Who Am I?

My photo
A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

30 April 2017

Back To Washington - So Soon?

Damn, that was fast. The winter, I mean. My...vacation from my temporary summer gig in Washington State. My time in Florida seemed awfully short, and indeed it was – I didn't get home until the middle of December. And now it's the end of April and I'm already on the way back to the Pacific Northwest. In fact, I'm writing this in a hotel room in Butte, Montana.

My plan, as always is to leave Washington when the cherries are all picked and the helicopters are all put away. But there are always...things that conspire to keep me up there well past my intended date of departure. The very first vestiges of those “things” are forming now, even as we speak, like the little wisps of fog you sometimes see just before the visibility goes to zero. I suspect that I'll get coerced into staying longer, as usual.

So we'll see.

18 April 2017

My Summer Vacations...

When I posted that last installment of Jacob and my trip last year from Washington State to Florida, it was with the realization that in a very short time I’ll be leaving again to go back north. While my summer job generally lasts from May to September, I was coerced last year until staying longer. The boss picked up a big cropdusting contract, and he needed my help. So I stayed…much, much longer than expected. I left in mid-December. It was cold and snowy, two conditions I'd hoped to never again experience.

So my time here in Florida this year amounts to nothing more than a visit. I had rented-out one bedroom out last year before I left. And as soon as I did that, a family member also needed a place to stay. So I’ve got two people/tenants. They each have their way of arranging things in the kitchen and such. Consequently I feel like a stranger in my own house. And now I’m leaving again in less than a week.

Every year, my friends make fun of me because I say that each season in Washington will be my last. They know I’ll go back…and I always have. This summer will mark my seventh year. And it really will be my last…for a while, anyway.

It’s not that the summer job isn’t fun – it is! But there’s no free time. It’s a continuous duty job with no days off. Even when the forecast calls for a zero percent chance of rain for the next thirty days…even when there’s not a cloud between us and Hawaii…it could still rain. It’s weird. A little shower will form over the Cascade Mountains, mosey down into the Okanogan Valley, and boom…some grower’s cherries will get wet. The farmers pay us a lot of money just to sit on “standby,” so we can’t take the chance of not being there, even if that chance of rain is miniscule.

Occasionally, a group of us will take off and go tubing down the Methow River, or swimming up at Soap Lake. But cell phone service at such remote places is still spotty and/or nonexistent. If one or more of us needed to fly, we’d be out of touch. That, of course is unacceptable. And so even though I have gone down the river and up to the lake, I always feel guilty and tense; it’s hard to relax.

Shortly after I got back, I bought a another motorcycle – another Harley Sportster, my third. My other two Harleys were great, but this 1996 model is closer to my idea of a perfect Sportster, having things like spoke wheels. My last two Sportsters had Harley’s “mag” wheels, which look great, but I think a proper motorcycle just should have spokes. I have some other changes planned for it, but they are minor and will be fairly inexpensive. I’ve got a ton of spare parts in stock that will bolt right on this new bike.

Here I am with the "new" Sportster just after purchase. The seat has already been changed. The handlebars, exhaust system and air cleaner and a few other things are next. I initially wanted a red one, but I have to say I love the blue color.

So, life being what it is, I didn’t get to ride the bike much over the winter. First of all, the bike sat for a while before I bought it and the carburetor needs to be rebuilt, which I never got around to doing. The custom, aftermarket exhaust system the previous owner installed is WAY TOO DAMN LOUD and I need to find a suitable, quieter replacement, which I so far have not. I want to change the handlebars. So let’s just say this bike is a work-in-progress at the moment. Which is okay.

When I get back to Florida in September I want to make the detail changes to the Harley to make it “mine” and more rideable. By next spring, I want to take some trips on the Harley…while I still have time.

Going down that long, lonesome highway
Bound for the mountains and the plains
Sure ain’t nothing here gonna tie me
And I’ve got some friends I’d like to see again

12 April 2017

Washington State to Florida - 2016: The Grand Canyon

The final installment, at last!

