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Gwen, Mom and I visiting Reno
Monday, February 20, 2012: We made a fun road-trip to Reno in the new car this last weekend. It's been a while since great-grandma has seen the great-grand kids and Sunday was a beautifully clear day for a great drive in the mountains. We climbed to 7,200 feet over Donner Summit on dry roads. Both Chloe and Noah were in good moods and happy to see all of us. Uncle Joe was visiting too. My birthday is this weeks so I got to blow out some candles with Chloe's help.
Working with Chloe at her easel Dale with Noah
Uncle Joe and Chloe Father Ben, Noah and me

Great grandma with the great- grandkids

Great grandma enjoys Chloe and Noah, look how big Noah is getting at only five months. In the photo above, left, Uncle Joe gives Chloe a ride while she yells, "again", "again". In the photo to the right, the three of us are wearing plaid shirts our favorite. Plaid shirts aren't necessarily Kim or Gwen's favorite. Click the photos for additional views.

The drive in the new car went well too.

Plumbing problems

Tuesday, February 21, 2012: We've got plumbing problems at Mom's house. The washing machine backs-up in the sewer line and overflows in one of the drains and in the outside clean-out. We brought in a plumber today who expected to clear the problem in minutes but two hours later still did not have the problem solved. He decided that the pipe had collapsed or a tree root had blocked a pipe. He called in "Romero" whose job was to dig up the pipe for a charge of $50 per foot. The plumber has estimated $3,200 to complete the repair. YIKES! So I'm looking at the ditch where I did the most digging. That's about $200 since it's about 4 feet long. For every 20 feet, we are looking at $1,000. So we thought about alternatives ... our next door neighbor wanted to do the digging for much less and we thought about renting some sort of trenching machine but the plumber wanted to work ONLY with HIS man and warned of other underground pipes. I already knew of old irrigation pipes plus many tree roots along our path. So I decided to leave the whole responsibility with the plumber and his crew (Romero). We believe the washing machine, dishwasher and kitchen pipes drain into this pipe but the bathrooms drain into another line, we'll learn if Jeff, the plumber is correct over the next few days. I spent most of my day on this job. The rest of the day went to delivering a load to the dump. Click the photo for an angle view.

Ralph and Janet are in California again
Wednesday, February 22, 2012: Ralph and Janet are back in California and close enough to visit us in Lodi to celebrate my birthday. Mom took us all to breakfast at the "Best Place for Breakfast in Lodi". This is the Velvet Grill and Creamery. I believe everyone at the table agreed with their advertising. Ralph and I visited "Yelp" while at the table, clicked "check-in" and we both got a coupon for a free ice cream cone. We were too full to cash-in but hope to take advantage later. So today I made another milestone. At age 16, you get to drive, at 18 become an adult, at 21 you get to drink, at 62 you get the senior access card and at 65, medicare. I guess the last milestone is finally reaching number ONE on the Timber Valley RV Park waitlist in Sutherlin, Oregon. Today, we are number "21".

Mimi's Cafe

Friday, February 24, 2012: I took Gwen to breakfast this morning because she is leaving Sunday to visit her daughter and because Mimi's Cafe sent me a "free breakfast" coupon for my birthday. We always enjoy Mimi's in Elk Grove but this time we chose Mimi's in Stockton for the breakfast. While examining the menu I spotted this breakfast. Take a look at the calories. This ONE meal exceeds the number of calories most adults use in a whole day. Amazing. No! Neither of us ordered this breakfast.

A family gathering in Concord, California

Struggling with the birthday cake

Saturday, February 25, 2012: This was a busy travel day. Gwen is leaving to visit her daughter tomorrow so we decided to rent a car for the trip. The better gas mileage and difference in the price of diesel over unleaded fuel will made the cost of the car rental almost break-even with the cost of diesel and wear/tear on the truck. Gwen and I drove to Stockton early this morning to pick up the rental car then returned to take family members to Concord, California for a family lunch and birthday celebration. We drove mom's new car and tried the on-board navigation for the first time. It worked perfectly. The drive from Lodi to Concord is a dangerous two lane road which I have driven many times but 40 years ago. The road has NOT changed in 40 years except the traffic is heavier. It follows a busy route 12 to Rio Vista then west along the Sacramento River to Antioch and Pittsburgh, then over the hill into the Concord, Walnut Creek area. The entire route is a narrow, 2 lane, levy road, until you reach Antioch where it becomes a multi-lane freeway. In Concord, we had a good visit with the family, great food and some planning for future events. The cake had a layer of hard-frozen ice cream which made if difficult to cut so Sandy is struggling with the knife at left. We safely returned to Lodi later in the day.

