Just deserts

I’m late posting this, as the Interweb access in our Vegas hotel was decidedly ropey. Anyway, on the days I’m writing about, we crossed out of California into Nevada through the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. What can I say? Mile after mile after mile of complete bugger all apart from painted mountains, sagebrush and Joshua Trees every fifty metres or so. Then we ran out of road. Literally. On the run up from Ridgecrest, some bugger had scraped up the road surface and left about four or five miles of gravel. It certainly caught us off guard, but to safeguard our paintwork we took to the sand on the side of the road. For around five miles. Then the asphalt was back through the wasteland, and it is a wasteland. It’s like the surface of Mars with sagebrush.
End of the road in Death Valley Seriously, this is what Highway 178 looks like at the moment for around four miles. The main road up from Ridgecrest literally disappears. Gone. Vanished. Like one of the Las Vegas big magic acts had been practising making things vanish before your very eyes.

Once we had doglegged off the 178 onto the 190, when we came to the park entrance proper at Stovepipe Wells, a huge convoy of over twenty asphalt carrying trucks were resurfacing miles of highway 190, and I mean miles. After that some stunning geology and incredible vistas with valleys you could drop the entire inside of the M25 into with room to spare. Temperatures in the mid-30’s Celsius. Near-endless roads. Rocks and brush, Canyons, dry washes as wide as the Thames. Salt pans the size of cities. Oh yes, and the Area 51 diner which has had a bit of a makeover since it got a mention in the movie “Paul“. Then more Buttes, Gulches and Arroyo’s, not to mention the occasional canyon on our way South and East into Lost Wages.

Which is another story altogether.

Portion sizes and associated matters

Shortish run out of Sacramento this morning so we doglegged out from Fresno up into the mountains. And doglegged. Then switchbacked and hairpinned up to the Grand Sequoia National Park and all the way back on a road that swerved and curved like a rattlesnake with a migraine all the way back down again.Five thousand feet and climbing

Mrs S, in the passenger seat for this leg of the trip, kept telling me to slow down because all the sidewards motion was inducing travel sickness. So for the sake of a quiet life I lifted my foot off the gas, keeping it hovering over the brake pedal instead, returning us safe and sound to the broad sandy valleys of Southern California.

I will say this, the mountain routes are a stunning drive in good weather, not so much when the clouds close in, and no fun at all when the snows hit. Fortunately we didn’t have to cope with any traffic, and all threat of projectile dashboard decoration was avoided.

We were rewarded by a drive down long roads lined with tens of miles of Orange and Olive groves. Yes, tens of miles, not kilometres or yards. Mile after mile of trees laden with oranges, dozens of windfalls dotting the sandy soil around each trunk. Incredible. Our route also took us through a working oilfield. Hundreds of nodding donkey oil pumps pulling black gold out of the ground and into pipelines and storage tanks, which my copilot totally failed to photograph. Sorry.

After booking in at our hotel, we stopped for a takeaway chicken and salad supper, forgetting the American generosity with foodstuffs. Two of us couldn’t even eat half of what we were served with, so now the leftovers, enough to make a substantial lunch tomorrow while we pootle through Death Valley into Lost Wages, have taken pride of place in our hotel room fridge. “Do you want Dessert?” Asked our baseball capped server before we’d seen the amount of chicken we were served with. Just as well we declined. There is no way we’d have even nibbled at the edges. Seriously, either our appetites are shrinking or the portion sizes are growing. There’s simply too much to eat. So we put it aside for an alfresco luncheon tomorrow.

Note to self; lesson learned. One US portion equals two Canadian. Do not forget.

A grand day out

I don’t want to upset anyone. Well, yes I do, I just love annoying knuckledragging totalitarians with all the intellect of crushed cockroaches, but not today. Apart from to say we breakfasted in the elegant saloon of a restored 1800’s paddle steamer, rode the rails in a restored 1950’s first class rail carriage and generally had an affable time wandering around Sacramento’s Old town. Hell, the sun even came out this afternoon as the promise of rain receded. We’ve had a very nice day, and are now playing catch up with work related tasks.
A heavenly stairway
That’s it. I wish I had some tale of scurrilous sarcasm or pertinent put down to relate, but no, ’tis not to be. Well apart from noting (Yet again) that the Republican Party establishment is so dead set on losing the next US Presidential election, it’s been reduced to cancelling votes which might go the way of the people’s choice. Maybe they’re taking the same dollar as that backing the next Democrat (Cough, cough, Hilary Clinton) candidate? Sorry chaps, the Presidency (as usual) will go to the biggest vote of all; Wall Street.

