and do the taxes on the 29th at the very latest!
We are at the Ute Mountain Casino a few miles from Cortez, CO listening to the cold wind whip across the parking lot. We might go for their $3.99 breakfast before hitting the road. Last night I spent a couple of hours breaking even on the penny slots while Norma made about $40. Another good night but we have to get a little more serous about getting home and hope to cover quite a few miles today.
We got a phone call just before ten this morning telling us the alternator had been delivered and the motorhome was ready to go. We drove back to Albuquerque, paid the $1,200 bill (ouch), loaded the trailer and went to Sam’s Club to buy some six volt batteries for Brooks and a 26” Toshiba HD LCD TV that was on sale for $395 for the bedroom at home.
I had dropped my new Mexican eyeglasses on the tile floor in the hotel this morning and broke the frames in half. I showed them to the optometrist at Sam’s Club and he said he could move the lenses to a new pair of frames. He did this while we shopped for the other stuff and that cost me $103. Good deal!
There was a tire store across the street so we drove in there for new dolly tires. I told the guy that tires only last 10,000 miles on the dolly and asked him if that was normal. He said they get a lot of sideways pressure so they do not have a long life but when he took the old ones off he noticed they were bias ply and not radials. He said radials might last longer so that is what we put on and after another $170 we were on the road at about three.
About fifty miles down Interstate 40 we saw a sign for the Dancing Eagle Casino saying they had an RV park with full hookups for $10 per night. We checked in and went to join the Players Club to get the cheap rate on the RV park. When we signed up they also gave us coupons for $20 off a gas fillup and $3 each off meals in the casino restaurant! Very friendly folks these Pueblo! I put my normal $10 in the penny slots and took out $15 and Norma put her normal $40 in her favourite $.25 Wheel Of Fortune machine and took out $110. Not a bad night. We took our $3 vouchers to the restaurant where Norma had pork chops and I had fettuccine Alfredo. It is a dry reservation so no wine with dinner and that kept the bill at $14 after the discount but before the tip.
It is 8:00 PM and starting to sprinkle. There are five or six digital TV channels off air so we are settled down for the night and the box of Krispy Kreme donuts are calling my name. Life is Good!
Edit: Pat, a regular reader tells me the Dancing Eagle Casino is on the Laguna Reservation and the people are Pueblo, not Navajo. Pat knows as this is where he is from! Sorry Pat and thanks for correcting me. It is always appreciated.
Monday, April 19, 2010
We made the drive to Taos this morning. It took us about two hours as we were in no hurry and the scenery was spectacular. We passed many small Pueblos and an almost equal number of casinos. It makes you wonder just how much gambling money there is to share in this State but all of them seem prosperous.
Taos is what Santa Fe probably was twenty years ago. It is a small town surrounding the central plaza with many shops selling everything from authentic Navajo rugs to designer clothing. The architecture is Adobe. Everything is earth tone in colour and of low visual impact including WalMart and McDonalds. There are no bright colours or slashing neon lights. It is very inviting and would be a great place to live. Real Estate is also reasonably priced, maybe as a result of the economic downturn but whatever the reason, it would be a nice time to jump into the market in Taos!
We found a Navajo Rug shop and bought a small rug. It was just about the cheapest rug in the place! Here is the shop:
Sunday, April 18, 2010
A commenter explained how I could have avoided getting a tow the other day when the alternator failed in the motorhome. He says that since the generator charges the engine battery as well as the house battery, I could have simply run the generator and driven the rig to the shop.
Too late for me this time but everyone take note if this should ever happen to you.
Some other comments tell me to make sure the alternator is shielded from water spray and point out that rebuilt alternators are much cheaper than the brand new Ford product supplied by the dealer. They never told me a cheaper alternative existed and I never asked. I might have been able to save myself two or three hundred dollars. You have to know what to ask!
The tow did not cost me anything as I have AAA “Plus RV” Road Service, but in talking to the driver it appears their charge is $4.50 per mile so the almost hundred mile tow would have been very expensive if I had to pay for it. Well, I pay for it anyway as the dues for the AAA are around $150 per year and this is the first time I have used it in many years.
