November 22, 2015

One Fun Weekend, One Not-So-Much

Weekends need to be longer.  Two days just isn't enough time to decompress from the busy workweek.  We can not wait to be semi-retired.  Free from the mortgage, free from the yard work, free from whatever time constraints we have.  Those of you who are still working likely know what I'm talking about.  We try to squeeze in as much fun during these two days as we can, dreading Monday morning with a passion.

We're just now ending our weekend and it was NOT a fun one.  Let me backup just a couple of days.  Thursday when we left the gym, the truck's starter made an awful a horrendous noise which can not be ignored!  Definitely time to do some automotive work.  As Ron is our mechanic, that meant he would be working on the truck.  For this reason, I'm glad we have a garage and he has the tools and knowledge to save us money.  But I hate when he can't get a break!

I doubt we'll get our core charge back...
up on the jack again

So yesterday Ron spent a good three or four hours under the truck replacing the broken starter and rewiring a few connections.

Today Ron is spending the day working on his computer.  He's our computer guru too.  He thought the new Windows 10 program would be all right.  He installed it maybe two or three weeks ago.  It has been nothing but a headache nightmare for him.  I'm not tech savvy so I'm trying to remember the story as he told it to me.  Basically, his computer became autonomous, seemingly having a life of it's own.  When he installed the program he shut off some of the privacy/program issues that he knew about.  But during the last couple of days he noticed that the computer seemed to turn them back on...  He figured he could uninstall 10 and his computer would be it's old self again.  Didn't happen.  So now he's trying to figure it out.  He's about ready to Shit Can the computer and reformat it, essentially losing all of the information on it.  YUCK!!   

As I'm usually the optimist, I couldn't leave you all with a bad taste in your mouth so I'm also going to tell you about a fun day hike we took with Rufus a couple of weeks ago.  The weather was just as predicted, sunny and mid 60's.  Just right for a light sweater but still needing sunglasses :-)

We had ordered a harness and pack for Rufus from Groundbird Gear.  I heard about her business from a facebook group called Hiking With Dogs.  Bobwhite makes sturdy harnesses and packs custom fit for your dog.  We bought it because we plan to go on more hikes with the little guy and we wanted him to be able to carry a few treats, poop bags (empty of course), and maybe his collapsible water dish.  We couldn't wait to give it a try on a trail.

Rufus didn't even notice the pack but other park visitors sure thought it was cute
We drove a short 45 minutes to Hidden Falls park in nearby Auburn, CA.  The drive was easy and ended in a large paved parking lot complete with a row of porta-potties and a few trail head options.  From their website: "Approximately 30 miles of multiple-use trails provide access to scenic views of the riparian habitat along several creeks and to two gorgeous waterfalls. There are informative interpretive panels mounted at various spots along the trails. The park also has areas for picnicking, the fishing is great and there is plenty of open space for enjoying quiet time in a pristine outdoor environment."  We hiked 3 1/2 miles of scenic trails.

We had printed a trail map at the house and had decided to take an easy trail to Hidden Falls.  It was basically a fire road so when we came upon another trail, we took it.  Much better option for us.  The trail was narrow at some areas but it also meandered along a creek which would eventually become a waterfall.  The sound of the creek was relaxing.  Just what my soul needed.

above Hidden Falls

Ron turns to tell me he sees the falls

Hidden Falls

There is an overlook at the falls.  This was our lunch spot.  Rufus enjoyed some treats too.

After our rest we hiked a bit further, crossed another bridge and went to a second overlook.  The Canyon View Falls were not as impressive so a photo wasn't even taken.  I did take a photo of the bridge.

We got a somewhat late start to the day and we knew the park would be closing in a few hours so we decided to take the easy trail back.

the ranger drove past us, probably on his way to close the upper gates

We can totally understand why this park is a big draw for locals.  It did not disappoint in terms of scenery and trail conditions.  We will be visiting again!

If you're going:
  The entrance fee is FREE.
  Dogs must be on a leash.
  The park is open 365 days per year.
  Hours - open 1/2 hour before sunrise until 1/2 hour after sunset.

October 31, 2015

Tougher Than We Thought!

