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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

New Freezer

Because I'm often working on weekends and in the evening, Beth and I often eat meals at different times, and buy our food separately. This led to a minor contretemps over the use of space in the garage chest freezer, in so much as I filled it with my food, and Beth wanted to use it too. I overlooked the unreasonableness of her request, and we solved the problem by ordering a second, identical chest freezer from Sears. This arrived last week, and now we use one each, supplemented by the kitchen freezer for things that are opened.

Sears, by the way, give a 2-hour delivery window, but not until the night before the delivery is due, so you have to take a day off work anyway, but at least you can use some of that day for other purposes. Fortunately with my varying schedule it is no trouble finding a midweek day for a delivery, without having to lose hours or vacation time. In London we got our appliances from Currys, who wouldn't even give a delivery time of morning or afternoon (as far as I recall), so you'd have to book a whole day off work.

Last night we went to WinCo and stocked up on frozen and other foods, and both enjoyed the ease of stuffing our respective chest freezers to the brim (actually Beth's is still half empty). It is a rare luxury in London to have the space to put a chest freezer, let alone two, but our double garage is the ideal location.



Our double garage, featuring my Little Red Corvette Mazda, recycling bin, garbage bin and two chest freezers to your left, Beth's reclining bicycle and my kayak to the right, bicycles and furnace on the back wall.

Bats, birds, cats, spiders, water, washing line.

Yesterday evening we had reason to go out in the garden after dark, and spotted a couple of bats swooping about catching insects. After a few minutes they vanished, but whether our presence disturbed them (unlikely), they had cleared this area of food, or they were full for now, we couldn't tell. Nice to know that there are bats in the area.

We've spotted hummingbirds again this year, and the Fuschia bush in the back garden seems to be a favorite feeding place, though it is untidy to look at most of the year. Beth has even a seen a pair doing a mating flight, flying in a corkscrew pattern, so maybe they are nesting nearby.

Our young cat Ghost had another trip to the vet recently, this time with an abscess on the lower left side of his jaw. At first we thought it might be a blocked gland, but for the third time in less than a year he'd managed to get an infected bite, probably from a strange cat, resulting in a trip to the vet and a bill for us. We looked into pet insurance, but it isn't much cheaper than just paying for his visits as they occur. He was in and out within a day, but had to have a drain left in to keep the wound open, like Lieutenant Bush in the Hornblower story "Flying Colours". The same evening he came back from the vet he was out and about exploring, not showing the least concern for or sensitivity from his wound, but we had to flush it with antiseptic twice daily for two days, and then remove the drain. The two holes where the drain went in and out are scabbed but clean, and he had an antibiotic injetion that will last two weeks.



That blue collar cost us $12 and didn't stay on more than a few hours. It was supposed to stop him scratching the drain but he wasn't trying to anyway, it stopped him washing and got in the way while eating, which is one of his favorite activities.

Spiders are busy everywhere, with the most industrious building their webs across the sidewalk every night. This morning there's one suspended right across the side of our driveway, the threads streching six or more feet, though the actual web is the size of my face, with which I usually inadvertantly break the webs.

We experimented with not watering our lawns this Summer, but after six weeks of very hot days the lawns were brown, and netted an anonymous written complaint from a neighbor. Ironically we'd just started watering the lawns again a couple of days earlier, so if they'd been paying attention they needn't have complained. We've got a pretty good idea who it is, which is as well as we prefer to stay on good (or at least neutral) terms with everyone. The reason for not watering is that it adds about $40 a month to the water bill, though this is balanced by a comparable reduction in the electricity bill, and also that we had a leak in the front lawn sprinkler system, so the bulk of the water to the front lawn was running across the driveway and straight into the drain, and we don't like pouring money down the drain. After a week of watering (using hose sprinklers for the front and the timed sprinkler system for the back) the lawns are greener, though full recovery will probably not occur until the Autumn rains set in.