We are off on a road trip to Taos to see the sights there. The alternator is supposed to be at the shop by 10:00 AM tomorrow so with any luck the rig will be ready by noon.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
On the plaza in downtown Santa Fe is the old Navajo Market. We remember this market from our last time in Santa Fe in 1966. It has not changed except for the prices. Last time we were here we could not afford to buy anything so this time I decided I needed a small Navajo pot. There were many to choose from and I finally settled on one by Dorela Tosa, a friendly, talented Navajo artist from Jemez Pueblo. It was not hugely expensive but very nicely done and much cheaper than it would have been in one of the tourist shops in town where we briefly considered a nice vertically loomed Navajo Rug until I saw the $7,500 price tag and stopped considering.
Here is the Navajo Market:
And Dorela Tosa with her pot:
Santa Fe was a short drive of a little over an hour from Albuquerque. It passes through several First Nations Reservations, each with their own casino. Casinos seem to be one of the only growth industries in the USA right now and most were advertising some great acts. Michael McDonald, Credence Clearwater Revival and David Spade to mention a few.
The GPS would not take us to the hotel, insisting there was no 7000 block of St, Francis Street. We eventually found it the old fashioned way. I am going to try doing that more often before I become too dependent on the GPS and forget how to find my way around without it.
We drove down to the main plaza and walked a bit before going for dinner. It is COLD in Santa Fe! There is a cold wind blowing and I had to stop at a store to buy a sweat shirt. We found The Ore House and climbed the stairs for dinner. I had halibut and Norma had a small steak. We each had a glass of wine and the bill was $75 before tip. This would be a very expensive place to live!
Negotiating and Sale:
Friday, April 16, 2010
We have decided to make lemonade out of these lemons and use the opportunity to drive up to Santa Fe, NM for the weekend in a hotel. we will be in the Santa Fe Suites Hotel until Monday. They have WIFI!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Linda guessed what was wrong with the motorhome. Congrats Linda, you win the prize! Rae almost guessed it and Brooks missed by a mile thinking it was the catalytic converter. Les missed it as well but that hardly counts because Les does not know what a transmission is ;). I might have guessed if I had not been all doomy about the transmission. I kept flashing back to the mechanico in Chetumal who drained the transmission fluid instead of the engine oil. He corrected his mistake by straining it through a sock and pouring it back in. The sock got rid of the bugs and leaves but who knows what the bucket was used for before? I intended to get the transmission serviced but thought maybe I had waited too long.
Brooks bought a 140 amp alternator for his work truck and it cost him $800 plus installation so I guess I did pretty good but I have no idea why the alternator would fail after only 26,000 miles.
Anyway, all's well that ends well! I doubled my money in my hour at the slot machines tonight. Too bad I didn't gamble $1000 instead of only $10. I could have paid for the repairs with my winnings instead of only paying for one buffet dinner. I pigged out on the deserts and now I just want to lay down.
We are also having the transmission serviced and an oil and lube job done. The bill will be around $1200. Not as bad as it could have been. I had nightmares last night about a blown transmission.
Since our bedroom is in the shop we will have to find something to do around town until after seven when they close. They told us that we are not allowed to sleep in it while it is in their parking lot but what they do not know won't hurt them. And it will save a hundred dollar hotel room.
We might go to the Route 66 Casino for a while. I feel lucky!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
About half way between Roswell and Albuquerque the motorhome started acting up. First it stalled and would not start. Then it started but had no instruments, radio or power windows. I drove for a mile or so and everything came back except the ABS light was on. I touched the brakes to test them and it stalled. I started it up and no instruments again. Now the ABS and battery lights were on. A minute or two later it would not go over 2000 RPM. A minute after that it started jerking and stalled again so I called AAA for a tow. It took him almost two hours to get to us. We unloaded the car and he towed the motorhome and dolly while we followed in the Honda.
We are now parked at the Ford Truck Dealer in Albuquerque waiting for them to open at seven AM. A least they have WIFI! Wish me luck, this might cost a bit! The only good news is the Loonie is now worth more than the Greenback and the Markets went nuts today. I think I am actually making it faster than I am spending it right now.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I am sure everyone has heard of Roswell. It was near here on July 4, 1947 that a rancher reported finding a crashed UFO. He took some pieces to the nearby Air Force base which sent out a team to investigate. The next day the base commander issued a press release to the effect that they had “captured” a “Flying Saucer”! A call was made by the local Sheriff to the local mortician asking for five child sized coffins to be immediately sent to the Base. A local nurse reported that one of the “Creatures” from the UFO was alive and that they were trying to treat it. The next day higher up Government and Army officials descended on the Base and things took on a sinister air.