WOW!  That was a lot of work!  But it came out fantastic!

west side of tank shows the sloping ground level

our solution to the sloping surface problem

there's 13 seams per long side, 2 seams per short side

We must have counted wrong.  There was 30 seams, not 32 as we had remembered.  The first work day, Monday, we finished 8 seams.  My job was to prep the surface.  Ron's job was to weld the strips onto the tank.  It took a little while before we settled into a routine.  We finally left the work site just as the sky was getting dark. 

the moon arose into the sky just as we were leaving

By the next day we had figured out the kinks and finished 10 more strips.  Alas, we again left just as the sky was going dark.

Wednesday's weather was iffy.  There was a mist in the air - not good when working with electrical equipment.  It cleared up around 11AM and we got to work.  We did manage to complete another 9 strips, leaving the last two strips for our final day of work.

Those two strips proved to be the most challenging.  The scrubbers for the huge bio filter tank are located close to our work area.  We had to contort our bodies and equipment to fit the tight space.

right foot on the ladder plus left foot on a support member = one crazy contortionist position

We thought we'd be out of there by lunchtime.  Wrong...  It took us until 3:30 before we were all cleaned up and ready to put this job in the done folder.

Unfortunately, our long hours of working left very little time to explore and visit as we had originally hoped for.

But we did manage to see a couple cool things our last full day.

1.  The writing on the hillside 

South San Francisco, The Industrial City

2.  Magic Mountain playground  is a multi level castle and dragon themed play area

I'd love to play here :-)

proof of my 'age denial'

3. Ron's childhood home

so many memories behind those walls...

All in all it was a successful trip.  We got the work done.  We finished on time despite the weather.  We saw some new things.  We saw some old things.  We drove previously unexplored roads (thanks to our Garmin, DJ).  We stayed at a nice hotel with a view of the planes coming into SFO.  We left realizing how lucky we are that we don't have to drive in the congested bay area traffic day after day.  We had the most delicious pizza at our favorite pizza place, Village Host Pizza.  We each had a job to do but we helped each other out when needed.  

Our dream of working on the road is coming to fruition!

October 24, 2015

Going On A Trip

"I want to get back to my City By The Bay..."  Not just lyrics to a famous Journey song "Lights", but also our destination for the upcoming work week.

Ron and I have been hired to work onsite at a South San Francisco recycling facility covering the 32 seams on a HUGE tank.  We were there this past February to cover one of the seams when it split.  Now the customer wants us to cover the other 31 seams to prevent this from happening in the future.

the tank is over 8' tall

a strip of material measuring 4" x 102" covers the seam

We'll be staying at a local hotel and bringing our equipment to the work site each day.

Ron and I met and fell in love just south of here, still have family living nearby, and want to explore our old stomping grounds so it'll be a week of work, fun and family!

August 16, 2015

Hiking At A Ski Resort

Ron: "What do you want to do for your birthday?"
Me, a few days later with internet info at the ready: "Let's take Rufus to Northstar and go hiking."
Ron: "Sounds great!"

Northstar Ski Resort is located just outside of Truckee, CA and is a 2 hour drive from our home through the Sierras and Tahoe National Forest.  It's a great place to go for winter activities like skiing, snow boarding and ice skating.  I had no idea it was also famous for summer time fun too.  Some of the more popular fair weather activities include golfing, mountain biking and hiking.

I had read on another website that there was a free gondola ride to the mid mountain lodge and from there we could hike many trails.  That's not entirely true.  Let me explain.  The Northstar pass for hiking is $13 per person and includes the gondola ride to the mid mountain lodge and also another lift (Tahoe Zephyr Express) located at the lodge to get hikers to the top of the mountain.  We went to what we thought was the Northstar gondola only to find out it is owned by the neighboring Ritz-Carlton properties.  THIS is the free ride I had read about :-)  However, it limited us a bit because we couldn't ride to the top of the mountain.

looking back down to where we started our ride
The gondola dropped us off at a very posh resort where the rich go to soak up sun and sit by the tepid waters of the resorts over-crowded pools.  We weren't ready to shell out $18 for a pulled pork sandwich however, so we made our way over to the nearby Lodge at Big Springs (owned by Northstar).   Once at the lodge we picked up a trail map and choose our route.  We'd hike to Sawmill Lake.  It's a quick 1.1 mile long trail with 530 feet of elevation gain.  After we satisified our hungry bellies with a tasty and filling lunch ($26 for a big burger, an even bigger chicken sandwich and a gatorade) we were off.