84th Annual Academy Awards

Sunday, February 26, 2012: So the most exciting part of this day were the 84th Annual Academy Awards. I hadn't seen many of the movies but did recognize most of the actors and enjoyed Billy Crystal. I knew nothing about "The Artist", the best picture. But I have seen Hugo which took several awards and I agreed with those. Watching the awards gave some good ideas for movies to watch and DVDs to rent. Some of the movie and artist descriptions helped me to understand some of the movies I've seen and look forward to some new movie experiences. Click the photo for a view of Billy Crystal.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012: One of my jobs while visiting my mother is to clean out the "catch-all room" which is my old bedroom in the garage. In the fifty years my parents have lived in this house, I used half the garage for my bedroom for two of those years before going to college. After leaving, my parents began to put items into that space to save for a future time and the room has filled with unused and broken items plus memorabilia. I gathered up 5 bags to be discarded today and found a drawer with old photos including this one. I'm sure I took the photo, probably in the spring of 1964. My sister Sandy is on the right, my first "real" girlfriend, Claudia, is in the middle and her sister Melissa is on the left. Claudia was my first love, we were both juniors in high school so 16 - 17 years old. This is the only photo I've seen of her since those years. Seeing this photo has brought many thoughts to my mind. Several years ago, I trained as a private pilot and subsequently owned two planes. Piloting an aircraft is the most exciting sport a person can do in my opinion. I was able to fly as long as my business could support it. As the business began to slow, I had to give up flying so before flying the last time I would fly and try to record in my mind the views and feelings I had as a pilot so I could replay them at a future time, not expecting to ever pilot again. As I've grown older, I've wished I had done the same thing with other lifetime experiences. For example, I lived at Lake Tahoe (6,300 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains) for thirteen years and made several backpack trips into the surrounding wilderness areas My only photo of Claudiawith my children. One of those trips was into Desolation Wilderness Area above south Lake Tahoe. It was a four or five day trip where the kids and I suffered much of the time with mosquito attacks. Now I see it as a time where I should have paid attention to my feelings, to the time with my children and to the views of an incredible wilderness area. I've not visited that area since that trip and doubt I will ever do it again. I wish I had made a "mind-recording" so I could replay it again. That's also what I feel about Claudia. At the time, I was highly focused in college preparation courses with specific educational goals in mind while Claudia was more relaxed and enjoying life one day at a time. She was happy with her classroom experiences while I agonized over trying to achieve college prep grades. Now I know she was far wiser than me. I must have been very frustrating to her because she did her best to "retrain me" to enjoy life as it came each day and I failed her instruction. Of course, having a friend of Claudia's quality was new to me and I didn't think to look for an instruction manual of how to be a good friend in return. I had no idea what "love" was, neither how to give it nor receive it. Now I KNOW we were in love. Our friendship was on/off until my sophomore year in college when we went our separate ways mostly because I couldn't broaden my focus from education. I wish I had a "mind-recording" I could replay of Claudia or a chance to "do-over" those special high school days. Unfortunately, I am a mere mortal unlike the character Bill Murray played in the movie "Groundhog Day" where he got the chance to relive the same day hundreds/thousands of times until he FINALLY got it right. We mortals get only ONE chance to get-it-right. Anyway, she would have made a wonderful lifetime companion except that it would have been cut short, she died of cancer 20 years after this photo. That would have been devastating to me. The facination with finding the photo and going back in time nearly 50 years is somewhat represented in another favorite movie, "Sliding Doors", with Gwyneth Paltrow. The whole movie is on the premise of the question, "what if ..." It follows a character into two circumstances, one where Gwyneth catches a train and the other where she does not, then how this simple difference affects the two life paths. So "what if" Claudia and I had chosen a life together, how might our lives have been different? As parents, we try to teach our children in such a way hoping they avoid the mistakes we have made. Maybe the easier expression would be to hope that our children live their lives in such a way as to never have to "wish for a do-over" and to live each day mind-recording the moments. Today may be the last time you experience a favorite activity, see a fabulous view, or fight mosquitoes while on a hike with the kids. Carpe Diem. I lived this principle with my father, the last four months of his life so I enjoyed every day I spent with him and have many mind-recordings to replay.

Justin trying to figure out a complicated joint Repair is (2) 45s where there used to be 90 degrees New cleanout and water valve
Wednesday, February 29, 2012: The plumbing project is completed. I'm not sure the plumber actually ever figured out the problem with the sewer not draining. To me he sounded like a visit to the physician ... "I think it's ..... take this pill, when that doesn't work ... OK ... let's try THIS pill." So first he dug up the offending pipe only to learn it wasn't clogged (even though his snake was "hitting something hard to push". He learned that pipe connected to the mainline pipe from the house, the infamous "orangeburg pipe" which was now the new diagnosis. He drilled a hole in the top of the orangeburg pipe near the connection to the city sewer line, ran his snake down that and it cleared the problem. But now the long term cure for the problem included replacing the orangeburg pipe. Admittedly, the orangeburg had gone oval shaped as it was slowly collapsing (over 65 years). So the entire sewer system from the house to the city line was replaced. The plumber threw in a new freshwater line from the city valve to the house valve. I've noticed an increase in water pressure so that probably needed changing. In the photos, Justin is trying to figure out a complicated connection to what is probably the irrigation system. His connection did not work so the job is finished, reburied, except for this one leaking connection which must still be replaced. The center photo shows what use to be a 90 degree elbow which is now (2) 45 degree angles. This elbow was thought to be one of the original problems. The right photo is one of the three new clean-outs installed in the line as well as the water valve to control fresh water to the house. Note the concrete used to seal the connection to the city sewer line.

senior meal today

Thursday, March 1, 2012: It is Thursday so movie day at the senior center. They are showing "Moneyball" with Brad Pitt and my mother and her friends are anxious to see it. Gwen and I have already seen it. So I went to lunch at the senior center with mom then took a load of trash to the dump. After returning, I continued organizing the garage. The menu was chicken stir-fry. It doesn't look like much but tasted good.

