Yearly Archives: 2023

Rhyolite Ruins, Desert Art and Wild Burros

Continuing south on SR95 from Tonopah and Goldfield, we came through Beatty and reached the Goldwell Open Air Museum a little before sunset:

 

We spent the next two nights in a spot in the hills outside Beatty and ventured out on our bikes to explore and visit the remains of the mining town, Rhyolite.  We also encounter some wild burros both out in the desert and in the middle of the town of Beatty.

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International Car Forest of the Last Church

Next stop along Nevada’s SR95: another once-booming mining town, Goldfield, and the International Car Forest of the Last Church:

There’s a few old buildings and several collections of abandoned mining gear in town.  We skipped those but did swing by the old “pioneer” graveyard in the outskirts of town to see some unusual epitaphs:

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Mirrors, Dunes, Clowns and Mines

To continue our road trip down SR95 in Nevada, we returned from our Berlin ghost town detour and camped out near Tonopah at the base of the Crescent Sand Dunes, in sight of a solar concentrating power plant:

The following day, we visited the freaky fun Clown Motel and the neighboring graveyard from Tonopah’s early mining days:

But we spent most of the day checking out the very interesting Tonopah Historic Mining Park:

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Berlin / Ichthyosaur State Park

The day after Christmas, Darlene and I headed out in the camper van for a road trip down the western side of Nevada. Starting from the Tahoe house, our first stop heading south along SR95 was an overnight stay at Walker Lake:

Passing through Hawthorne the next morning, we then took a major detour off SR95 to visit Berlin /Ichthyosaur State Park –both a silver mining ghost town and a significant fossil site for ichthyosaurs.  We enjoyed seeing and reading about this history of Berlin but unfortunately, the fossil site building has very limited hours in the winter so we could only peer in the window.

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Barbie Movie Night

Geof, Jennifer, Clay, Adriana and Nacho (behind the camera) joined us to watch the “Barbie” movie…

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Mark’s Retirement Party

Mark organized a party to celebrate his retirement from FileMaker/Claris, gathering together old and new coworkers at K1 Speed in Santa Clara for some electric go kart racing.  The go kart racing was fun but it was really great to see everybody again!

I rented their provided cameras for the first two of our three runs.  The first run wasn’t captured (they didn’t start it properly) but here’s our second run:

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Peterson Automotive Museum

After our stay in Anaheim to visit the Disney parks, we spent a couple of hours on Friday at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.  They’ve got a large collection of historic and iconic cars including vehicles from Hollywood movies featured in various changing exhibits.  There’s currently a large Tesla exhibit there which was unexpectedly pretty cool.

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A Return to Disneyland

Darlene and I decided to make a little road trip last week to Anaheim to visit the Disney parks.  It had been 27 years since I’d been to Disneyland, a little longer for Darlene, and neither of us had ever been to Disney’s California Adventure Park.  Happily, Hoan was able to join us for the day at Disneyland.

 

We were all most impressed with the new-to-us Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge area in Disneyland. It was fun to see both old and new stuff, including the holiday versions of classics like the Haunted Mansion and Small World.  At California Adventure Park, we were impressed with the many detailed environments created around the park, but particularly the Radiator Springs area from the Pixar “Cars” movie. Some rides weren’t available at each park though – like the Indiana Jones ride was under maintenance all week and several had delayed openings or multiple temporary breakdowns.  We actually missed out on Space Mountain entirely as it broke down during our assigned window late in the day.

Unfortunately, despite our mid-week attendance, the normal standby lines were often pretty awful (often 50-80 minutes) and Disney’s paid extra “fast pass” Genie+ system isn’t that great.  You can only schedule something every 90 minutes, the most popular ride in each park isn’t included and you’re often assigned a window several hours later so you don’t really get to make use of the “lightning lanes” very many times over the course of the day.  Plus, as we experienced, there’s no recourse if the ride breaks down during your assigned window.

Anyway, on the third day we rested, had lunch in the Downtown Disney District between the parks, attempted (and failed) at an escape room in Irvine and met up with Hoan’s family for dinner.

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Eclipse from the Ruby Mountains

Scouting over maps of the path of October 14’s annular eclipse, I spotted a potentially nice area to view it in the lovely Ruby Mountains of central Nevada (south of Elko) – an area I had never explored before. Darlene was off to visit Maine with her sister and Hera had been having more health issues but she seemed to have stabilized again when I decided to go ahead and pack up my bike and telescopes in the van and head out a couple days in advance to secure a nice spot.

I found a spot with a gorgeous panoramic view on Harrison Pass that was somewhat isolated from the access road – and the soon-to-be-gathering small crowd of vehicles and campers.  I set up and tested my cameras and telescopes the day before the eclipse and also did a bit of exploring by mountain bike on what turned out to be some nasty steep ATV roads.

