Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Are You Reading?

I enjoy asking the question "what are you reading?". Reading opens new worlds for me and I'm curious as to the worlds being discovered by other readers.

After I finished graduate school and had the time to read for pleasure I set a goal of reading 26 books a year, one every two weeks. I looked for books of descriptive writing, poetry and plays. I wanted material that in no way resembled a scholarly text book. I wanted to read like eating a meal. It was to be an experience to enjoy in the moment and to forget. I thrilled at reading for pleasure without attempting to disect, memorize and prepare for an exam -- a moment with a piece of written art.

Now, I read for various reasons. Other than reading technical manuals as part of my job, reading is a pleasant experience of self indulgence.

"What am I reading?"

I've added my reading list to the side of my blog.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Weekend in Review

This past weekend we installed our old kitchen range on the deck. Last summer Julie found a used kitchen range on Craigslist. There was nothing wrong with our range but it had standing pilots. I did some research but was never able to get a reliable estimate as to how much propane was wasted by the pilots buring continuously. Regardless, the new range range is 13 years old but has electric ignition, a window, a clock with timers and a pre-heat alarm, none of which are features on our old range. We decided to buy the range to conserve on propane and to reduce the heat in the kitchen during summers.

We had two propane bottles and an extension hose so the only item I purchased was a regulator. We installed the range with the propane bottle out of sight under a corner of the deck. When Julie wants to bake she turns on the propane, lights the pilots, uses the range and turns off the propane when finished. The house is staying cooler.

Over the weekend we accomplished a few additional things -- worked in the garden, installed a new faucet by the large shed, completed installation of a whole house fan and cut the exterior trim to be installed on the new windows

The weekend wasn't filled with work. We watched a DVD with four episodes of the 2008 BBC production of Charles Dickens' "Little Dorritt". And we had friends over for supper on Saturday evening.

Thirsty jackrabbit.
A thirsty jackrabbit visited early Friday and Saturday mornings. (Larger version)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Four and One

I heard a slight buzz which caused me to raise my sunglasses and look into the shade on the west side of a Juniper about three feet from my path. I had been working on installing a water faucet about ten feet away in a box in the ground and had walked by a few times without noticing the snake.

This was the fourth rattlesnake of the summer. Last week I saw a large beautiful Gopher snake by the small shed so the count for this summer is four and one.

I'm curious. The snake was lying on his tail. How did he rattle?

Resting Snake. (Larger version)

Friday, June 26, 2009

June Twenty-first

I got up early on June 21, retrieved amera and tripod as quietly as possible and slipped out of the house to photograph the rising sun on its dedicated day, Sunday.

I've thought of photographing the rising sun on the twenty-first of each month to records it cycle from north to south and back to the north of Saddle Crater. Given a photo of the rising sun I can estimate the date by it location in relation to the hill. There's something that makes life good when knowing the cycle of the sunrise. I took several photos before letting my mind wander to other things to photograph.

Sunrise and moonrise on June 21 at about 4:30 AM. A sliver of a moon is over the horizon with the sun just below the horizon. (Larger version)

A few months ago I saw an old pickup in the distance and decided to photograph it some evening with the hills and clouds full of reds and oranges. The truck is located about three miles from the house. On a whim I decided to photograph it in the morning light. I drove close, climbed the fence and took a closer look. What I though was a full truck turned out to be only a stripped cab. No seat, no engine, nothing in the dash, neither steering column nor doors. Only a metal shell. I guess it's about a 1960 model. Who put it in its location? How long ago? Why? It's on National Forest land away from roads. The grass hasn't been disturbed in years. There were no signs anyone has been near the truck in a long time. The only signs I saw were left by cattle and elk.

Chevy pickup cab.
Chevy pickup cab. (Larger version)

I take a few thousand photos each year but there are very few of me. Lately I've begun to set the timer on the camera and photo myself. It's just idle curiosity to see myself change from year to year and to relive good days.

