Black Friday the family went into Boston, not to shop, but to visit the Museum of Science. Our crew consisted of my lovely wife, our two daughters, their husbands, four grandkids and myself. It sure beat shopping for stuff.
However, my lovely wife and I were getting burned out on city crowds. People in Boston were actually generally fairly nice, but there are so many of them. In our hearts, we are country people.
Today we are driving back to northern New Hampshire. Our middle daughter is putting us up for a few days. She only lives about ten miles from our house. We have some last minute packing to do before heading south. There’s also last minute business that needs to be attended to.
Sunday a snowstorm is supposed to move it. Right now it doesn’t look like we’ll have decent travel weather until Wednesday. Our schedule has a fair amount of slack built into it. It’s the first time towing our boat with the Blazer. I always take it easy when towing. Those little trailer wheels have to make a lot of rotations. Stopping to let them cool and keeping they well greased is a big help.
My lovely wife has me checking the weather along the way. We have some time booked in a campground near St. Augustine Florida. Sometimes it’s actually fairly cold there, but the long range forecast looks decent. If it didn’t we’d keep heading south, even if we have to go all the way to the Keys.
I really enjoyed Thanksgiving. My lovely wife and I were blessed to be able to experience it with family.
I hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. What can be better than getting together with people, having a good meal, and being thankful for the blessings in our lives?
Unlike Christmas it appears that Thanksgiving has limited commercial possibilities. Outside of turkeys and a few decorations, there’s not a lot of stuff to sell us. One of the reasons I like it so much.
Hope everyone has a good day, no matter how they celebrate.
My lovely wife and I refuse to go shopping on Black Friday. We certainly don’t shop on Thanksgiving. That’s when people should have the day off to spend with their family.
With that in mind, we thought we’d get some early Christmas shopping done on Tuesday. We’ll be far from home on Christmas so we want to get a few things for the grandkids ahead of time.
There are a couple of massive thriving malls near my daughter’s house. My lovely wife and I split up. I spent hours going from one end of the mall to the other. Nothing in the place interested me in the least. Hours later I caught up to my lovely wife. She was still in the first large store she stopped in. The poor girl was bouncing around the store like a ball bearing in a packing crate. She hadn’t found anything of interest either.
At one time malls provided at least a few things of interest to us. Now it all seems like so much nothing.
On the bright side, we did find some gifts in a large bookstore earlier in the day. Large bookstores aren’t all about books anymore. They had a good selection of quality toys and games. Of course, being a bookstore, I found a few things of interest. At the very least they can be counted on to have some boating magazines.
When we were out in the California Bay area I never saw so many electric vehicles. They are rare in the frozen mountains of northern NH. It wasn’t until I was in California did I see my first Tesla dealership. Those electric cars were everywhere.
Tesla just shook things up with their electric truck. It doesn’t look like what we’ve come to think of as a truck -more like a six grader’s doodles on what at future truck should look like. Then there was the whole fiasco about the broken windows. That controversy aside, the numbers on the vehicle look pretty good. Acceleration, speed, handling, and towing look excellent. The fact that it’s giant rolling battery with a built in air compressor could actually make it handy as a contractor’s vehicle.
Of course, it will be years, until the thing makes it to market. Tesla’s previous launch dates and pricing have proved to be wildly optimistic. It really doesn’t affect me personally as my budget allowed for a used 2004 Chevy Blazer.
Tesla’s making a big splash, but that won’t affect most people. The company that’s going to really change things, best I can tell, is Ford. They are coming out with their Mustang Crossover Vehicle. The only thing it borrows from the Mustang is the name and a few stylistic details.
The big thing about Ford is that it’s committed to electric vehicles. They are putting their vast resources into the project. Ford has a massive dealership network and are committed to building a huge charging network. That’s the sort of effort that will jump start the whole EV market. You can be sure that other car companies are jumping in on the electric bandwagon. China is heavily committed to electric so that will bring prices down even lower.
Maybe some years down the road I’ll get one. One of the big advantages of electric, which often gets overlooked, is their reliability and lack of needed maintenance. Electric vehicles are robust and at their heart, mechanically simple. Now that companies are making EV trucks with decent towing capacity, they are even more attractive.
