Saturday, May 7, 2011

Big Day!

I've had a Long I took a taxi ride, an Amtrak Bus, the Capitol Corridor Train, two BART trains and a County Connection Bus to get to the Ancestral Digs. I'd be asleep now if I hadn't just watched my San Francisco Giants come from behind to tie it in the 8th, and win in the 9th against the Colorado Rockies...there's nothing like baseball adrenaline!

The game segued nicely into the live coverage of the second free practice of  the Formula One at Istanbul, Turkey.

Man, the month off wasn't wasted on these teams! Lots of new bits on the cars, lots of improvement to the cars that got off to a slow start this season...and oh yes, there's tons of passing on the track so far this much that F1 pundits are already asking; "Is there too much passing in Formula One now?" Are they kidding, three races in, it's already been very exciting, with the promise of even more once the rest of the field catch up to the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettle and Mark Webber.

At the request of the Sanctioning Body, the new tire supplier, Pirelli have added to the drama by building a tire that goes off much sooner than the Michelins and Bridgestones of seasons past. More pit stops, now for tires instead of fuel have made the strategy angle much richer.

Anyway, my journey was very enjoyable. From my extra-tall motorcoach viewpoint, I surveyed the Donner Summit portion of Monday May 16th's Stage 2 of the AMGEN Tour of California bicycle race. There's still a ton of snow up there, including on the rocks I figured I'd camp out on for my favored viewing/filming viewpoint. It's gonna be a zoo up there I'm sure.

As the bus made it's way down the mountain, I was treated to a time-lapse spring. Snow gave way to, bare ground and finally green rolling foothills with riots of blooming trees, shrubs and flowers. I'd dressed appropriately, that is in shorts and t-shirt with a Giants ballcap. The bus had great air conditioning that the driver fired up when we made our stop in Colfax. I had to abandon my arm rest because that's where the cold air was coming from.

We were running a little behind schedule, and I only had a 15 minute layover in Sacramento. Every time we stopped, there was quite a crowd waiting. Colfax, Auburn, Rocklin, it wasn't looking good, then the driver announced that we wouldn't be stopping in Roseville because the bus was so full. Made it!

The train was great. The scenery flew by, and the stations we stopped at were all nicely restored. In Davis, a bunch of students got on. A young man with a beautiful 14lb road bike got on and sat next to me. We chatted about his bike and the Giro de Italia that begins today. He's going to attend  Stage 4 of the AMGEN Tour of California, and it turns out that he's been skiing on my mountain his whole life.

I got off the train in Richmond and took the elevator to the BART Platform where my train was waiting. I sat on the western side of the car so I could view the Bay, and the guy in the seat behind me struck up a conversation about the Giants. It was a short chat, my station was next. I got off the train, and accross the tracks I saw the train I was transferring to. It left before I could get down and across, so I had a 13 minute wait for the next train.

While I was waiting, I noticed a few Father and Son teams in SF Giants Gear. They were obviously heading out to the AT&T Park for the Game. My train came and whisked me to the Inland Valley. While waiting for my last bus, I saw scores of Giants fans getting on BART while I waited twenty minutes for my bus.

My bus came, and I was the only passenger for half of my trip. The driver and I talked boats and fishing until the bus filled up with high school kids in front of my high school alma mater.

The Inland Valley was in full bloom, there'll be lots to photograph I thought to myself. I got off the bus and began rolling my way down the street to the Ancestral Digs. My journey had taken 7 1/2 hours portal to portal, and cost less than driving my pickup by about $20. The sun felt good on my face, the air was slightly fetid with the high thin clouds overhead. The neighborhood's front yards' landscaping was intensely colored with new growth and blooming flowers...whatta day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Another Anniversary Poses the Question: Man, Am I Old or What?

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the first American in Space. Back on May 5th, 1961 Astronaut Alan Shepard rode atop a Redstone 3 rocket in the Mercury Capsule "Freedom 7" into sub-orbital space. Fifteen minutes later, Freedom 7 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean roughly 75 miles ENE of Grand Bahama Island. I was two weeks from turning nine years old. I watched the countdown, liftoff, and Shepard's return to the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain LIVE on Black & White TV.

