Thursday, May 9, 2019

Cycling in Venice

As we considered what we wanted in a place to live, "bicycle friendly" was one of the top qualities -- and a surprisingly hard thing to find.  The Netherlands got it right, the US in general not so much.

Bike-friendly is many things, but in a nutshell we were looking for a place where you could ride a bike without worrying (too much) about being run over.  A place where you could use a bike for local errands, or ride just for the joy of riding.

You do have to be careful and aware of cars, but especially on the island part of town Venice is a pretty great environment for cycling.

Went for a group ride yesterday, led by the city's Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator -- the woman in bright green shirt. (She was riding an electric, her commuter bike.)

A section of dedicated bike and pedestrian path, down towards southern end of island. Not much traffic that afternoon -- you could ride left, right or center.

Maintained for your cycling pleasure by:

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Because TRUCK

Chronicle of our moving adventure stopped pretty abruptly about 2 weeks ago, with our arrival in Venice and first visit to beach.

Volvo big enough that it has a living room behind driver.
Why?  In a nutshell:  because TRUCK.

We did our deal and bought the house, camped out in it for a couple nights... then the TRUCK arrived.  I think it was the biggest truck I've ever seen in person.  I know they make bigger ones for moving moon rockets and stuff, but even if this wasn't the worlds largest truck it was still pretty impressive.  And our stuff was inside.  Our worldly goods only took up about 1/3 of the TRUCK, but still it was a mountain of boxes, and sofas, and boxes, and machine tools, and boxes, and clothes, and some more boxes, and bicycles, and boxes.

Half a block of moving van?
So our life for the past couple weeks has been basically beavering away at the boxes -- then jumping in the pool or walking to the beach -- then more boxes.  But we are finally feeling kind of moved in.  Or maybe we are just getting used to living amidst chaos?

Quality of life is pretty good!  Cycled to a yoga class on the 'downtown' beach this morning, then had a great conversation with neighbors.  Conversation started with speculation on why a huge heron was standing on a Honda hood, and went from there.

The beach down the street.

So, about this phrase "Because TRUCK".

I'm a curmudgeon about new stuff in general, but also fascinated by the evolution of English -- the "language that never met a word it didn't like."

So naturally I thought this new "Because ____." construction was stupid and pointless.  But I also found that it exactly captures the impact of the TRUCK on our lives.! Everything for past couple of weeks has been because TRUCK.  The grammatical construction is almost as objectionable as baseball hats worn backward -- except that it works.  So, guess I am a convert.

I decided to check it out.  The construction has become a recognized (legitimized?) element of English, even provoking snarky argument active discussion among academics as to what part of speech is represented, and syntactical lineage of the usage.  Hard to believe?  Check it out, but wait until just before bedtime...  this article is a real snoozer: Because Syntax


Sunday, April 14, 2019


We made it!

Rolled into Venice in the early afternoon.  Thought about all the things we could do -- go to laundromat, check in at AirBnB, visit the bank to open accounts, etc etc -- then made the 100% correct decision:  we went to the beach.

Water was lovely.  Gentle surf, and temperature about like the Jersey beaches in August.

Some numbers for the trip:
     3754.8 miles total distance travelled
     27.9 miles per gallon (in the 4000+ pound White Whale!)
     73 hours and 15 minutes total driving time
     21 days on the road
     11 states (CA, AZ, NM, CO, TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, AL, FL)
     1 traffic stop with "slow it down a bit" warning   
     86 degrees at the beach when we arrived!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum

My obligatory pacifist lefty two cents:  it is a real shame that so much of humanity's time, money and creativity goes into finding better ways to kill each other.

That said -- the Naval Aviation Museum is chock full of beautiful warbird flying machines!  Starting with the very earliest canvas and wood biplanes (top speed about that of a modern car), and running through 21st century aerodynamic marvels (supersonic, though some labels were a bit evasive about giving exact numbers).  Plus helicopters, dirigibles, spacecraft, moon buggies, etc.  I like kinetic sculpture, and this museum is a wonderland.  

A bunch of photos.  I'll try to let the planes speak for themselves, maybe just add captions.  (Click on the photos for bigger, easier to see version.)