There are some hurdles to wider adoption, but with major companies putting vast resources into it, expect to see a lot more electrics on the road. It could happen so fast that it will appear to happen overnight. That will an overnight sensation about a hundred years in the making.
It’s no secret that I’m a country boy. I’d rather be out in an isolated forest or even a swamp than a crowded city.
However, there are some things you only really get in decent sized cities. One of them is really good museums. My lovely wife and I accompanied my daughter and her family to the Peabody Essex Museum. We plan on going into Boston later in the week for the Museum of Science. My daughter home schools so museums are a good resource for her.
The PEM was founded by those who sailed the world back in the day. The maritime collections are especially interesting to us. Salem MA was once a major marine hub who’s sailors traveled the world.
One of the cool things about museums is that you never know what treasures you’ll find there. My lovely wife was excited to discover the original artwork for one of her favorite prints. There’s something about seeing something in the real world that digital copies just do not capture.
A good museum reminds me that humans really have made progress over the years. That cheers me when I despair at the current state of things. We’ve survived some pretty awful stuff. It might have been two steps forward and one back, but progress has been made.
I’ve been pretty focused on travel. First is was our train trip to California. Now I’m focused on the last few details before heading south for the winter. It seems I’m always planning something.
So what happens after we get back in the spring? Plenty. On thing we are going to concentrate on is getting the house and land back in shape. While we were in California a contractor removed the old deck from the house.
My daughter was concerned that the whole thing would collapse. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened to the contractor. Fortunately, he had staging and supports in place to protect his crew. I’m glad nobody was hurt. Hiring someone to do the job kinda bugged me, but it was the smart thing to do. My family only had to twist my arm for weeks to make it happen.
When we get back home in a week or so I’ll inspect the house to see if it needs any work to survive the winter in good shape. Cleaning up the debris will have to wait until spring when the snow is gone.
Spring projects will include a new stairway to the beach, raised beds for the garden, and a new waterline for the well. I better spend the winter getting into good condition because I’m going to need it.
It’s not going to be all work, of course. The is no sense living by a nice mountain lake if you don’t take time to enjoy it. We also plan on having a lot more campfires and cookouts. While rebuilding the house is good, rebuilding relationships with friends and family is even more important.
My lovely wife and I are staying at our oldest daughter’s house in Massachusetts until after Thanksgiving.
I’ve been doing a lot of on-line research for our trip to Florida. We will hook up our Oday 19 trailer sailer and head south in early December.
One of the things about hauling a boat is that you need a somewhat secure place to keep the trailer and tow vehicle. Many boat ramps do not allow overnight parking. Others limit your stay to two or three days. On-line information is not always accurate so that makes planning a bit of a pain.
One time the on-line information said the parking pass machine only took one dollar bills. Considering we planned on staying the maximum allowed time, that would have been a lot of one dollar bill.
The banks were closed so we finally got our dollars from a Publix. When we got to the boat ramp, there was a brand new credit card reader and it didn’t even take cash.
With that in mind, I’ve been doing the research, but not fully trusting it. In general I’m looking to find backup boat launches for each area I want to sail in. Of course price is always a consideration. There are advantages to having a smaller trailer sailer with us this trip. We can use boat ramps for smaller boats. The shallow draft lets us use the same boat ramps that John boats and canoes use.
California was fun, but too dry for my tastes. My lovely wife and I are looking forward to the trip to humid Florida.
Wednesday evening my son-in-law picked up my lovely wife and I at the Back Bay Train Station in Boston. We are staying with my daughter and family about a half hour from Boston.
The train came into the station about an hour and a half late. We stopped for some time in Rochester NY for a medical emergency. Since the emergency was not in my car we really don’t know more than that. There was also some delay in Albany NY. That’s where the Chicago train is split into a Boston and New York train. There were some issues with the procedure that also caused delays.
Thursday was a day of rest. I did a little laundry, visited the family and took a nice long nap.
So . . . was the train trip worth it? I thought so. My lovely wife and I had a great time. It’s a good way to see the country and to meet interesting people. Of course, there’s a certain romance to train travel. I was happy to experience it before all the joy is sucked out of trains. The current head of Amtrak has a background in the airline industry. He appears to want to make train travel as soulless as air travel. There’s a lot of push back to that, so we’ll see.
