Sunday, April 30, 2017

Postscript about Gary Scow


The teenage kid I last saw in late 1963.  Google searches found newspaper articles about Gary Scow.  Right age.  Right time.  Right place.  A 27 year-old Gary Scow in the 1970s driving funny cars at the drags, and driving a drag boat over 200mph at Marine Stadium in Long Beach.  That has to be him.  He loved to go fast!  Here is the longest article I’ve found.  (They archived all their old newspapers using optical character recognition without a lot of proofing, so they can be a little jumbled.)  It’s interesting to find bits and pieces of his life.


Long Beach, Callf., Sun., Aug. 1), INDEPENDENT, PRESS-TELEGRAM-S-3 Roar of drag boats music to Scow's ears There's no room for fear when Gary Scow.reaches 190-mph mark at Stadium. Among mortals that lead commonplace lives are those that object to loud noises and are excited only by the prospect of sleeping late on a weekend morning.  But chances are that Gary Scow s East Long Beach neighbors would be less than poetic if they knew more about the quiet young man behind the metal-framed glasses who lives in the cozy backyard cottage with his pretty wife Tina and prettv much minds his own business. Scow's business is responsible for the cacophony that pins ears to walls anytime the drag boats gather at nearby Marine Stadium, as they, will next Friday, .Saturday and Sunday for the 41th annual N a t i o n a l Championships.. To his neighbors it is noise; to Gary Scow it is music. "I used to ride my bicycle down to Marine Stadium when I was a kid," says G a r y . "I'd sneak my sister's camera out of the house and go down and take pictures of all the boats- and just watch." ' - FROM WATCHING to driving was not a simple transition... Scow explains that he got into racing the way most people get out-- through a serious accident. 'It's you and God' "My father had a service station out in Bellflower and a kid who lived behind it had an old '55 Chevy that he raced at the drags. After going out with him for about a year I was in a traffic accident. About nine months later I got a settlement, took the money and instantly blew it on that car so I could become part of it myself."  Soon Scow joined up with Gary Gabelich, who was driving a funny car for Beach City Chevrolet. "I was just the gopher for the team," Scow says, "but at the same time Gary was racing boats and. he got me very interested in that. When I finally got a chance to start driving them. Gary had a lot to do with it."  THE LIVES of Scow and Gabelieh, both Long Beach lads, are intertwined. "BuT as close as we've been," Scow says, "we've never competed, against each other. Gary.'s a very different person. There's no-one else in the world like him. He touches an ultimate that nobody else does." Scow was at Bonneville four years ago when Gabelich set the world land speed record of 622 mph. "At the time I was driving a funny car on tour back East," says Scow, "but I quit that to be with Gary and help with the Blue Flame." "To go that fast that quick excites me. It's you and God in that boat, and-your'e just hanging on with your hands and feet. Scow also was with Gabelich two years ago when the.latter almost killed himself in an experimental funny car at Orange County Raceway. "I helped build that car," Scow says. "I'd worked on it for a year-and-a-half." Next weekend Gabelich returns to drag boat racing --he was the first man to exceed 200 mph--to drive the new Shock Wave boat. The old Shock Wave perished last June 30 at Oakland, taking driver Mac Christensen with it. "Mac was a very close friend," says Scow. "We conversed on the phone a lot and I used to take his daughter out." BUT SCOW considers the accidents of his friends as "just bad things happened.  "It's part of it. You have to accept it." In fact, Scow says .the flirtation with danger is a large part of the motivation. "First, it's the acceleration more than the speed. Anybody can go that fast, but to go that fast that quick excites me. That's where the thrill is. "The danger is a big part of it. You have to work yourself up every time, for every run, mentally and physically. Once you get closer to 200, it's easier. Not many people have done it. I was the sixth Scow concedes that the chances of surviving an accident in a race car are better than in a boat. There is a third dimension to consider: depth. That's why boat racers don't wear safety belts. "It's you and God in that seat," says Scow, "and you're just hanging on with your hands and feet. I love it. There's nothing greater. I wouldn't quit for anything." RACING DRAG BOATS is the primary vocation of Gary Glenn Scow, 28, and there isn't a lot of money in it. "I enjoy doing just this," he says. "Oh, I work part-lime as a bartender, and I'm about ready to get back into sportfishing. I used to be a deckhand when Pierpoint Landing was doing its thing. "I have been fortunate this year to get money up front--a guarantee whether the boat wins or loses or whatever." "Whatever" has happened to Scow only twice in his three years at the game. Recently his boat The Beast, owned by boat builder Harold Kindsvaler, sank in the Mississippi River but was recovered in a 10-day salvage operation. A year ago Scow cracked up at Marine Stadium. "They estimated that. I crashed at between 180 and 190 mph," he says. "I walked away from it." It is suggested, then, that Gary Scow is able to walk on water. He laughs, "No, just lucky. I hit a buoy and took about the whole left side of the boat off.  I saw it but I thought I could get around it. The boat was on a fairly good run and I didn't want to shut it off. I thought if I did hit it, it wouldn't hurt anything because they're usually just styrofoam. The one I hit had a cement pole in the middle of it." SCOW met Tina, his bride of three weeks, at a drag boat meet in Oakland. "I've always liked things that go fast," she says. No, she doesn't worry about Gary. "He could get killed crossing the street," she reasons. But Scow doesn't think his parents will be there next weekend. "My mom and dad never have been to a race," he says. "I think my mom would-go if I took her, but when I go, I go to race."  My dad just doesn't like loud noise.



