Sunday, November 29, 2009

Road trip! Part 1

My friends and I set off on a 200 mile road trip today to Tehachapi, the Caliente train curve, Lake Isabella, and Mojave. Lots of driving and lots of sights! I planned this trip and we set off towards Palmdale via the road that drives along the San Andreas fault. Fortunately we made it through without triggering the 'Big One'. We traversed the flat land around north of Palmdale and headed for the wind farms near Tehachapi. The wind turbines generate 34.5 megawatts according to the sign at the wind farm office. The giant blades create a low frequency rumbling that reminded me of ocean going ships heard from a distance. The sense of power from these massed machines was pretty awe inspiring for me. Since the temp was reading about 38F at this time everyone else was just cold and wanted to go on.

(click on the pictures for a larger view)

The trusty vehicles

Another view. There were hundreds of wind turbines of all sizes for miles around

We drove on further up into the hills and into snow. We passed by Tehachapi and on to Caliente and the Caliente railroad curve. This is everything that the horseshoe curve in PA isn't; the main thing being that you can actually see the trains here! This looks for all the world like a Christmas time model train. The track curves around in a counter clockwise spiral so that the almost mile long train crosses over itself and is in two tunnels almost a mile apart!

The history of the curve

The train starting up the spiral. The rest of the train is down below about a half mile behind

The train headed for a tunnel where we were parked. The rest of the train is still spiraling up! The engineer tooted the air horn for us as he passed. My camera batteries died at this point so no more pictures from my trusty camera! After here we drove up further into the hills and into rain, snow and cold. We headed for Bodfish and Lake Isabella. After a tasty lunch in a small cafe in Bodfish we turned up into the mountains and even more snow. More in part 2!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh, Woe is me!

I got up Tuesday at 5 a.m. as usual but when I came downstairs I could tell something was amiss. There was a strange musty smell in the house. I immediately accused the dogs of doing something to cause this but their bewildered looks told me that they were innocent - this time. I followed the smell to the garage, where I spied the water heater sitting in a puddle of leaking water. Dang! This is the third water heater to fail in the 21 years we've lived here. The water is really, really hard around here and I am told that is the cause of the water heaters rusting through. No going to work for me that day!

I briefly toyed with the thought of replacing the water heater myself. It is not a complicated task at all but being there by myself I didn't know if I would be able to get the new water heater up onto the 3ft high cubbyhole that it sits in without help. So I started calling the plumbers.

Guess what? We happen to live in an area zoned for only super low energy consumption water heaters! Hurray! that added about $300 to the price of the water heater. When the plumber who gave the lowest WH price showed up, I got more bad news: the house was not up to current codes. Hurray! I got to pay to have a pressure release line run outside the house and a few other issues resolved. Total tab was $1,600. For a stupid water heater. The good news is, is that the gas company will give us a $30 rebate for installing the energy efficient WH that we had no choice but to install. Hurray! It really made my day, let me tell you. The water heater is really efficient looking and modern appearing too. I go out into the garage a couple times a day now to look at it and bask in the glory of owning an energy efficient water heater in a house that is completely up to code.

While all that was going on I got a call from Best Buy to pick up Mary's laptop. It was fixed in only one week. Now that was good news! I saved $300 on the repair by having bought the extended warranty when I purchased the laptop. Two points for the Grouch.

A completely unrelated topic:
Listening to my iPod today I heard two songs from the"One On One" soundtrack: "John Wayne" and "Love Conquers All" both by Seals and Croft. This movie is a guilty pleasure for Mary and I; has anyone else seen this? Robbie Benson is in it before he made it big in "Beauty and the Beast".

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Trip to the Desert

This past Saturday Ms. not a grouchette, me and two of her dogs (Pie and Fancy) journeyed to the Jawbone off road rec area past Mojave and Edwards AFB out into the desert. I have been going to this area for over twenty years to Jeep, hike, and shoot but recently I've noticed that it is getting pretty crowded. I knew it was getting more use but I wasn't expecting the crowd we encountered when we arrived in the area. Our trip seemed to be snake-bit right from the beginning. Ms. NaG was not feeling well, in fact she was feeling so poorly that she brought an in-flight barf bag just in case. When we arrived at the Ranger station at the main road into the area we noticed a lot of dirt bikes and quads racing about. Once we actually got into the trail area I was staggered at the sheer number of motor homes, trailers and buzzing dirt bikes. The things were everywhere! We got onto a trail and hadn't gone more than a hundred yards when I realized the hi-lift jack on the tailgate of the Jeep was loose and wiggling about. Turned out a bracket had snapped clear through. I had to dismount the jack, the spotlight attached to the jack, and the mounting hardware and toss it into the Jeep.

We traveled on, only to be beset by buzzing swarms of dirt bikes all traveling at high speed and kicking up clouds of dust. It was extremely annoying! They harried and harassed us for miles until I just couldn't take it and pulled over to cool off. After that things started to turn for the better.
(Click on the photos for a full size image)
We drove on, getting out of the worst of the dirt bike groups (did I mention that they traveled in packs of 5 to 10 or more like Indians on the warpath except on motorcycles instead of ponies?). We found a nice spot to pull off the dirt/sand road for lunch and some plinking.

Ms. Not a Grouchette decided to try the Communist SKS carbine. She is going to impale the target with the bayonet if she misses.

The Grouch looking for a target to feel the wrath of his shootin' iron

The Grouch and Pie - look at the size of the tongue on that dog!

After we shot off most of our ammo and destroyed the Halloween pumpkin that we brought as a target we drove on. The further from the RV park that we got the fewer dirt bikes until finally there were no more. We stopped at the site of an abandoned mining operation. The debris of the buildings, old vehicles and even the remnants of a bike were scattered everywhere. Marla found the vertical mine shaft and we decided that it wasn't deep enough to kill us if we fell in but we'd probably be pretty well hurt so we stayed away from the edge of it.
The sun was starting to go down at it was getting cool.

On the way back out of the area we encountered some cattle grazing near the road. Ms. NaG was sure they were going to charge us but they looked pretty peaceful to me. They probably
are used to Jeep traffic through their dining area.

RIP Blossom

When we got home that evening poor old Blossom wasn't looking too well. Ms. NaG said that he has not been doing well for the last couple of weeks. We learned today that Blossom past away over night. Blossom was a rescue from a county animal shelter. Although he did not live with Ms. NaG very long, he was much loved by her and had a good life with her. He was a gentle dog and his only need was to be with her. Blossom was a nice old dog and will be missed by us all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Craig's Halloween birthday party

Craig had his 16th birthday party on Halloween and it was a success. Mary attempted to talk Craig into having traditional party games like 'pin the tail on the donkey' but Craig resisted and in the end it was very much a party of the 09s: video games in all rooms played at full volume, lots of pizza, chips and pop. Everyone had a great time and only one person got hurt when for some reason he went behind our house in the dark and fell down the hill. Fortunately nothing was broken on him. I escaped for about 3 hours and drove across town to a co-worker's house for their open house. They cooked burgers and hot dogs and had a fire thingee set up in the driveway so we sat outside and enjoyed the food and the trick or treaters. When I came back home the party was still going full blast. We finally sent them on their way at 11:30.

(click on the picture for a full view)
The wild party-ers

Playing video games

More video playing

And finally, a cute dog photo. Ahhhh.....