About 25 years ago I developed and printed black and white photos. I have a photo taken on the back of the farm behind my house. In the background is an old barn in front of a grove of trees. I'm leaning against a worn out 1968 Chevy pickup that I owned at the time. I had cut a load of wood and the bed was full. It was October with a deep blue Kentucky sky over fields of yellow and purple wild flowers. I was wearing jeans, boots, a dirty sleeveless tee shirt and a ragged beard. I looked every bit a typical redneck. I look at that black and white photo and see deep pure colors, feel the breeze, hear the birds, smell the dead walnut I cut and relive the euphoria of that day.

Years in the future I'll look at myself in this photo and see a young man who had a beautiful morning and felt so alive and grateful.

Self photo.
Self photo. (Larger version)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Surprise with a Smile

Julie's family stopped by last weekend as part of a family vacation. After they left I was walking through the kitchen when I found a note that made me smile.

Thank you, Chloe. We love you too!

Deborah, Chris and Julie.
Deborah, Chris and Julie. We had an enjoyable day in Flagstaff before having supper at home. (Larger version)

Raphael, Caleb, Chloe and Lauren.
Raphael, Caleb, Chloe and Lauren. They took a day trip to the Grand Canyon and came back for a late supper. (Larger version)

Chloe's Note.
Chloe's note. It brought a smile to my face and an audible "she's so cute" from Julie.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fading History

Hi Gale and Paul,

Trista and I saw a story this morning on the Today show with Buz Aldrin and the first landing on the moon and I was telling her that Dad had actually worked on the legs of that lander at Newbrook. She wasn't aware of it.

I told her that there was a picture of him in the paper regarding this, but we aren't sure where it might possibly be. Would either of you have any knowledge of it?

I haven't had the chance to look through all our albums, but thought you guys might be able to save me some time! Would love to have Trista see it.




Allan and Gale,


I didn't know he worked on the lander. I remember him talking about working on the camera mounts for the first unmanned moon shot and the retro-rockets that brought John Glen down. I remember photos of him as part of a group in front of some rocket nose cones but not the photo that you're trying to find. If you locate it, please take a digital photo of it and send me a copy.

Let's plan a get-together for the six of us next January or so. Perhaps in some place warm.



When my father died my mother insisted I take his photo in the casket. It may sound morbid but it's part of our culture. There are similar black and white photos from decades ago; photos of people I never knew or was too young to remember. I used to think there was something overly sentimental about this tradition and didn't like it.

I used to feel that way but.... I don't have a photo of my mother in her casket. I thought of it at the time. Now I regret it slightly.

After my father died in the spring my mother came for a month-long visit the following winter. It was the best time we ever shared. She laughed and told stories of things I had never heard. Like the story of how she hid her clothes in the woods in preparation for eloping with my father. It was during this visit that she mentioned my father being in South America during WWII. He never spoke of that. I heard tales of the South Pacific, India and the Himalayas but not South America. But it makes sense. Early in the war bombers were ferried to South America then to Africa and to England. It's not important really but....

Someday I'm going to write my personal history to include the good and the bad. I'm going to label photos which my mother mysteriously refused to do. If, after I'm a memory, anyone is interested then there will be something to answer some of those family questions whose answers are fading into history.

I wonder why we humans need and want a personal history.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Fuel Pump and A Memory

I replaced a fuel pump today. It took much longer than anticipated.

I began working and the job went quickly and easily. Collected needed tools, unhooked one battery cable, pumped the gas from the tank, jacked up the car, unhooked the fuel filter ensuring there was no press in the line, removed three bolts that held the tank in place and came to a screeching halt. I couldn't disconnect the fuel line from the tank.

Fuel pump assembly.
Fuel pump assembly ready for reinstallation. (Larger version)

I had the right tool in the right size but 10 years of accumulated dirt and corrosion held it tight. I sprayed a penetrating lubricant, waited a while and tried again without success. Frustrating! Because I had to disconnect the line before I could drop the tank more than a few inches I was trying to work without being able to get good grip with both hands. The cistern was down to 300 gallons and I needed to finish the job in time to haul water later in the day. Weekend guests would arrive that night. Extremely frustrating to be held up by a simple connection.