No matter, the next leg of our epic road trip awaits. Onwards and up, upwards, into the mountains.

Caught Napa-ing

Well almost.  Not quite napping but certainly pleasantly surprised despite the rain.  And considering we were in California, there certainly has been quite a lot of it.  Took a hike out to Napa and had a quick meander round the Oxbow Farmers Market.  Lots of fancy stuff, and believe you me, if I had the money and lived in the neighbourhood, this would certainly be one of my favourite food shopping stops.  Or so I thought.  On an impulse we took Highway 29 North of town up into the vinyard area and visited some of the gift shops.  Ever heard of the movie ‘Bottleshock’?

Well we went to the vinyard behind the story. Now I’m not a fan of Chardonnay, I usually find it too oily and sweet. However, these guys are the real deal, and you can visit the place where the ascendancy of Californian wine really began. Oh yes, if you’re ever in the neighbourhood, check out these little rail cars which people ride up and down the rail road paralleling the highway. Cute as all fuck or what?
Railcars in the Napa Valley

Now there’s an idea that might make railways really work. Little automated rail car sized units parked up at stations like a row of shopping trolleys. Passenger gets in, punches in destination from list, swipes credit card. Rides direct to destination with no waiting on draughty platforms for trains that take forever to arrive for whatever reason. Only sharing their carriage with those they wish to share personal space with. What’s not to like?

Due South

Due SouthI’ve spent most of my day today driving south to Sacramento from mid-Oregon. By my reckoning that’s a shade over 822 Miles in two days. Not bad considering. I could have done it all in one hop if I was on my own and feeling masochistic, but frankly me dears, nowadays I’ve gotten used to being comfortable. I’ve served my time, and if I had to do it all again, frankly I’d have given the job to somebody as gullible as I once was.

One of the things I will say for our southern cousins, they’re far more switched on as drivers.  They pay attention and move over sharpish if you’re closing on their tailgates a little on the quick side.  I had nothing to grumble about.  Apart from the Satnav going AWOL just as we hit the city limits and the minor drama that unfolded.  Yes, and rogue Wi-Fi connections that just wouldn’t.  Connect that is.  It all got fixed, and our secure VPN’s are doing their thing the way they should.  So everything is kind of under control, as much as it ever is.

What else?  Oh yes, it’s raining.  In Sacramento, California of all places.  And if you’d been paying attention to your geography teacher (Or Albert Hammond, see below), you would be aware that it very rarely rains in Southern California.  Even the desert areas look quite green.

Off to the Napa valley tomorrow to taste some wine and enjoy all the other stuff out there.

TTFN

Blowouts on I-5

Long day yesterday, longer than we’d anticipated because of hanging around for some albeit very civil customs questions and another six and a half hours solid driving on I-5.  One of the things we did encounter was witnessing three truck blowouts, one of which I caught on camera. Here comes the boom  Big clouds of smoke and shredded truck tyre shooting across the highway.  Lots of swerving from nearby vehicles.  Bridges that make any on the M25 look small. while we were passing through I took some pictures of the northbound traffic as we were passing through Portland.  Reminded me of a Friday afternoon on the A40 out of late 1990’s London. Almost total gridlock.  No idea what the Westway’s like nowadays, but I do remember once taking an hour to go five miles.  Nowhere near that bad on our southbound run.  I-5 is also getting quite rutted around Portland, and being a concrete surface on that stretch can be pretty rough on the old rubber.  So tyre checks every morning and stop are a must.

We made our hotel just before seven in the evening and got directed to a very nice brew pub where free shot glass sized samples were provided to assist us in deciding what beers to have.  They take their brewing seriously in Oregon.  For those still thinking it’s all Coors and Budweiser, think again.

