Bike Rides, and the Seaside Emergency Room

It was a nice, overcast day at Nehalem Bay State Park. It had the promise of a good day. Not too hot, not too cold. That lasted for most of the day before things got exciting for some of us. Before I go there, however, this is a busy day at the beach.

I took Ziva for a couple of runs around the park because I discovered that she’s OK with running alongside the bike. She makes a very rhythmic clickity clickity noise as we go. I figured it would be good for whittling down those nails. We did that a few times, running all the way around the park, all the loops.

As the sun headed for the horizon we decided to take Ziva for another run and Diane was game to give her bike a try. The first stop was to dump the trash, and that’s as far as we got before Diane, while trying to stop her bike, failed to put her foot down, and just kinda tipped over like that guy on the tricycle on “Laugh In” from many years ago, for those of you who may remember that show.

I didn’t see her fall because she was behind me, but I heard the crash. When I turned around she was lying on the pavement, on her left side with both legs still almost on their respective pedals. Carefully, I removed the bike from between her legs and got it out of the way so she could sit up, but she stayed prone for a while, waiting to see what hurt the most. I regret that I failed to get a photo of that, but I did get one of her sitting up, surrounded by Yurt People. We were pretty close to them and they all came to see how they could help.

We left her alone until she was ready to sit up. By that time she had assessed the damage and reported that it was confined to her left wrist which was most certainly broken. She pulled he sleeve back on her sweater, which was miraculously without holes, to show us how her wrist made this nifty “S” curve going down her arm into the wrist area. The break was across her ulna, just above her wrist. She’s a quick thinker and managed to get her wedding rings off before the swelling made it to her fingers. I wore them on my right pinkie which is exactly the correct size.

While sitting on the pavement, near the trash compactor, park rangers were added to the group of overseers and offered to summon an ambulance for transport to the hospital. It was about 6:45 pm at the time and we knew there was an Urgent Care facility in Manzanita, jus outside the park, so we opted for me to transport her there to at least get some pain meds because the shock was wearing off and she was feeling every aspect of the fracture. She was quickly sinking into a very miserable, painful place.

One of the Yurt People, a young man, helped me get the bikes back to the trailer so I could get the truck and load her up for the trip. That done, we headed for Highway 101 and stopped at a Shell station because Diane wanted water and ice. I got both, as well as a plastic covered soda box that one of the attendants was in the process of breaking down for disposal. She thanked me for saving her a little bit of time. I put the box in Diane’s lap, added the very large bag of ice in the box and she made her arm as comfortable as possible for the trip.

The Urgent Care facility was just a couple of blocks north of the station but it was a wasted stop because they closed at 6 pm. So, we made a decision to head north to Seaside Providence Hospital.

The sobbing stopped within the first 10 miles as the ice did it’s job. We were both thankful for that because her pain was eased, and my distress about my inability to make it all go away was minimized. Then all I had to do was shudder each time I hit an unavoidable bump in the road, of which there are many on Highway 101, as we made that 21 mile trip to Seaside.

As we drove, Diane was able to key into Maps our destination so we knew exactly where to go. It was a good distraction for her. I would have taken a photo but figured that wouldn’t be a good idea since I was driving and she was using my phone.

We got to the hospital about 7:15 pm and got checked in to the emergency room very quickly. The place was jumping, every room filled. We learned that after a fairly slow Memorial Day weekend, everyone in town showed up at the emergency room just before we got there. It was very busy and all that was left was a gurney in the hall near the housekeeping area. A tech soon appeared to take her for X-rays and I took that opportunity to visit Ziva in the truck and let her out for a bit. She was really being good, knowing that there was a problem.

For those of you who require medical details, here’s what the X-ray revealed. She has two things:

  • Closed Smith’s fracture of left radius
  • Closed non displaced fracture of styloid process of left ulna

She broke both bones in her forearm.

Applying the splint. Not a fun thing.

Applying the ACE bandage. Not fun, either, but better.

Expecting a long, normal, emergency room experience, we were both surprised when the very busy doctor, a young lady who looked like she could be Lydia’s sister, appeared with news about what was going to happen.  With the swelling the only thing they could do was splint the break, which a couple of RN’s did, then they wrapped it with a large ACE bandage. The Dr. visited before we left, checking the wrapping, then pulled on Diane’s fingers really hard. I suspect that was to help align the bones a bit, and it hurt. Then we were checked out with instructions to follow up with an orthopedic doctor as soon as possible. The nurse gave us some pain pills for her to take until we could fill the prescription we received with the release paperwork.

In all, we were at this extremely busy emergency room for only 2.5 hours. That’s a record for us. Normally it’s 5 hours. We have lots of emergency room experience and can probably be considered experts on the patient side of things in that regard. Nurse Sarah could provide a more in-depth view of the hospital side from her perspective as a trauma nurse. Perhaps one day she will.