Two-minute video of the annular eclipse

The sky started out fairly clear as the eclipse began but unfortunately the cooling air seemed to form more and more clouds as the time of max eclipse approached.  It looked like we were going to be completely overcast and I could see and hear lots of folks jumping in their cars and driving down the highway to try to find some open sky.  As it turned out though, the clouds thinned enough to give a filtered view of the full annular “ring of fire”.  And sure enough, the clouds dissipated as the moon began to uncover the sun again.  Maybe a mountain ridge viewing point wasn’t such a great idea given that mountains tend to attract cloud cover even without the cooling effect of an eclipse.  At any rate, the eclipse viewing was a success.

 

I decided to cut the trip short due to Hera’s deteriorating health but then the van broke down as I got to Elko: check engine light on and lots of codes saying half the cylinders were misfiring – and on a Sunday when all the repair shops are closed.  I eventually got a 24/7 mobile mechanic service to check it out but they recommended taking it to the one Ford dealer in town as it was going to be an extensive diagnosis and repair, and should be under warranty anyway.  (Only 21,000 miles on the van.)  Apparently driving it too far in this state could cause serious engine damage so I spent two nights in the Ford service parking lot.  First waiting for them to open on Monday morning and then waiting most of Monday for a technician to become available. Something’s failed with the VCT (variable camshaft timing) system and it’s going to be a multi-day repair job (engine take-apart) but they can’t even locate parts right now due to the UAW strike including closures of many parts warehouses across the country.  So I decided to rent a minivan, transfer everything out and head home with Hera.  Once again, the van is kaput and in a shop far away.


Update (11/10/2023): It took three weeks but eventually the UAW strike ended and they repaired the engine over three days.  Darlene and I drove out in my car (with Hera) to pick it up.

Before heading out of Elko, I noticed the fresh water tank was empty – which seemed very weird.  Why would they go to the trouble to find and open the dump valve?  We found a place to refill and it was nearly full before I stepped out and noticed all the water draining through the side door of the van.  Turns out the water pump filter/strainer had burst.  I should’ve emptied the tanks and pipes before leaving it because it apparently got cold enough to freeze and bust things.  I didn’t think about it before I left the van there amidst all the worry about the engine failure, my sick cat and being stranded in Elko for who knows how long.

The scary thing was that the water was flooding the electrical compartment.  It was right on the edge of submerging the fuse box.  It was dumb luck I caught it when I did.  I don’t know what would’ve happened – shorted out, started a fire?  Anyway, I stopped the fill and we sat there for a while letting things drain before moving the van for fear of shifting the water and making contact and then who knows what.

When we got home I investigated further and found that I was able to replace the little $10 pump filter part and there were no other leaks.
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Carson/Ebbetts Passes

One year after the camper van was rear-ended and a very long time at a body ship plus several more months getting rebuilt and outfitted, Darlene and I (and Hera) were finally able to head out in the van again for some exploration. We ended up camping out in four different dispersed spots we found over not quite two weeks in an area of the Sierra Nevada between Carson and Ebbetts Passes (often near the Pacific Crest Trail), going exploring by mountain biking, hiking and geocaching.

 

We had nice weather the whole time except for some wildfire smoke that started to blow in on the last couple of days.  We cut the trip a couple days short to avoid getting caught out in a bit of snow forecast for the higher elevations.

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A Tahoe Layover

Heading out in the newly restored camper van, Darlene and I had a bit of an unexpected layover in Tahoe as several house maintenance and repair chores ended up taking a lot more time and Hera developed a new health issue.  We did take a few days off for some mountain biking including some of the trails from the house near Brockway Summit and taking the Emigrant Trail out to Stampede Reservoir from Prosser Creek.

We also joined Mike and Nanci on the Flume Trail (a well known trail that overlooks Lake Tahoe along the east shore).  We started at Spooner Lake, climbed up to Marlette Lake where Mike went for a brief swim and we took a snack break:

We then joined the Flume Trail where Mike promptly tumbled off trail somehow and tangled himself in his bike frame. Happily no one chose to tumble off the steep slopes of the Flume Trail proper but then Nanci had a nasty fall on the ride down the Tunnel Creek Road.  With help from several others, we ended up waiting for emergency services to drive a buggy up to treat her with pain meds and move her down to a waiting ambulance.  At the Truckee hospital, she was found to have broken a clavicle and a rib.  Ouch, not the most fun way to end the day!