Parting shot.  Our accents mark us out for the curious; “From the UK. huh?” A portly Oregonian said.
“Yes, but we’re Canadian now.” Mrs S replied.
“That so?  Lot of people say they’re moving to Canada if Trump wins.”
“That might be a bit of a devils bargain.  We have Trudeau.  Are there a lot of heated conversations about Trump?” I asked diplomatically, not revealing my own feelings on the matter.
“In the media, yeah.  Elsewhere not so much. I’m an independent, I’m not bound to vote Republican or Democrat.”
Hmm. Interesting…

Blame everyone

Well, we’re off.  As you read this we’ll have already passed through customs and be well on our way across the water into the US of A.  This is a timed post, written on Wednesday night. and I’ll report any misadventures and observations later, after a very large drink.

What I’d like to say is this; having seen the UK news over the last few days I just want to say I truly feel sorry for the poor buggers trying to earn a crust at Port Talbot Steel Plant, only to find their livelihoods are being snatched away.  The trouble is, when somewhere as big as Port Talbot goes tits up, everywhere else in the area suffers.  In fact, every trader involved in the supply area finds their cashflow developing a nasty stutter.  For some it will mean the breakup of everything they gave their lives to building.  Homes.  Families.  Social networks.  Through no fault of their own.

However, even if you’re unaffected, just remember this; if you are a UK voter and supported the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, especially the Greens or any of the pro-EU political parties in any of the last four general elections, you voted for the very carbon taxes that just cost all those Welsh steelworkers and quite a few service employees their jobs.  As they say in the valleys; Proud of it are you?

Part of my genetic heritage comes from those parts, so I do feel a little sympathy for the people who will probably have to cancel their 2017 Christmases .  All because of a lie.  A veritable crime of the century.  The one perpetrated from the highest levels of the United Nations, whose name is carbon taxation and whose stated cause is ‘Wealth redistribution’.  That old fraudster ‘Man Made Global Warming’.  Whose wealth do these corrupt bastards want to redistribute?  Yours.  Mine.  Everyone’s.  Right into the pockets of the politicians and their financial sponsors.

Now repeat after me; “Carbon taxation is economic suicide.”  Got that?  Now don’t forget it.  Don’t vote for anyone who will support it.  Your job may depend upon it.

/rant

Not a complete cock-up

Exam day.  Have come out of it feeling that I could probably have done a little better, but I reckon that I came out with a solid B+ at the very worst.  But then I’m a realist at heart.  It will be a very kind marker who gives me an A.  Did better than the last exam on my course, which came out as a solid B+, and so as long as I keep this up I’ll end up with a sound Canadian professional qualification and a good transcript to back it up.

No, seriously, it’s not all chaos.  I can cope with that.  What always hits me is the sense of numbness.  I’ve never been one for celebrations, as I’ve always found them premature.  I rarely celebrate my own triumphs or victories, and the most fate gets out of me is a grim smile of satisfaction on a job well done.  The whole whooping, singing and dancing that some folk go in for strikes me as somehow undignified.  I’ll gladly cheer on other people, but never myself.  Funny that.  Mainly because I know that there’s always something unforeseen.  A minor detail that sends everything tits up.  So I’ve been preparing for everything I can.

Tonight I pack.  Downtown tomorrow for a haircut and last minute fit of the vapours.  Thursday we’re off south of the border at sparrow fart.  Extra time has been factored in for heavy traffic and Victoria’s notoriously erratic downtown pedestrian population.  Although at the time we’re on the road, all the extra crusties kipping out back of the courthouse will still be snuggled in their sleeping bags.  So that’s at least one road hazard I won’t have to deal with on the way to the Coho ferry.

As a sidenote; temporary habitation was offered to the homeless on an “Until you get back on your feet” basis, but then some dingbat protester group from Vancouver pitched in, demanding ‘homes’ or nothing.  Like the rest of us don’t pay rent or mortgages, why should a bunch of freeloaders from the East get houses while the rest of us struggle?  I remain cynical.  No doubt by mid-May most of them will be off to Tofino to pollute the beaches and leach off the surfer population, as usual.  It really pisses me off when people have taxpayer dollar thrown at them, then whine about not getting soft toilet paper in their five star hotel.  Despite not doing anything to merit it.  Having sampled the dubious delights of sleeping rough when times were really bad I’m not totally unsympathetic.  However, I was never homeless for more than three days, and never, ever went into publicly owned or provided accommodation.  The thought never even occurred to me.