The Base Commander was showing one of his superiors some pieces of the wreckage in his office when the superior asked to be shown something in another part of the base. When they got back to the office the original wreckage was missing and in it’s place were pieces of a weather balloon. The Base Commander was told that he had made a "mistake" and had misidentified a crashed weather balloon. He was to issue another press release admitting this error and testify to the fact that the wreckage was actually a balloon. This he did two days after the original press release.
The “bodies” were explained away by another “misidentification”, this time base doctors had misidentified crash test dummies used in high altitude fall experiments. The doctors had mistakenly believed for two days that these wooden dummies were actual flesh and blood beings and that one of them was actually alive. How silly of them!
The army moved into the crash site and removed all of the debris and much of the soil, all of which was taken away in trucks. Security was extremely high and all non-military personnel were threatened and warned to keep the whole thing quiet. In the 70’s some of the people involved began dying and death bed statements to friends and family sparked a renewed interest in the “Roswell Incident”. Several books and a movie have been the result of this new interest.
Roswell is now the home of the International UFO Museum and Research Center. When I visited today they were occupying an old movie theatre building but a new facility is being built that will take up almost a whole city block. Roswell is on my list of places to come back to. Understandably, because of the efficiency of the army in removing everything from the site in 1947, there is little physical evidence to be displayed. Copies of documents and written records of interviews of the Base Commander before he was told to shut up are on display. The movie “Roswell” with Martin Sheen is being shown continuously. The crash site itself is on private property and as it is a working ranch is closed to the public.
To me, this has an interesting tie to the Kennedy Assassination. In both cases, professional people were told by “the Government” that they had made dumb errors in their personal fields of expertise and were forced to expound the “revised” stories.
In the Kennedy case highly trained doctors were told they had misidentified bullet entrance and exit wounds. They were told they had made a mistake and the small hole in the front of the skull was actually the exit wound and the missing piece of skull in the back was actually the entrance wound. Forget everything they had learned in Medical School and through years of experience. Experienced policemen were told to change their reports that stated they heard gunshots from the Grassy Knoll. They were told they had been "mistaken".
At Roswell, doctors and medical professionals were told they could not tell the difference between wooden dummies and bodies. Career Air Force people were told they did not know the difference between metal airframes and balloons. What an insult to dedicated professionals. As in the Kennedy case the “revised reality” replaced actual observations and experiences.
Could this happen today? Well, remember the “Weapons of Mass Destruction”? Weapons experts, investigators, army officers, photo analysts and spies said there were none. Well, they were over-ruled and the USA went to war over them. So yes, it can still happen as long as people believe what they are told to believe and "Obey Without Question".
The July 6, 1947 Headline and one of the Test Dummies of the era. See how easy it would be for a doctor to think this was a flesh and blood being? Good thing a politician set him straight!
The Museum and one of it’s neighbours:
Monday, April 12, 2010
We did not have time to stop in Abilene. The highway bypasses it and as we are running out of time we decided to give it a pass for this time.
One thing I do know about Abilene is that it is where the gunfighter John Wesley Hardin spent much of his career. Born in 1853 and the Son of a Methodist Preacher, he started his colorful career at age 11 when he stabbed (but did not kill) a schoolmate in the chest and throat after the other child attacked the young Hardin with a knife. By 15 he was in full killer mode, shooting Reconstruction Soldiers (Yankees) which in those wild days in Texas was hardly considered a crime. He moved on to gun-fighting and gambling and was very good at both. He once beat another gambler several hands in a row and the other gambler told Hardin he would kill him if he won another hand. Hardin won the next hand and the other gambler went for his gun. Hardin drew both his guns and fired, striking his opponent simultaneously in the head and chest. Many people saw this fight so there is a good record of how Hardin used his guns: his holsters were sewn into his vest, with the butts pointed inward across his chest. He crossed his arms to draw. Hardin claimed this was the fastest way to draw, and he practiced every day.
There is no question that Hardin was fast. Once he was walking down the street when a deputy sheriff slipped in behind him and drew his gun to shoot Hardin in the back. A by passer on the other side of the street yelled a warning and Hardin spun, drew and fired before the sheriff could squeeze the trigger. No one dared challenge Hardin to a “fair” fight. He could not be beaten.
