Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Somewhat "Rocky" Situation

In the grand scheme of things, this probably ranks way up there with watching water boil or something. But, it's annoying all the same.


C'mon, shoe manufacturers. Not all of us live with sidewalks and grass. Not all of us have full-time housekeepers to sweep up all the little rocks several times a day. Not all of us have the time or desire to pick out little rocky pieces before entering a building or room to avoid scratching the floor.

What's the purpose of the deep grooves?  Give me a good reason and I'll shut up. Well, probably not, but it sounded good.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Curiously Trivial? Or Is It?

Except for a long stint of playing "Duke Nukem" in the 1980s and "Scrabble" last year, I have never been very interested in computer games. But, thanks to my son and his fiance, I've somehow gotten hooked on "Trivia Crack." Not sure why, but in two months, I've advanced to Level 130 or so, whatever that means. I'm really not that interested in the awards like cards, gems or what-have-you. No, I just enjoy the challenge of answering questions in the various categories. And that's really what this blog is about.Trivia Crack-Education Version

For those of you who haven't played the game, the categories of questions are: Sports, Art, History, Geography, Science, and Entertainment. I won't go into the details of how to play because it's very simple: figuratively spin a wheel online and answer a question from whichever category the pointer lands on. If you answer correctly, you can continue going until you miss a question. For the rest of the details, you might check out the Trivia Crack site.

The questions are rated Easy to Difficult, with a choice of four answers. Here are some samples:

  • What is the addictive chemical in cigarettes? Alcohol? Carbon Dioxide? Sodium? Nicotine?
  • What country did King Hussein rule? Vietnam? Canada? England? Jordan?
  • What is poi made from? Breadfruit? Taro? Rice? Potato?
  • Marcus Allen won the Heisman Trophy in 1981 while attending which college? UCLA? University of Miami?  USC? Oklahoma?
  • What kind of animal is the cartoon character, "Daffy?" Hen? Duck? Doodle Bug? Bear?
  • What is the Beaufort scale used to measure? Surf? Barometer readings? Wind intensity? Volcanic Activity? 

Sure, it's disappointing to answer a question wrong. But, I love Google. What's to stop me from looking up more information about those baseball stats or that rock group, to find out more about them? Nothing. I've discovered my best category is Science, but there are many chemistry and physics-based questions I have no idea how to answer. Google. How about the history of the rulers of various countries? How about which states or countries border others? Google.
                                                                                   Chemistry Tutor Online

In another blog, I might write more seriously about my thoughts on the Googlization (is that a word?) of the world. But for now, it's sufficient to use it for somewhat trivial pursuits in search of little bits of extra knowledge, perhaps just to win a game, or perhaps to expand my knowledge just a little.

 Model Rocket!

Which Reggae band helped Sean Paul launch his career? Do you know? I don't have the slightest idea.
 Sean Paul Sued By Ex-GF For $80 Mil, Did Cocaine, Erectile Dysfunction ...

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lumbering Around at the Desert View Tower

Okay. I admit it. It's been kind of a long time since I've posted anything. Like, way back in March? In between, I worked on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands in Washington for a month, then came back here to the Desert View Tower. This has been the first summer I've stayed here - and it's too damned HOT!!! Hopefully this heat and humidity will end soon. In the meantime, I love the air conditioning in the RV and have been getting a lot of reading done.

 In order to do anything outside, I've found that heading out about 6 am and working for a couple of hours before it gets too sweltering works pretty well. So, we've had a project for the last month. Those of you who know me pretty well might remember that I enjoy starting what might seem like impossible projects and actually finishing them. This has been one of them. And I swear I've gotten some pretty decent muscles in my arms in the process.

In October, the owner of the Tower will be welcoming his brother and family here from Bali, which will be quite a change for them. They'll most likely be living in the little green house, very close to where my RV is  parked. In order to give them some much needed privacy, I decided to move my rig down the hill. Not a bad spot at all. But, the beautiful view has been spoiled by a huge (humongous?) pile of several years' worth of old lumber, immense stickery tree branches, scrap metal, and other kinds of junk and trash. In addition, the owner had dug a long trench to repair the lines for the sewer leach field. He made an offhand remark one day that he has wanted to clear out the area for a long time. Impossible? Well, yeah. But, what else did I have to do? LOL!