Anyway, that’s pretty academic.  Like the course I’ve just finished.  The car is ready.  I’ve made sure we’ve even got one of those emergency tyre repair thingies that will seal and re-inflate your tyre if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and out of cell phone range.  Handy if you’ve already used the spare.  Add to that a modestly well equipped first aid kit of my own construction, not one of store bought things full of stuff you’ll never need, and after packing we’re good to go.  What else?  Oh yes, a (very) rough map of our route.US Road Trip Map.jpg

First we’re heading down to Cali-forn-i-a to see the big trees and drink the wine, then cutting across via Vegas, Flagstaff, then down into Texas and across to Florida and back.  I’m verily skittish with anticipation.  All we have to do is follow the flags.  Or the Satnav.  Or the proper map we have in the car.  I hope.  Should be fun.

TTFN

Bill

 

Devil, meet details

Finalising the last main bookings on our road trip. I’ve shoehorned in Bonneville Salt flats (Followed by a really good car wash in Wells, Nevada), then hacking homeward via Twin Falls and Pendleton in mid May. It’s been a lot of hard work to line up. Then there’s an exam to do today and some packing. Mrs S is getting a bit stressed out, but I’m just plodding along, dealing with every issue the moment it hits and whacking the metaphor firmly out of the stadium.

Today it was our mail hold service going AWOL. Fortunately I’ve handed the Post Office the correct details which their clerk had not put on the computer, after we had filled in the forms correctly. Apparently the clerk had failed to untick a box on her rinky dinky little computer. So I have to deal with ‘customer service’ and waste valuable time fixing someone else’s mistake.  It’s all little stuff.  Checking the exclusions in our travel insurances.  About the only thing I haven’t done is make out a Will.  I do hope that won’t be needed, oh well, it won’t be my problem.  Our travel insurance has a clause for repatriation and burial anyway.

What else? The USB in-car charger unit is sitting on my desk awaiting installation tomorrow so we can charge all our electronics on the move on this epic twenty five stop trip. So long as there is gas in the tank, we’ll have a larger electronic signature than an aircraft carrier group. Am I bothered at my lack of electronic invisibility? No. All I will be doing is recording our thoughts and experiences along the way. For security I’ve signed up for a secure VPN service and keep my anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall up to date. Hell, if anyone wants to follow me around, just buy me lunch occasionally and we’ll call it quits.

My biggest IT issue is that there are a lot of people out there who should not be allowed to play with grown up toys. Including Google’s massive “Mic Drop” April Fools cock-up. Newsflash Google; April Fools gags are supposed to be funny. You know, make people laugh. Screwing with a core function of a business and personal service isn’t remotely amusing, it’s fucking annoying and makes Google like a useless bunch of eHippies.

Notwithstanding, all we have to do on Thursday is get up on time and get Downtown to the Coho. No doubt one of Mr Horton’s emporium of degustatory delights or similar will be getting a visit en route for two large Double Doubles and some blood sugar enhancers. A.k.a Coffee and Donuts.

Sorry to keep harping on about this, but this Trump guy; I thought I’d actually check him out and see what he was all about first hand rather than trust all the Op-eds and propaganda currently polluting the Interweb. Is he really the ranting monster that the mainstream would have us believe? So far the answer coming back from my observation at least, is a loud, resounding ‘No’. He may get a bit repetitive, loud and messianic, but everything the guy says and stands for, like controlling US immigration, upping America’s game as a negotiating power and being anti-US involvement in middle eastern wars (“We made things worse”) just seem like common sense. He doesn’t like the sinister Transatlantic Trade deal, as currently structured, so that’s another plus. As for pandering to special interest groups, like the man says, he’s not a politician. He owes them nothing. What all the Spads and political class are panicking about is that if Trump gets voted in, they will have lost their influence, that’s why he’s getting such a spectacularly bad press. All the special advisers, insiders and hangers on stand to lose big time under a Trump Presidency. So of course he’s under media attack from some pretty heavy guns. The problem with these attacks is that the mainstream are fighting the previous media war. Which is why his support is growing.

Social Science degreeIf asked, I’d say that despite all the protestations to the contrary, Donald Trump is no more racist or sexist than anyone else on this planet, well, apart from a bunch of virtue signalling whiners with useless ‘Social Science’, ‘Gender Studies’ and PPE University degrees who dominate the twatter feeds with their nauseating protestations of how much ‘nicer’ than everyone else they are. Which is often so far from the truth of the matter their views have taken on an Alice Through the Looking Glass unreality all of their own.