On a "first Friday" tour

Friday, March 2, 2012: I learned today that the first Friday of the month is a special day in Lodi. My sister Dorana and her boyfriend, Robin took my Mother and me on a tour of three art exhibits in Lodi for this "First Friday" event. It is always special to get to view art with Robin because he is an accomplished watercolor artist and can interpret what Dorana and I might otherwise miss. Our first visit was to Arbor house, a residential retirement location in Lodi. Next I learned each location had a selection of snacks and wine as well as art to view. At Arbor, we experienced live music in addition to everything else. Our next stop was the city library where Dorana and I found we liked the same watercolor of quail. (You can click the photo to see how much Dorana likes the Quail.) Our last stop was at Hutchins Street Square where the art was far more modern than the other two stops. All three locations were well attended and lively. This is apparently a social event as well because we ended up in many conversations at each of the stops. It was a great end to a busy day for Dorana and me. We spent much of the day finishing the clearing of the garage room I began a few days earlier.

A truck delivery It's an anniversary gift
"Are you sure it will fit", they said Where does it go?
Perfect location

This annivarsary is not for the cat

Saturday, March 3, 2012: While Gwen is away visiting her daughter, I decided to get an anniversary gift, something Gwen and I have been shopping for awhile. We found it at JC Penney before Gwen left but decided to wait until our return to Oregon for the purchase so we don't have to pay the awful California sales tax. However, our anniversary is happening in March, before our return to Oregon and I got a 20% discount for the purchase so I decided to surprise Gwen. It's a couch larger than a chair but smaller than a love-seat. It also makes into a bed. I had to cover the couch immediately because Annie thought it was for her. So far Annie and I are very happy with the new couch.

A load of steel shelvingDaniel is learning to use an Ipad
Monday, March 5, 2012: We had family visitors to share the great-grandson and to look for "treasures" in one of the family storage places. Forest and Shannon found a use for steel shelving which was loaded into the backend of a suburban for transportation back home. Meanwhile, Daniel is trying out his Aunt's iPod. Give him another year or two and he will be teaching his aunt.

A visit to Blockbuster Video

Wednesday, March 7, 2012: Today, my sister Sandy came to visit and we did a lot of talking. One of our topics was a movie I had seen many years ago, "Sliding Doors" with Gwyneth Paltrow. We decided to rent it so she could see what I was talking about. The Lodi Blockbuster had the movie. As you know, Blockbuster nationally is nearly out of business because their business plan has not kept up with the challenges of Netflix and Redbox. Today I experienced a good reason why that is so. We ended up in line before the only open cashier where a family wanted to check out movies but had two movies not returned. The family pretended not to know what movies were missing. That caused the cashier to leave his post to check the shelves for the two missing movies. Meanwhile, we are still standing in line to rent ONE 99¢ movie. He finally returned without the missing movies, checked out the current movie requests to the family and asked them to "double check at home" for the missing movies. The time to rent this movie was about 15 minutes. I've not tried to rent a movie from Blockbuster in more than three years and my experience today helps me to understand why many of the Blockbuster stores are closing.

Driving east looking at the Sierra Nevada range

Thursday, March 8, 2012: What a busy day with my mother and sister Sandy. Many errands to do beginning at 10 am and not ending until 3 pm. We visited an attorney, three banks, JC Penney, Blockbuster Video, the warehouse behind the store, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Costco.

The photo is from my trip with Sandy into the foothills, up to the 3,000 foot level of the foothills. Off in the distance of this photo you can see the snow covering the Sierra Nevada range. These mountains reach to 10,000 feet in this area. California will be in bad shape this summer. California depends upon the snow pack in the Sierras for summer water and the snow pack is only 38% of normal. Those in control of the water resources have promised only 60% of the contracted amount of water. That may cause the price of California agricultural products to increase. More bad news for the economy. You can click the photo for a view of Jackson, California as we approach our turn-off to the north.

Glass block light fixture

Friday, March 9, 2012: My Mother's house has two glass block light fixtures on the front porch. One of them is in pretty bad shade where all mortor had come loose and several blocks had broken. I was afraid that I would not be able to find glass blocks for the repair but Lowes had 8 inch square blocks identical to what I needed and corner blocks which would work but not identical. I needed two corner blocks at $18 each and one square block at $7 each. The bag of mortor was another $10, so this was an expensive repair. I've never worked with glass block OR bricks but watched a YouTube video of how to do it which helped a little. My repair job will not pass for professional but it will keep the blocks in place. I would have hired a professional if it went above two rows.

Saturday, March 10, 2012: Mom has a pocket door frame to her bathroom. The door was removed when I remodeled the bathroom to work for my father when he was struggling with mobility. I installed grab bars at that timeGuide lines on the driveway but the screws entered the pocket door frame too far so I was afraid of damaging the door. My Mother also likes the grab bars but wanted the door replaced so I used a special hacksaw to cut off the screws. The door had to be installed from inside the bathroom. Everything was ready for the installation, the rollers at the top of the door are hung on the track then the door is swung into place to slide into the pocket. For some reason the door is tight. I don't remember making any changes to the rollers so I kick the door into the opening and slide it about one inch into the pocket where it jams in-place. Now I'm in a dilemma, the door won't move in any direction, I'm stuck in the bathroom. I'm looking at the tiny window for a method to escape but decided to try our next-door neighbor, Joe, first. I've got my cell phone with me and his number in memory. Thank goodness, he's home. I told him to bring a 1/2" wrench to adjust the height of the rollers. It wasn't long until he arrived to my rescue. A turn on the roller bolts adjusting the height lower and the door was freed. Joe saved me from the bathroom. I asked Joe how much it would cost me for him to keep this to himself ... we laughed about my situation. With a few more adjustments, the door was working perfectly.