A recap of boat drivers who have gone over 200mph, with reference to the “great” Gary Scow”:


The 1st to run the magic speed number was Gary Gabelich. The date was in Sept of 1969 @ Perris Ca driving for Don Noel & Ginn Boscariol. It was a Sanger, with Ron White power. Boat was named CRISIS. His speed was 200.44 @ 9.11

2nd man to run over 200 was Larry Hill in a boat called "Mr Ed". It was in Sept of 1971, at the "Beach", in a Charger hydro owned by Ed Wills. Engine was also built by Ron White. Larrys speed was 202.46 @ 7.83.

3rd man was the "SHOE", Larry Swabenland driving the factory fueler for Sanger Boats. Bob McIntyre 426 hemi did the trick. Larry ran a 205.01 @ 6.83 at Oakland marine stadium. The date....Sept 10th, 1972.

4th man was Mac Christensen driving the Hondo factory boat "SHOCKWAVE". Owned by Peggy Brendel. Dan Olson 426 for power, Mac ran a speed of 202.46 @ 6.83. Again it was done at the "Beach" on Sept 30, 1973

5th was the "GODFATHER", Dennis Pollacia. Driving for Don McCormick out of Okiehoma City. The boat was named "OUT-A-SIGHT". Dennis set the APBA record at 200mph @ 6.80. Quickest et to date. Keith Black power. The date was June 2nd, 1974.

6th was the great Gary Scow. Driving for Harold Kindsvater, another fueler running Bob McIntire power. The boat was called "The Beast". Gary ran a speed of 201.56 @ 6.91et. Date was June 16th, 1974 @ the beach. The following year Gary ran 4 straight passes over 200mph. The 1st driver/ boat to do so. Later on Gary suffered a very serious crash in this boat. It happened at the Beach. Gary was dead when they pulled him out of the water. They revived him, & one year later, Gary was lifted into a fueler named "RATS FUELER" at the nationals @ the Beach, where he promptly laid down a beautiful pass to put him in the show. Gary was back....


There are other stories about Scow’s friendship with Gary Gabelich who drove a rocket car, the Blue Flame, 650 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats, and held the land speed record for years, and a few more about his exploits as a boat driver.  He must have been a fixture on that Southern California drag racing and drag boats scene for years.


Bakersfield, August 1974.

Drag boat driver critically injured LONG BEACH. Calif. (API — Drag boat driver Gary Scow of Long Beach was hospitalized in critical condition Saturday after his blown fuel hydro exploded following a qualifying run in the national drag boat championships. Scow had crossed the finish line with the top qualifying time of 184.80 when his boat lifted into the air and exploded. He came down amid the wreckage and suffered a broken leg. punctured lung.. injuries, sources said He was taken to Long Beach Community Hospital where he was placed in intensive care, a hospital spokesman said. Two world records were set as drivers completed the second day of qualifying for Sunday's finals Boh Dice of Granada Hills roared 14108 miles an hour in War Kagle. breaking the record for unblown fuel flat- botioms. The old record of 139.10 was set this year by Malt Bartii of Redondo Beach. Calif. Mary Kite of Mission V'iejo. <'alif.. set a women's record of 172 24 for blown fuel hydros in her Proud Mary. She broke her own record of 165.0 set earlier this year. (Ian.- Gabelich. holder of the world land speed record of 622 miles an hour, qualified for the finals in the blown fuel hydros with a time of 169.80. Jockey still serious, after Saratoga fall SARATOGA SPRINGS. N. Y. i APi — Angel Santiago, injured in a fall from Impassioned during Thursday's ninth race at Saratoga, was reported still unconscious and in serious condition Friday. Santiago, who is suffering from a cerebral concussion, was transferred from Saratoga Hospital to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. NY. qhr Sakrrgfirlft (Xaltfornian Sunday, Aug. 18.1974


Long Beach, 1974.

LONG BEACH - Only three men have ever exceeded 200 miles per hour in drag boat racing competition and three of them will be on hand for the 11th annual National Championships at Long Beach Marine Stadium, August 16-18. Larry Hill of Fresno established the world’s record in Mr. Ed at 202.46 mph during the 1971 National Championships. Gary Scow of Long Beach, made for near-perfect runs last June at the Ray Caselli Classic, four times surpassing 199 mph with a top­ time of 201.56 Dennis (Godfather) Pollaocia of Redondo Beach, drove Out A Sight to a 201.34 clocking at Oakland in June. All three will be at the Nationals. The other three 200-plus drivers are Larry Schwabenland, 201.66 mph, Mac Christensen, 202.46 mph and Gary Gabelich, 200.44 mph. Schwabenland was badly injured in a crash at Oakland last year and is in temporary retirement. Christensen was killed during practice runs in Shock Wave, June 30. at Oakland and Gabelich is now concentrating on land-speed records after suffering near fatal accidents. Both Scow and Pollaccia have been working feverishly to be ready for the Nationals. Scow’s boat The Beast sank in the Mississippi River during a race at St Louis after he shot up in the air at the break and landed hard on a sponson. The boat was retrieved by owner Harold Kindsvater and is expected to run hard at the Nationals. Qualifying starts Friday, Aug. 16 at 10 a.m. and continues the next day at 10 a.m. Sunday’s finals, featuring the top eight boats, starts at noon


Long Beach, 1974.