There were some things that made train travel special. The California train still had dining and observation cars. That’s where you really get a chance to meet and visit with people. The lack of wifi on that train might have been a plus. The director wants to eliminate dining cars and has done so on some routes.
That’s a mistake. People don’t take the train just for the travel. If getting from point A to point B was the whole point, we’d all fly.
My lovely wife and I are back on the train. As I write this somewhere in the high desert I can see this will be a short post. Typing on a moving train isn’t the easiest thing to do. Rough sections of track generate some weird typos.
It was a great visit with family in California, but it’s good to be heading home again.
This train is quite similar to the one we took out to California. The problem is that the cars are in different order from the other train. Everything seems to be in the wrong place. It took me a bit to get used to it.
One of the nice things about train travel is the opportunity to meet people. There’s time and the common spaces facilitate conversation. On the flip side, the little rooms have enough privacy so you can take a break from people if you’d like.
If I do miss a few blogging days it’s due to traveling. Happy trails.
We are hopping back on the trail today. It was a good visit with family.
There is no wifi on the trail until we switch in Chicago. However, I was able to finally get my Straight Talk hotspot up and running. I spent a lot more hours on it that I should have. If all goes I might be able to blog while on the train. Of course, there are areas where the cell phone service is pretty sketchy.
On the way over I was trying to use the cell phone to transfer funds from my bank account. Just before the transaction was about to go through, we’d enter a tunnel. The connection would be lost and I’d have to start all over again. After that happened for the third time, I put the phone away and waited until we were out of the mountains.
When we left New England at the end of October the weather wasn’t too bad. Since then my home area has been hit with a deep freeze. In California I’ve been running around in T-shirts and shorts, so it’s going to be a shock.
California now has a lot of people who’ve been thrown into the prepping world. Thanks to the power shut offs people have to suddenly deal with being on their own. They are being encouraged to have a bug out bag, generator, solar chargers, stored water -the whole nine yards. The only thing they aren’t encouraging people to do is to prepare for their own security. California isn’t exactly a gun friendly state.
A lot of people have had a rude awakening. If you haven’t done any of this stuff before you soon find there’s a learning curve. I was talking to one guy who put in a huge generator capable of running his whole house. When the power went out, the generator turned on. His refrigerator didn’t start. The guy’s wife was in a panic, especially after spending all that money on a generator. As it turned out his fancy computer controlled refrigerator needed a full half hour to reboot after a power shut off.
There’s a lot of people who’ve been suddenly thrown into the deep end of prepping. If you were lucky, only your power was turned off. The unlucky had to flee a fire storm.
Of course, like everywhere else, most people will forget the lessons learned. There will be a lot of lightly used generators for sale soon. Just like after a Florida hurricane, the lessons are soon forgotten. Staying prepared takes though and effort. Most people want things to return to normal so they never have to think about this stuff again.
However, there will always be a select few who learn the lessons and stay prepared.
There are articles out there claiming just that. People are leaving in great numbers. The fire situation seems to get worse every year. Water is always an issue. Taxes are high. It’s the land of earthquakes. Homelessness is a huge problem. State government is a mess. The problems go on and on.
So is it the end? Far from it. All of California’s problems can either be solved or lived with. One example, the number of homes lost to fire is directly related to the lack of affordable housing in more urban areas. Because of that people live further out in the hills where fire was always a problem.
The vast majority of the state’s issues can be solved with political change. I’m not even talking right or left wing politics. Drought does not care what your political party is. Things like better housing codes have greatly reduced the chance of severe earthquake damage. Many of the state’s issues can be addressed in a similar fashion.
Why would one bother? There’s a lot of vitality left in the state. I grew up in a dying New England mill town. It’ a real eye opener to see downtowns with thriving businesses and activities. There are millions of people who really want to live here.
On a personal level, my daughter and son-in-law are opening a second restaurant. Even with all the drawbacks, there’s plenty of opportunity to make a ton of money. While that’s still possible there will be people who want to live here -in spite of the drawbacks. California is a huge economy eclipsing the GDP of most nations.
Of course, all those sunny days are a real draw for a lot of people. As for myself, it’s too dry and I actually miss the rain. While I wouldn’t want to live here full time, it’s easy to see why people would.