Another project for the day was to add guide lines to help Mom point the Ford Focus into the garage in such a way to make it easier to back out of the garage. Dad had a couple of cans of white spray paint so I made a template out of cardboard. In a few minutes of spraying, I had guide lines leading into the garage. I tried following the lines myself with the Ford and it worked perfectly to put the car into the garage in just the right location. You can click the photo to see my guide lines from the inside.


Our site in space 515Park Sierra
Monday, March 12, 2012: Today was moving day from Lodi to Coursegold, California. We have visited Park Sierra in the past and like this park. It is built on a series of foothills with over 500 spaces. We have been given the best space in the park backed up to a ravine with a creek at the bottom. Lots of open space for Morgan to run plus we are far from any traffic noises. The park was only 142 miles from Lodi so we made good time arriving just after noon. The afternoon was spent setting up then having dinner with our friends, Ralph and Janet who are also camped in the park for a month. Click the photos for additional photos.

Bat house crew

Tuesday, March 13, 2012: Park Sierra has a full power-equipment wood shop and I had a small woodworking project to complete. I only needed a table saw and band saw. I walked to the wood shop in the morning but found about 20 workers building bat houses to be installed around the park. You might be wondering why the park is interested in providing homes for bats. Bats are a good thing to have around your house or an RV park. They eat their weight in mosquitoes each night. Warren is in the center of the photo and told a story of a relative who installed a bat house. It was full in a year and the mosquitoes were gone. The bat house crew from this morning built 15 houses to be installed around the park.

I was able to use the table saw and band saw in the afternoon to complete my project. Now I'm wondering what other woodworking projects to dream up for this next month.

Community Medical Center

Thursday, March 15, 2012: Gwen and I visited Oakhurst today specifically for a physician for Gwen. She came back from visiting her daughter with a terrible cough which has not been getting better so we finally decided it was time to get a second opinion. After a 2-1/2 hour wait she came away with a diagnosis and prescriptions which we hope will work quickly. After the visit to the Community Medical Center we returned to Pete's Place in Oakhurst. We had a large pile of zucchini sticks with our meals, very good. Then off to Von's Market (owned by Safeway) to pick up Gwen's prescriptions. Still no rain, weather prediction is no better in central California than it is in Oregon.

Shaver Lake
The Hungry Hut Ralph and Janet's son's home near Shaver Lake
Friday, March 16, 2012: This was a travel day with Ralph and Janet to visit their Son and family at Shaver Lake, only an hour from our campsite. Shaver Lake, in the top photo, was totally drained earlier in the season to make improvements to the dam so it's still a little low but filling fast. We made this trip to beat a pending cold Alaskan storm due to arrive this weekend. Perhaps it will help the lake back to the top. We had lunch at the hungry hut, in the photo at left, where there were only two inside tables. After having lived in a resort area, Lake Tahoe, for thirteen years, it is a pleasure to visit an area which has not been taken over by commercial interests. The food was good and the service was friendly. Ralph and Janet's son and family own the townhouse on the right, which has great views and perfectly suited for their family and guests to the area. Shaver Lake is at 5,700 feet in the Sierra Mountains and reminds me of the Lake Tahoe area where I never experienced a bad weather day. We are looking forward to rain this weekend while they are looking forward to 2 - 3 feet of snow. Yippee!

Green Beer and green dessertEnjoying St Patrick's Day

Saturday, March 17, 2012: Today is the big day if you are Irish. Here at Park Sierra, we were all Irish today. The Sierra Oaks, the social planning group at Park Sierra, planned a great Saint Patrick's Day event at the club house. It was well attended. The menu included corned beef, carrots, red-skin potatoes, dessert and green beer. When you click on the photos for additional views, you'll see our entertainment after the dinner. At the bottom of the group photo you will see two special guests. On March 5 a fire started near Highway 41 and was getting out of control before firefighters arrived. A local citizen spotted the fire, grabbed his shovel and helped to control it until the fire team arrived. That citizen and his wife are special guests at the dinner tonight with everyone's gratitude. The corned beef was the best I've ever tasted. I was one of the last to buy a left over piece of corned beef for $5 per pound.

Snow on our camp


Sunday, March 18, 2012: This day began with a snow greeting and lots of pounding on the trailer roof from the bunches of snow sliding off of branches and hitting the trailer. This is somewhat of a surprise for me because we are only at 1663 feet, not very high for snow to develop. The rest of the day we experienced an occasional hail storm with breaks of clear sky. This did not keep Ralph and I away from the ice cream and cake social this afternoon. It's 50¢ per scoop and the cake is free because it's birthday celebration day. After the ice cream comes a musical "JAM session" with talented park members providing the entertainment. Ralph and I dropped off a propane tank for each of us because we've been burning lots of propane to stay warm. We are looking forward to the premier of "Frozen Planet" tonight on the Discover Channel.