Drag boat crown taken by Mr. Ed LONG BEACH. Calif. (AP) — The blown fuel hydro Mr. Ed continues to dominate drag boat racing even the record- setting racer has a new driver. The boat, owned by Ed Wills of Fresno, Calif., had little trouble winning the 11th annual National Drag Boat championships Sunday at Long Beach Marine Stadium with Frank Dade of Detroit making his first competition appearance as its driver. Dade defeated John Burrows of Reno, Nev. with a speed of 183 66 miles an hour, fastest time of the day but nearly 20 miles an hour off the standing start quarter-mile speed record held by the boat. World land speed record holder Gary Gabelich, racing for the first time since a serious drag racing accident two years ago, was disqualified for jumping the start in bis race with Burrows. Driver Gary Scow of Long Beach, listed in critical condition for a time after his boat flipped at more than 180 miles an hour Saturday, was reported "progressing very well" and in satisfactory condition Sunday at Long Beach Community Hospital. Another driver. Bob Fulg- bam of La Mirada, Calif., whose boat flipped at around 140, was thrown clear in an accident Sunday. He was listed in satisfactory condition after being hospitalized for observation.


All these reports of Gary Scow and others.  Reports of crashes and injuries for Gary.  Reports of how some of the others died.  No more speed or medical reports for Gary since 1974 though.  No reports of Gary’s demise, so maybe he’s still out there.  Maybe he hung around the Long Beach racing scene the rest of his life (He would be in his seventies, like me, now.)  Maybe he abandoned racing and headed off for a quiet retirement in Salem, Oregon.  Who knows?


Saturday, April 29, 2017

We live in a house divided


But not for long.  We got home from Corpus Christi last Thursday.  A little time to catch up and re-provision, and we’re headed off in the motorhome to Kissimmee, Florida for the gymnastics Junior Olympics.


That’s why our house is divided.  We were living in the motorhome, but now we’re living in our house, but only for four days.  We didn’t want to move everything twice, so we’ve left as much in the motorhome as we can, but still living, sleeping, and cooking in the house.  Of course, the result of that decision, is that about ten times a day we reach for something and it’s not in the house, it’s in the motorhome.  I need to print something.  Oops, carry the computer out to the motorhome because that’s where the printer is.  How about a bite of almonds for a snack.  Oops, they’re in the bus.  Oh no, we’re out of bottled water in the fridge….



Friday, April 28, 2017

A highway mystery


On our drive home from Phoenix a few weeks ago, east of Fort Stockton, west of Ozona, on Interstate 10 , a white pickup truck passed us with LED amber lights flashing on every corner of the vehicle, front and back.  We wondered why.  There were no identifying marks on the truck.  Was it a utility truck that was going to stop along the shoulder?  Was it an unmarked pilot car?  Or did the driver just want to be the most visible/safest thing on the road?  That could be a really good idea.  What could be safer than flashing amber lights on every corner saying “Hey everybody!  Look at me!”?


The more I thought about it, the better the idea sounded.  I could cover my car with flashing amber lights and drive down the highway.  Not only would everyone notice me and not run into me, they’d probably pull over and get out of the way.  My plans to illuminate our next car were suddenly interrupted fifteen minutes later though, when the semi-tractor/flatbed trailer drove past us with a giant bulldozer hanging over each side.  The flashing white pickup was a stealth pilot car!



Thursday, April 27, 2017

This is ridiculous


Ebird is such a cool resource.  If you want to know how you’re doing compared to other birders, you can call up a list of the top 100 birders, by number of species reported, in several different categories.  Each list can be created by World, Country, State, or County.  If you’re not in the top 100, your name doesn’t show up on the list, but it gives you a numerical ranking for where you stand.  (On April 24th, I was number 1,324 in the world.  I have a ranking, but my number has a comma in it.)  Every year I jump up in the rankings after the Big Day, but this is crazy.  Before the Big Day, I was number 112 in the U.S.  After, I’m number 45.  I jump that far up in the rankings not because I suddenly got to be a better birder, but because I went birding with a better birder.


I wonder about the logic of that sometimes; is it fair to report all the birds I see when I go out with Jon, because I see and hear so many more when I’m out with him than when I’m out by myself?  I rationalize it, and say I should count all these birds because “it’s just a matter of degree”.  If a person goes out with any friend, they’ll see more birds.  That’s just the way it works; if one person sees a bird the other doesn’t, he’ll call the other person’s attention to it.  Is it my fault my friend happens to be a birding beast?


I don’t think so.  I’m counting everything!



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

2017 Big Day


Midnight out on the boardwalk at the Birding Center marsh in Port Aransas listening for rails.  It’s calm and quiet, just like we need so we can hear; no wind.  We got sora, common gallinule, and our target bird: Virginia rail.  A good start.  The Virginia rail is a new year-bird for me.


On to Cove Harbor to listen for Clapper rail.  I made a map of all the places we went.  2017 Big Day map.  Heard the rail!  River road for King Rail.  (Different rails like different habitat.)  Got it.  Still really dark.  Drove to Duke Bridge for barred owl.  Heard it before we even got out of the car!  Drove west to Choke Canyon State Park and surrounding area to listen for western birds at sunrise and see fulvous whistling ducks when it got light.  This is going really well.  We’ve already seen or heard 85 birds, and now I’ve got 4 new year-birds.  Not only are we going to have a Big Day, my year-list is going to get a lot bigger too.


