Saturday, September 26, 2015

Still hoping....

As you might guess from the amount of posting it's been pretty quiet around here.  We are looking forward to losing the triple digit temps.  104F (40C) is the highest so far in September;   when I started this update a couple days ago we were down in the 97F (36C) range.  Now we are back in triple digits.  We did get some rain in September:  .01 inch on the 12th and .03 inch on the 15th.  That's kind of deceptive because that's measured in one spot near one of the city parks.  Rainshowers blow through the valley leaving a very small footprint.  I must admit that we drove into Las Vegas and were in rain at least half of the way; maybe it followed us like the raincloud follows Pigpen in the old Charlie Brown comic strip.   There is a wunderground site that shows .13 inches on the 15th.  At least we get some nice rainbows out of the deal!

And sunset the other night was ok as well though that pretty color is probably created by smoke from the wildfires in California.

As you have probably guessed from all the weather info things are pretty dull around here these days.  We walk almost every morning while it's still cool and my wife has started visiting the gym twice a week working with a personal trainer.  So far I haven't gone with her but it's coming.  Losing 20-30 lb (10-14kg) is clearly needed. 

I'm turning 67 in a couple weeks and we'll probably go over to Vegas for dinner.  We don't care much for the strip because it's over-priced and pretentious but there are plenty of other fine places to eat.  If we are absolutely under-whelmed we may just hit our local steak house.  It's pretty good and half the price of Vegas. 

I've been using the smoker somewhere around once every 10 days or so.  The salmon is coming out pretty well if we can find Pacific salmon.  Around here we mostly find Atlantic salmon in the stores and the Atlantic is a fattier fish and that causes some problems.  The Pacific is dryer and firmer.  I'm still struggling with brining the fish; sometimes I over brine and sometimes under brine.  Steaks are pretty reliable after an hour or so in the smoker then a couple minutes on the grill.  I did manage to do some smoked pork chops that were amazing!  My only real problem is that with only two of us the smoker is WAY too big and if I were to fill it even a fourth full we'd have frozen smoked whatever for the next three months.  Happily it is electric so smoking something takes very little effort just some time. 

Sorry to be so dull but there it is.  Thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Going to the birds

We are home for a while so there won't be a lot of photos from exotic locales.  One of our favorite occupations is to watch the birds out at the bird feeder while having a meal.  Sometimes we have quite a selection but other times it's mostly pigeons like this.

Then when this guy comes most every other bird takes off.
We think it's a sharp shinned hawk though it wasn't willing to turn around for a better photo.  Oddly one of the finches was unwilling to leave the feeder.   Maybe it figured it was safer hiding behind the feeder than taking off. 

We aren't as bird crazy as some people though.  My wife and I like to walk in the mornings.  During the warm months that means before sunup.  There is a house down the road where the real bird people live.
Yes, those are pigeons covering the roof of their house!  There were more on the electric line behind the house but that wouldn't fit into the photo.  Sorry about the quality of the photo; I took it using my phone.  They must have quite the bird feeder! 

That's all for today.  Happy Labor Day to those in the U.S. and thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The end (of the California trip)

After our adventures at Disneyland and the Queen Mary we were all warmed up for Catalina Island.  Driving from the Queen Mary to the ferry landing was some ten minutes or so; it was kind of between the QM and the restaurant where we'd had dinner.  They sure jam stuff together on the waterfront these days.

The Catalina Express  does the island a real favor by offering a free trip on one's birthday.  There were at least a couple dozen people on board celebrating their birthday.  Of course most had companion who was paying full price.  Many places on the island offer you a bottle of wine or something on your birthday; of course you have to stay there so... Let's just say that bringing more people to the island does everyone a good turn.  The two boats we rode on were 140-150 foot (45 m) catamarans carrying 350-400 people.  They ran something like 30 knots and were very smooth; the trip takes about an hour.

Something like 90% of Catalina Island was purchased back around 1919 by the Wrigley family (of chewing gum fame).  They set it up in a trust that controls the land through the Catalina Island Conservancy - their mission is to protect the island.  They have all kinds of ties; we took a tour of the island and the tour guide said his paycheck was signed by the Conservancy.  They own pretty much everything except the little bit of land that is the town of Avalon.  You can see from the photo, it's kind of dry on the island.  I think we were told they average 7 inches (17 cm) a year.  All water is held in cisterns except for a bit that is pulled from the ocean via desalination.  

I chose to stay at the Edgewater Hotel in Avalon.  Reviews sounded ok and it was right in the center of the town.  We had a mixed experience.  It is in the middle of the beach, the middle of all the restaurants, nightlife, whatever the town has to offer.  It was an easy walk from the ferry to the hotel.  Our room was comfortable but not extravagant.  There wasn't much noise from other guests except those using the ice machine in the middle of the night.  (We were next to it!)  The first bad thing we noticed was that the handles on the sink in the bathroom didn't work properly:  they didn't stop but just kept going.  I pointed it out to the manager and she fiddled with it and it shut off.  It wasn't fixed you understand, just shut off.

(The next day I spoke with the owner who happened to be in the office.  She was outraged at the lack of concern and had a plumber over that day to replace the faucet.  How it got to be in such bad condition, I could only guess! Or how much water it as wasted in the last year!)

The real problem is that this was called a Fountain View room.  We pretty much kept the drapes closed because this was our view.
Really?  Five feet away are the windows of the next room!  They really ought to do something about that.  Even if they hung a curtain between the rooms it would help.  It wouldn't do anything for the hall window that also looked into our room but one step at a time!  Breakfast was a bagel with only jelly and coffee; not much of a show.

We weren't there for the beach but it was fun watching people enjoying it.  It is VERY small!  We found restaurants and bars with nice food and drink - that's pretty much what we were there for so we were good.  We even played miniature golf!  On our second day we took a tour of the interior of the island.  The tour was in a bus from the 1950's so no air conditioning.
I'm sure they have re-powered it but the speedo and the tach didn't work.  I can only guess about the smaller instruments!  We did something like 30 miles but it was all switchbacks and dirt road.  Heaven help those buses if it ever does rain!

That is the road that we were driving on.  It is a two way road but fortunately you don't meet too much traffic and the driver was very experienced.  The thing in the middle of the photo is another of the island's attractions:  a zip line.  That is the starting point.  From there you zip over a canyon and get off; then you repeat that four more times before ending up about a mile down the road.  I've no idea how long it is or how long the ride might be!  

There were buffalo imported for a movie back in the 1930's then the movie company found them difficult to round up so they left them.  Now there are lots of buffalo.  The Conservancy has watering holes for them even. They don't pay much attention to the bus but no one was throwing out carrots either!

Anyway two days on the island was enough and we were happy enough to get back on the ferry and whoosh back to Long Beach.  The drive home was totally crappy once we got out of the city.  Going up Cajon Pass there is road work so we all climbed the pass at about 30 mph.  Once out on the 'flat' area something happened I've never experienced.  We would be going along about 60 mph then suddenly everyone would slam on their brakes and go down to 10-15mph.  I never saw anything but then we'd speed back up to 60 and it would happen all over again!  Weird stuff!  But we did manage to make it so I'm not complaining.

I do apologize for the extended time it has taken to publish this post.  I made a huge tactical error letting my wife take all the photos on the inland part of our journey.  She takes good photos but short of turning her upside down and shaking her I couldn't get her to share them with me!  It has taken two weeks of pleading to get them; at least the ones she hasn't deleted!  As a long time husband I should have known better!  Sorry!  Thanks for checking in.  Take care.