It was in Abilene where Hardin was sleeping in a hotel and his next door neighbor started snoring. Enraged, Hardin fired several shots through the wall, killing the snorer. He escaped into the night before Wild Bill Hickok, his friend, mentor and current Marshall of Abilene, could arrest him. He left because he did not want to have to kill Hickok, his friend and mentor. Later Hardin said in an interview, "They say I killed seven men for snoring, it is not true. I only killed one man for snoring."
Hardin was an intelligent man. After being arrested on a train, he was sent to prison for 17 years. While in prison he studied Theology and Law and after being released in 1895 he passed the Texas State Bar Examination. Shortly after in El Paso, Texas he got into a verbal argument with lawman John Selman over the arrest of Hardin’s friend for “brandishing a firearm”. The two parted without a fight. Later that night Selman’s father (also named John), fearing that his son would be killed by Hardin, sneaked up behind Hardin while he was gambling and shot him once in the back of the head and three more times in the back as he lay on the floor. It was the only way to bring down the man considered by many to be the greatest gunfighter of all time. He was 42 and is said to have killed 40 men.
John Wesley Hardin. Pre and Post Mortem:
The sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository is where Lee Harvey Oswald is supposed to have fired the fatal bullets that ended the life of President John F. Kennedy. The building is now used as administrative offices for the Dallas School Board but the sixth and seventh floors are preserved as a museum. The corner window of the sixth floor has been enclosed on the inside in a Plexiglas surrounding and the stack of boxes that hid it from view has been recreated. Here is the window:
Here is the view of Dealey Plaza from the same window, only one floor up. The perspective is almost identical but was not guarded against photographers as photos are forbidden ("There are enough conspiracy theories around now. We don't need people analyzing their own photos" as one guard put it to me). If you enlarge it by clicking on it you will be able to see the two “X’s” marking the spots where the first (throat) and second (head) shots hit Kennedy. He would have been shooting at Kennedy’s head, the only part visible above the seat back and trunk. A very difficult shot:
This, on the other hand, is the view straight out the same window down Houston Street. This is the street Kennedy’s limo took before turning left onto Elm at the lower right corner of the photo.
This would have been the ideal shot for anyone in that window. The target would have been approaching and presenting a full chest and head view. It is a much shorter shot than the one above and would have been very tempting if in fact the shooter had been in that window. An analysis of the scene, recordings of the gunshots and interviews with witnesses has shown that this is just about the only place in Dealey Plaza that shots did NOT come from on that fateful day.
Who shot Kennedy? Well, it was not Lee Harvey Oswald, that is for sure. He was shot by a rifleman standing behind the picket fence on the Grassy Knoll. A network cameraman recorded the muzzle flash and outline of his body. It was ignored by the Warren Commission as was most other evidence that did not fit their conclusions. There were other shooters, as many as six in all. Some had the job of causing a diversion and adding confusion. Three of them fired at the president, one in the throat and one in the head. The third missed his shot and hit the dashboard of the car. A fragment of this bullet chipped the windshield. The car was immediately sent to General Motors for a complete rebuild. All blood spatter evidence and bullet fragments were conveniently destroyed.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Today I checked one more thing off my “Bucket List”. I visited Dallas’s Dealey Plaza where on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot. What struck me most about the Plaza was it’s small size. I always expected it to be much larger but the whole thing is contained in an area of less than a single square block. All the legendary landmarks are only a few steps from each other, The Texas Schoolbook Depository, The “Grassy Knoll”, The “Stockade Fence), The “Triple Overpass” and the spot on Elm Street where the fatal shots hit. As we walked up to the Plaza we were met by a young enterprising salesman who talked us into buying a flier from him outlining some of the conspiracy theories. He was very pleasant and gave us a “Seniors Discount” and posed with Norma for a photo.
You get both sides of the Conspiracy argument here. The Museum on the Sixth Floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository has the “Official” version, that of Lee Harvey Oswald, the lone gunman in his “sniper’s nest” on the sixth floor firing all the shots with remarkable accuracy from his cheap mail-order rifle. This is also the version concluded (some would say invented) by the Warren Commission.
Over on the “Grassy Knoll” is a display and tables set up by Bob Groden, a Photo Analyst for the House Select Committee On Assassinations and Technical Adviser to Oliver Stone’s movie, “JFK”. Groden was selling a DVD and a magazine containing many unseen photos and evidence suppressed from the American public. This evidence has been sealed until 2017 and even the public showing of his DVD in the USA is illegal as it contains photos from his own archives, the originals of which are sealed. He gave a pretty good talk on the subject and then his partner made a sales pitch for the DVD and magazine which I bought.