Back east to Riverside Park in Victoria.  That was good for Mississippi kites, red-shouldered hawks, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-throated vireo, blue jay, and a pileated woodpecker landed right in front of us!  We’re at 115 birds and it’s not even noon.  Another 5 year-birds.


125 birds by noon and we’re picking up steam.  It was good at Goose Island State Park.  Now we’re seeing coastal birds.  I’ve gotten another 9 year-birds.  A stop at Sunset Lake Park, and we’re off to the middle of Corpus Christi for migrants by 2pm.  Spirits are high, as they always are at this time of day.  All we need is a good migrant year to have a really big day.  This is also the point in the day where we usually have a flat spot and things slow way down, but not this day.  This day the migrants were great.  We arrived at Blucher at 2:30 and started racking up migrants.  Worm-eating warblers.  Hooded, swainson’s magnolia, black and white and Kentucky warblers.  We’re at 170 birds.  We moved on to Rose Hill Cemetery and kept on finding warblers, flycatchers, and tanagers.  Cerulean warbler and blackburnian warbler.


180 birds.  It’s all good.  Time to head out to the island.  More migrants.  Almost all the shorebirds we needed.  A whimbrel.  Every place we stopped was good.  Every stop added birds to the big-day list.  We finished back at the Birding Center in Port Aransas with a marsh wren at 8pm.  Nueces County was really good to the Big Day list and my year-list as well.  I got 23 new year-birds, just from Nueces County, for a total of 41 new year-birds in just one day!  I already had a pretty good year-list going, but this is fantastic.


The results:  This is an annual competition, consisting of teams of two birders each.  It just happens that Jon and I are the only ones that know about the competition, and the only team to ever compete.  Our old record was 207.  (We did 220 once, but that was not really the same kind of big day.  For that one we did 24 consecutive hours, but spread over two days so we could cover more habitat.)  For this for-real Big Day, we did 550 miles of driving, with 26 stops, 20 consecutive hours of birding, and demolished our old record with 218 birds!



Big Days are not about taking pictures, but how could we talk this much about birding without any pictures of birds?  I’ll put up several pictures, then put the key at the end.  You can see how many you got right.













Female Summer Tanager


Worm-eating Warbler

Pectoral Sandpiper

Bay-breasted Warbler

Least Bittern


Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Gull-billed Tern

Sooty Tern



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A barefoot run on the beach


The scrunchy scratchy seaweed feels good on the soles of my feet.  (Running doesn’t feel as good as it used to though.  I walk more than run now.)


Drove to Mustang Island on Sunday.  Got in a little sleep before the midnight start of the annual birding Big Day with Jon on Monday.  We had an awesome time and finished exhausted and severely in need of sleep.  Got in a solid ten last night with some catching-up and resting-up today.


Took a walk out on the jetty.



Splashy parts on the jetty are as close as we get to tide pools here.



More tomorrow about the Big Day.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Intermittent Fasting


The most common current form is referred to as 16:8 fasting.  I’ve seen a couple references to this recently, touting its health benefits.  I’m not a big fan of fasting, but not opposed to it; I decided to give it a look.  There is no end to the information available about this on-line.  It’s the hottest new thing!


It’s pretty simple; eat during a certain amount of time, and don’t eat the rest of it.  When you do eat, eat healthy food, and eat as much as you want.  Eat lots of protein and go easy on the starches.  No calorie counting.  No fakey low-fat, or sugar-free foods.  It promotes weight loss, helps with diabetes, reduces cancer and heart disease, extends your lifespan, reduces stress, reduces inflammation, and detoxes your body.  Amazing.  They suggest trying this for two days a week.  Serious adherents do it every day!


I had to think about the timing of fasting and eating.  If you quit eating at 8 o’clock at night, go to sleep, wake up, and don’t eat until noon, that’s the 16 part; that’s a 16 hour fast.  Then eat lunch and dinner, all you want, and stop eating again by 8 o’clock.  As I see it, this revolutionary new eating approach could be called by a different name as well; Skipping Breakfast!


Years ago, I figured out that I felt better for the rest of the day if I skipped breakfast (the most important meal of the day) and didn’t eat until lunch.  Who knew, all these years, most of my adult life, I have been doing intermittent fasting, specifically the 16:8 plan!


A man ahead of his time….



Friday, April 21, 2017

Why would it be?


I don’t want to eat hot stuff.  I let the morning cup of coffee sit for twenty minutes before I take a sip, so I won’t burn my mouth.  I don’t eat a hot dinner until it quits steaming.  Sometime I can get Judy to put my food on a plate, then finish up everything else before she serves herself, so I can eat my food at the same time as hers.


But spicy hot?  I crave that tabasco burn.  More is better.  I want to feel the residual burn in my stomach when I’m done too!


Judy, who wants her food and coffee as hot as it can be, wants nothing to do with spicy hot.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gary Scow


He was my teenage friend; part of the gang that hung out together on the playground to play softball (and talk to girls) at Burbank Elementary in the summers.  That tradition started as younger teens and continued into the car years.  Gary and I would go to the drags at Lyon’s Dragstrip and end up in the pits with the nitro fumes and the rubber smoke.  He knew people there, and was friends with a guy who drove a *very* fast 1955 Chevy.  Gary was an easy-going guy who, with his mop of blonde hair, looked like a California surfer dude, but he was pure motorhead.


