Tuesday, December 31, 2002



Got our ten hours. And we were still up and off at seven am, central standard. Well before sunrise.

Uneventful day. We spent last night in Kansas. Midway USA: the geographic center point of the contiguous forty-eight. Dropped south out of Kansas and through Oklahoma. Ended up just north of the Texas border, at Murray Lake, State Park in Oklahoma. It’s set in the Arbuckle hill country. Very nice. Beautiful campground all to ourselves this off-season. Picture attached, but I forgot to take it until late.

Saw more birds today. Saw an owl on a phone pole this morning at dawn. Got to see meadowlarks, flocks of blackbirds, and soaring hawks. Cardinals, juncos and mockingbirds.

By this time last trip, we were having electrical trouble in Shamrock Texas. No such luck this trip. Marty Malone, owner and operator of M&M Sales and Service, fixed it last time, and it has stayed fixed. Thanks again Marty.

Stopped at the worlds-largest-factory-direct-Christmas-store. Lots of nice stuff; stuff we haven’t seen before. Nothing we can’t live without: at least until the return trip. We got their catalog, phone number, and web site address just in case.

It rained all day to the south of us as we drove. It had stopped just before we got there. Didn’t get to sleep to the sound of rain on the roof. Slept well anyway.

Had Judy’s homemade spaghetti dinner. Last year at this time, we were dealing with the heart-healthy diet. This year, our diet is something else.

This trip is all about wood ducks. Nothing else matters as long as we see the wood ducks. I don’t think it’s a particularly elusive critter. I think we just haven’t been in the same place at the same time yet.

Another four hundred miles today.

Monday, December 30, 2002



We did it. Sunday morning. Bright and early.

Actually, it was dark and early. We were on the road by six am. I don’t know why. It’s not like we’re in a hurry. I just like to leave early and watch the sunrise to start the trip. Judy humors me. We have had some painfully bright sunrise departures, driving east. This one was only colorful (evidence attached).

Here is the plan for the trip. We’re going to drive east to the middle of Kansas, turn right and drive south through Oklahoma into Texas, fade east into Louisiana, and end up in the Bluebonnet Swamp in Baton Rouge. We hear there are wood ducks there in the winter. That’s it. That’s the trip. When we’re through with Baton Rouge and the Bluebonnet Swamp, we’ll either turn left, or turn right.

No way the mysterious RV sleeping sickness is going to get us this time. We’ve been up since five am, and we feel great. In fact, we drove all the way across eastern Colorado to Kansas before we stopped and took a nap. But one nap. Only one. All day.

Last year, we were watching harrier hawks all day. Tons of them. This year, zero. Wonder if it is fallout from the drought. Saw a few house sparrows. No big birds at all.

Had a wonderful warm sixty degree Saturday for preparations. Perfect. Got the motorhome de-winterized before we even left home.

Driving across eastern Colorado, Interstate 70 passes a town called Bovina. I can understand town names like River City, or Skunk Creek, or Grand Junction. But Bovina? What kind of sense does that make? Bovina? Unless, of course, there is some connection to cattle ranching there.

Right on the border between Kansas and Colorado is a town named Kanorado. As a Coloradoan, I’m proud to announce that that town name was thought up by people in Kansas.

Stopped nice and early, about four pm. Got to listen to the Bronco’s finish their season with a convincing win. If only the previous fifteen games could have been so convincing, they would still be playing.

Russell Kansas. 400 mile day. Nice sunset.

Sunday, December 29, 2002


That's it.

Work is ready. The house is ready. Shamu is ready.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early. Probably.

We're off.


Friday, December 27, 2002


We're getting a nice warming trend here for our trip start. It has been single digit cold. Saturday is forecast for a high in the fifties. Sounds like a good getaway day.

We've got the motorhome plugged in, the refrigerator turned on, and the furnaces idling.

I'm still at work, but I'm gaining on it.

Sunday, December 15, 2002







Saturday, December 14, 2002


Had a good train day today. Got the big loop straightened out so both
trains are running flawlessly. There is still a significant difference in
the traction between the two types of track, but I made the north track so
level, the engine has to run on it.