Alan Shepard strapping on Freedom 7 before launch.
The seven astronauts, known as the "Mercury Seven" already had what we now call "Rock Star Status", living heroes who were on TV seemingly nightly as the United States played catch-up in the Space Race with the Soviet Union. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first human to orbit the Earth just three weeks before Shepard's flight. I was a total fanboy...hooked for life.

Back then as a wide-eyed kid I expected to follow the exploits of NASA and the Astronauts as they first conquered Earth Orbit, went to the Moon, and on to Mars. TV was loaded with programs glorifying the Space Program, Walt Disney built exhibits at Disneyland about the Space Program and his signature Sunday Night TV Show was littered with NASA Hype. Like I said, I ate it up along with millions of my fellow Baby Boomers.

Those were heady days. I listened to John Glenn make America's first manned orbital flight on my first transistor radio, I watched every manned launch of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Programs. I was 17 years old when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon with Walter Cronkite droning over every step down the ladder. My Dad and I went outside and looked up at the Full Moon. Wow, wow, wow! A few missions later NASA sent a car to the Moon! How totally American! On America's highways, Muscle Cars ruled the roost.

For the most part I still ate it up, but I was starting to get a little jaded, teen-aged angst style. There was a long pause between the last Moon Landing and the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program. We'd put a Man on the Moon and won the Space Race...we'd climbed the highest mountain for the foreseeable future, Mars was a couple of decades away. The Vietnam War was dominating the Evening News then, drugs and protests were dulling the hearts and minds of My Generation, and NASA and our space aspirations faded into the background noise. Most of the 70's were best endured...not as explosive as the 60's thankfully, the Disco Decade...really? Something less than faint praise is due I'd say...

I started working nights in 1981, and soon started paying attention to the night sky and the Space Shuttle Program. The Challenger Disaster got my attention in 1986, and I was fully reinvested in Spaceflight when I lead my pack of groomers to the top of my mountain to watch Columbia reenter in 2003. Columbia, you'll remember broke up over Texas after a foam strike on liftoff breached it's carbon/carbon wing leading edge, causing superheated gasses to enter the wing and cause total failure.

There have been 133 Shuttle Missions to date. The three remaining shuttles are good for another 25 or so missions each. However, the Obama Administration has ordered the end of the program, and two missions remain. Orion, the new and improved shuttle vehicle has been put on the back burner too..I'd better live to 100 if I'm gonna see Americans walk on Mars!

Want more on NASA and Space Travel? Click on the Astronomy, NASA, and Space Shuttle Tags in the right hand column.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Lazy Thursday So Far

My BodyClock reset project hit the rocks this morning. Again I woke up around 0300, back asleep at 0400. Alarm set for 0600, I woke up and tuned in the Armstrong & Getty Show stream...and woke up again at 0800.

Here it is almost noon, and though I made a pot of French Roast, I'm still lollygaggin' in bed watching the Giants/Mets game and surfing the web...I need to get on with it, but I've been drawn like a moth to a flame looking at pages and pages of, awful tattoos...I shudder to think how many of these inked idiots vote!

Yesterday I was seeing a lot of "May the 4th Be With You" all over the web. It didn't fire any synapses for me, so I wiki-ed it. It's a STAR WARS fact May 4th is now known by aficionados as STAR WARS Day. I mused on the GeekWorld schism between STAR WARS and Star Trek Fans, and before you know it I was gazing upon Geek Tattoos...then the truly awful ink.

It seem both camps are represented in the Awful Tattoo Hall of Shame...witness these unfortunate "works of art":

I'm thinking of the evergreen punchline should she "Live Long and Prosper"
The artist missed capturing the lead characters by a parsec or two, I'd say!
I've got nothing against body art per se, but the misspellings people! I never thought I'd read this either: "Owls are the new penis". WTF?

Ladies, please sleep twice on your decision to have a Chest Piece takes quite the special artist to improve on God's Handiwork.

It was so much easier to piss your parents off when I was a teenager back in the 60's...just avoid the barber shop and skip a few baths a week...done! Now teenage rebellion leaves a mark!

Bad...Giants just went down 5-2 in the 5th. I'm seeing a lot of Giants fans at the opposing team's parks this year, fearlessly wearing the Orange & Black, and chanting Lets Go Gi-Ants Lets Go Gi-Ants.