I had a cool car, a 55 Chevy with a small-block (283 cubic inches) V-8 and a Hearst floor shift.  He had a cooler car; a 57 Chevy retrofitted with a big-block (348 cubic inches) V-8, with three two-barrel carburetors and a four-speed.  It was a beast.  His rear tires were always bald.  We hung out together and listened to the car radio and talked cars.


The last time I saw Gary I didn’t know it would be the last time.  It was before I went away to the Army.  When I came home on leave I went to see him again.  He lived upstairs in the house behind the house, like the old neighborhoods are full of in Southern California.  Convert your detached garage into living space and rent it, or build out a second floor with apartments above the garage and rent them out.


It was after midnight when I decided to go see Gary, but that wasn’t unusual.  Before I went in the Army I always got off work late.  I’d close the gas station at midnight and, still wound-up from work, I’d go find someone to hang out with for a while before going home to bed.  So this night I walked quietly down the drive past the house in front.  I climbed the wooden stairs and walked the outdoor balcony down to his bedroom window.  I called his name (in a loud whisper so I would only wake him) but he didn’t wake up.  That wasn’t unusual.  He was a heavy sleeper.  Sometimes I had to climb inside and shake him awake.  I tried to open the window but he had it blocked with something.  It only opened part way.  That wasn’t right.  I called more, but he just wouldn’t wake up.


I had to give up and walk away, disappointed I didn’t get to say hi to him.  When I was halfway down the driveway, a man’s voice called out from the window I’d been trying to get in.  “Who are you and what do you want?”  Oh shit!  Gary doesn’t live there anymore!  I tried to climb into someone’s bedroom window.  I could have been inside a stranger’s bedroom shaking him awake!  I explained and apologized as best I could from halfway down the driveway.


I am so lucky that whole thing didn’t turn out terrible.


I never found out where Gary Scow moved to; never saw or heard of him again.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pretty soon


Pretty soon we’ll take another trip.  Then I can quit reminiscing for a while, and write about where we are and what we’re doing again.


Next up is a trip to Corpus on Sunday in the bus.  The Big Day is on Monday, so I may be quiet that day, but surely by Tuesday I’ll have plenty to say about how many birds we saw in one day!



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Cyclone Racer



A classic wooden coaster.  Side-by-side tracks with cars on each.  Every ride was a race against the other train of cars.  An imposing first drop.  I could barely get Judy to ride it, but once I got her on it I couldn’t get her off it.  She loved/hated/loved it.  The coolest roller coaster on the planet.


The Cyclone Racer was located at the Pike.  The Pike was built in 1902


The Pike had the Cyclone Racer, Tilt-a-Whirl, The Rotor, bumper cars, a double ferris wheel, a diving bell with sharks, U-drive-em boats, pinball arcades, house of mirrors, tunnel of love, funhouse, saltwater taffy and cotton candy.  There were horse racing games, squirt guns and bb guns, and The Plunge.  There was that apparatus you hit with a sledge hammer to ring the bell.  (It looks like you have to be really strong to do it, but it turns out you just need a smooth rhythm with the hammer and even a skinny teenage kid like me can do it.)  Fun for all ages.


The Pike was first a place where families could take kids, our parents took us there, but later it devolved into an unsavory collection of shops, arcades, and characters that we were forbidden to visit as teenagers.  As a teenager it was one of my favorite places.  It remains the only place I have ever been arrested and jailed.


(A cascade of poor decisions on my part, in the middle of the night long after all the attractions at the Pike were closed, resulted in a night spent in the drunk tank.)  Am I right, Cousin Ed?  (Honorable mention, but no thanks, to an older brother who had advised a younger me that if I was going to drink, drink Vodka, because cops can’t smell vodka on your breath.)  (Although ironically, it would be that same brother I called in the wee hours of the next morning to come bail me out, not realizing that cousin Ed had spent the whole night downstairs in the police station waiting for me.)


Right up the road from the Pike was The Plunge.


The Plunge was special.  It was a giant indoor salt-water pool right next to the ocean.  It had a fountain you could climb up on without getting in trouble!  One of the great achievements of my youth; getting big enough to make that climb.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Dog whistle pitch


When I was young, I used to be able to mimic a dog whistle.  I discovered that if I blew air just right between my top teeth and bottom lip, I could make the sound.  It’s that high-pitched whistle that only dogs are supposed to be able to hear, but I could just hear it.  I already had a dog whistle to help train my Samoyed dog Queen.  You could blow it to produce a lower audible pitch, then turn a knob which would drive the pitch up out of range; so I recognized the sound a dog whistle made right at the edge of human hearing.


It was a subtle thing, and inconspicuous; it didn’t take much effort to produce.  It’s a hard sound to locate, so it helped me pass the time in High School classes watching other students frown and look around for the source of that annoying noise.  I don’t know if I ever told anyone about my talent.


After a few years though, that talent faded and I went on to other things; my dog-whistle career over.  Fast forward to now though.  Walking in the woods the other day with my fancy new birding ears headset on, enjoying all the bird and bug sounds I have been missing for all these years, I suddenly thought of that dog-whistle sound.  Could it be?  I gave it a try.  Yes!  All these years I thought the dog-whistle was gone, it was *me* that was gone!