When we last met up with our intrepid travelers, Jacob and I had just hit Los Angeles, California. This was back in December of 2016.  Upon leaving Washington, my plan to go south and get quickly into warmer weather had worked. Southern California was as beautiful...and crowded...as we all know it is - I don't have to tell you that. It's nice, but you couldn't pay me to live there.

We made a mandatory stop for lunch at In-N-Out, the burger joint with which every other burger joint on the planet is compared, apparently. Meh- it was okay. I don't know why Californians rave so enthusiastically about In-N-Out. I guess I don't get all that excited about hamburgers anymore.

Jacob had never been to the Grand Canyon, and I've only been there once when I was very young. So there was no question that it, like the Pacific Coast Highway was on our itinerary.  Instead of taking I-10 eastbound, we took I-15 to Barstow and then hooked off onto I-40 east. Once past Williams, Arizona you take Highway 64 north a long way up into the Grand Canyon National Park.

You know how things get smaller as you get older...your childhood bedroom, for instance? Well I'm happy to report that it's not the case with the Grand Canyon. It remains impressively, impossibly huge.  If you haven't experienced it, you should.  It should be on everybody's bucket list. We took a bazillion pictures, of course.  But pictures on a blogpost simply don't do it justice. When it comes to some of the places in this country, you just have to go. The Grand Canyon is one of them.

Jacob and I started at the main visitor's center, taking the rim trail down to Grand Canyon Village. It's an easy hike with plenty of overlooks. And, just like on our canoe trips, we took our time and didn't rush. This is a place where you really need to slow down and drink in the majesty and grandeur of it all.

Obviously, a 2D picture just can't do the Grand Canyon justice

Here's a view looking across toward the north rim.  But wait...what's that little speck down on that outcropping of rock?

Yep, it's Mr. Jacob "I'll do anything for a good selfie" Speed.  I think he's peeing.

At Grand Canyon Village visited the historic El Tovar Hotel which opened in 1905.  I would have loved to stay there, but my last name ain't Trump.  We settled for a (pricey) lunch in their fancy restaurant.  Hey, anything with cloth tablecloths qualifies as "fancy" in my book. I'll say this: The food was better than at In-N-Out.  But then, the whole Grand Canyon experience was so incredible that they could've served us dog poop on a platter and I would've loved it.

As with everything on this trip, I wished we'd had more time at the Grand Canyon. But both Jacob and I needed to get back to our respective homes, and admittedly we'd been dawdling. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful...ohhh, other than breaking down in Clinton, Oklahoma when the ignition switch in the Buick decided to fry itself at a gas stop...at night, of course. We actually had plenty of gas, but thank Jesus I decided to stop a little "early" at the Love's Truck Stop instead of waiting until we really needed it and would be out in the middle of nowhere between towns. Sometimes you have to trust your intuition.

Jacob and I tried everything we knew to get the car started, but it was hopeless.  And dark. However, good fortune smiled on us when I asked the manager of the truck stop if he could recommend a company that could tow our dead car to a shop. He said he knew a trustworthy local mechanic who lived nearby. Sure enough, two guys in a beat-up work truck soon arrived and set about diagnosing the problem.  A new ignition switch would have to be ordered, which would mean it wouldn't even arrive until around noon of the next day. With no other choice, Jacob and I punched up Hotels.com. Happily, I was eligible for a free night stay, so that was good.

I was skeptical that things would work out - it must be the helicopter pilot in me. But sure enough, the new switch came in and the mechanic worked feverishly to get us going. Three hundred dollars later, we were on the road by four p.m.

After dropping off some aircraft parts in Arkansas we drove through the night, and arrived in Pensacola early the next morning (Sunday). We'd spent six days on the road. I, for one, was happy to be "home." However that feeling was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that in just four months I'd be heading back up to Washington.