Laundry repair list

Monday, March 19, 2012: Today was laundry day for me. Gwen is still recovering from whatever it is she got when visiting Barstow. While doing the laundry I noticed this list posted on the wall. This park is a Co-Op park, meaning that members help take care of the park in many ways. There are teams of landscape people, teams of woodworkers, teams that organize social events (such as the St. Patrick's Day event), and apparently a team which knows how to repair the washers and dryers. This equipment gets a lot of use with over 500 spaces at the park and personal washers and dryers are not allowed due to the limitations of the sewer system. So this team must be very important. When you click the photo you will see the front load washing machines. These are great, only $1 per load. Front load washers use much less water and spin the clothes much dryer. We owned a front load washer before selling our Oregon home. We visited this park about six years ago and we see much better organization and cooperation now than what we saw six years ago. While the clothes were washing, I took Morgan for a nice hike around the park then revisited the wood shop to make some changes to my woodworking project. Ralph and I drove to Oakhurst to buy wood for a project he has in mind.

Ralph after setting three picnic tables
Tuesday, March 20, 2012: Ralph and I chose to volunteer this morning to help with the "North Slope", a picnic area near the clubhouse. Our "boss" was Curt who directed us to level the ground in three different areas of a hill overlooking the dog park. We worked all morning with shovels and rakes and finally got the tables set and level. I think the tables need a base of gravel, perhaps that will happen on Thursday when we should go back for another morning of volunteering. Our supervisor, Curt needed to attend a board of directors meeting about 2 hours after our work day began so we finished the job without direction then left for lunch. I still had enough energy left to do a 1.3 hour bike ride in the afternoon.

Southern Sierra Nevada
Wednesday, March 21, 2012: Today was the annual evacuation practice for the park so Ralph, Janet, Gwen and I decided it was a good day to visit Fresno. We had a coupon for Mimi's Cafe giving us two breakfasts for the price of one ... that gave each couple a special breakfast before going shopping. We visited Jo Anne's, Costco, Winco, The Dollar Store, and Harbor Freight before returning to Park Sierra. On the way home, we got a great view of the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains on the far side of this grape vineyard. This is where they are the highest ... Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States is furthest to the right in this photo. Click the photo to enlarge.

Our view of Bass Lake from Ducey Restaurant

March 24, 2012: This was the day we decided to visit Bass Lake looking for Geocache locations. But we began our morning at the Ducey Restaurant on the edge of Base Lake. The lake is very low this time of year but Ralph promises it will be at normal level in time for summer activities. It was a nice day with a perfect view of the docks which should be floating in a few more weeks. Ralph had a coupon where the second entree was half off so we had a nice discounted breakfast before we began our geocache search. Click the photo for another view.

Gwen and Ralph find a Geocache near Bass Lake


We began our search near the resort and found two without moving the truck. Gwen downloaded a Geocache APP for her phone which worked well to tell us which caches were nearby and did a good job to lead us to their location. The APP made it very easy to record a find. Without the APP, a find must be recorded at home on the Internet later in the day. It was a fun day driving around Bass Lake following our GPS meters. Click the photo for another photo.

Cinema Cafe, Merced

Monday, March 26, 2012: This weekend, I visited Lodi for a family meeting and stopped in downtown Merced for breakfast on the way. I prefer dining at a local spot with local folks. I exited the freeway and drove downtown to find something local. I spotted the Cinema Cafe next to the Mainzer, apparently a theater which was closed. I walked into the cafe and found only four small tables, all full. There were a dozen stools at the counter with half a dozen available so I sat at the counter. The cafe was so small, the waitress and two chefs could hardly pass each other in the tiny kitchen. During the time I ate, the stools filled and the tables exchanged customers once. One family arrived and were seated at a table in the entrance to the theater outside. This was a very popular tiny cafe. It seemed to be run by a Mexican family. I decided to order Huevos Rancheros and was not disappointed. The two chefs were very efficient and so were the waitresses. The cafe was everything I had hoped for and a great local experience. Click the photo to see what I'm talking about.

Ralph looking for the right board

Tuesday, March 27, 2012: Today was the guy's day out so Ralph and I drove into Fresno especially to look for a special piece of wood for a project Ralph had in mind. Our first stop was a specialty wood supplier found by Janet on the Internet, "Woodshed" in Clovis, a town next to Fresno. This was a great source of wood for woodworkers so Ralph and I spent more than an hour browsing. Jason, one of the owners, is helping Ralph pick the right wood for his project. We learned that Jason also has a laser etching tool capable of putting designs onto almost anything. That gave both Ralph and I some ideas to improve our projects. Ralph found exactly what he was looking for. It turned out to be a nine foot piece of Yew wood, rough on one edge. This turned out to be the perfect piece for Ralph's project. Click the photo to see his piece of wood. I also found a piece of wood for a project Gwen wants me to do. After the Woodshed, we went to lunch at the Rodeo Cafe in downtown Clovis. It was our kind of place. We both ordered "Turkey Bird Sandwiches". Next came REI to look for something I "just had to have" because I've been a member since I was in high school and REI is having a 20% off any item for members only. No luck at REI. Finally, we ended our day at Home Depot looking for paint brushes and finish to complete Ralph's project. We arrived back home in time to catch Gwen doing laundry after she and Janet took themselves to lunch in Oakhurst. Wait! ... I thought this was a guy's day out.

