Mazatlan – Day 1

It’s currently about 0705 this wonderful Monday morning, and we are high in the air somewhere over Oregon, heading south to LA.
The morning began awfully early, mainly because the evening ended far later than we had planned, but it all worked out. I opted to leave my CPAP in the other bag, in the vehicle, because it’s been a long time since I’ve snored all night long, and Diane was missing it. So, I was able to adequately keep both of us awake for a good portion of the night.

When we arrived at the hotel I conferred with Diane as to whether or not we should have a wake up call and she thought 0330 would be a good time to ensure we made the 0400 shuttle to the airport for our 0530 flight. Once in the room, however, she had a change of heart after rediscovering that our flight didn’t leave until 0640. With this new information in hand we agreed that we could push our wake up call all the way out to 0430 for the 0500 shuttle. I called the front desk and made the necessary changes.

It turns out that not all of the people who work at the hotel are on speaking terms because because we received a wake up call at 0330 and again at 0430. The second one was unnecessary because we stayed up after the first one. Consequently, we were more than ready to leave.

The guy behind us on the shuttle who’s accent pegged him as someone from Boston, New York, or New Jersey area, apparently spends his time flying from golf course to golf course, and he hasn’t had time to expand his vocabulary to deliver descriptive narrative without the use of some pretty base vulgarities. It was an educational trip.

At the airport we participated in two different lines that, combined, represented a very large portion of the greater Portland/Vancouver area. The first line was to check our food bag. It weighed in at 52.8 pounds which qualified it for a larger fee than the $20 Diane had already paid for. I was prepared to toss out a few cans of soup, but the attendant said, “that’s OK, I’ll let it go.” I think she allowed it because I didn’t argue with her. Sweet.

The second line was for security, a much larger line, but it moved quickly, which pleasantly surprised both of us. After getting all our clothing back on we went directly to the Starbucks which was directly ahead of us. Neither of us had had our morning coffee so we were in dire need.

Diane went to secure us a table while I inserted myself in the Starbucks line. Directly in front of me was a very attractive, well endowed young lady who was not the least bit afraid of displaying the talents God had provided for her. Over her shoulder hung a large pink bag attached to which was a very large, sparkly pin that spelled out “Victoria’s Secrets”. Since I was breathing, and blood coursed through my not yet constricted arteries, I was obviously interested in her story. So, I asked her if the bag indicated a vocation, or if it was simply a really neat bag. She flashed me a brilliant smile and said, “no, I just came home to get my ‘rain fix’, and I’m heading back to San Diego.” She’s from Vancouver and is attending the University of San Diego. Nice girl. I didn’t get a chance to ask her what she intended to be when she grew up, but it just didn’t seem necessary to ask at the time.

For coffee, I got my normal Venti WCMNW and Diane got a Venti CM. The attendant mistook the NW addendum to include both drinks, but that’s OK because you always get a little bit more that way. I also got a banana nut muffin which we shared. It was all very good.

We proceeded to gate C-4 and took a seat until almost everyone had boarded. We were destined for seats 9-A & B. A young man named Colin was sitting in seat C, the isle seat. He was reading a real book, not an electronic one, which initially got my interest, then he put the book away and started drawing very detailed depictions of those sitting around him. His choice of medium was a ballpoint pen and a lined steno pad. It was totally incredible so I, of course, commented, suggesting that he must have many of those filled notebooks stashed in storage someplace. He conceded this was true, and we struck up a conversation. Turns our he’s a graphic artist who works for Nike and he designs logos for T-Shirts. As sure as I’m sitting here, I’m willing to bet that many of you, who wear Nike products, have something he designed. Interesting. I told him that Phil should have sprung for First Class for him and his other workers and he said, “he does for international flights.” This time they were just going to various cities around the US to visit clients. A really nice guy.

Now, here’s the ‘small world’ part of this story. Turns out that Colin used to work for puppet maker name Michael Curry when his business was located in … wait for it … St. Helens, Oregon! Go Figure. Colin opted for a new job when Michael moved his business to Scappoose, 8 miles closer to Portland, and landed with Nike. One of his friends at Nike is the young lady who dreamed up the wings you see on the Oregon Ducks uniforms and logo shirts. He didn’t have any samples, so I had to leave that relationship shirtless. Still, it was a very nice visit.

In LA, Diane and I stopped at Ruby’s Cafe for a bite to eat, then on to gate 68-A to await our connecting flight to Mazatlan. Again, we waited until the line whittled down a ways before standing to join the crowd.

For traveling, I wore the T-shirt Diane got me that says “I’m Retired and this is as dressed up as I get”. It always seems to be a topic of conversation, a good icebreaker. While boarding the plane, the plane Captain and XO were standing by to greet folks and the CO commented about how he couldn’t wait until he could wear a shirt like mine. I offered to trade him shirts, but he declined stating that I wouldn’t want his because it was 4-days old. I told him that wasn’t a problem, but he still wouldn’t go for it. For just the briefest of moments I had visions of flying the plane.

On this leg we had seats 15-C&D which are both isle seats. We planned to sit there and hold hands across the isle for the entire flight, going to the bathroom when we pleased, without having to stumble over another passenger. That didn’t work out, however, because the older (than me) gentleman sitting in seat E, next to Diane, offered to trade me seats so we could sit together. How could we refuse? So, I wound up in seat D, and Diane moved to E. As fortune would have it, when they closed the door to the plane, a clear indication that no one else was going to be allowed aboard, seat F was still empty. So, I moved to F, the window seat. I hardly ever get the window seat, so I was thrilled.