We've recently put up a washing line in the back garden (out of sight of nosy neighbors), the sort that looks like a string umbrella on a central pole, to reduce our use of the tumble dryer in the hotter months. We had to dig a hole and fill it with concrete, sink a plastic tube into it, and let it set for 24 hours before use, but it seems to be holding well, and our clothes dry in a few hours and smell fresher. We are not near any busy roads, so the air is clean and no dirt gets on the washing. In London we used to get black smuts on the clothes if left out too long, especially if it rained, which it did frequently.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Coburg Car Classic 2011

On the first Saturday in August, every year for the past 20 years, the town Coburg, not far to the North of Eugene, has hosted a classic car event.

This was the first year I attended, and with the delightful sunshine and the wonderful cars, I really enjoyed it.

I've included my photos below, first as a direct link slideshow, which by the perversity of Photobucket show in reverse of the order I took them in, and second as a  link. For the better view and bigger pictures, click on the link, and then on view as slideshow, to see the pictures in the order I intended, organised by year, make and model.





http://s221.photobucket.com/albums/dd97/Martin_Milner/Coburg%20Car%20Show%202011/


No, I didn't recognise all the cars, but the ones which had been registered had a card in the window with their details on.

There is one more local car show this year that I shall be attending, in Florence, on 9-10th September.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Small Objects of Desire: 1/64th DieCast Model Cars

Since attending the Function 4 Junction Car Show, I've started collecting 1/64th scale diecast model cars. I happened across a few under the brand name M2 Machines, and one thing led to another. The model cars help me recognise the real thing when I see it, and I'm enjoying studying up on the various cars, makers and the history of US Auto manufacture on the internet, supplemented by TV shows, and should soon receive a book, the Ultimate Car Spotters Guide 1946-69.


M2 Machines are the newest entrant on the Diecast scene, having been around since 2008. Though the actual models are made in China, the designs and distribution is done by a small company in California. I soon discovered that the M2 machines are the best fit for my purposes, spanning the years 1949-1972 (so far). They have two main quality ranges, Drivers, with solid bodies and plastic undersides which retail @ around $3, and Premium which have opening doors and hoods, @ $5-6.


My primary interest is the 50s cars, but I'm also interested in the development through the 60s into muscle cars, which are still going strong today in the guise of the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and their ilk. Whether Driver or Premium, the M2 Machines come on a display stand with the car year, maker and model printed thereon, and these can be augmented with plastic cases to keep the dust off. Both body types are screwed together, which allows the collector to customise them or make adjustments more easily.


A basic Hot Wheels or Matchbox toy car retails around $1.10, so the M2s are very much aimed at the adult collector rather than a ten-year-old boy. I've added some Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars to my growing collection where they interest me, and also other brands including Maisto, Greenlight and Johnny Lightning, but M2 Machines form the bulk of it.

I've got a lot of cataloguing to do, so I don't keep buying the same models. Fortunately M2 have a reference number for each vehicle release, so I just need to get down to it.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Kayaking to Corvallis

Having paddled from central Eugene to Whiteley's Landing, and from Whiteley's to Brown's, the next obvious step was to kayak from Brown's to Corvallis, the next big city up the river.

This then was my plan for Sunday, with Beth's able support as driver to drop me off at Brown's and meet me at Corvallis. There are a couple of different official landing places in Corvallis, and I had planned on using the nearer one, but Beth suggested the further one because the river's current was supposedly less and it would be easier to land a kayak.

I awoke before 5am, partly helped by our cat Ghost, and was too excited to get to sleep again, so I left Beth asleep and went downstairs to check over my kit. We'd got the kayak up on Beth's car the previous evening, but the straps needed tightening, and I had to prepare some snacks for the trip. I packed a cooler with some sodas, and made a couple of tuna & mayo finger rolls. I was too excited for my stomach to want anything major, so a cup of tea and a donut sufficed.

By 6am it was bright enough to drive without headlights and I was hopping to get started, so went and woke Beth who had said she could be on the road within ten minutes of waking.


The landing at Brown's requires sliding the kayak down a grassy slope to the water.


I struggle into my wetsuit...


Beth's view before the off


and mine.


To keep dry feet as long as possible, I try to get into the kayak while it's still partly aground, and then jerk it into the water with body and paddle movements.


Properly afloat now, and judging how to get into the main current


I don't want to end up against one of those bits of tree, and the current always wants to make me do just that.