Initially, I was going to just take Diane and Ziva home to St. Helens, after the hospital released her, then return later in the week for the trailer. But, by then she thought staying another night in the trailer wouldn’t hurt any worse. So, we returned to the scene of the crime, got her some nourishment, and she took her pain pill. It wasn’t long before she was down for the count. According to her FitBit she didn’t move a muscle for almost 7 hours.

I slept on the blow up mattress that turns the couch into a queen bed. It wasn’t bad. I woke with no noticeable kinks.

After stowing the blow up bed, Diane got up and stumbled around a bit before eating a banana, a couple cups of coffee, a yogurt, and a piece of toast. Then she took another pain pill which soon caused her to stumble around a bit more as she made a gallant effort to dress herself one-handed in this confined space. She said to NOT share that she needed help putting on her underwear and pants, so I won’t. For that, I will surely be in trouble.

At 10:40 am went went down for a nap. When she woke up she took another pain pill and we began breaking camp so we could leave. She thought she would be able to take care of everything inside the trailer to prepare for the trip so I avoided an argument and just let her have a go at it. Turns out it was another good distraction for her from the pain, and she did a marvelous job. I took care of the various things attached to the outside, and hooked up to the truck. Then, we were off. First stop was the dump to empty the holding tanks.

We bid adieu to space B-13 and decided to take Highway 101 through Astoria, a much less stressful way to get home. The other way is on Highway 26 where accidents are common as folks rush back to Portland from the coast.

In Astoria we stopped at DQ for a Triple Berry Slushy for Diane and a Chocolate Malt for me. Other than that, the ride home was pretty uneventful. No wrecks to dodge, no bikes riding in the traffic lanes, and no rain. It was a good trip.

Tomorrow we visit the Ortho clinic at Good Sam for the next phase of solutions and recovery.

Hope everyone has a stellar day. Now I’m off to take Uncle Bill to the outer reaches of Hillsboro to retrieve his ancient (35 years old) John Deere Edger.

Nuts, Bolts, and a Mower Engine

Just checking in to calm those who may have been concerned about my health and welfare after that marathon run to Bremerton a couple of days ago. I’m just fine. For those of you who may not be concerned about my health and welfare, for any reason, that’s OK. Lots of times I’m not concerned about my health and welfare, either which usually ends in a trip to the emergency room for stitches. You would think it’s because I’m careless, which is definitely a contributing factor, but the main reason for my accidents is because I’m concerned about your health and welfare all the time.

It’s distracting.

Makes me lose focus.

You’d think I’d learn, right? Especially after all those lectures I get about being more careful. Oh well, I generally mend OK and the many scars I have are like the rocks I pick up on the beach. I know what I was doing when I got it, and where I was at the time. They are memories.

Now I’m happy to share the good news that I’ve successfully earned the right to call myself a Small Engine Repair Guy (SERG). Remember that mower engine I tore apart last week? Well, today I got it all back together, didn’t have any engine parts left over, and it runs like new. I’m so happy! There’s more to this story, of course, and it’s another one of those frustrating trips, but the end result was worth it.

It all started yesterday morning when I took Diane’s truck to Emmert Motors to discover why the backup lights are always on. I may have mentioned that I semi-resolved the problem by taking the backup light bulbs out. It was tempting to just leave it at that and not bother taking the truck in for a checkup. There was always the chance of a more serious underlying issue, however, so I drug myself off the couch at 0745 so I could honor the 0800 appointment.

I checked in with Tom, gave him the keys and the backup light bulbs, then went to talk with Steve for a while. I always do that when I visit Emmert, visit with Steve. Sometimes I go there just to visit with Steve. He’s my favorite car salesman and he always has candy on his desk. After a short visit I went to the lounge area and fiddled with my iPad until Tom appeared and asked me to follow him. I did.

He took me to the garage and demonstrated for me that the backup lights were functioning just fine. He believed me that they were on for 2-3 days, like I reported, but they were working fine now. He just said to bring it back if it happened again, preferably during the failure. So, apparently I fixed it by taking the bulbs out. Go figure. But, we’re keeping an eye on those things, believe me.

After that morning trip, I returned home and at a sandwich in preparation for tackling the lawn mower engine. Diane insisted. She was preparing for her trip to the court house to finish ups some community service she was assigned. No, wait. That was a couple of weeks ago. She finished her community service. She was going down to join her friends on the counting board for the current ballot.  Yeah! That’s it!

After the sandwich I attired myself in some of my better dirty work clothes and made my way to the church. It was raining more than not, so I was planning on getting wet because the lawn mower is stored in a small shed with no room to work on anything. As it turned out, though, the sun shined most of the time which allowed me to sit in the wet grass to do the majority of my work which was to put everything back together.

I got busy by first scraping off the old crank case gasket using a starter shim I happened to have from the last time I installed a starter on the old ’68 Chevy truck. I meant to take a chisel or knife, but forgot, but the shim seemed to work just fine. Just took a while. Made my hands sore, too.