There’s a lot of talk about the joys of being able to work remotely. It’s a fine idea, but to actually do it can be a pain sometimes.
One of the big issues is getting access to everything. The financial stuff can be the worse. I ran into some problems with one of my banks. Sure, I remembered the password, but because I was logging in from a new location they asked challenge questions. Even when you know the answer that doesn’t mean you can successfully log in.
Here’s an example. Let’s say the question is the name of the doctor who delivered my first child. I know it was Doctor Jones. However, did I write Doctor Jones, Dr. Jones, Doctor Bob Jones, or Dr. bob Jones, or Doctor Bob O. Jones? The spelling has to exact. I guessed wrong on the spelling and was locked out.
Yesterday I had a meeting over Skype. It took almost an hour to get all the connections and the audio just right. Later one of my partners sent me an audio copy . . . and the file would not open.
That’s with a good wifi connection. It can be tough to get a decent connection. I still haven’t gotten my hotspot device to work properly. Maybe later today.
Next month I’ll be in a remote location where the only cell service is provided by AT&T. I’m not sure if I’ve got anything that can connect with that service. Worse come to worse I’ll look for a burner phone that piggybacks on AT&T.
One of these days satellite communications will be fast enough and cheap enough that none of this will matter . . . or the whole technological world will collapse. Either way, my problems will be solved.
There was no post yesterday. Frankly, I was pretty much out of stream. One six year old can easily wear out two grandparents.
Another thing is that there’s not a lot to say. We’ve been catching up with family that I don’t get to see too often. It’s a long way from New Hampshire to California. That’s one reason we haven’t been doing a whole lot more touristy stuff. Frankly, I’d rather shoot baskets with a six year old. (He out shoots me by the way.)
Then there’s the issue that some areas we’d like to visit are on fire, or at least are smoke covered from those fires. My days as a firefighter have taken their toll and I can’t deal with more smoke. I even packed a filter mask just in case the smoke here got too bad.
We have a few more things we’d like to do before taking the train back to the east coast. However, the big thing has been our visit with family, and that’s more important.
San Francisco is famous for its fog. I took a photo from the famous Pier 39. If you look closely you can just see the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge poking up through the fog.
I also got a blurry fog photo of Alcatraz.
In spite of the fog, it was a good day. We took our six year old grandson to the aquarium and that’s always fun. My lovely wife and I got to poke around the marina -like we always seem to do when traveling.
We played tourist for a day, and it was worth going into the city.
The weather back home is cold, but it’s supposed to warm up a bit . . . then snow for a couple days. After that sub-zero cold is predicted.
Here I am in the San Francisco Bay area, enjoying sunny days that get into the high 70s. Seems like a good time to visit my daughter here on the West Coast. I’ve worn shorts and t-shirts almost every single day since we got here. It has dropped into the 40s at night, but when the sun comes up it quickly gets comfortable.
Of course, I’ve lucked out as we’ve avoided most of the fire problems, only getting a little smoke one day. My daughter was also lucky to not have her power shut off. All those clear sunny days make it tinder dry. Then there’s the constant earthquake danger.
Just like everything else in life, you have to take the bad with the good. While I wouldn’t want to live here full time, this has been a great vacation for me.
We plan on heading back to New England just before Thanksgiving. At the end of the month we have to go back to our home to finish packing for Florida. The house has all the plumbing drained, Internet turned off, and most of the power shut down. On the bright side, we can light the woodstove and get some heat into the building while packing. It’s going to take plenty of hot coffee to get the job done.
Originally the plan was to have the Blazer and boat packed and ready to go. As the day of our California trip departure crept up, we concentrated on that. Even so the boat is about 95% ready and the Blazer about 90% packed. It shouldn’t take too long . . . except for cold, snow and ice slowing everything down.
There’s some slack in our schedule. There’s no need to pull a boat trailer through a snowstorm.
My lovely wife and I were talking about sailboats. I know, big surprise. There was something that was bothering her about living for months on a boat, but she didn’t want to talk with me about it. She expected a fight.
It turns out her deal breaker was the head, or bathroom for you land lubbers. We had a composting head on our Ranger sailboat and I was really happy with it. There was a learning curve, but after that it was pretty easy to take care of. My lovely wife knew I was a fan of those systems.