I did add some information to the equation. The engine wheels were
slipping, so I picked it up and turned it around. It runs through the same
stretch in reverse without slipping. Part of the issue is the track. Part
of it is the locomotive itself. These locomotives have logged a lot of
miles each. I think they're getting a little worn out. So one train is
being pulled by an engine in the normal configuration. The other train is
being pulled by an engine in reverse. I think it's going to work for the
remainder of this season.

Next season, I'll see about adding a new, stronger electric locomotive.

Tomorrow I'm planning the first steam-up of the Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002


Now I have a train mystery.

There are two different manufacturers of G scale track. As far as I know,
they are identical, except that Aristo track has little tiny screws to
secure all the joints, and LGB track does not. I prefer the Aristo track,
because then I don't have to ballast the entire loop, just the part that
needs support.

So I have two loops of track, one entirely LGB, and one entirely Aristo.
The LGB track is locked into place with ballast.

As long as the weather is warm and dry, the trains run identically. As it
gets colder and damp, the train on the Aristo track slips and loses traction
on the corners, while the identical locomotive on the LGB loop continues to
run smoothly. I've eliminated all the variables I can think of. It is not
the locomotive. It is not the cars. There is no difference in grade, or
curve radius.

It is a mystery. I can only think of two possibilities I haven't been able
to eliminate. It could have something to do with track gauge, and it only
shows up in the corners, when the track is a little more slippery. Or there
is some difference in the chemical composition of the track between the two
manufacturers, and one is slightly more slippery under these conditions than
the other. I made a tool to measure the gauge of the track, and the
difference between the two is only about a millimeter. Doesn't seem like
enough to cause this problem. One track catches moisture and the train
slips, and the other doesn't?

I tried calling the train store, and speaking with their best G scale man,
but he had never encountered this problem.


Tuesday, December 10, 2002


So far so good. We stuffed fifty or a hundred people into our yard for the
parade of lights yard party.

Our yard has been a big hit this year. We measure success by the number of
candy canes Judy gives away to people who stop to look. She reports we're
seventeen dozen into it so far this year. It looks like last year's record
of forty-five dozen candy canes is in jeopardy.

The home tour couldn't have gone better. We had a steady four hour flow of
people through our house. Always steady. Never too many. It is a surprise
to me how interested people were in our little old house. They all seemed
to think it was charming because it was old and had small rooms.

For her birthday, Sunday, Judy requested that she sit on the couch all day
and have me bring her things. Mission accomplished.

The office Christmas party is next Sunday. We'll try to keep the house
decorated and together until then. We get a small room at Karen's in the
Country for our party and the buffet dinner. Then we all migrate to our
house for lights, trains, and dessert (also provided by Karen).

My birthday, Christmas, then off on our big trip to the Texas coast, by way
of Louisiana this year. We'll get to explore the entire coastal bend. All
we need to do is get a few more things taken care of here so we'll be ready
to go right after Christmas.....

Thursday, December 5, 2002


Busy week.

Friday is the parade of lights. We always host an open yard after the
parade, and stuff as many people in our yard as we can to enjoy the lights,
trains, cider, cookies, and Christmas music. People have to park all down
the street past our house to get to the parade, so after we just kind of
scoop them in as they're trying to get back to their cars.

Saturday is the parade of historic homes. We're told there could be several
hundred people passing through our house between ten and two.

Sunday is Judy's birthday. I have to be nice to her the entire day.

Sunday, December 1, 2002

Christmas house

After all this time. In all its glory. All the pieces. All at once.


It was a good train day. The Louisville Express Line is complete. Not all
the track ballast is down, but the roughest spots are covered. Memo to yard
train builders: put the barrels of track ballast from last year in the sun
a few days before you want to use it. It was a nice fifty degrees warm
today, but I spent the day chipping out frozen gravel from the barrels of
ballast behind the spruce tree, and carrying it by the bucket into the front
yard to pour on the track so it would thaw out, so I could use it.

The Colorado Southern Line, on the south, is about three quarters done. I
change the track layout a little each year, and this year I need one more
piece to make it work. I'll buy a six inch straight and a three inch
straight. I have a four inch gap. I'll just have to see which piece looks
the least forced.

Pictures of the Louisville Express in action.



Well, hoping the day gets better. We woke up this morning to the cat trying
to cover us up. If you start the day as something the cat wants to bury,
what else can it do but get better from there?