I still have it!



Sunday, April 16, 2017

The doctor may have been right


I’m taking the antibiotics and I *am* feeling better.  I’ve got a little appetite and the weight free-fall has stabilized.  I wouldn’t mind continuing to weigh in the 150s, but I’ll probably gain my weight back now that I’m eating again.


In fact, I felt better enough yesterday to tackle a small motorhome project.  I had gotten the wrong bay door pistons that hold up a couple of the outside bay doors when I open them.  The pistons were way too stiff, and I could hardly get the doors closed.  I had ordered new ones, but they didn’t get delivered before we left on our Arizona trip, so they’ve just been sitting here at the house waiting to get installed.  All I had to do was figure out how the end-clips worked.  I had heard it was easy.


It didn’t take long before I was stumped.  I could almost see how the clip worked, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it stay open.  I’m an analytical guy though, and I don’t stay stumped for long.  I knew exactly what to do in a situation like this.  I called my brother Tom.


Tom knew.  He explained how the latch worked.  I was trying to figure it out by looking at the new piston that wasn’t already attached to the door, and figure out how to get the latch to stay open, but it turns out that one doesn’t even need to be opened.  All a person has to do is get the spring-loaded snap on the old piston to open just enough to allow the end fitting to snap off the ball it’s mounted to.  Once the old piston is off, the new piston just pops on, no problem.


So, mission accomplished.  I did something.


Now I’m working on getting all the bugs scrubbed off the front of the bus.  If you get them at the end of every day, while they’re still soft, they come right off with a soft brush and a bucket of water.  We came back from our last trip, parked the bus, and just collapsed though, so now a couple weeks later the bugs have “matured”, and are immune to the soft brush and water.  They come off one at a time with a non-abrasive scrubber and a bucket of water.  It’s not one for one; one scrub, one bug either.  One bug at a time, and maybe many scrubs for each bug.  A significant time investment.  Lesson learned.  Again.  No matter what, scrub the bugs off every day or pay the price.


The house is habitable again so we moved back in last night.  That whole experience was so terrible.  The pest control guy is so enthusiastic that he had to describe every step.  When he came out with fifteen pounds of possum in a bag, he announced that as bad as it smelled, he figured the whole possum would be liquefied, but it was only dripping from the anus.  AAAGGGHHH.  “Did we want to see it?”  AAAAGGGHHHH GAG GAG GAG.


No thank you, please.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dead things


In our house in Colorado, sometimes we’d get mice come in, especially in the fall when it started getting cold, and we’d have to trap them.  It never seemed like a really big deal.  Besides, the occasional mouse in the house gave the cat something to do.


Here in this house, we’ve had mice get underneath the house and die.  That can be smelly.  It’s a cement slab under the house, so if they just die there, no big deal, we can find them and throw them out.  But if they get up into the sub-floor, in among the insulation, wiring, and heating/air conditioning ducts it can be a bigger deal.  Over the years we’ve had a couple get up there and die.  Unable to locate and remove the little mouse carcass, we have to endure a few days of intense smell in that part of the house while the carcass decomposes.  It’s not fun, but it passes.


This last week was something entirely different though.  We knew we had something in the floor.  We could hear it scrambling and banging around at night for a couple nights in a row.  It was enough to wake us up and keep us awake.  It sounded big and it sounded like it had a major construction project going on in there.  Must be a big rat.  Some advised us to put out poison bait, but we didn’t want it to eat poison then crawl back up inside the house and die.  We have a bug guy that sprays around our house for bugs and spiders once every three months, but he doesn’t do rodents.  We got a good recommendation for a pest control guy that will go after critters other than just bugs and called him.  He said for sure, don’t put out poison; what we don’t want to happen surely will, and we’ll be dealing with something dead up under the house.  He said to put out some snap-traps and catch it.  He would come by and have a look as soon as he could in a couple days.


We found the entry point underneath the air-conditioning ductwork and put out a big rat snap-trap baited with peanut butter.  The next morning, the peanut butter was gone and the trap had been triggered, but no varmint.  That night however, there was no sound in our floor, so we figured at least we scared it away.  Maybe it wouldn’t come back.  The next night it started to stink from underneath the bathroom, next to the bedroom at the back of the house.  Uh oh.  Maybe that big trap wounded him and we got what we didn’t want; a dead rodent hidden in the underbelly of our house.  By the next morning the whole back of the house smelled so bad it was uninhabitable.  This was not some little dead mouse starting to smell.  We opened up all the windows in the back of the house, closed off the doors to it, and stayed in the front.  We needed our pest guy.  That night we slept on the couch and recliner.  By morning, the front of the house was uninhabitable as well.  Now we were desperate.  We moved into the bus.


The pest guy came on Friday, and boy did we get the right guy for the job.  Most people, even people who are supposed to want to do this sort of thing, don’t want to.  This guy, he takes great pride in his work.  It was like hiring GhostBusters.  He’ll tackle anything, but he too was overwhelmed by the smell.  He geared up to go under the house and find this thing.  He had on an entire white haz-mat suit with a hood and a respirator.  He located an opening in the subfloor at the rear of the house, cut into it, dug around, and pulled out our problem.  He emerged from under the house gagging and holding a fifteen pound possum that had got stuck and died up there!  OMG was that thing awful, and it had only just begun.  As bad as this was, it was only going to get so much worse before it ever got any better.