My RV and site

Wish I'd thought to take some "before" pictures, but alas, you'll have to use your imagination to visualize what the area looked like, using the "almost completed" pictures I took this afternoon.

We started by tackling the huge stack of assorted "stuff," which rose to the lower branches of the three trees and covered all the area between them, out to the driveway. Layers and layers and layers of every size of both useful and no-way-in hell-to use-this wood and metal and ??? you can think of. Sandwiched in between the layers were beer cans and bottles, pieces of wire, cardboard boxes, and anything else you can imagine. It took a couple of weeks to get rid of that pile, piece by piece, layer by layer. We made several secondary stacks of stuff in order to just be able to walk around: good wood in one stack, possible firewood in another, branches and tree limbs, and complete worthless junk in yet another. We threw all the possible firewood into the back of the pickup and unloaded it up the hill, where we'll cut it as needed. So, one huge stack turned into another somewhat smaller stack in another place. Hmm. Did that make any kind of difference? Not sure. You decide.

Stack for firewood

 Gradually we uncovered the trees by getting rid of all that stuff and doing a lot of raking to get rid of several years' worth of dried thatch. That stack of thatch alone took many, many trips with the wheelbarrow to get rid of it down the hill, out of sight. Note: since the construction-type wheelbarrow has also been used for foundation work, the inside is coated with a nice layer of hardened cement, making it quite a bit heavier than I'm used to. (Are you picturing the development of muscles yet?)

This is what the area looks like today. More to come. But the area under the trees is now clear.

On to the maybe-useful wood. I rounded up lots of old plastic buckets and filled them with kindling-size pieces, ready to grab for winter fires. As for all the old branches and tree limbs, I dragged them all down the hill - again, many trips - minding all the thorns (Band-Aids help). We stacked all the possibly-building-usable wood nearby. Lots of 2 x 2s, 2 x 4s, and 4 x 4s. Couple of huge black plastic trash bags took care of the plastic, bottles, cans, weird metal, and other stuff. I filled six other trash bags with dried cardboard and paper, again, to use as kindling.

In the meantime, the owner finished the sewer leach field project and filled in the trench. One less thing to jump over. Yaay! We've still got a bunch of old fencing, hoses, and other possibly usable stuff, as well as a big stack of tree stumps. Perhaps we'll even level the ground a little.

See the little building in the pictures? A former tenant built that several years ago but didn't get to finish it. Ben is going to complete it, covering a couple of walls to go with the sliding glass doors and the windows, all of which provide a beautiful view of the canyon, mountains, and desert below. We'll cover the roof and finish the floor a little better and...voila, something special.  I'm visualizing a possible getaway when the weather is dismal and the RV gets too crowded with one person. And my friend Cindy Crawford has offered a picnic table and bench for under the tree. Thank you, Cindy.

 It's still a work in progress, made slower by the 100+ degree weather and humidity. But, the end is in sight. Probably time to pick another project, you think? Hah!

P.S. A big thanks to Ben's sister, Mary, who just sent me this picture of the area in 2013. She wrote that they moved a lot of the stuff in order to get to the leach field. So, we didn't have to worry about the chain link fence, the wooden wire core, and some of the other larger things. However, other than the leach field ditch (and the piled up dirt), the area got filled up with more stuff.

The area in 2013

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Green!

 Note: I wrote this on March 16, 2015, but for some weird reason, didn't publish it. So, here's s different view, this time in Spring. Things bloom and flower and it's beautiful.

What  difference a little rain at the right time makes in the desert! I've usually left the Desert View Tower by the end of February, so this my first time to see how the area blooms in early spring. It's time to take advantage of all the "weeds" and flowers because I'm sure they'll be gone in a month or so, but they're sure beautiful right now. I keep pinching myself to make sure I'm actually lucky enough to be here.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day 2014 – Desert View Tower, Jacumba Hot springs, California

Care Center, fire and wine, French bicyclist, Mexican border, Sherlock, good friends – add them all together to make a different and unforgettable Christmas.

My friend Jackie drove up from Quartzsite, Arizona to spend Christmas with me at the Desert View Tower. Although it was kind of crowded with two of us in the RV, we managed just fine. And it was wonderful to have her here. We drove down to see my mom at the care center in La Mesa on Christmas Eve day, pick up her mail, and make sure her house was okay. Hopefully she’ll be able to return home soon. No fun spending her Christmas and Thanksgiving away from home.