Finally I resorted to disconnecting five feet of metal fuel line and removed the tank slowly while unthreading the line from the frame of the car. My plan was to get the tank off, remove the line, reinstall it, replace the pump and then reinstall the tank. It didn't happen. I was never able to disconnect the line so I replaced the pump and reinstalled the tank and fuel line by slowing rethreading the line through the frame.

Problem fuel connection.
The problematic fuel connection circled in red and the blue tool to release the connection. (Larger version)

As I worked I thought of a memory from the late 1950s or early 1960s. My father and I were working on something that was being challenging. My natural temptation is to get a bigger tool or a hammer or use more force. My father had worked in coal mines, had owned a garage with his brother, was foreman of a furniture company, was a flight engineer on bombers in WWII and had worked for several years as a machinist. He has faced many challenges and the temptation to use more force. As we worked he told me of hearing that in Germany apprentice mechanics were not permitted to have a hammer in their tool box until they had a great deal of experience. That story sounds a little apocryphal but it stuck with me. Be patient, think, use the right tools and don't resort to excessive force.

Defective fuel pump.
Defective fuel pump. (Larger version)

In the end I had the tank reinstalled and gas in the tank. I turned the key and the car started immediately -- thanks in part to my father's words and example.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mineral Belt Trail

On the last day of our vacation we walked a portion of the Mineral Belt Trail which circles Leadville, Colorado. The paved trail follows the old tram beds that connected the mining sites. The 12.2 miles trail is used by bicyclists, hikers and, in winter, skiers.

The Mineral Belt Trail.
A section of the Mineral Belt Trail. (Larger version)

An interpretive sign on the Mineral Belt Trail.
An interpretive sign on the Mineral Belt Trail. Several signs and pieces of equipment flank the trail. (Larger version)

A former mining site.
A former mining site. (Larger version)

Remnants from another era.
Remnants from another era. (Larger version)

Evidence of mining.
Evidence of mining. Superfund monies have been used to address the harm caused by decades of work. (Larger version)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In Hot Water

We visited four hot springs in Colorado. We made reservations and tent camped at Orvis Hot Springs to make the trip to Buena Vista more enjoyable. In my opinion, Orvis is the grand daddy of commercial springs. Facilities, service and landscaping are excellent.

Someone suggested the six of us stop by Mt. Princeton Hot Springs after exploring St. Elmo ghost town. Mt Princeton is simply two large swimming pools void of beauty and serenity. The best part of the experience was talking with a couple from New Mexico.

On one evening four of us chose to visit Cottonwood Hot Springs. This spring has several pools constructed of stone with landscaping and a rustic look. I preferred Cottonwood over Mt. Princeton. A group of kayakers from North Carolina arrived. More enjoyable conversation.

As an impulse decision on our return trip we decided to take a break at Rico Hot Spring. We had been to Rico once before but on that occasion a gentleman had just cleaned the tub and was refilling it. After a short conversation we continued on our way and left him to his work. But, this time we had the place to ourselves.

I like Rico because it's more natural, somewhat remote, sits beside the Dolores River and is peaceful. The water has a slight odor of sulphur and is murky. It's interesting to step into water when the bottom isn't visible. Will it be slick, mucky or littered with something? I touched something that felt like cloth on one side of the tub. Jokingly I told Julie I wasn't going to investigate further in case it was clothing with a body inside.

We listened to the sounds of the river and breeze, watched Magpies in the trees across the river and talked softly. There's something extremely peaceful about remote springs. We had an enjoyable time.

Rico Hot Spring.
The main source of Rico Hot Spring. (Larger version)

Bubbling hot water at Rico.
Bubbling hot water. I was curious about the temperature but chose not to put a hand in the water. (Larger version)

The tub at Rico.
The fiberglass soaking tub. Water is piped from the source and has cooled to about 100 degrees. A stone tub with flat stone around it would be more natural but the atmosphere is relaxing which is more important to me. (Larger version)

The Dolores River at Rico.
The tub sits on the banks of the Dolores River. (Larger version)

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Trip Home

We are home, our bags are unpacked and we're planning our next adventure!