Then I cleaned up all the parts as best I could, considering the circumstances, and went about the process of discovering where all the parts, bolts, and screws went. That really wasn’t a huge challenge because all you have to do is match up bolts to the holes they fit in. For instance, there were 10 bolts holding the crank case together and they were long ones. They wouldn’t fit anywhere else. This was pretty much true for the entire reassembly process. The tricky part was the new cam shaft which required me to match two little dots together on the cam gear, and the shaft gear. It took a while, but I did it. It just didn’t happen as easily as I had anticipated. From the YouTube video I watched it seemed to be pretty simple.

When the last bolt was tightened, I set the engine in the proper place on the mower frame and manually turned engine over to see what happened. No way was I going to try it with the starter first. No sir! Good thing I did, too, because it spun around nicely for about 1.5 rotations then went “clunk” and stopped. Turning it backwards the same distance produced the same result. So, I figured I must have missed the mark when lining up those two dots. However, I’d had about enough small engine exercise by that time, called it quits and went home.

I was only on the couch for a short time, recovering, before Diane returned home, released from the Counting Board for good behavior. We went through what has become a daily routine of “what do you want to eat,” and “I don’t care,” then Diane got a couple of egg rolls and some rice. She suggested that I eat the last Kung Pao TV dinner, which I did, along with a couple of egg rolls of my own. We have a large box of them in the freezer. It only takes 3.5 minutes for heat a couple of them up. It’s 4 minutes for the TV dinner.

This morning I got up with that stupid mower engine buzzing around in my head, mentally preparing myself for the necessity of dismantling it again to see what I did wrong.

As I was pulling the mower out of its little garage, it started pouring rain so I just picked up the engine and carried it into the mower space and went to work.

I took out all the bolts, removed the crank case cover and stared intently at the new gear I’d installed yesterday with great care. It only took me about 30 seconds to see that I’d not matched the cam gear dot with the crank shaft gear dot, but with a gear on the crank shaft that was just different that all the others. About 20 teeth around the corner was the little dot I’d missed. I firmly believe that the folks who build Briggs & Stratton engines make their crank shaft gears like that just to fool folks like me with the intent of getting them to try cranking it with the starter before checking to see that it works. Well, I previously proved that I didn’t fall for that tactic. No sir! No, I didn’t get it right the first time, but I didn’t break anything, either. All I wasted was a little time.

I released the rocker arms from the cam shaft push rods, turned the engine to the spot where the dots would line up, slipped the cam shaft into place just as easily as the guy on YouTube did in his video. The crank shaft cover went on just as easily, like the video, and things just fell into place. All those bolts and nuts went back like I had been doing this kind of work for years. Once together, the engine turned freely, as it should. The little rocker arms danced up and down just perfect, the carburetor almost attached itself, as did the exhaust pipe. When I looked around my work space, there was only one piece left, an odd looking bent wire thing that I hadn’t removed. It had fallen off something when I took the engine apart and I had no idea if it was even part of the process because I’d just found it laying in the lawn.

I had a feeling it belonged somewhere around the carburetor and studied that area for a long time before giving up, cleaning up, and driving to the Scappoose Sears store to look at the new mowers and see if I could find something similar on them. No one questioned me as I wandered around the dozen or so mowers on display, lifting the hoods and staring intently at the  engines. I can only surmise that they didn’t want to take a chance they’d have to talk with me because I was pretty ratty looking, even though I had arrived in a pretty nifty little car.

This investigative effort proved to be a waste of time so I went back to the church and dialed up Bing to see what I could find.

Finally, I found a reference that gave me the answer. The left-over piece was the part that chokes the engine when the accelerator lever is pushed to the maximum level. So simple. Well, now I know and think I could repeat this job quite easily, without YouTube, in a fraction of the time I’d spent learning.

Once the engine was together, I bolted it to the frame, installed the pulleys, connected all the wires, and whatnot, then sat in the seat. I didn’t try starting it right away, but just sat there a bit, resting. Actually, I was casting good mojo at the engine, willing it to turn over and run. Apparently mojo works because when I turned the key it fired right up and ran like a top. I only let it run for a few seconds before realizing that I’d failed (again) to replace that 48 ounces of oil I’d drained from the engine at the start of this process.

Withe new oil installed, I started it, and ran around in circles in the little yard next to the shed before putting it all away. There would have been more circles, but it was raining pretty hard.

I’d done it! I fixed the mower! The small engine repair guy said he could do it in 5 hours, at $80 an hours, plus parts which I paid about $80 for. So I saved the church $400, minimum. All it cost me, in addition to those parts, was some of my time.

To put that in perspective, considering I was making about $40 an hour when I retired the second time, had I been charging for time it would have cost the church about $480 in time plus parts.