 Past the danger point, and Beth's last view of me for many hours...


Afloat and alone, on a glassy river, the Coastal mountain range visible in the distance. There are long periods in any kayaking trip when one is completely alone, and apart from the blue plastic kayak and white plastic paddles, it could be any decade, or indeed any time since the dawn of man. These are my favorite moments.


The distance by road from start to finish is 29 miles, but the river is far less direct, and by water I judged it could be as much as 50 miles. I had hoped I'd catch a 5mph current, so that without any paddling I'd take 10 hours to get there, and any paddling on top of that was just gravy. Starting at 7am (I actually hit the water at 6:50), I should be in Corvallis by 5pm at the latest.

I had Beth's GPS with me this trip as it is waterproof, and also has a better battery life than my bigger screen GPS. What it didn't have (and neither does mine) was a "by water" option. I was able to set it to offroad mode, and for travel by foot, which gave me a reasonable idea of how I was doing, but it expected me to progress in a straight line towards my destination, and at a constant pace. Depending on the current, my speed of paddling, and whether I was headed directly towards my destination or at an angle to it (or even sometimes away from it), I was getting an estimated time of arrival of between 12:45pm and 5pm. Hmmm. I really wanted to be there before 5pm, and anyway I needed a better estimate of arrival time so Beth wouldn't have to wait for me for hours. She had returned home after dropping me off, and I called a few times on my cellphone, when I had network coverage, with updates on my progress and ETA.


Early on I passed a couple of rail bridges. These carry the two rail lines that connect Junction City to Harrisburg, and after Harrisburg the lines run almost due North until they reach Albany, and so on further North. One of the bridges looked pretty rusty and unkempt, and it may be that only one is still in use.



The next bridge carries the 99E highway from Junction City to Harrisburg. 99W goes to Corvallis, the split occuring at the North edge of Junction City. Harrisburg is one of those towns that has nothing of interest unless you live there, and I passed it quickly and unnoticed.


This nesting platform has been occupied by an Osprey. Poles like this one, and nesting platforms on the top of telegraph poles, dot the riverside. It's good to see the platforms in use, and I saw a couple of Bald Eagles and several Ospreys on this trip, but wasn't close enough to get a good photograph.


The river is much shallower than I had expected, often less than thigh deep, occasionally not much more than ankle deep. Shortly after taking this picture I grounded, having inattentively allowed myself to get washed towards a gravel island in midstream. The river meanders a good deal between Eugene and Corvallis, and the banks alternate between deep cut cliffs on one side and low gravel banks on the other. The deeper water and faster current are found on the outer side of each curve, and very shallow water with almost no current on the inner curve. I had to get out and drag my kayak back to deeper water, getting my feet wet in the process, not surprising really in a river. Then I "broke" my paddle and used the two ends to punt myself into the current again. 

I passed a couple of camping groups in this stretch, one lot getting ready to set out again in inflatable canoes, the other group still fast asleep in their tents. It might be fun to do a two-day trip, taking a sleeping bag and maybe a small tent, and enjoying the river at night, setting out at dawn to finish the trip. Or it might be a nightmare of stiff muscles, hard gravel for a bed, and outdoor ablutions.



This stranded tree was a reminder that the river is not always so gentle as it was today.


A couple of birds. The smaller one is something very like a Turnstone,  the larger one I have yet to identify.

That, as it turned out, was the last picture I took on this trip. I was much occupied with paddling and judging my rate of progress, and nothing else turned up to make me take out my camera. The current, which I had counted on to be around 5mph, was being very lazy and only running at 2-3mph in places. I should probably be talking in knots, so we'll say the current was two knots, when I had hoped for at least four. The result of this was more paddling than I had planned on, as at times I seemed to hardly be moving at all without paddling, with sorer arms, stiffer shoulders, and a stiff and sore back, extra sore where my wetsuit zipper was rubbed into the small of my back by the seat. 