Sopwith Camel, introduced Western Front 1917, top speed 113 mph

Ford Trimotor, a pioneer civil aviation workhorse, 150 mph

Messerschmitt Me 262, world's first operational jet aircraft 1944

Curtiss P40 Tomahawk, introduced 1938, 360 mph

McDonnell F2H Banshee, 1950s nuclear capable fighter-bomber

Lockheed Electra,  1930s, 202 mph.  Model flown by Amelia Earhart.

Grumman F14 Tomcat, 1970 - 2006, 1544 mph (>Mach 2)

VTOL Harrier

Mercury Capsule

Blue Angel planes

Katie getting ready for Blue Angel take off

Nice piece of warbird art

Friday, April 12, 2019

Welcome to Florida

Have been pleasantly surprised by the springtime beauty of the last five states -- Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama -- but very happy to see this highway sign!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Louisiana Cotton Museum

Through a bit of a GPS goof we ended up taking a slightly different route than originally planned.  In fact we ended up in a different state -- in Louisiana, on Route 65, the "Delta Rhythm & Bayous Highway".

A beautiful drive, with a bonus -- the Louisiana State Cotton Museum.  This museum is a total sleeper.  It is nearly unmarked, only a small road sign.  We were lucky to spot it and stop.

The museum involved at least four completely terrific things.

First, a time capsule of a sharecropper plantation circa early 20th century -- residences, commissary, office, church, etc.  Not dolled up, just kind of left as they were last used.

Second, a full on cotton processing plant -- a cotton gin.

Third, excellent historical exhibits on cotton.

Finally, a section on Delta rhythm and blues -- including a kind of mixer board, where you could do your own R&B mixes.  And some single string guitar like instruments you could pick up and play -- intro to Spoonful sounded terrific.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


In 48 hours we went from winter (Colorado — snow banks and frozen ponds) to spring (Oklahoma and Arkansas — blooms and t-shirts).

The redbud tree is native to this area, and in beautiful full bloom right now. It is a treat to see.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Pulled Over / DWCP

We've driven ~2500 miles and have seen only a very few law officers.

Today outside of Oklahoma City was a different story.  Police were thick on the highway.

We passed one police cruiser, sitting way off to the side on the shoulder.  No worries, we were going exactly the speed of other traffic, staying in our lane, minding our own business.

Few seconds later... flashing lights in the rear-view... pulled off to the side of the road...

"You were going a bit fast.  License, registration, insurance please."

Sat with the officer in his cruiser while he ran my license, asked where we were going, etc.  He said we were in a 70 zone, that they tolerated 75, and that we were going 78.  I'm sure he was right, but also didn't feel that was the real reason for the stop.  I felt pretty strongly that it was a case of "Driving With California Plates" (DWCP) and he was checking us out on general principle.  We had a pleasant conversation, he gave me a warning, and I kept my foot off the gas a bit for the rest of the day -- so that was probably a good outcome.

Turns out this officer works for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.  Coincidentally at breakfast a local guy mentioned that I-40 is kind of a drug transport corridor.  Spot checks on out of state cars... the officer was just doing his job.  I'm sure he was happy to find out that we were only retired folks moving from CA to "God's Waiting Room FL" and it turned out to be simply a routine stop and a (justified) warning.

We did pass him later, pulling over another CA-plated car. ; )

Elk City, OK

Elk City is a fine town.  Huge town park.  Terrific multi-building museum of early Oklahoma life.  Very friendly people.  Plus the Rib Crib, where you can get a half rack that will make your eyes glaze over with happiness.

They had two Model A Fords in the museum.   One was a pristine restoration.  The other may have been the original truck from "Grapes of Wrath".  As migrants, we identified more closely with the Joad's truck.

We may share a birthday, but she's in better shape...

Selfie, relaxing back at the room

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Cadillac Ranch

"Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation and sculpture ...  created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were part of the art group Ant Farm. The installation half-buried ten Cadillacs (1949-1963) nose-first in the ground."

This is a very cool thing in a field by I-40, somewhere out in the Texas panhandle near Amarillo.

It is a living installation thanks to the custom of visitors spray painting whatever they like on the Caddies.  Don't know if the original artists envisioned this but it works.  If you don't bring your own paint there are lots of cans lying around, just pick one.

Love this anonymous poem spray painted on the ground nearby:

to the girls
with wild hearts
may your souls
remain free