Minion Quote migraineRegarding Twitter, do I even have a twitter feed? I think I signed up for one to get the ‘breaking news’ feeds on my sidebar, but that’s all. I never log in to it or put any ‘twats’ out there. Did sign up for Farsebook but I’ve killed my account, or at least tried to, not once but twice. Anything else? I have a Disqus account and a few others to sign on for various comment threads and forums, but that’s it. My contributions are sporadic at best, and my attitude can be summed up by my good mate Dave, senior Minion and Acting Chief Sarcasm Officer at Sticker Enterprises Inc.

TTFN

Bill

I close my eyes

Successful day today.   I’m ahead of the game this morning, both in work and study.  So, it being a bright beautiful British Columbian day, Mrs S and I went out to sort out some last few details before we pootle off on our grand six week trans-american adventure in just over one weeks time.  We’re erring on the side of caution on our trip back across the Rocky Mountains and opting for the southerly route via I-70 via Colorado Springs and Grand Junction to miss the snows, then picking up the road north to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone Park.  We hope not to become asphyxiated by either the Sulphur or Carbon Dioxide emanations of the big caldera, or the Marijuana fumes while we’re passing through Colorado.  We’ve even set time aside so I can pay a flying visit to the Bonneville salt flats.  If they’ve dried out enough to drive on by mid May.

While Mrs S was shopping for last minute springtime clothes, I eschewed the normal respite of the Husband chair and sat outside in the main mall to enjoy the sunlight.  I put on my shades, closed my eyes, kicked back and let my other senses take over.  Why?  Let me explain.   When I was very small, I had a morbid fear of going blind.  No idea why, I just did.  Small children left to their own devices for too long often develop eccentric world views and I had a fairly solitary early childhood.  So in order to prepare for what I mistakenly thought was inevitable, I used to close my eyes and tried to use my hearing, smell and touch instead of visible light to fix my position in the world.  To train myself for the worst, if it happened.  Nothing serious, just trying to work out where I was, and what all the various noises and smells around me meant.  How the sound echoes off bare walls and in heavily furnished rooms.  Trying to use my ears and touch alone to echo-locate myself in the confines of my room.  Developing my sensitivity to sense the kiss of air on the back of my neck as someone passes close behind me, the sound of their footsteps dopplering from right to left, the scent of their body, perfumed or not if they come close enough.  Sensing the very electricity of their motion through the world, from the sparkling erratic uncertainty of small children, the fizzing of their older peers, crackling discharge anxieties of the born worriers with their erratic shallow breathing.  The soft grunts of an extremely overweight person as they make their heavy footway along the tiled mall.

As a boy I used to cheat, slightly opening my eyes so I had a visual memory to associate with the sensations surrounding me.  Now I don’t have to unless the smell is so obscure or the sound unfamiliar it falls outside my aural lexicon.

When you close your eyes the world of the other senses opens like a flower, swamping everything that sight normally blinds you to.  What is that approaching grumbling noise?  An Earthquake?  A massive truck?  Or more prosaically a deliveryman’s steel wheeled sack truck on concrete?   As he passes, a waft of Pepperoni, dough and cheese tells he just had pizza for lunch.  The “Yeah?”, “Right.”, and “Mm-hm”, “Well he like er..” and “She like er….” of multiple random cell phone conversations within earshot.  The meaningless squealing of teenage girls as they navigate their developing social vortices.  Does anyone really listen to themselves?  Or is that not the point?

Then the distinctively fleshy, slightly foetid, hormone heavy smell of a pregnant woman insinuates itself into my educated nostrils.  I can hear her behind me, the mildly waddling, shuffling gait, hesitantly stopping in front of the women’s clothing shop behind me, presumably looking enviously at all the elegant clothes she aspires to get back into when her child has come into the world.  I don’t know, there are things sound and smell alone cannot tell you, but the scent of a woman in late pregnancy is quite distinctive.

All the time the sheer background whispering roar of humanity and muted traffic noise passes by a single seated figure wearing sunglasses, head tilted slightly back, small smile ghosting across his face, precisely in the moment.  Privately wondering at the magic of it all and quietly praying that no-one interrupts his solitary enjoyment.

Then at the edge of hearing, a set of familiar footsteps that I know like my own heartbeat. Behind my shades, my eyes open and smile broadens.  “Hello love.  Got what you needed?”  Time to move on.  The rest of the day beckons.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad

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