Good thing my time is free, right?

In my eyes, that time was well spent because I’d learned a new skill. I’ve busted a lot of those little engines over the years, but had never been compelled to tear one apart to see what makes them tick. That’s odd, too, because I generally tear everything apart right away to see what’s inside, but not engines. Turns out they are actually pretty simple and made me realize that had I been a little braver, or inquisitive, I could have saved a lot of money over the years by fixing those things instead of replacing them.

Now I’m a mechanic. Really, I am. Once my hands heal up, and my sore muscles go away, I’m pretty confident I can talk someone through this process should the need arise.

All that’s missing is the hood. It’s all good.

Maybe I’ll go find my Bubba Teeth and make my own video.

60+ to 80+, a broken lawnmower, and other Stuff.

Yup! That’s what happened. The temps turned on a dime from a high of 60 something to 80 something. The weather things I’ve looked at show 81 for today, but our thermometers registered 86. Now, my challenge is to get my lawn mower cleaned up before the rain comes back day after tomorrow.

I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but it may as well. I thought I heard that we’ve had more than 141 days of measurable rain this year so far, a record. That’s kind of tricky, I think, because there have only been 123 days registered in 2017.

Could be I have no idea what I’m talking about which is not news. I rarely do. But, it’s fun trying to make sense of what I think I hear. Diane’s solution for that is for me to wear my hearing aid, but that takes all the fun out of it.

Now, the lawn mower … it’s the one that Floyd and Nancy bought for the church. Just recently it decided to not start so I tried to get people to dig out all the small engine repair people they know so we can take advantage of the good weather. Thankfully, Howard mowed the church yard so all we need to do is clean up the cut grass. Having the mower run would help.

Well, I didn’t get any valid offers of help, except from Don, so I went to school on YouTube and figured out how to do it myself. Armed with my new-found knowledge I took my tools to the church, rolled the mower out, yanked the engine out off the frame (with Howard’s help),

and dismantled the engine down to a bunch of little parts, just like I learned on YouTube.

Doing so revealed that the bad part is exactly the one I expected it to be based on my recent education, a dysfunctional cam shaft …

It looks nice and almost new, but there’s a part broken that helps get the engine past the first compression point during the start process. It was in little pieces in the bottom of the crank case. Now I have to get a new one and figure out how to get everything back together again. I need to do that fast because I’ll forget where all those screws and bolts go in a few days. That’s all it takes. I’ll take a photo of any success I might have. If I fail, you’ll never hear about this again.

Here’s what I had for lunch yesterday … leftover meat loaf. It was really good.

I think there’s about a pound of meat there, but it’s all protein, something I can eat a lot of. Keeps my B-12 levels up there in the stratosphere.

Here’s our trailer while I’m check to ensure the lights work before we left Devil’s Lake State Park for the trip home.

While we were enjoying ourselves at the beach, the bamboo took advantage of our absence and reached for the sky. Might have to trim it down a little.

This afternoon Lydia’s softball team had a double-header with Parkrose. Lydia pitched 4 innings of the first game and played 2nd base the last 3 innings of the 2nd game. It was a lot of fun. They lost the 1st game 3-2 and won the 2nd one 8-4. It was a good day. One of the highlights was when Jennifer was trying to talk with Lydia over the cement block wall of the dugout, but couldn’t hear her. So, she did this …

She had sneakers on so didn’t slip, but it’s something she would have raised heck about had one of the kids, or me, done this. Just so you know, she extracted herself from this precarious position without injury. Made me proud. It was a good day.

It’s time for me to head to bed, after I let the dogs out to bark at something and pee in the tall grass out front. Ozzie just had a $37 haircut but that doesn’t stop him from plowing through the grass in search of a spot where one of the big dogs may have relieved themselves. He’s predictable, and doesn’t care about hygiene at all.

Good nite.

Winter Golf in Oregon

It was a beautiful day in the neighbor hood today. So good, in fact, that my friend JP deemed it worthy of losing a few balls on the golf course. That venture began right around 10 am. Here we are ready to tee off on #1. That’s JP on the left.

The first hole wasn’t too bad once we got past the first ditch. That’s where balls land and the ground is so saturated that the balls just bury themselves, never to be found again. Hole #2, below, is fairly flat and doesn’t drain well at all so this is what we had to contend with. Fortunately, the tee box is to the left of the little lakes and neither of us landed in the water.

Then, on #3, things got nasty. From here on to the end it was difficult to find firm ground for the cart and we wound up pushing it more than riding in it, I think.

So, we had the best of both worlds: golfing and 4-wheeling in the mud. I took home proof for Diane.

The end result was that we had a lot of fun because we didn’t seriously keep score. It’s hard to be serious when you actually make a good drive that lands in the fairway, but when you get to the spot, the ball just isn’t there. The only thing you get from searching for it is muddy shoes. Thank goodness they’re waterproof.