Damn...Giants lose after loading the bases with one out in the 9th, and Buster Posey, the winning run pinch hitting with two outs...I'm gonna try and get to a game next week...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shifting Gears

I got home from work Sunday morning after an awesome final shift. I made it a point to linger a the top of the stairs and listen for a Cheeseburger Bird some too!

Now the season is a wrap. I slept through most of the night Sunday despite watching President Obama's Bin Laden presser. I woke up around 0230 and drifted back to sleep an hour or two later, and awoke for good at 0730. So far, so BodyClock is responding nicely.

It's warming nicely around Truckee, Sierra Stream Trout Season opened last week and the DFG has been planting catchable trout in Donner Lake. Good thing too, the streams are way up...Kayaker's fishers? Not so much...try July...

Baseball is warming up too, but it's already deep into Torture Season for the SF Giants...It seems almost every game, another Giant gets hurt bad enough to miss some games...newly resurgent phenom Pablo Sandoval "The Panda" is out for 6-8 weeks after breaking the hamate bone in his hand. Sandoval had successful surgery Tuesday to remove the broken bits.

Sandoval is only the latest...high-priced starting pitcher Barry Zito banged up his foot and is on the Disabled fielder Andrés Torres is also rehabbing an Achilles Tendon sprain. NLCS MVP outfielder Cody Ross began the season on the DL, as did the fearless closer Brian "Fear the Beard" Wilson, and reliever Santiago Casilla. It's like a damn 90's TV Medical Drama I tell ya!

Ahhh well, good signs in the Giants 10th inning victory tonight...nobody got hurt...and the bats are wakin' up, too.

My BodyClock Project continues apace...I woke up at 0300 Wednesday, and I'll be going back to sleep in just a few is Distributor Day...gotta get the trash and recycling out to the curb this morning as well...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's a Wrap! Almost...

This is it. Tonight is my last shift of the 2010/2011 Season.

I've been seeing a theme develop over these past few weeks. My nights have been turning out much better than expected. I don't care to examine my expectations tonight...besides, why would I look a gift horse in the mouth?

It's been an amazing season. Plenty of snow, no personnel issues, the fleet hung together fine too. I can count the bad nights on less than ten fingers. I really endured one truly awful night (see "Well Done").

This morning over pizza, the Boss allowed that my Ol' Faithful BR350 might not be trade bait next season after all. She had 8875 hours on the Hobbs Meter when I put her to bed this AM. She's been practically trouble-free all season, and she's still running like a Thoroughbred at the Derby. Word is we'll be getting another Bison next season

Friday night's penultimate shift started badly...I woke up and looked at the clock 11:41PM! I'm supposed to be at work in nine minutes...I phoned Jeweler, confessed my sin, and said: "I'll be there in an hour". "No worries" Jeweler replied. 55 minutes later I punched in and trundled up the hill to check out Ol' Faithful and warm her up.

As forecast, the East Wind blew all day Friday, and as I predicted, the piste had dried nicely. Climbing was better than good. The list manageable. Not exactly Hero Snow, but sparse crowds left no serious bumps, and the corduroy was laying out nicely.

I didn't take a power nap needed...I don't remember turning the alarm off...oh well...I got my big projects done in time to hit the mountain top before sunrise. The Boss who came in about 2:30 was on his game, and Jeweler was doing fine too, though he sounded worried over the 2-way. I put him at ease as the sun rose and we wrapped it up in plenty of time with extras.

The Boss disappeared about the time we hit the fuel dock only to reappear at the shop with fresh outta the oven pizza pies! Happily we all chowed down on pizza and sodas (we were still on the clock, so no beer or ale) and reflected on our season...nothing but good times.

So I savored my drive home and fell asleep before noon. I woke up in time to join the Giants game in the 7th inning. After some Torture they beat the DC Nationals. MotoGP form Portugal, NHRA Drag Racing from Houston, IndyCar from Brazil, and the Tour of Romandie bicycle race Sunday will be a fitting Kick-Off to the Month of May.

May is a Big Deal in my world. May is for Mount Everest Expeditions, The Indianapolis 500, the AMGEN Tour of California bike race (which comes right through Truckee on Stage 2!), Formula One returns to Europe, and fishing season turns on!

Next week I start putting out plants in the Ancestral Diggins, and BajaBabe comes to visit...gonna be an epic few weeks!