On the way back to the Tower, Jackie and I did some geocaching along Old Highway 80.  Because I’d already found all of them, my job was chief chauffeur and coach.

That night Ben invited many friends for a bonfire and wine fest at the Tower. We had lots of fun meeting everyone, enjoying the huge fire in the sheltered fire pit in the rocks, and drinking good wine and hard cider.

After dark, we were joined by a young man from France who had ridden his bike up the grade from El Centro and needed a spot to stay for the night before continuing his trip to Tecate, Mexico. Apparently several people with us had seen him riding up the hill earlier. He spent the night inside the Tower and told me it was one of the best highlights of his trip so far.

Antoine started his journey in Manitoba, Canada, continuing across the U.S. to Washington state, through Utah, and down here to the Tower. Because his U.S. visa was only good for three months, he needed to get to the Mexican border by Christmas night. He planned on riding his bike the 45 miles. However, last night turned very, very windy and cold and Jackie and I couldn’t imagine him riding into the wind for that distance and making it before dark. So, we offered him a ride today and he gratefully accepted. And, did we ever have fun!

Highway 94 towards Tecate is very winding, hilly, and narrow in spots but quite a beautiful drive. The wind continued to blow and we even experienced some rain. Not exactly great bicycling weather. We all got acquainted and Jackie and I introduced him to geocaching. I think we made a convert.

One of his memorable experiences was spending six days in an uninhabited area of Utah when the rim of one of his wheels broke. He has been camping along the way so was prepared with food and shelter. He melted snow for water and attempted to fix the rim as best he could in order to get somewhere to get it fixed. He finally made it to a bicycle repair place in Moab, Utah and was able to continue on to California.

When we reached the border town of Tecate, California, we watched as Antoine readied his bike for traveling, putting on all his saddlebags and other packs, along with a small stuffed dragon he’d found alongside the road somewhere. He named it Balthazar, and it rides in a spot of honor on the back of his bike. He’s planning to write a children’s story about the creature.  We asked how much longer he’ll be riding and he told us probably another 1 ½ years. He’s hoping to make it to Patagonia in South America. For right now, he’s going to spend time riding in Mexico.

He told me he’d been a gardener in France and had created a beautiful butterfly garden where butterflies could fly free and uncaged. He misses that job but said he had been getting bored in France. He loves his journey now but at the same time is also looking forward to returning to France and seeing the country with new eyes. He would like to write a book about his travels.

After we said goodbye to Antoine at the border and wishing him a safe journey, Jackie and I hit the road again and did more geocaching on the way back to the Tower. She had to leave for Quartzsite about 2:30, so we said goodbye and off she went for several more hours of driving. What a wonderful and fun friend!

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading and watching another episode of what has become one of my favorite shows, “Sherlock,” a modern version of Sherlock Holmes. Tonight was “The Hound of Baskerville.” Good old Netflix. I heated up some Margarita pizza we’d bought at Trader Joe's yesterday and ate a bunch of their Triple Ginger Cookies for dessert.

Quite a different Christmas from other years but memorable. It felt a little like welcoming the traveling stranger to the inn and giving him a home for the night, making him a friend. And isn’t that a bit of what Christmas should be?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Discovering Deadwood and Sturgis, South Dakota - Part 2 - Cemetery "Residents"

During our short time exploring Mt. Moriah Cemetery on the hill overlooking the city of Deadwood, we couldn't possibly cover the whole area. But, with the help of their excellent "Walking Tour Guide" and some posted signs near many of the graves of some historical figures, I was able to learn about quite a few of them. Probably the most well-known "resident" is Wild Bill Hickok. 

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok, "was murdered in Deadwood on August 2, 1876. Wild Bill came, as many others did, to the Deadwood gold camp in search of adventure and fortune. While pursuing what others often said was his only true passion—gambling—he was shot in the back of the head and killed instantly by a local rogue, Jack McCall. A hastily convened miners’ court found McCall innocent, but he was later tried by a regular court, found guilty, and hanged. Wild Bill’s friends buried him in the Ingleside Cemetery, but two years later he was reburied at the present site in Mount Moriah. Wild Bill’s colorful life included service as a marshal, an Army scout and numerous other tasks which called for a fast gun, and no aversion to bloodshed.”