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Summer Board Gaming

This is a gallery of pictures from another summer season of board gaming, including: 49, Flamecraft, Plague Inc., Thunder Road: Vendetta, Yedo, Merv, Atlantic Star, Eclipse, Middle Earth Quest, Chinatown, Quacks of Quedlinburg, Dominant Species, Dead by Daylight, Camel Up!, Hegemony, Clank! Catacombs, Evolution: Climate, Cosmic Encounter, Brian Boru: High King of Ireland, Horrified, Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers, Game of Thrones, Bus, The Networks, Thunderstone Quest, Campaign Trail and Heat.

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Whose Live Anyway?

 

Darlene and I were able to join Nicole, Luno and Nacho in Salinas for a live show from the Whose Line Is It Anyway? crew last Friday – they’re currently on tour.  Darlene and Nicole even went up on stage to participate in their “move the frozen improv actor” game.  (No pictures during the performance.)

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Home Theater Upgrade: Taller Screen

With more and more “blockbuster” movies being released in tall aspect ratios (apparently optimizing for IMAX screens) or even frequently switching aspect ratios midstream (Christopher Nolan!!), my existing, 12-foot wide 2.4:1 aspect ratio screen hasn’t been so useful as it used to be.  These taller aspect ratios meant that the image ends up quite constrained, not using much of the screen real estate to the left and right.

So I finally decided to go through the trouble of buying and installing a new screen.  It’s the same width as before (12 feet) but now in a 16:9 aspect ratio.  So now I’ll have “Constant Image Width” (CIW) rather than “Constant Image Height” (CIH).

It’s another retractable screen (Luxus) from Stewart Filmscreen using the same screen material (Ultramatte 130 and still 30% gain) but this new unit was quite a bit heavier than the old one.  It weighs somewhere between 125-150 lbs depending on which documentation you believe.  I installed another set of mounting blocks with 2×6’s on the wall to clear the window sill but there was no way just two of us could lift it in place.  Four of us were able to do it though! Many thanks to Tim, Geof, Jennifer, Richard and Nacho for volunteering to help Darlene and me:

Old vs New (2.4:1 vs 16:9)

The new taller screen is filled out wonderfully with the likes of all those tall aspect ratio movies – making these films feel much more immersive again.  And so far, the upper and lower “black bars” with 2.4:1 material haven’t been distracting.

Some movies (like Tron: Legacy) like to switch aspect ratios.

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Darlene’s Family Visit

Darlene’s mom Alice and her sisters Kathy and Shel came out for a visit to Santa Cruz.  They hit up the Monterey Bay Aquarium, stayed overnight at the Monterey Zoo, visited the Santa Cruz boardwalk, visited Alice’s sister Betty, did a few laps of indoor go cart racing, experienced a drone flight over the bay, a little virtual reality and a bit of video gaming.

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In Memory of Pan

 

I’m writing this four months later… we lost Pan on July 3rd after an attempt to treat a reoccurrence of his heart failure.  This was really hard to take. He was my best buddy.  Whatever I was doing, he was always nearby.  He would follow me from room to room, hang out with me while I was on my computer, be in the midst of whatever project I was working on or in my lap while reading or watching TV.  He just had to be on the table with us when we were playing board games.  He’d run to join me if I went out to the garage or in the yard and cry and pout in the litter box if I couldn’t take him with me when I was going out.

On road trips, he insisted on being in my lap or on the countertop behind my shoulder in the camper van.   He was up on the bathroom counter sink to watch me and wait while I brushed my teeth and then get his drink from the tap. Then he’d immediately leap to the bed to join me on my pillow when I went to sleep. He slept curled up against my face, under my chin or on my head every night – as close as possible.  His signature greeting was his head butt to the face and nose-to-nose rubs – the same initial greeting he gave me when I got down on my knees at the animal shelter way back in March of 2009 and he picked me out.  He’s been a near constant, joyful presence ever since.  Darlene and I miss him terribly.

 

 

In June, he started refusing his meds and not eating enough to get his meds that way.  Over a few weeks it became clear that his breathing was starting to become more labored again.  The last time this happened, a couple of years ago, the vet was able to tap and drain the fluid from his chest, start him on some medications and he bounced right back.  He did just fine over the next couple of years despite their warning at the time that he probably only had limited months left.  So when I brought him on the Friday ahead of the 4th of July weekend to request a repeat of the chest tap, I totally expected that it would go like before.

He was happy and active when I brought him in for the procedure on Friday and it seemed to go well but his health deteriorated over the subsequent 48 hours. By Monday morning, it was clear he was in serious trouble and we took him to the emergency hospital in Santa Cruz.  On a phone call a few hours later, we were told he was in a terrible state with three opposing conditions – the treatment for any one of them would exacerbate the other two.  It would apparently take many days of intensive care with a highly unlikely probability for success.  To avoid putting him through all that, we made the decision to go with their recommendation to euthanize.

Here’s a gallery of selected pictures and videos from my 14 years with him:

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