We woke earlier than planned, packed a few last minute things and left long before sunrise. By 6 AM we had driven 175 miles and were in Ridgway as the first customers for breakfast in a small cafe.

Dust storm on the reservation.
Dust storm on the reservation. (Larger version)

Sand on the move.
Sand on the move. (Larger version)

Sheep grazing on grass on the shoulder of the road.
Sheep grazing on grass on the shoulder of the road. During the trip we encountered sheep, prairie dogs, cattle and deer, many deer, on the roadway. (Larger version)

As we neared Rico we both had the same thought: spend a few minutes at Rico Hot Springs. I'll have photos later in the week.

I always enjoy the trip across the reservation. It was windy the entire way and for several miles we traveled though a dust storm. A section of the road is being paved so we had to stop and wait a few minutes. We were first in line and had a memorable conversation with the flagman. He was a colorful character.

We typically get 48 to 49 MPG but on the trip back we hit 50 for the first time!

Now that we're home I'm back to diagnosing the problem with our other vehicle which is currently getting zero MPG since it won't start. Well, that's not quite true. It will start first thing in the morning when the temperatures are about 50 degrees. After the air warms a bit the fuel pump doesn't get a current and never engages. Appears I have two choices. One, fix it now or, two, wait until the fall when temperatures are cool to cold and it will fix itself. Since the cistern is down to 900 gallons, the garden is thirsty and we have overnight visitors next weekend I think I'll choose the first option.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Colorado Weather

The trip to Leadville was postponed and plans for a raft trip were discarded due to weather. Yesterday we planned a hike to the highest railroad tunnel in the country but rain, thunder and lightning decided otherwise.

We settled on a day trip to Salida and had an enjoyable time between rain showers. Late in the afternoon we took the short hike to Agnes Vaille falls.

Today, rain or shine, we go to Leadville!

Painted Tree.
Painted tree near the spiral drive in Salida, Colorado. We saw this tree from the top of the observation point and hiked down for a closer inspection.

A group of kayakers were playing in the river at Salida.

Below Agnes Vaille Falls.
Below Agnes Vaille Falls. Agnes was born in 1890 and loved the mountains of Colorado. She and a friend, Jo Witchey,set out to explore the higest peaks. During a winter climb of Long's Peak Agnes fell and froze to death before rescuers arrived. Jo moved to the area of the falls and named it in memory of her friend.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Gray skies, cool temperatures and occasional attention-getting breezes didn't lessen the enjoyment of the day trip to Breckenridge. For me the highlight of the day was eight of us sitting around an outdoor table at a crepe stand with jackets zipped tight, drinking coffee, talking and relishing the chilly mist that was falling from the clouds.

The mountain to the west of Breckenridge, Colorado.
The mountain to the west of Breckenridge, Colorado. We heard that Monday was the last day of the ski season. (Larger version)

Horses awaiting tourists.
Horses awaiting tourists. Breckenridge has made the transition from mining to tourism. (Larger version)

Blue River Pattern Sign.
As I wandered around the town I came upon the river walk and this sign referencing Robert Tully's "A Miner's Dream". (Larger version)

The Boulder of Blue River Pattern.
The boulder of Blue River Pattern is almost submerged by the high water from the snow melt. (Larger version)

A weather display in the museum at Breckenridge's vistor center.
A weather display in the museum at Breckenridge's visitor center. This was, and is, a gardener's dilemma: only 30 frost free days per year! As I walked about town I enjoyed the blooming daffodils and tulips. (Larger version)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

St. Elmo and Mt. Princeton Hot Springs

Monday, June 8 - St. Elmo, Mt. Princeton hot springs.

Today, Tuesday, we are going to Breckenridge to meet friends from Texas for coffee and to browse the town.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Julie and I hope to rent bicycles and ride the Mineral Trail around Leadville. Two years ago we walked part of the trail but would like to ride the entire loop. Leadville is at 10,152 feet so it's no surprise that the forecast is calling for a half-inch of snow tonight. (A trivia fact: Leadville has the highest airport in North America.)