Turns out what she really wants is a regular marine head, with a holding tank and everything. Not only that, she knows they can be finicky and require maintenance and repair. She also didn’t want to have to deal with any of that. It would be my job and responsibility. If you want to know how bad those jobs can be, watch a few Youtube sailing videos about marine toilet problems. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Here’s the thing, it’s the only item keeping her from long term sailing. She said she doesn’t care about hot water, showers, refrigeration, air conditioning or even a stove. My lovely wife doesn’t require a newer fancy boat, or even a dinghy with a motor. All in all, her one requirement is amazingly reasonable.
That’s the first thing I’m going to look for when we go boat shopping next. I’m also going to study up on different models and head repair. Probably also stock up on heavy duty rubber gloves that go up to my elbows.
All in all, it’s a small price to pay for a wife willing to go sailing.
For thousands of years irrigation has made civilization possible in dry regions. This part of California is no different in that way. All around me I see green lawns, tall trees, high populations and busy activity. However, looking out over at the hills one sees lots of brown with strips of hardy evergreens. Lately we sometimes see smoke from not too distant fires.
Without irrigation the land could not support too many people. With it, farmers can grow enough food to feed a good sized segment of the country’s population. Civilizations have collapsed when their water supply failed. I don’t see that happening in the short term here in California. There’s too much invested in the region to give up on it. Politicians and engineers would move heaven and earth to repair a broken water supply.
Considering this is also earthquake country, that’s a good think. Personally, I feel a bit better knowing my daughter has some water storage in her apartment.
California is such a contrast from my home in Coos Country New Hampshire. The local Forest Rangers jokingly call it the “asbestos county.” Large forest fires are rare. We get a lot of rain and the area is full of natural ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.
My home has a well about 75 feet from the house that constantly overflows, even though it’s only about 5 feet deep. People are encouraged to store drinking water, but I really don’t have to bother with that at home.
Out here in the dry west, it really hits home how important emergency water storage can be.
There’s nothing like traveling to the other side of the country to get some perspective in life. It’s always good to occasionally get out of one’s comfort zone. In short time I’ve been her I’ve heard more different languages and eaten more different foods than I normally do in a year. The Bay area is quite the melting pot.
While this is my first visit to California I’ve been out West before. My earlier observations still apply: it’s too dry out here. I hear it’s wet in the Northwest, but I don’t know if or when I’ll ever make it out there. The problem is that the best time to visit is in the summer. It’s hard to leave my spot of heaven in Northern New Hampshire during the summer. During the deep freeze of winter, it’s a lot easier to head out on the road. That’s not really the time to visit the Northwest.
Another thing that I realized is that there is no way I could afford to live out here. There’s plenty of jobs and opportunities but everything is expensive. The price of rents and fuel really stick out. Gas is about two dollars a gallon more expensive than back home. Rents are at least three times the cost -if you can find one. Everything seems to be taxed.
Being so far from home I have the opportunity to see it with fresh eyes. It’s hard to get a good hard cold assessment of your home area when living in it. Too much gets taken for granted. You have to go to someplace significantly different to become aware of how home differs from other places. Some things you think are universal are not. That can be a shock.
My lovely wife and I will be out here for a while yet. While here I’m going to take some notes and make plans for when we get back. The trip have been very educational.
Funny thing about traveling by trail. You see things you don’t normally see. Every hear about “the wrong side of the tracks?” When traveling by train, you see the wrong side of the tracks all the time.
A lot of time the trail runs though industrial zones. It makes sense. Passenger trails travel mostly on freight lines. Trains are used to move a lot of industrial supplies. My lovely wife and I saw a lot of scrap yards while traveling the country. Maybe I’m weird, but I find that interesting too.
We also saw a lot of homeless encampments. If you are living in a tent pitched in a pile of trash next to the tracks, your life has gone seriously sideways. I feel both compassion and despair. As a human being it hurts to see other humans suffering. My despair comes from the fact that some people are capable of soaking up massive amounts of assistance without changing their lives. Having come very close to being homeless myself, I realize how easy the downward slide can be. It can be tough out there.