“Potato Creek Johnny, a name synonymous with Black Hills prospecting, was without a doubt, one of Deadwood’s most colorful characters. The small, bearded figure of John Perrett was a familiar sight along the streams of the Tinton area where he may or may not have found one of the largest gold nuggets ever panned in the Black Hills. Some older residents claim this huge nugget was actually several nuggets melted together. Potato Creek’s later life saw him become somewhat of a Deadwood fixture as he took part in numerous parades and community activities. John, ever popular with the children, was an ambassador of good will with visitors to the community until his death on February 21, 1943.”

“Martha “Calamity Jane’ Canary (1850? – 1903). In her short 53 years Calamity Jane lived more than most. She worked on a bull train, performed in a Wild West show, and was a prostitute of little repute—we assume because of her appearance. One story most historians claim to be strictly a figment of Calamity Jane’s imagination was her claim to have been Wild Bill Hickok’s sweetheart. Her acts of charity and her willingness to nurse the sick attest to the warm, soft side of this rough and ready denizen of the Old West. In 1903 Calamity Jane died in the mining camp of Terry from a variety of ailments, chief among which was acute alcoholism. One can only wonder what the elegant and fastidious Wild Bill would have had to say of Calamity’s dying wish—which as you can see was granted—that she be buried next to him.”

“Henry Weston Smith – ‘Preacher Smith”. Deadwood’s first ordained minister truly lived his faith and was an outstanding individual liked by the entire community. During a brief stay in Deadwood, he worked at menial jobs during the week and preached on Sundays. Smith was an ordained Methodist minister and a medical doctor. On Sunday, August 20, 1876, while enroute from Deadwood to the nearby mining camp of Crook City, Smith was murdered, presumably by Indians. Wild Bill’s death caused little stir in Deadwood, but the killing of Preacher Smith filled the community with rage, and for a time a bounty was placed on Indians. Before being exhumed and reburied at Mount Moriah, Smith reposed in the old Ingleside Cemetery.”

“Civil War Veterans’ Section – Mount Moriah contains the remains of many Civil War veterans, but this section contains the largest concentration of burials. Note that all the gravestones of these veterans are alike, provided by the government upon request of relatives.”

“Brown Rocks Overlook—This point overlooks Deadwood Gulch with its panoramic view of Deadwood and the surrounding mountains. To the west can be seen the Yates shaft headframe and a small portion of the surface operations of the famous Homestake Mining Company at Lead, three miles up the gulch. The American flag at the overlook flies 24 hours a day by act of Congress. It is one of the few spots in the country which is afforded this honor.”

So many motorcycles during the Sturgis Rally

Michel Rouse

“John Hunter—Many pioneers did not come to the Hills for gold; other business pursuits brought them. John Hunter was a businessman and for many years ran a sawmill, furnishing lumber for homes, mines, and mills. Hunter was co-founder of the Fish and Hunter Company, which for many years was one of Deadwood’s flourishing wholesale houses. The Hunter family has been a positive force in Deadwood for over 100 years.”

“George V. Ayres—a Nebraska native who migrated first to Cheyenne, Wyoming where he and a small group of gold-seekers set off afoot for the Black Hills gold camps. After seventeen days, ten of which it snowed, George and his compatriots arrived at Custer. Going on to the gold fields in Deadwood, he became seriously ill and was forced to return to Custer to recuperate. He returned to Deadwood in 1877 to work in a hardware store. By 1909 he had become the sole owner of the hardware store that still bears his name. Ayres was instrumental in developing the first good road system in the Deadwood area and in upgrading life in general for the population. An example of this hardware man’s ‘Mark Twain’ style of wit is best demonstrated by his reply to a question posed to him on how to cope with Deadwood’s rough element. He replied, ‘Just let the ruffians alone and they will kill each other off.’”

“Colonel John Lawrence—Although the title of ‘Colonel’ was only an honorary title bestowed by an early governor of Dakota Territory, John Lawrence will be remembered as the first county treasurer and as the namesake of Lawrence County. He came to the Black Hills in April 1877 following a varied political career as a Dakota Territorial Legislator, Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and Deputy United States Marshall of Dakota. After serving as treasurer, he was sought out for his advice on matters of importance in the county, and for several years served as road supervisor for Central City and the surrounding mining camps and as an election judge.”

 Finally, although she isn't included in the Walking Tour Guide, I felt that Charity should be included here, if only because she lived to the old age of 100 years during a time when women usually died much younger.