Driver made too sharp a right turn
Wednesday, March 28, 2012: This morning and most of the afternoon I spent (unpaid) hours modifying the next college course which will begin on Monday (spring quarter). After getting most of the course ready I take Morgan for a walk and discover this motor home in the process of being rescued. The right side wheels are sunk to the axles with the right side on the ground. Apparently the driver drove onto this site to back into another site on the other side of the road but made too sharp a right turn and ended up off the pad and slipping down the hill sideways. Click any of the photos for another view.
Tow truck hooks to a rear wheel to pull the coach sideways
The tow truck driver connects to the rear wheel and turns on his winch. His winch is strong enough to pull the coach sideways through the soft dirt and gravel.
Nearly ready to put the coach in reverse again
The coach is in place to backup but won't budge because both right wheels are deep in the soft dirt and gravel. The tow truck driver grabs his shovel and makes a ramp out of the two wheel holes. With the ramps dug, the coach is able to back out of the holes and across the street into the space the coach driver intended in the first place. This was the excitement of the afternoon for the park. I'm sure this must happen often.

A early morning wake-up call.

Thursday, March 29, 2012: This morning we were awakened at 8 am by a knock on the door asking that we disconnect our satellite cable and move it out of the way of the mowing. I had been warned yesterday that this was going to happen. We are "renters", not lease holders (members) of Park Sierra. I beginning to rethink the idea of becoming a lease holder. As renters, we are on "vacation" with no responsibility for the park. As lease holders, we must help maintain and improve the park. David is driving the mower and Bill is weed-wacking. Both worked hard all morning with no breaks. Later in the morning, Ralph and I drove to the other side of Coarsegold Creek to look for Manzanita branches suitable for Ralph's woodworking project. While on the far side of the creek we noticed a whole crew of men getting rocks for a landscaping project back at the park. David, Bill and all the men in the rock crew are essentially ten years older than Ralph and I. We both wondered if this is something we would want to do NOW, let alone in ten years. I expect living in a co-op park gives you the sense of ownership and pride and the energy to work this hard to care for the park. Vacation is over for those who are lease holders. We have dropped to number 18 on the leaseholder wait list at Sutherlin, Oregon so we will get our chance to participate in park maintenance and improvement. Click the photo to see the rock crew.

To good to hold a leash

Saturday, March 31, 2012: While visiting the Woodshed with Ralph (see above), I picked up a small piece of Padauk, an exotic wood from Africa. I liked the color of the wood and thought it would go well in our trailer. I wanted it to replace the dog leash rack (although, I like it for my hats too) we had in this spot. This 15" piece (I paid for 12") cost $10 and the hooks cost $9. Ralph has already purchased a router bit for his project so I used the park's bandsaw then router plus Ralph's router bit to finish the edge. This wood was some of the hardest I've ever worked with and too nice for a dog leash rack but I didn't have any other project in mind so here it is. I'm sure hoping Sutherlin has as nice a woodshop as does Park Sierra. The center two screws go through the Padauk and into a 2 x 2" wall stud. One screw on each of the side hooks passes through the Padauk and into 1/8" plywood wall. The rack feels very secure.

Following a flight to Germany
Sunday, April 1, 2012: Today is travel day for Gwen's daughter Lesa and her family. Lesa's husband, John is in the Air Force and has been transferred to Germany. So Lesa, John, Courtney (Gwen's grand daughter) their two dogs and one cat boarded an airplane in southern California to fly to Germany today. They will arrive at 9am, April 2, German time in Munich, Germany. Ralph clued Gwen into an APP for her phone to be able to follow flight progress so Gwen has been following the Lufthansa flight since it took off from Washington DC. It has been interesting watching the flight path, plane position, the report of the plane's altitude and speed. It will be an anxious time for us while we wait for Lesa to get her communication working again so Gwen hears about her new location. We also got to spend April Fools Day with our friends Ralph and Janet plus, our friends Dick and Mary Ellen are visiting today before driving on toward Oregon tomorrow.

Visiting Jason's cabin

Monday, April 2, 2012: We visited Jason's cabin near Shaver Lake, Jason is Ralph and Janet's son and the cabin is only an hour drive from Park Sierra. We are here to celebrate our friend Dick's birthday and to hang Ralph's project on a downstairs wall. Since the cabin is at 5,700 feet, it has a coating of fresh new snow from the last few days of weather. The cabin has a great view of the mountains, southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, beyond the clouds are the 14,000 foot peaks. Click the cabin photo to see the view through the clouds. Morgan loves snow, pass your pointer through Morgan's photo and she'll flip over and roll in the snow on her back. Ralph is installing the too coat racks, one for the kids and one for the adults. The base wood is Yew, which he picked out last week. The pegs are Manzanita branches which he custom selected from trimmed branches at Park Sierra. He used the woodshop to cut them to length, sand and polish them. Click Ralph's photo to see a close-up of his project. What a great job built especially for this cabin.

Morgan loves the snow Ralph hangs his project

Another tough spot


Tuesday, April 3, 2012: It was another day for an RVer to be in a tough spot. This RVer is towing a fifth wheel about the same size as ours but with a two-wheel drive, 3/4 ton Chevy so he's slightly overloading his tow vehicle. Today, while backing into a space, he got a little too close to a steep bank with a tree at the base. The rear wheels began to spin causing the Chevy to slid down the bank toward the tree. Now the tow vehicle can't pull forward without the trailer hitting the tree and can't go backward without sinking deeper toward the tree or the rear of the trailer hitting a wall and he doesn't have his front wheels to help pull him out of the ditch. I've had to use my four-wheel drive several times to get out of tough situations. This is truly a tough situation. I got myself into a similar situation a couple of years ago while exploring the Steens in eastern Oregon. It took this driver less time to get out of his mess than it did me on the Steens. I would like to have pulled this Chevy out of his ditch with my Dodge to impress all my Chevy friends but pointed a direction to steer which got him out of the ditch along with the help of his Allison transmission (admittedly far better than my Dodge transmission). Click the photo for another view.