After leaving the golf course, I stopped to talk with Cousin Don for a while. I knew he was home because he had the shop door rolled up. He was sitting in the middle, eating his lunch, feet propped up on one of the many large tools he has in his shop. The tools are mostly related to the construction, upkeep, and resurrection of race cars. I pulled up a chair to rest my weary bones next to the absolutely prettiest engine I’ve ever seen. It’s brand new and doesn’t have a speck of dirt on it. Yet. Seems a shame to put it in a race car that’s more than likely to get smacked around. But, that’s what he’s done most of his life. I count my blessings whenever I get in a mechanical fix because Don has all the answers and replacement parts.

When I got home I found Diane hard at work cleaning the house. That’s what she does when I go out and play, probably because I’m not in the way. She stopped long enough for lunch (crab louies), then gat back at it while I went outside and started the old truck. I haven’t done that in a couple of months so was pleased when it started right up after cranking it and pumping the gas pedal for about thirty seconds. It’s a brute to start when the engine is cold, and runs like a top once it’s warmed up.

Satisfied that the engine still ran, I shut it down and got busy picking up debris from the front yard. Most of it was residue from one of the rhododendrons that Ziva had fun with when we had snow worth playing in. She loves to chase sticks and she especially likes rhododendrons because their branches snap in half really easy. Consequently, she shattered bits and pieces of it all over the place. It was work, made me sweaty, but I got it picked up and hauled to the burn pile.

Now it’s time for me to scrape the rest of the dirt from my torso so I can sit in a nice chair and get ready to watch Oregon tussle with Calf in one of the Pac-12 semi-final games. Should be a good game.

See you tomorrow.

Day 22 – Laundry Day at Fort Lee Lodge, and Lunch

Yes, we must do our laundry while traveling. I suspect most people do except Jack Reacher, who just buys new outfits when it’s time to change clothes, then throws the old stuff away. Before we left I suggested that we take nothing but old underwear, the ones with rips and holes, of which I have a few, and just toss them each day. Diane nixed that idea, at least for her, because you just never know when you might wind up at the doctor’s office in one of those backward gowns.

Me? I brought old underwear.

Even so, we have outer clothes that get soiled and isn’t something we’d throw away until it falls apart because they are always good for working in the yard. Since we are checking out of here tomorrow we need to get things washed today. Matter of fact, the washing machines are running as I write. I might have 15 minutes or so remaining before I must make that long trip down the hall to put them in a dryer. My phone will bark when it’s time.

The upside of doing laundry at the Fort Lee Lodge is that it’s free to use the machines. There are 6 sets on each of the 7 floors, 3 at each end. That’s a lot of washers and dryers, my friend. There’s even a TV in the laundry room. And an A/C unit. A person could just take a book down there and hang out all day if they wanted to.

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Diane didn’t want to. She chose to scour the base in search of the thrift store she saw a couple of times during our trips and left me alone to deal with the drying aspect of laundry. She loaded the washers, kissed m on the cheek, and headed for the parking lot. She took all my quarters, too. So, here I am, unsupervised, tasked with ensure that two special blouses do not make it to the interior of a dryer. The penalty is severe for failing this simple rule.

Thankfully I remembered because when I got back to the room she was sitting on the couch and I had the blouses in my hand. She said the thrift store is not open until Wednesday so we’ll have to go in search of a Goodwill in the civilian world this afternoon, to see what folks in Virginia give away. I can see it in the stars. Really, I can.

On my trip to the laundry room I took this photo so you could get a sense of how long the hallway is. It’s easily 200 yards. That means it’s 100 yards either direction for us because we’re almost dead center in the middle. By the elevators, which is really handy. The young lady, Brittany. who gave us this upgrade did us an enormous favor unless the room is haunted. I don’t think it is, but you just never know in a hotel.

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This is looking the other direction from our room.

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It’s hard to judge the distance in these crappy photos because the lights by the rooms just run together at the far end. Perhaps that’s a good indicator.

The dryers taker 45 minutes to run their cycle and I only have 26 minutes remaining until my phone barks at me again. I feel like I should take a nap, but it’s too early. That’s what I have to keep telling myself. It’s too early.

I’m sure you find all of this very interesting, and can tell that I’m not really full of fun stuff to share. I will, however, share this tender moment that I failed to include on one of the evenings Cedric spent with us.

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Diane caught us both sleeping and snuck up on us. It was very peaceful sitting there with him, knowing he was relaxed and in a good place. Reminds me of when he was little and would do the same thing.

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With the laundry done Diane said it was time for lunch and that I should get busy. She reminded me that yesterday I said I’d cook today. So I did. We had 8 eggs, half an onion, half a potato, 8 pieces of bacon, and a brand new green pepper. There’s no toaster in the room so I improvised by using a pan to toast English muffins on one side. Diane took care of the bacon while I prepared the eggs and everything else.