FREE charging station, one of two that I saw in the lodge

bikers on the left, hikers on the right

your bike goes up the mountain ahead of you, a worker at the top takes them off the lift
Before we left for our hike we put on Rufus's Ruffwear booties.  When we had Apollo he once nearly tore off a toenail simply trying to get up the embankment and out of the river.  It was quite painful for him to walk back to the car.  His toenail was removed and he had a bandage on his foot for 2-3 weeks while it healed.  That experience is not something we wanted to repeat!

found a big enough rock to sit on while putting on his booties

he practiced with them at home a few times, now for the real test...
follow the leader...

I feel like a dwarf among these giants

our trail went right past these fun slalom turns meant for the bikers
At first, I was in the lead with Rufus by my side.  We quickly discovered that Rufus would rather follow the leader so Ron went ahead of us.  The day was perfect: mid 80's, shady trail among the giant pine trees, a light breeze, quiet all around (we only saw three other people on the trail) and a beautiful mountain lake at the end of our journey.

Rufus ponders the lake water to decide if he wants to take a dip
Ron tosses in a few rocks to entice Rufus into the water
contrails from the planes working on putting out nearby fires

Rufus did go in the water for a brief moment-too quick for the camera! 

After a small snack we headed back to the lodge.  Funny how the trip back seems to pass by quicker than the trip out.  Back at the lodge we needed to decide how we'd get down the mountain.  We could either walk down to the car or walk back over to the posh resort with the free gondola ride down the hill.  We decided to walk the short 3/4 mile trail down to the base.

not a sound was heard from this little hiker on the ride home

All in all we ended up hiking nearly 5 miles.  Rufus was a tired pup!

What a great way to spend my birthday!!

August 1, 2015

He's Not A Rottweiler

A random thought that we had one day as we worked was: he's not a rottweiler.

Rufus is the exact opposite of our many beloved Rottweilers.  Here's a few fun examples, in no particular order:

1.  He eats a LOT less food!
     When it was just Apollo, he would eat a huge bag of food in about 3 1/2 weeks.  Many years ago we had two rottweilers and a black lab, three big dogs.  I can't even remember how often we had to buy dog food.  Rufus gets about 3/4C twice per day.  His large bag of food lasts 6 weeks.

2.  People want to pet him when we take him on outings.
    Most people would shy away or walk on the other side of the street when we took our rotties out in public.  Just the opposite with this little guy.  Kids and grown ups alike want to give him hugs and pats on the head.

3.  He gets our attention in a different manner.
     Apollo, our large huge 140 pound Rottweiler, would gently lay his head on our lap when he wanted our attention.  Rufus, our much smaller 20 pound Schnauzer mix, gets our attention by ramming his nose into our legs!  Sometimes he does it when I'm not expecting it.  I get the feeling I may just end up with a bruise if he rams me one more time...

4.  He won't run out of play toys for awhile.
     Apollo had only a few toys, a tennis ball and two large chew toys.  Rufus really likes the squeaky toys and he has a big tub full of them at the house and more at the shop.  We even have some out of sight so we can switch them up from time to time.

they all have squeakers in them :-)

5.  He doesn't shed!
     I had to vacuum the entire house once a week just to keep up with maintaining a decently clean floor when we had our rotties.  The white tile in the kitchen consistently showed a layer of dark dog hair around the edges.  Although I still vacuum the same, the canister now has hardly any dog hair in it after my vacuuming session.

 6.  He's small enough to carry.
     Ever try carrying a 140 pound dog??  It's such a delight to be able to pick him up when needed or simply to give him a hug and kiss.  He likes to lay on the couch or in our laps at the end of a busy day.  The big dogs weren't allowed on the couch because they'd take up enough room for two people.

7.  He has a way of entertaining us during the work day.
     Apollo came to the shop with us often.  He would usually nap while we worked, although he did occasionally chase after a ball if we threw it for him.  Rufus is constantly doing something funny and makes us laugh, which is a great way to pass the time away.  He'll bring us his tennis ball (yes, it squeaks too) so we can throw it across the shop.  He'll run after it, sliding on the slick cement floor at the end of his run to avoid hitting anything in his path.