At the edge of Coarsegold Creek

Thursday, April 5, 2012: Today I've been preparing to travel tomorrow to Reno to be with my grand kids while their mother travels east to visit with her grandmother. We decided to rent a car thinking it would likely be "break-even" with the savings in fuel costs. So I took Morgan for a hike around the park. She loves going to Coursegold Creek for a quick swim. Their is a dirt road to the edge of the creek with a tower of signs pointing in various directions. Note the sign pointing across the creek to "Mexico". Those who designed the signs thought it funny and refer to the creek as the "Rio Grande" and the other side of the creek as "Mexico". The park owns both sides of the creek and gathers rocks and other landscaping material from "Mexico". Click the photo to see across the creek, you'll notice a tiny "Mexico" sign on the left side of the dirt road. This is also the location where Ron drives his golf cart through the creek to retrieve his golf balls.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012: This last weekend I drove from Fresno to Reno and return in a rental car. The trip was to baby sit my grand kids but the rental car was an experiment to learn what mileage might My rental car for the trip to Reno and returnbe a "break-even" on car rental versus, taking our Dodge pickup. The trip from Fresno to Reno is 300 miles crossing Donner Summit at 7,100 feet, so climbing slowly for about 70 miles to the summit then descending to Reno at about 5,000 feet. I did 20 miles of driving inside Reno then returned 300 miles to Fresno, so descending for 70 miles into the central California valley. I mention this because I used two different fuel mileage figures to calculate the amount of diesel it would take to do this drive. I also used two different fuel prices since diesel in Reno is 20¢ per gallon cheaper than California diesel. I reserved an "economy" rental hoping for good gas mileage but was "upgraded" to an Altima so I was worried about the fuel mileage. As it turned out, the Altima got an incredible 36.5 MPG and was much more comfortable than driving the pickup. I rented the Altima for $81.52 and added fuel for $67.88 for a total of $149.40. The cost of the diesel to drive 620 miles ascending to Reno then descending back to Fresno is $166.87. So the car rental saved me $17.47 in fuel alone under the cost of driving the truck, not counting a savings of keeping 620 miles off the truck. Knowing this, I think the real break-even point is around 400 miles maybe even less considering the better comfort of driving the car.

Chloe with her favorite Thomas PJsNoah with his UNR hat


Wednesday, April 11, 2012: Finally, a photo collection of my weekend adventures in Reno. These two cute kids were well worth the trip from Fresno. Noah, on the left, turned 7 months on Monday. Noah's favorite activity is to kick and wave his arms. He does both with enthusiasm. Chloe is 29 months and both are lots of fun to play with. That's their job, to play as much as they can each day. I think they both set new records of play during my weekend stay. Chloe loves Thomas the Train .... anything. These PJs are her favorites, I think she has five pairs. This was Chloe's first time to participate in Easter activities. Aunt Mindy helped with the egg dye and then I provided the stickers of eyes and mouths for her eggs. Jim and Suzy, the next door neighbors, hid eggs for Chloe to find. Nancy, her Illinois grandmother, provided the caterpillar egg collection basket. It worked great and Chloe loved it. Mom came home from her trip just in time to give Chloe the pigtails she had been asking for... for two days. Click each photo for another view.

Chloe searching for Easter eggsAunt Mindy helps Chloe with egg dyes

View from the rear of Jason's cabinA cartoon on the board in the entrance to our breakfast restaurant

Thursday, April 12, 2012: We began this morning by visiting the only breakfast restaurant in Coarsegold. In a lot of ways, it was our kind of place, small, clean and in a small community. It was not a friendly atmosphere, however, with the waitress acting and looking as if she hadn't slept in three days. I noticed the cartoon stapled to the wall at the entrance, I'm not sure what that has to do with the food at this restaurant, but it wasn't encouraging. Anyway, breakfast was good, Gwen and I were hungry so we ate most everything and enjoyed it. At the end of breakfast, we drove directly to Shaver Lake to join Ralph and Janet at Jason's cabin. Today was stormy so we were concerned about snow on the roads at this 5,700 foot elevation but the roads were only wet, not covered with snow. Another storm is due tomorrow when we plan to leave Shaver Lake, but I'm not concerned about the roads then either. The view to the right is out the rear of Jason's cabin. Compare with our trip on April 2.