These distractions aside, I was still having fun, and having adventures. Shortly after my grounding I had a near-capsize, when the current ran me onto a submerged tree. I saw the tree and tried to avoid it, but the naughty river saw what I was at and went that bit faster to frustrate me. I rammed the tree like a D-Day beach obstacle, though happily for me no mine was attached to this one. A thrill of panic ran through me, and a chill of water getting into the boat as I tipped, but then I righted myself and got off the tree - without my paddle. In the confusion I had let it go, and I could see it now drifting away on the current. Fortunately I had planned for such an eventuality and quickly whipped out my emergency paddle, clipped the two halves together, and within a minute had caught up with my errant main paddle and recovered it. What I would have down without the emergency paddle doesn't bear thinking about. I suppose I'd have hand-paddled as fast as possible to get back to my main paddle. That would have taken several minutes, and might have proved impossible. The emergency paddle paid for itself on this occasion (about $20), and I was very glad I had carried it with me on every trip.

I came across a wide stretch of river frequented by fishing boats, and must have passed a dozen, singly or in small groups. The last one I saw was occupied by two young men who hailed me and asked for directions to Peoria Landing. I was unable to help them, having not seen it on any maps. Peoria Road runs on the East bank of the river all the way from Harrisburg to Corvallis, soccasionally close enough to see the vehicles passing, so the Landing could be pretty much anywhere.

Later I came across another group of kayakers, just getting ready to launch. One lady called to me "How's the water?", which no doubt if I was more experienced I would be able to answer with something useful and possibly technical. On this occasion I was only able to reply that it was wet. 

Around 12:45pm I was able to call Beth with an updated ETA of 2pm, at the nearer landing site I had chosen. I really didn't want to add another couple of river miles to my paddling at this stage, and she was happy to confirm a pickup. I'd been on the river for six hours so far, three times longer than any of my previous trips, and the heat of the day had really set in. I'd watched the miles click down very slowly on my GPS, starting around 25, now under 10, and I was eager to get finished, be able to stand up and straighten my back, stretch my legs, and generally use different muscles again. Apart from the one short interval when I grounded, I had been sitting in the same position since 6:50am.

Shortly after calling Beth I saw a couple of jet skis up ahead, and thought "Uh oh, hullabaloos." I'd had a couple of fast boats already pass me going upstream, and had to steady myself against their wash, so what mischief a jet ski could do I didn't like to think. As I neared them however they had already stopped, and as I got closer still I discovered that they were Sheriffs, talking to someone on the bank. I wondered briefly if they'd want to see my invasive species permit, which I carry in the front waterproof compartment in a ziplock bag, but they didn't ask. One came alongside me to say hi, and I asked him how far to Willamette Boat Landing, which was my planned landing, as chosen from Google maps. He startled me a little by saying there wasn't a boat landing there (then why is it on the map???), but there was one at Crystal Lake a little further on, and I had about another hour afloat to get there. This unsettled me, as Beth was now headed to a map location that apparently didn't exist in the real world.

As I got to the outskirts of Corvallis I could see houses not far away on the West bank, and the Willamette Park edging onto the river, with people floating about in rubber rings and in small paddle boats. I kept to the East bank and the faster current, bypassing them with a silent sneer. They hadn't paddled half the day to get here.

As the river curved to the left round this park, I saw a possible landing spot with people again messing about on the land and in the water, and made a very neat turn in to this spot, only to be informed that there was a proper landing ramp further on. That was hopefully where Beth would be meeting me, and I set out again.






Phew.

I unbent myself out of the kayak, and Beth helped me get my various clobber out and into the car, before we carried the kayak up the ramp and loaded it onto the car roof. It was very hot by now, and Beth stood in the shade while I changed into fresh clothes, and then we set off to do a little shopping, and have meal out at McMenamin's Pub.

If I do this trip again, I now know what to expect on the river, and how long it should take. I could have gone slower and arrived by 4pm, and more likely if I did it in a day I'd take a break for lunch and a stretch. The worst discomfort came from being bent in half for seven hours.

My arms and shoulders were stiff and sore the rest of that day, but surprisingly were back to normal by Monday morning, when I had to be up at 5:45am to start work at 7am. Before repeating this section of the Willamette though, I'll explore the McKenzie, where there are several landing places I've scouted out, from all of which I would reach Brown's Landing as my ending spot. There are more rapids on the McKenzie so I'd plan for more chance of an upset, and wear my bike helmet again.

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