8.  He crawls around, in and on top of the craziest things.
     Apollo was too big to fit in some of the places where Rufus goes, like under the tables (yes, he really does this). There's about a 6" gap at the bottom and he'll chase his ball under there to retrieve it.  Again, he's quite entertaining.  He also likes to take a break and chew on his toys while laying on the lower level of our carts.  It's never a dull moment with Rufus around! 

he decided this looked like a good resting spot...  for about 5 minutes
We're happy we have Rufus in our family.  He can be stubborn at times, but he makes up for it with his cuteness and his fun loving personality!     

July 17, 2015

Work, Sleep, Repeat

I'm definitely not complaining but it seems this is all I (we) have time for lately...

Ron has been working nearly 14 days straight.  I usually take Sunday off  but end up cleaning the house, laundry and grocery store shopping.  In fact, last night we were at the shop until 8:45pm!  Our gym visits have even been affected.

The plus side to all of this is that we're going to be making some pretty good money  in the next 4-6 weeks.  Maybe we'll even be able to save up enough for the down payment on a trailer we've been wanting.

So although we aren't going on any fun weekend adventures, we are still working on whittling away at our debt and keeping positive thoughts about our future!

Here's to another sunset, and another day closer to our dream!!


July 4, 2015

Happenings, Part 3 -> Putting On A Bed & Departures

Thursday, June 18:
Jessica was the first to 'leave the nest' in 2008.  And she was the first to leave again this June.  But on our last night together we went to Brad's house and played a game of Catan.  It's much more challenging with a group of five as compared to a group of three.   

starting to set up the game
Jessica begins her strategy
Friday, June 19:
Jessica flew home tonight.  She took the red eye flight.  We managed to get a snapshot together before she went past the point of no return, AKA security.  Since I was the primary photographer the past few weeks, this is our only photo together.

thanks Ron for thinking of this photo-op :-)

Tuesday, June 23:
Boys and their toys...

A little brief history is needed first in order to make this story understandable...

When Alex was a junior in high school (12 years ago!) he was gifted with a 1964 Chevrolet truck from a friend whose mother wanted it out of her driveway.  It had to be towed to our driveway!  Over the months and years that followed Ron would teach Alex the ins and outs of restoring a classic.  It's still a work in progress after all these years, although the motor is done and it seems to runs well.

The bed of the truck was the next step in the process.  Years ago the boys had slapped together a wooden bed that would eventually need to be replaced.  Eventually came when Alex was visiting.  A few weeks before his arrival Ron and I took off the old bed.  It's a heavy SOB!!  Ron spent a couple of weeks constructing a new bed out of a heavy duty plywood.  This new bed will get Line-X'd after the truck is painted.

Today is the day the boys (with a little girl power too) put the assembled bed back onto the truck frame.  It went much easier with three people than it did with just two!

since the driveway is sloped, Ron decided it best to park the truck sideways

the hoist made a huge difference!

a hammer was the perfect tool to get those stubborn bolts through the holes

it was absolutely priceless to hear and see them working together again :-)
As soon as the nuts and bolts were all tightened down, Alex took it for a spin.

in the driver's seat again
Saturday, June 27:
Our time with Alex had come to an end.  He was ready to take the long drive back to Oklahoma.  Rocky is safely in the care of Charles once again until Alex can collect him.  Japan has an animal quarantine policy and Rocky must stay under 'house arrest' for a six month duration before being allowed into the country.  That's another story indeed.

thanks again Ron for taking this one :-)
So now it's back to everyday life for Ron and me.  We really wish they lived closer but it just makes it that much more exciting to know that one day we can visit them in our RV.  Of course, if we want to see Alex while he's in Japan we'll need more than our RV...

June 28, 2015

Happenings, Part 2 -> San Francisco

Two weeks does fly by quicker than we usually realize.  These two weeks went by even faster simply because we had our Kiddos here...

Ron and I are spoiled.  We've been self-employed and working together for the past 22 years.  Although we don't get paid vacations, we can take a day off every now and then to play hookie.  We decided that at least one day was to be taken off so we could go to San Francisco.