Here is the Texas School Book Depository. In the theory they would have us believe the shots were fired from the second window down on the right hand side.
This is a shot back at the Texas School Book Depository while standing in the middle of Elm on the “X” that marks the spot of the first bullet strike to the throat.
This is taken from the spot of the second bullet hit to the head. It is a long shot and the head is a very small target in a moving vehicle. Makes you wonder…
This is the “Grassy Knoll” and the “Stockade Fence” where everyone looked and the police ran to after hearing shots. One news camera actually caught a puff of smoke at the fence. The pickets have been removed as souvenirs and replaced thousands of times. They were all in place in 1963. This view is from the curb very near where the second shot hit Kennedy in the forehead and blew the back of his head off. It was this large piece of skull Jackie climbed on the trunk to save.
This was shot from behind the picket fence looking right at the spot where the second shot hit Kennedy (see the painted “X” on pavement). A shot from here would have exited to the rear left of his head, exactly where Jackie was reaching for the piece of skull. This would have been an easy shot for a marksman. Probably only about 75 feet away.
Like most people alive in 1963, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was on my way to college class when a car pulled over to the curb and a man called us all over to listen to his radio. I went home and watched TV news with my mother all day. I was 18 and just starting College. This assassination was a turning point in my life and changed my view of the word. It proved that right does not always triumph over wrong and that the “Good Guys” do not always win. It was the point that changed everything that I believed from my previously sheltered life and after that I saw the world in a different way.
I never believed the “Official” version. It just did not go along with the news reports I heard and when the Warren Commission affirmed the made-up story I thought it was a joke. Too many eye witnesses went against what they determined.
Friday, April 9, 2010
We drove from Galveston to Dallas today. Driving through Houston is a nightmare and without the GPS I would have had a problem. Although we stay on the same highway (I-45) it is a maze of interlocking overpasses involving tons of lane changing and bearing left or right. Thanks to the lady with the annoying voice, we made it through. American and Mexican drivers have one thing in common. When they see turn signals come on on a 50 foot long motorhome and tow car combination, they immediately speed up to close the space I was hoping to move into. They do not want me in front of them!
After leaving Houston, we started seeing signs advertising “Bob’s”, a place to eat that has been around for a long time so when the exit arrived, we drove in. Bob’s is a large building with a buffet that goes the whole length of the building. Half is cold and half is hot. The first thing I noticed was they had catfish and mashed potatoes! That sold me! I filled my plate up and added a few vegetables, ate it and went back for more catfish and potatoes. On the way past the desert table I noticed a slab of pecan (pick-anne, not peek-anne evidently) and grabbed it just in case it was the only piece. The buffet cost $11.50 each which was not cheap but the catfish was never-ending and good!
We are now in Dallas, in the overflow area of the Traders Village RV Park. The park is full because it is right next door to the venue where the Great Texas Chilli Cook-off will be taking place sometime this weekend. I don’t know if chilli cookers party late but I suspect they might so it might get noisy tomorrow night. Since we are in the overflow area, the charge is only $22 per night so I just might splurge for the $4.95 per day Internet.
Tomorrow we are going to visit Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Johnson Space Center was the adventure for today. It is about a half hour’s drive up I-45 and it was a sunny but cool morning when we set out after a pit stop at the Waffle House. We made a slight error and tried to drive in the employees entrance where we were set straight by several friendly (but heavily armed) security people. We got to the correct entrance and paid our $5 parking and $18 each (after a 10% AAA discount). We entered the main building and headed for the Tram Tour of the grounds. Here we went through security much tougher than any airport I have been in. I emptied my pockets and walked through the scanner which alarmed. I took off my watch and gold bracelet and tried again. Alarm. A security guy came over and told me to take off my belt and this time I got through. This happened to many people so it was a slow process to fill the tram.
The tour was interesting in a way but all it was was the pointing out of various unmarked buildings with a brief explanation of what went on in each. As the buildings were unmarked, they may or may not have been what he said… I had really hoped to see the old Mission Control room from the Apollo days but it was off limits like almost everything.
We did get to see and touch a real Saturn V rocket like the one used in the Apollo Program and we went in one huge building where mock-ups of the shuttle and Sky Lab were located. These mock-ups are used to train astronauts before the actual missions. They are identical to the real things in every way. The tram then dropped us off at the main building.