Since we only have a two burner stove, it was tricky getting it all done in a manner that nothing got cold. Since eggs were last, Diane stacked everything else in the microwave to keep them warm. When the eggs looked done enough to eat I flung a few pieces of cheddar cheese on top and put a lid on until it melted a little. I’d already turned the burner off but hat was just long enough for the bottom of the eggs to crisp up more than I had intended.

It was still good.

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Now I really do think I’m going to take a little nap. Jerrie’s tired and his eyes burn.

Day 21 – Maymont Park – Richmond, Virginia

Today we left the base and embarked on an adventure to Richmond to visit Maymont Park based on the recommendation of the nice lady with the German accent behind the reception desk at our exceptionally nice abode.

I programmed our destination into my phone’s GPS, plugged it into the car, and away we went on I-95 North. It was a quick trip because Richmond is only about 29 miles from Fort Lee. Since Columbus Day is apparently a holiday for most folks in Virginia there was very little traffic on the freeway. That was true for the side streets in town that we had to traverse at the insistence of Veronica, our GPS expert. It’s actually SIRI, not Veronica. I was just trying to trick you.

Richmond has some very narrow streets that I’m sure haven’t been widened since they were primarily used for horses and buggys. With the only available parking is on the street for most of the housing we saw, like this, the situation doesn’t get any better. There actually are individual houses around, and we saw some, but row houses like those in this photo are all over the place. These are actually separate homes with about a 5-6 foot space between them, but on first look they appear to be joined at the hip. There are others that are obviously newer, made of brick, that I would call town homes because they are physically joined. I didn’t take a photo of any of those because I didn’t want to. That, and my phone/camera was connected to the car for the GPS. That’s why I didn’t want to.img_9853

Getting to the park took us directly through the heart of VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University). At least that’s what it seemed like because we were surround by buildings with the VCU logo on them for a mile or so through town. If those were indeed university buildings, I’d hate to have to make it from one class to another across that campus. Maybe they have some sort of underground delivery system for students.

Once we got to the park the first thing we discovered was that the welcome center wasn’t welcoming anyone because it’s not open on Monday. So we followed what looked like a group of Richmond natives down a walk that led waaaay down into a valley on this 100 acre estate.

At the bottom Diane stopped to rest her knees, which hurt all the time, and she was in need of a restroom. Fortunately, Dave was just about to pass us and he was dressed, to me, like someone who might work on the estate. I know his name was Dave because I asked and told me. Before that, however, I asked him if he knew where a restroom might be. He did, of course, because he volunteers his time at the park working in Raptor Valley where the birds live. He said he was heading that way and to follow him. Naturally that led to a conversation about where we were from. When he discovered that we were from out West, he slowed his pace to match ours and gave us a comprehensive history of the Maymont property and its original owners, the Dooley’s. What a guy!

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Dave said James Dooley made his millions in a variety of enterprises, including the railroad industry, and built this incredible mansion on a hill in Richmond. When he and his wife died they had no family so left the property to the city of Richmond. Unfortunately, the property didn’t come with money to maintain it. That required a group of wealthy Richmond folks to step up and begin a program for that reason. The result is beautiful Maymont Park that includes the mansion and all of it’s grounds. It’s worth a trip. Oh! and it’s free.

Diane and I wandered around the winding paths and stairways to the tune of between 4-5 miles, depending on whose fitbit you want to believe. Mine came up with 3.97 miles but Diane’s was 5. My fitbit also said that I climbed up and down 15 floors of stairs. That one is absolutely true, I’m pretty sure. We did some ticking up and down hills. Diane’s knees will never be the same after today.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Wal-Mart* super center a little south of Fort Lee to get some required items, then stopped for a Pizza Hut dinner at the facility on base. When we got to the room I was a little shaky because I hadn’t had anything to eat for approximately 6 hours. As a newly crowned diabetic I could feel the need for food and confirmed it when I checked my BS level. It was 73.

The pizza was good and we demolished the entire thing, each eating half. That’s significant for Diane because she normally can only eat 3 pieces.

Now we’re settled in for the night and I need to stop because Monday Night Football is about to start. Since Cam Newton is out with a concussion for the Carolina Panthers our home town boy, Derek Anderson, will be in at quarterback. They are playing Tampa Bay with Jamis Winston at QB. It would be fun to see Derek beat them.

I will terminate this with some photos from today’s trip.

This is a terrific little stone bridge at the bottom of the trail, just before we met Dave.

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Wandering through the Japanese Garden.

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At the to, near the mansion, we found a large stone barn that has huge bird houses for dormers.img_9909-1

More out buildings with a really pretty fountain.

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A comprehensive view of the estate buildings. This was taken from a wicker chair tied to 3 large weather balloons. It’s secured to the ground with a very long rope, thank God. It was still a little breezy up there, but it provided a terrific view of the James River and the estate. Those descriptive words just magically showed up when I imported the photo.img_9922

This is the last shot I took as the handlers were hauling me out of the sky.