Monday, June 15:
Today was our day to play hookie.  Jessica really wanted to visit San Francisco and get some 'real' sea food at Fisherman's Wharf.  She said the sea food in Maryland isn't that great unless you go to Annapolis or Baltimore, both of which are a long drive for her.  She also said she can get small crabs called blue crabs but "it's not the same".

it's busier than I expected for a weekday

We got a little bit of a late start for the day.  When we crossed over the bridge and parked at the garage in SF, we had one thing on our minds: FOOD!  Honestly, it was probably sooner than that but as I was the driver and my three passengers slept most of the way (cars seem to do that to them, but not me) I didn't realize it until they awoke and proclaimed their hunger...

Knowing that the weather was expected to be in the 70's, compared to near 100 (or more) at home, we brought our jackets.  Good thing we weren't crazy tourists and wore shorts!  Jessica's mother-in-law, Christine, works in the medical field.  She let us borrow a wheelchair for the day and what a lifesaver it was.  Can you imagine crutches in SF??  No thanks.

Once set up in the wheelchair, our next mission was to find someplace to get lunch.  And like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, the last one was just right :-)

the first one was too expensive
the second one was open seating with standing room only
the third one was just right, not too expensive and plenty of open tables :-)
Yes, there are a lot crazy stupid amount of restaurants and eateries on the wharf.  All we really wanted was a simple bowl of chowder served in a bread bowl.  The first place wanted way too much money and seemed a bit upscale for our taste.  We went across the street (mind you Ron is pushing Jessica the whole time) to Boudin Bakery.  It seemed like a great place to get a bowl of chowder.  Once inside we saw that it was buffet style with open seating.  No way that was going to work with a wheelchair.  We again crossed the street and there it was. The prize.  Right in the middle of it all is a little round restaurant called Chowder Hut.  It's literally round with outdoor seating, an open patio atmosphere and fire pits to keep you warm on a chilly afternoon.  We deiced to sit at a more traditional table.

the drinks came fast but still waiting for their lunch

clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl = my SF favorite
We all ordered something different.  Ron had fish 'n chips, Jessica had a spicy fish sandwich, Alex had crab chowder in a bread bowl and I had my favorite, clam chowder in a bread bowl.  We all enjoyed our meals while being serenaded by a terrific sounding street performer!

Our hunger was soon abated and it was time to stroll around the area.

meant for Father's Day but I thought it was cute because Ron was pushing Jessica around all day :-)
We ended up walking the perimeter of  Fisherman's Wharf and down the main street to Pier 39.  The crowds were more than I would have guessed for a Monday, but then again, it is summer tourist season.

Pier 39 is home to hundreds of shops,  restaurants and even an aquarium
For those who have never been to Pier 39 in San Francisco, you're in for a sensory adventure.  All senses are on high alert when you're here: you can go into the aquarium and touch the bat rays, see all of the colorful shop facades and their wares, smell the fresh bread baking at the Boudin Bakery on the pier, hear the sea lions barking at one another while vying for the best sunning location and so many places for tasty treats!  There are hundreds of shops in the multi level shopping area.  Some sell unique items only found in one location.  Others sell trinkets with the SF logo that you can find on any other corner in the city.  People watching is a past time of many, ourselves included.

chopsticks anyone??
I've heard about the musical staircase for quite sometime.  Today, I finally got to see and hear it in person.  It's an ordinary staircase, toward the center of the pier, that has been transformed into a sound resonating keyboard.  There are motion sensors located along the left side of the staircase (in black).  As people cross the steps and pass the sensors a musical chime sounds.  It's fun for children of all ages.  Could you imagine having a group of people who together could play a song? 
the end of the pier has an unobstructed view of Alcatraz Island
We went in a few of our favorite shops to browse.  Both of the Kiddos bought a poster.  Jessica bought some sourdough bread.  Ron and I avoided the knick knack souvenir collection bug.  But if I could, I would've bought this cute plaque I saw in the sea shell store.

maybe next time around I can get it, if it's still there...
The day was just about over.  We all had our sea food fix.  The kids got their souvenir fix.  Ron and I got our cool weather fix.  Now for the two hour car ride back home.  Good thing I wasn't tired, as I was the driver again :-)