This building was filled with displays but nothing “real”. There was a copy of the Shuttle crew compartment and flight deck we could look at but the labels were removed from all the controls. It did not make it very interesting for a person interested in the technology of the program. The rest of the building was mainly video games where you could pretend to dock or land the shuttle. Even the young kids who were used to games were crashing every time. To be truthful, I was disappointed and thought the day was a waste of money for what we got. Perhaps my expectations were too high.
Saturn V (a real one!)
Shuttle Flight Deck (sans marked controls)
Last night we asked the woman at the desk here in the RV park to recommend a nice restaurant for us to go to to celebrate our 41st Anniversary. She told us about Clary’s. Clary had been the head chef for one of the more expensive places in town and headed out on his own many years ago and opened Clary’s. It was completely destroyed by Hurricane Ike but they had rebuilt it and it was as good as ever.
We stopped by in the afternoon to have a look at the menu and to scout it out. It is nothing to look at from the outside and even the inside is not all that posh. The sign said they opened at 5:00 and it was only 4:00 but we were shown a menu. Tons of seafood, not cheap but reasonable. As we were reading, Clary himself came over and showed us around the place. He was very proud of the restaurant and had obviously spent a long time in the business. We told him we would be back.
At about 7:00 we showed up and got a table overlooking the bayou. We ordered a glass of wine and Mike, the waiter came to introduce himself. He said he was Clary’s nephew and had been there from the start. He brought along a small bowl with six large shrimp in it “just to whet your appetite”. He came back to take our order. He explained the house salad dressing, a base of Blue Cheese with a drizzle of Italian made with balsamic vinegar over it. He said it was very good as the Italian sweetened the taste of the Blue Cheese. “Of course it would not work unless it was made with balsamic vinegar”. When he brought the salad he said Clary had told him that we had been there earlier and to do something nice for us so he also brought a complimentary appetizer of Oriental Fish Fingers. By the time we finished the huge salads, a loaf of bread and the two appetizers, we were ready to call it a night. This is as much as we eat most nights! But, the dinner orders were in and it would have been rude to say goodnight now.
The dinners showed up in the regular American portion sizes – huge! I had the fresh Flounder and Norma had the Seafood Platter and we managed to struggle through them. We had told Mike to slow things down as we were in no hurry and did not have to be anywhere until May. He slowed things down nicely and dinner lasted until 9:00. When we were almost finished Clary came over and talked to us. A couple at the next table knew him well and joined in the conversation. They told of us of walking into the restaurant after the hurricane. The wine glasses hanging from the slotted rack over the bar were the only things that survived and they were perfect, not one of them broken. It seemed like it was a signal to rebuild. The rebuilding is not completely finished but everything works and the tables look great with linen tablecloths and silverware. The atmosphere was wonderful and soft jazz played from a CD player on one of the tables in the corner, another thing waiting to be finished.
We paid the bill and asked Clary and Mike to come and have their photo taken with us. It was a great evening!
We are parked right on the Bayou here in downtown Galveston. The water is just across the road in front of us, maybe 25 feet away. The wind is blowing right into the front of the motorhome and has been all night. If it were hitting the side the rocking motion probably would have kept me awake most of the night.
We got home from dinner at about 9:00 and turned on the TV. We were watching CNN when suddenly it went blank. The dish had blown over (again)! It had the 20 pound rock tied to the base and also a construction block over the center pipe. I thought for sure this was the formula required to keep the thing on the ground. I will have to do some engineering in the summer. In the meantime, one of the legs of the tripod is slightly bent from the fall and I have not yet inspected the feed horn of the dish itself. It looks OK from out the window though. When we get back from our adventure today I may move it behind the rig and tie it to the car dolly. It has never blown over when I have done this.
The adventure today is a trip to the Johnson Space Center. I want to see Mission Control where the words, "Houston, we have a problem!" were heard. But first a stop at the Waffle House!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Up until 1910, Galveston was the largest city in Texas. It was the home of many very wealthy families. A section of downtown of about nine square blocks is totally preserved with the grand mansions of these people. Here are some of the nicest of them. The first is the grandest of all. It was built by a very wealthy family near the turn of the century at a cost of $250,000 back then. That would translate to millions today! When the family no longer needed it they donated it to the Church and it became the Bishop’s residence. It is named “The Bishop’s Palace” and is now open for tours.