He found the carcass and removed it on Friday.  We left everything open back there to air out.  He said he’ll come back Monday or Tuesday to spray bleach and finish the clean-up, then put everything back together.  He says he can seal off any entry points so nothing else can get up in there.  We shouldn’t have to do this again.


Possums.  Who knew a giant possum could get in a little hole like that and jam itself up under the flooring?  Who knew a possum could smell that bad?


Friday, April 14, 2017

Reports of my recovery may have been premature


I’m seriously off my feed.


The “sick” part went away after the first week, but I can’t seem to work up any energy or appetite.  Gave up and went to the doctor yesterday.  She said I’d feel better if I took antibiotics….



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rainbow Pier


Maybe my favorite feature of Long Beach that’s no longer there.


Built in the late twenties it was unique; a pier in the shape of a rainbow, framing the municipal auditorium downtown.  I remember it well as a favorite diversion on the way home from Downtown.  “Dad.  Drive around Rainbow Pier!”


It got filled in in the sixties.





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Remember Crumb doughnuts from Van de Camps?


Or the Pike, the Cyclone Racer, Rainbow Pier, The Plunge, Pacific Ocean Park, the Whistle Stop on 4th Street, or Marineland of the Pacific?

(Not my photo.)


Marineland of the Pacific was a great tourist attraction; a destination theme park in Palos Verdes, built even before Disneyland.  We went there from Long Beach as a family in the fifties.  It was the world’s largest oceanarium; a grand project.  It operated until the late eighties, but I had forgotten about it by then.  They had two killer whales, Orky and Corky, that Sea World, who came along later, coveted.  Sea World wanted to buy them but Marineland wouldn’t sell.  In the eighties, when Marineland encountered some financial difficulty, Sea World stepped in with money, promising to preserve the park.  The park was now an important part of the community and local economy.  Within six weeks of the sale, Sea World had moved Orky and Corky to San Diego, renamed Corky “Shamu”, and closed the park forever.  They got the whales they wanted by buying the whole park, throwing everything else away, and keeping the whales.  Marineland sat abandoned for 20 years before being recently redeveloped as a golf-themed resort.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017



When Judy and I first married it seemed like I was always retying her shoes for her.  She’d tie them in the morning, then shortly after they’d come undone.  I’d retie them and they’d stay tied.


Never really made anything of that, I just had a talent for tying knots, until at some point years later, we realized that there was a problem with the knot Judy was tying.  Tying shoes is simple.  You tie an overhand knot, then you tie the loopy part on top of that.  I had never thought about the logic of it, but the two knots have to interact; things have to be done in the right order.  Knots are sensitive like that.  A square knot is just two overhand knots tied one on top of the other.  It’s a wonderfully simple and reliable knot.  Get the second overhand knot backwards though and the square knot becomes useless; a slip knot.


When Judy learned as a kid to tie her shoes, the subtlety of which loop goes around which was missed.  Her shoe knot becomes a slip knot.  When you learn something as a kid, and it becomes automatic, it’s hard to relearn it as an adult.  Sometimes you even teach a kid to tie their shoes exactly as you learned to tie yours, and pass the problem along for another generation.  Sorry Becky.


This problem has been overcome at our house however.  Judy no longer buys shoes with laces.  She mostly wears sandals, but when she has to wear real shoes, she’ll only wear shoes with Velcro straps.


This all comes to mind because lately I’ve noticed that every time I go for a walk, my left shoe comes untied sometime during that hour.  How can that be?  I’m the knot tier.  My knots don’t come undone!  I puzzled about it for a while and came up with a possible explanation.  Our modern running shoes come with ample shoelaces.  There is plenty of string to tie, with maybe even more than we really need, so that when walking or running there is so much shoelace flopping about it can brush against the other foot or leg and be a little distracting.  That happened to me, but I figured out a way around it.  I started tying the left shoe over on the left of center and the right shoe to the right of center.  That keeps the shoelaces for one foot away from the shoe for the other foot.  Problem solved, and a new one created at the same time.


By tying my shoe off to the side, right against the edge of the shoe, I change the dynamics of the knot.  One shoe is getting pressure to untie from the right and one from the left.  Knots are sensitive like that.  That shoe-tie knot is more susceptible to pressure from the left than from the right.  The slight pressure from the left is enough to cause the knot on that side to loosen, while the one on the right remains unaffected.  I returned to tying both shoes right in the middle of each foot, and theory confirmed.  Both shoes now remain tied!



Monday, April 10, 2017

Health update


Haven’t been sick like that in five or ten years at least.  Can’t even remember.


It came on fast but was only two or three days at its worst where we had to just give up, give in, and lie around waiting to feel better.  A slow steady recovery has us both feeling much better now; only a week out.  The cough will linger, but the whole sick feeling part is 90% gone.  It feels so good to feel good again.



Sunday, April 9, 2017

It was a cool morning


One day when we were in Phoenix.


Judy left early to do some grocery shopping and I stayed home to work.  She wore tights instead of her usual shorts, because tights are a little warmer.  But tights don’t have pockets like shorts do, so she had to carry a purse with her stuff in it.