Is this really sunny California?
Friday, April 13, 2012: Is this April? Is this Sunny California? Yes, we are at 5,700 feet but very near Fresno so still a surprising amount of snow to us. I lived at Lake Tahoe (6,300 feet) in the Sierras about 200 miles north of this location and experienced a lot of snow but it's been many years that I've seen this much snow so I had to post lots of snow-photos. Morgan still loves the snow but is happy to spend most of the day in front of the fireplace.
Our Dodge is buried
Gwen doing her share of the shoveling The county plows buries us even deeperRalph and Janet brought their trailer to this elevation not expecting such a storm. We spent much of our day watching movies, playing cards, listening to music and eating. Every once in a while we would walk outside to see what was happening with the storm. Ralph and I even dug his truck out of a berm to drive to the hardware store for a shovel. I always said, when living in the mountains, you don't go anywhere without a shovel but I forgot mine and Jason had not purchased one yet. Ralph and I used kayak paddles to clear the berm enough to get into the street. Once in the street, we were only driving through a foot of snow so no problem. The county plow made several passes down our street and each time would pile up another 2 feet of snow in front of our vehicles. Jason has contracted with someone to clear the snow in the driveway but we haven't seen that person. Gwen did her share of shoveling with the new shovel and I cleared the berm on the road side of the truck so we can get out tomorrow. I was afraid the snow would turn to cement overnight. Click each of the photos for additional views.

Evening view out the back door with sun blazing on the hills

Ralph enjoying his snow holiday by digging out his trailer


Saturday, April 14, 2012: The view above is as the sun was setting and peaked through the clouds long enough to highlight the distant mountains to the east of Jason's cabin. Our time was spent digging out this morning. Fortunately, I had cleared a path yesterday when the snow was fresh and light so the challenge this morning was to clear the snow off the truck glass and enough away from the driver's door so I could get in. I used Jason's broom to do much of the work and the broom will never be the same again. When you click the above photo, you'll see the success I had of extracting the truck. While clearing his trailer, Ralph was also removing icicles from the front of his trailer. The icicles creations were unique and probably a first for Ralph and Janet's trailer. Click Ralph's photo for a better view. If you can believe it, the temperature is predicted to be nearly 60 degrees at Shaver Lake tomorrow. Hopefully, that will take care of the snow problem.

Big Hat Days in Clovis, CA

A Big Hat booth

Sunday, April 15, 2012: Gwen and I visit "Big Hat Days" in Clovis, California near Fresno. It is a huge arts and crafts fair in the streets of Old Town Clovis. Old Town Clovis is an Lucky needs to take a walkinteresting area to visit without the fair with many antique shops, unusual retail stores and restaurants but the fair makes it even more interesting. This is a very popular event for the area and the chamber of commerce claims 140,000 visitors over the two day event. From the crowds we saw today, I don't doubt the estimate. The tradition says that participates should wear large hats and bright shirts, not many of those attending took the tradition serious. We walked the entire fair, probably 400+ booths but purchased only two items, both for my granddaughter Chloe. We saw lots of jewelry, photographs, hats, clothing, toys, plants, and food. You can click the photo above for another view. After visiting the fair, we drove to Costco and Winco Foods for shopping. While Gwen was shopping in Whole Foods Market, I walked to the pet shop next door where an animal rescue group had several dogs in cages. Two beagles were making a lot of noise so I offered to take each on a five minute walk. The photo at right is of Lucky. Both beagles were strong pullers, apparently were not on a leash very often. Both eliminated their bowel during the walk but fortunately I had bags in my pockets from taking Morgan for walks. These dogs will take determined owners to get them under control.

Can't go any further

Tuesday, April 17, 2012: This was a humbling day. Our four-wheel drive Dodge got stuck in 6 inches of snow. We took a drive to the east of Bass Lake on the Scenic By-Way just to see how far we could get. I wasn't expecting to get stuck in 6 inches of snow. We were not prepared (with a shovel) to help so had to use our windshield ice scrapper to dig 6 inches through the slushy snow to the pavement. It was really slushy ice and that was the problem, I couldn't get traction on any of the four wheels and was glad I had not gone further into the snow field. I was still disappointed in the truck but it might have been different had I reduced the tire pressure from 80 lbs to 65 lbs.

Below is the small town of North Fork, California at the 2,600 foot level of the Sierra. We stopped long enough to see this small town had two hardware stores as well at a Napa Auto Parts store. Our friend Ralph retired from administration at Napa so he's probably not surprised that such a small town would have a Napa store.

North Fork
A fine, hand built, cedar stairs Another stair view Corner detail
Wednesday, April 18, 2012: While visiting at Park Sierra, I noticed a very nice stairway built for use by a fifth wheel or trailer. I expect to have to build such a stair at some point and I wanted to make sure I got plenty of photos to follow when I do the building. Posting the photos to my Webpage is an easy way to save them for future use so here they are. The quality of this construction is very high and I'm really impressed. I also put a link in the site map to find these photos again easily in the future.
Underside Stair detail

Under the deck portion of the stair


The stairs are also finished very well with a satin finish urathane. The wood appears to be cedar. There are NO nails, ony screws and bolts. I believe this could be made to be "portable" enough to set next to our fifth wheel in Sutherlin, then stored in the storage shed when we are traveling. Be sure to click each photo to enlarge the photo or to see additional views.

Stage Coach Days begin at Park Sierra
Thursday, April 19, 2012: Today was the beginning of Stagecoach Daze at Park Sierra, a four day fun festival. The clubhouse looks like the center of a golf course with all the resident golf carts parked at the clubhouse. Today is registration day then a social time at 4 pm. The main event begins tonight with Casino Night. For $5 a participant purchases $600 in chips and plays poker, blackjack or spins the wheel. The individual with the most chips at 9 pm wins $100. The rest of the players hope for raffle prizes and fun. Click the photo to see tonight's players.
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