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Inside is the freakishly weird Swan Bed in Mrs. Dooley’s bedroom. I’m guessing this feature of her choice in bedroom furniture was a large factor in their childless marriage. I mean, really? img_9926

The kitchen is huge and finely attired. Looks very functional.

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The living room is very ornate. Lots of wood that needs lots of pledge to keep it looking like it does.

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Outside Diane walks through the arches where the Dooley’s, and guests would access the home from their carriages without getting wet, in case it was raining.

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That’s Diane standing at the top of the steps on the front porch. She thought it was pretty nice, but that it should be screened in. Still, pretty classy.

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On the way out, pondering the best route back to our car, Diane stops to consider how long it would take me to mow all that yard. It’s massive.

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Lastly, here’s a pretty nice looking tree standing all alone so it could flourish in all directions.img_9941

Ta-da.

 

Day 4 – New York City

Today was very special because we (Diane, me, and Ruth) rode a train from New Haven, CT all the way to Grand Central Station in New York City. The purpose was to visit the 911 Memorial in Manhattan. To make it more special, Ruth came with us because she’s never seen it in person, either. And, because she came with us, we had a scape goat in case we got totally lost because she lives on this side of the world and we’re just visiting. But, we didn’t get lost.

The first left started at 0740 when we bundled into our rental car and drove to New Haven so we could catch the Metro North line.img_8748

Going from Windsor Locks is possible but that would require a trip on Amtrak which is vasty more expensive. It’s like $66 for 3 round trip tickets on Metro North vs. $300 for Amtrak. No contest, really. The drive to New Haven took about an hour then we walked for about 20 minutes to the train station, got our tickets, grabbed our seats, and stayed in them for the next two hours. It was a nice ride and we met some nice folks, James & Millette, who were on their way to The City to celebrate their 27th anniversary. As we talked we learned more about each other and they learned that we were on our way visit the 911 Memorial. Turns out they’ve never visited it, either. For good reason. James works for the city of Darien, CT in public works. On 9/11 he was on an Amtrak with his 3-year-old son traveling to North Carolina to visit his parents. When the 1st tower was hit his train stopped in the middle of the bridge to Manhattan prior moving on to Penn Station. He was provided an unobstructed view of the towers when they collapsed and was stunned the same as every one else that day. He described how scary it was to not be able to contact his wife to let her know he and their son were OK, and that it was 8 hours before he was able to reach a pay phone and call her office. Because of that trial neither of them have found the courage to make a visit down town Manhattan and end their trip to The City in East Harlem. We felt that we had bonded with these folks and gained some good friends during that short ride. Sadly, I did not get a photo of them, but I have these:

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When we got to Grand Central, Ruth led us to one of the exits then began walking along 42nd Street. Just before we got to 5th Avenue hunger pangs attacked us causing us to seek someplace different for lunch. We looked around and immediately spied some Golden Arches which seem to be everywhere. Like Starbucks. But, fast food isn’t what we wanted. Ruth spoke to a street person for suggestions about good places to eat and was directed to a place called HTH which happened to be right next to The Arches.img_8783

So, off we went.

Inside HTH we were greeted by some very friendly folks who advised us to look around before making a choice. Actually, they didn’t suggest that. We just did it. They didn’t care. The front counter was the source of some incredible looking sandwiches, pre-made and ordered, and the back area was a walk-around counter containing yakisoba, fried rice, shrimp wrapped in bacon, coconut shrimp, lots of other meat choices (but I only focus on shrimp), broccoli chicken, and many other things. Just take what you want then get it weighed at the cash register and pay $8.95 a pound. Sounds expensive but Diane and I ate hearty for less than $20 and I had milk! It was all very good and we highly recommend HTH. I tried to find a web site for them but can’t. We were told it’s a new venue. Awesome!

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Once we were all fed and watered, we ventured out, once again, into the New York heat (pushing 90) thinking we’d walk to Ground Zero. But, according to our handy-dandy GPS systems on our phones we learned it was 3.5 miles away. Didn’t look that far on the map, but blocks in NYC are longer than even Las Vegas. So, we began the arduous process of flagging down a taxi so we could experience that aspect of the city. I did it once before, when I as 16, but I can’t remember back that far any longer. So, I needed a refresh.

We flagged and flagged and flagged but the drivers weren’t interested. Then a guy in a Lincoln town car pulled over and offered us a ride. One of those guys who cruise around looking for tourists so they can over charge them. He remained true to that belief by stating a trip to Ground Zero would cost us $45. I scoffed and he asked what I’d be willing to pay him. I said $10. He scoffed back, pulled over to the curb and popped the locks to let us out which I took to mean it wasn’t a valid offer.