When she finished her shopping, she walked back to the car and opened the rear lift gate.  She kept her purse on her shoulder, because that’s where the keys are, and loaded all the grocery bags in the car.  By the way, when the lift gate to the minivan is opened, it doesn’t unlock the car.  Approach your locked car, lift the gate (you can do that because the key fob is in your pocket (or purse)), put something in the back, close the gate, and walk away.  The car is still locked.


Well, after putting the groceries in the car and closing the lift gate, Judy reached in her purse and felt only bananas and apples.  That was disappointing.  Her purse had gone in the car, and a bag of groceries in a nice re-usable cloth sack hung over her shoulder.  The implement that could unlock the car and save the day was now locked inside the car.  Better call for help.  Oops.  The implement that could be used to call Steve or Matt for help was also locked inside the car.


Back inside the store, the guy at the bank counter lent Judy his cellphone to make a call.  I didn’t have a car to come save her, she was already driving that, so she called Matt.  Matt was working, didn’t recognize the number calling, and so didn’t pick up.  She called me.


We needed to get a car key to her, or send a locksmith to break into the car.  I called Matt.  He was home with the kids working.  Kind soul that he is, he dropped everything, piled the kids into the car, and drove to pick me and the car key up.  Together we drove to the grocery, found Judy pacing the parking lot, and opened the car.


It was an evil conspiracy of events that led to this misfortune; that all started with the morning being a little cool.  But all’s well that ends well.  The solution ended up being simple, it gave Matt and I a little more time to visit, and although the day was now a little behind schedule, everything was in the right place again.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Yeaa Alex!


I left off last night with two events to go.


11.5 on the pommel.  Good enough for 5th place.

11.45 on the rings.  Solid.


The top third of the finishers advance.  He just made it.


We’re going to Nationals!


We’ll report back.


In May.


Friday, April 7, 2017



Grandson Alex is at Regional competition in Reno tonight.  Hundreds of kids from Arizona, Nevada, California, and Hawaii.  Matt is feeding us scores.  Alex is off to a good start.


He stuck his landing on the vault.  11.6

Parallel bars went well.  12.15

A fall on the high bar, but he stuck a double back-flip full-twist dismount.  10.6

12.5 on the floor.  Awesome!


Two events to go.  He doesn’t need to win this to go on to Nationals in Orlando in May.  The top tier of finishers in each age group move on.


We’ll report back.



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Locomotives in the Arizona desert


Driving down Interstate 10 in Arizona, there is an odd sight; hundreds of Union Pacific Locomotives lined up on a siding for miles.

(not my photo)


It looks like an entire train of locomotives, except it’s longer than any train you’ve ever seen.  It’s eerie.


We googled it.  Seems we, as a country, are using less coal.  That means less coal trains hauling it across the country.  That and a decline in the sale and transport of a few other commodities results in a whole lot of idle locomotives right now.


The Arizona desert is the perfect place to store them.  The military has been using the Arizona desert as a parking lot for unneeded aircraft for years.

(not my photo)


The conditions outside Tucson are perfect for minimal corrosion, and minimal site preparation to store airplanes on the ground.  There is a separate boneyard for civilian aircraft.


So now there is a locomotive “boneyard” out there as well.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017



My skin hurts!


Judy got sick so we came home.  I got sick too.  We’ve got the same thing; a brutal fast-acting chest cold (acute bronchitis).  In their early stages, these things are viral, so nothing to do but get plenty of rest and fluids and wait it out.  It’ll get better on its own, or morph into something worse, that can be treated.  We’ll see.


I figure it’s only fair that I get sick like this from time to time.  It will (almost) keep me humble about hardly ever getting sick.  Otherwise, I would be unbearable.  (Just ask Judy.)



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My abs at 20


When I was at my leanest.  (I was juggling rocks.)


Lindsay’s abs now.


Lindsay wins.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Plans change


The coach is fine, Judy broke down.  The crud she has been fighting off for the last few days hit her with a sledge hammer last night.  She feels so bad we decided to bail on the rest of the trip and just come home.


A quick morning walk on the beach for me.






Then one more day of driving, and here we are, safe and sound at Sandpipers.


return trip map


Ninety-four degrees and not too humid.  Yesterday when we got to Mustang Island, there was more humidity than degrees, 80 degrees, and 90 percent.  That was plenty wet.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

At first


We thought this would make a good exhibit about how not to level your RV.

Really, it’s not a good idea to hang your wheels in the air.


But when we talked to the guy we found out his jacks had gone wild.  He pushed the button to level the trailer and the jacks all went to full extension.  It took him hours to get it back down to the ground.



Thunderstorms last night.  It was still raining this morning.  When the rain let up and we were packed up to leave, we thought to check the weather to the east; the direction we were headed.  The band of thunderstorms that had passed by us had not dissipated.  It was headed east through San Antonio carrying along severe weather and tornado warnings.  We decided to stay where we were for a while; like an airplane on the tarmac waiting for clearance, or maybe a train on a siding, waiting for a turn on the main line.  The tornado warning in San Antonio expired at noon.  We were two hours from San Antonio, so we declared clearance at 10am and headed east.


Our calculations worked, because we never caught up with the storm.  By the time we got to San Antonio, the storm was pounding Dallas and threatening Shreveport.  We drove on to Mustang Island State Park.


return trip map


We’ll park it here for a few days.