Arkansas River near Buena Vista, Colorado.
We are staying at a campground above the Arkansas River near Buena Vista, Colorado. (Larger version)

Feeding a chipmunk.
Julie feeding sunflower seeds to a chimpmunk. St. Elmo has no shortage of chipmunks. I stood in one place and counted 20. (Larger version)

St. Elmo, Colorado, ghosttown.
We enjoyed the old architecture of the ghost town of St. Elmo. (Larger version)

St. Elmo main street.
Buildings on the main street in St. Elmo. (Larger version)

Homemade camper.
View inside a homemade camper. We met a couple who live off the grid near Taos, New Mexico, and are traveling in a homemade camper. I enjoyed talking with the couple. He is a musician who plays bagpipes in renaissance festivals and she is a ski instructor in the winter and a river guide in the summer. Interesting spirits. (Larger version)

Self portrait in a window. (Larger version)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Lucky Day

I was doing the speed limit, 50, and was about a mile from a turn near home when the car faltered, lost power and died. I depressed the clutch and started coasting. The road was smooth and had a slight slope so I thought I might be able to get close to the turn before pulling to the shoulder. I was wrong. When I came to the turn I bounced across the cattle guard and picked a path that avoided holes in the dirt road. I passed the mail boxes by more than a hundred yards, picked a spot and stopped.

Optimistically I tried to start the car. No go. Still optimistic I checked the cell phone for signal hoping I could call Julie. No signal. Only a mile to walk. My lucky day. It could have died a few miles back in the ten mile stretch through the national forest that has no cell signal and no houses.

After supper we towed the car home and this morning I began troubleshooting the problem. It appears the fuel pump has failed. We have 218,000 miles on the vehicle, so some problems are to be expected.

We have a small pop-up or folding tent trailer. Tomorrow morning we are leaving for Buena Vista, Colorado, for an annual vacation with Julie's family. Our route will take us across the Reservation through the Four Corners area. It's a fairly desolate road. I'm glad the car failed last night rather than tomorrow morning while towing the trailer miles from nowhere. This is definitely my lucky day.

We had reservations at a camp ground for the week. Julie phoned and was able to arrange lodging at the camp ground. It will cost more but the fuel savings of taking our second car will offset the additional cost. Tomorrow night we have reservations at Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgway, Colorado. We were able to change our reservations for a tent site. My lucky day again.

(We were a one-vehicle couple for eight years. The fact that we have a second car is another story about which I've been intending to write. Another time, perhaps.)

While Julie was changing reservations I changed the oil in the car. It was windy today. I couldn't find my pump to remove the oil by way of the top of the engine so I had to drain it from the bottom. Unfortunately a sudden, extremely strong gust roared through just as I pulled the plug. Check the photo below.

My biggest disappointment involves my baseball cap. I was wearing my favorite cap. It's a "Habitat for Humanity" cap that I bought at a parking lot sell in Telluride, Colorado, three years ago. I paid 25 cents for it. Julie washed it but couldn't remove the oil spots. No matter. I'll still wear it occasionally.

All in all, it was a good day.

Before photo.
Before photo.

After photo.
After photo.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Week in Photos

Daily clouds building in the west.
Daily clouds building in the west. It rained lightly and briefly almost every day but the ground remained dry other than the top quarter inch of soil.

New window installed.
New window installed. Between rain showers we replaced all the windows in the house with vinyl, low-E, argon filled windows with a U-value of point 3. The next task is to install new external trim. The trim inside the house will wait until early fall.

Colorful perennial flowers.
Colorful perennial flowers. Last spring a co-worker asked that I find someone to care for her yard. I did but the lady quit after planting a few annuals. I planted several perennials, extended the drip system and did a few other tasks. This spring I was asked to plant more. When I asked for a budget I was told it didn't matter. "I want lots of color." Enjoyable work! I'm considering doing this type of work as a part-time job in the future. It's outside, it's rewarding and I don't sit in a chair!

Raised bed water lines ready for burial.
Raised bed water lines ready for installation. Julie and I assembled this in short order.

Installed water lines.
Notice the vertical pipe coming out of the ground in the bottom of the photo? This is a temporary hose connection that I'll use until I can get the cisterns filled and connected to the garden.