Finally, a taxi pulled over to let someone out and Ruth inquired, politely, if he could possible consider allowing us to insert ourselves into the back of his bright yellow Prius for a ride to the memorial. He nodded yes so we got in. It was cozy with me in the middle, and away we went.

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The driver, sensing that we were new to The City tested us by heading for the FDR which is on the East Side of Manhattan. We knew, however, that our destination was on the West Side. I called him on his choice so he changed his mind and decided to punish us by driving down every street in NYC where construction seems to be a never-ending evolution. Construction, vehicles triple parked, people walking all over the streets … it was pretty amazing. The result, of course, was that the meter clicked merrily away while we spent a great deal of time just sitting, waiting through each traffic light 2-3 times. That 3.5 mile trip took about an hour and cost $20.80. That $45 offer in a comfortable vehicle began to look pretty good. But, we made it.

The first thing we saw was the new $4 Billion, 350,00 square foot Oculus Shopping Mall. I know those numbers are true because I had to do a web search to find out what the heck it was called. There were no signs – just doors to get in.

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Behind me, in the second photo, is the largest Apple Store I’ve ever seen. I suspect I should have taken a picture of it. It’s absolutely ginormous.

We wandered through this incredible structure and were kind of oblivious to our surrounding with the exception of being on constant alert for directions to the nearest restroom. Being old, that’s always our first priority after a long ride, find a toilet. You will be happy to learn that the Oculus has very nice toilets that flush and everything.

The views outside the Oculus are stunning. Words aren’t enough so I’ll just do this:

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The memorial pools are located just outside the Oculus and are easy to find. Just follow the crowds, then look for a place where everyone is just kinda standing still. Quite impressive, and far more impressive in person. A very solemn place.img_8807

We visited both pools the left Diane in the shade as Ruth and I went on a quest to find a map so we could discover a cheaper way back to Grand Central, like the subway.img_8815

Turns out that nowhere in the vast array of information available at Ground Zero is there information about public transportation. So, I asked a couple of NYPD Officers who happened to be handy. They were very helpful, directing us through a maze of construction scaffolding to the nearest subway station. I must make a note here that we all had smart phones on which we could have easily found directions had all three of them not been stone cold dead. We started out the day with them all charged up but taking photos and running Google Maps, we just flittered all that energy away. I actually had a little power remaining, like 7%, but I wanted to keep it in reserve for possible Kodak moments on our return trip. It was distressing, to say the least. I hate being powerless.

This is Ruth pointing out the seat she was going to grab when the subway doors opened up. I believe, however, that no one got off the #4 Train which required us all to stand for the beginning of the trip. I had to stand the entire way, but it was OK. I didn’t fall down. I had an opportunity to get a seat at one stop because I was standing right by one that was vacated. I young man standing in front of it made a move for it, then looked up and offered it to me. I gave it to Diane. Chivalry is not dead in NYC. I was pleased and let him know how grateful I was.

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We made it back to Grand Central with no problems or wrong turns and made it to Track 17 about 3 minutes  before our train pulled out. It was pretty amazing because getting to METRO North from the #4 Train isn’t a leisurely hike.

We found three seats together and plopped ourselves down, and prepared for takeoff. I opened a souvenir magazine of the 911 Disaster and started thumbing through it when I heard a voice asking if I was prepared to give a detailed dissertation on all the information to which I had so recently been exposed. I looked up and discovered my new friend, Tiffany, who has never seen “Short Circuit”. I explained that she really needs to see it because it was filmed in Astoria, Oregon and the main character’s name is Tiffany. I’m not sure she was suitably impressed with this bit of trivia, but she was willing to continue visiting with me which was excellent.

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I learned that Tiffany was in her second year at St. Johns University, in Queens, on her quest to become a Pharmacist. It’s a 6-year program at the end of which she will be christened as a bona fide Doctor. She spends most of Tuesday thru Friday at school then heads home for the weekends Friday afternoon. In high school she was a 4-year Varsity starter soccer player.

I was very happy to have her to visit with and regretted my loss when we arrived at the Fairfield stop where she deserted me. My life was improved by her presence and I have no doubt she’s going to be a huge success in whatever she chooses to do. For some reason she wanted my blog address, so I gave it to her. Therein lies a tenuous thread of contact.

This is the last photo I took before my phone permanently died. It’s looking up the aisle of our train.

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On the way home from the train station we stopped to visit Susan & Jay and to pick up Julia who gave us a tour of their home and introduced us to her newly acquired base Fiddle, Jerrie. I was honored that she named it Jerrie, but not sure that she named it specifically after me. That’s OK. I’m still honored. This is Jerrie:

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We took her back to Ruth’s where we played Polish Rummy until her father arrived from Boston to pick up at 2300. Then I fiddled with my computer trying to get photos off my phone until I was totally frustrated and went to bed. The hard bed. Where I slept like a baby until 0730 this morning.

There. I’m done.