The train also goes though some very remote areas. I can’t but wonder what people do for work out in some of those places. There has to be some reason for small communities of mostly trailer homes to exist out in the middle of the high desert.
Of course, mostly we saw some amazing landscapes. There are also some amazing houses located way up in the mountains with million dollar views. Train travel shows you the best and the worse of the country. Unlike car travel, you aren’t concentrating on driving so can take it all in.
One of the best things about traveling by train is being able to see the country up close. One of the worse things is not being able to see much of it for long.
We had a stop here at the Albany New York train station. It was a nice break. We walked around and checked out the place. My lovely wife and I even went outside for a while. That gave me the false impression we’d do that more often.
Our stop in Denver was just long enough to get to the end of the train platform, ride a couple of random elevators to the wrong place and then hoof it back to our train.
When we got to Reno the conductor warned us not to go to the casino. He said there was just enough time to run inside, put a coin the machine and then head back to the platform in time to see the train leave. He claims they leave people there all the time. They do not wait.
We did see one exception to this leave anyone late behind policy. Apparently the cook stepped out on one stop and the train left without him. They quickly noticed he wasn’t on board so they backed up the train. You don’t leave without the cook.
We did have some time in Chicago as we were changing trains there. We went and caught lunch at someplace not on a train. Our return trip is supposed to have an even longer layover, so we have some plans.
If you are a smoker you’ll probably find it tough to get your fix. Trains are nonsmoking. They do let you smoke at most of the short stops, but there are some fairly long gaps between those stops. Smokers have fewer stops than they used to because they left butts littering the place.
Our train ran into some delays due to broken tracks. It felt like they were trying to make up time by shortening the stops.
Amtrack is in transition. The current head wants to concentrate on the short runs which are more lucrative. That’s a disaster for those people who need or want longer train trips.
One of the things that was cut out was the dining cars on the eastern trains. All that’s left is the snack bars. We were warned that there wasn’t much in the snack bars. With that in mind we brought our own healthy snacks. We figured fruit and nut bars were healthier than bags of chips.
As it turned out the snack bar wasn’t that bad. They had some decent microwave sandwiches. While that’s not great eating, it’s not too bad. My lovely wife actually enjoyed her cheese burger and my ham and cheese sandwich was fine. Still, we were glad we had plenty of healthy snacks with us. One bonus of Business Class was that non-alcoholic drinks from the snack bar were included.
Our train from Chicago to California had both a snack bar and a full dining car. The snack bar on that train was more like what we expected. The food in the dining cars was fine. Food is included if you have a room. They seated people with rooms for dinner first. If there were still seats available the dining car was opened up to Coach passengers. If you were paying for those meals you’d find them to be pretty expensive.
There’s enough menu variety that one could eat a different meal every time for the duration of the trip. Dinner requires reservations and someone comes around your room to see which seating you’d like. They fill up the booths so you never know who you’ll share a meal with. It’s a good way to get to know your fellow passengers.
Breakfast and lunch are first come, first served. There is always a vegetarian option if that’s your thing.
One thing the western trains have is an observation car. That’s a great way to take photos of the trip. That’s where I took this picture of Donner Lake.
That’s where the famous Donner party ran into bad weather and experienced some disturbing dining experiences of their own.
I’ve been silent here on the old blog for a while. Things have keep me busy. After winterizing the house for the season, we made our way south. Along the way we met up with friends for a late dinner. By the time we pulled into my eldest daughter’s place in Massachusetts, it was late.
After a couple days my daughter drove us to the train station in Boston. We made our connection. The business class part of trip from Boston to Chicago went well. The seats were fairly comfortable and leg room was good. Wifi was excellent. However, the tracks had a lot of rough parts so blogging with a laptop on my knees didn’t sound like fun.
I thought that it would be easier when we were in our own room on the California Zephyr. While the room was more comfortable, that train did not have wifi. Also there were a lot of places that didn’t even have cell phone signal. All we could do was enjoy the ride and entertain ourselves.
The Western trains still have dining cars and the food was pretty decent. Staff on the train were pleasant and helpful. I’ll blog with more details later. Right now I thought it best to send off a quick post to let everyone know I’m still alive and doing well.
I’ve some photos. This one was in Colorado on our way up the mountains.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.