That left seat D empty. After a bit of coaxing, the lady in row 14, seat D, convinced her friend to move up from the back and sit behind her. When she arrived she said that she hoped we didn’t mind if she joined us. I requested a vote, but was denied, so told her I didn’t mind as long as she and her friend didn’t talk all the way to Mexico. She said, “no chance. We’re just a couple of jabber boxes.” Turns our, however, that she’s a nice lady from Santa Barbara who also lives in Mazatlan. Her name is Romi and she owns the El Roots Cafe in our destination city. I learned all of this before we took off.

We were pushed away from the terminal on time, and headed for our place in line for takeoff. It was a bumpy ride to the end of the runway, but by the time we got there all the checks and balances had been performed so we were good to go. We turned on to the runway and immediately accelerated for takeoff. There was no delay, whatsoever. Just turn, and go.

Down the runway we raced, going faster and faster, and I could tell the nose wheel was almost ready to leave the runway. I believe this is called the ‘rotate’ point. Instead of doing that, however, the engines were reversed, and the brakes were tested to their fullest, giving every one on board a real exciting time, wondering what the heck had happened. We never came to a full stop, but slowed enough to get off the main runway, then the CO explained what happened. He said that about a 10 feet into our takeoff run he saw this goose in the middle of the runway and yearned for it to move. When it did, however, it took flight and made a suicidal run through our left engine which caused the pilot a great deal of concern. I’m sure the air controllers got a little excited, too. Probably woke a couple of them up. I suspect the “Check Engine” light probably came on in the cockpit, too.

We went back to the terminal and sat there for an hour while various people checked the engines and could find nothing wrong with either of them. There was a rumor from the back of the plane that the goose made a last minute dodge, missing the engine, but hitting the wing. He was found laying, entirely whole, on the runway. We were not allowed to leave until appropriate services were made and next of kin notified. It was sad, but a much better mental picture than one of shredded goose all over the place. Romi’s El Roots cafe serves sushi dishes so I asked her, if the goose had gone through the engine, could it be classified as Canadian Sushi. She agreed that it was probably appropriate.

Now we’re nearing the bottom end of The Gulf of California, and I an tell we’re losing altitude slowly. So, before the waitress yells at me again, I’m going to terminate this and be a good boy. I’ll add more, of course, once we get to our room at the resort.

The landing, though an hour later than planned, was uneventful. Even so, everyone on the play clapped and cheered, just as they did when we successfully departed the runway in LA. It was a cheerful bunch on that plane. Then we had to transit through customs and, as luck would have it, with Mexico’s random selection process, activated by pushing a large red button, Diane got the red light meaning we both had to participate in a strip search of everything we had. I as OK with it because I don’t mind if strangers touch me. Wherever they want to. Actually, they only wanted to dig through the luggage, which they did, then sent us on our merry way.

Thankfully, the resort shuttle driver knew about the delay and didn’t strand us. That would have been bad because there were 12 of us needing the ride. That trip, too, was uneventful, and we arrived just fine. Checked into our room, and removed all the sweaty clothes and had a PB&J sandwich.

Now we’re just cruising around looking at stuff.

Hot Tub, Weed Whacking & A Water Show

Saturday afternoon, once I got over my coffee induced nap, it was determined that I should do something around the house for a change. Specifically, attempt to resurrect our empty hot tub and make it work. before draining it a few weeks ago, it was flashing a variety of error codes at me that I had to research on the internet. One of them indicated it thought there was no water in the heater, and another one thought it was overheating. Conflicting and confusing, so I just unplugged it and drained all the water. Then, yesterday, Diane indicated that it would be good if we could use it once in a while which was code for ‘get off your butt and FIX it!’

So, I grabbed a bunch of wrenches, some screw drivers, and went down to see what I could see. Not being familiar with hot tub innards, I was in for an educational experience.

First, I removed the outer plastic pealing, revealing all the fun stuff inside, most of it covered with spray foam insulation. I was concerned about spiders because I’ve found a few pretty big ones lurking around the tub which would have just made Diane’s day had she encountered them first. She doesn’t, ever, because I’m always the first one there just for that reason. Oddly, I didn’t see one spider once the sides were removed. I was happy for that because I’m not particularly fond of them, either. I just don’t scream like a little girl when I see them, like Diane does.

I studied the tubes, hoses, and heater for a while, then decided to undo the only two screws available for me to turn. It was the cover for all the electrical connections, and the heater tube. Interesting stuff. None of it made any sense to me so I just started disconnecting things from the circuit board, and plugging them back in. It’s a trick I learned with computers – sometimes plugs get tired of being plugged in all the time and just quit working, from boredom, no doubt, and unplugging them and putting them back kinda wakes it up. Then it works. Like magic.

I put it all back together and turned it on to see what would happen and soon discovered that nothing had changed. It doesn’t heat properly and the 64 degree water wasn’t quite warm enough for Diane. I discovered, however, that running the jets, over and over, heated the water up, and eventually topped out at 84 degrees before I called it a day and went to bed.

During this time I fired up weed whacker and set about using it in the back yard. Diane gave me free reign with only one stipulation – that I pick up ‘all the crap’ I cut down on Friday afternoon. Those would be offending rhododendron branches that I just cut and left laying in the front yard. Also, there were more in the back yard, as well as clippings from an un-named kind of bush that served as a test run for my battery powered hedge trimmers that I didn’t think worked. It’s been sitting un-used in the basement for two years. Who knew?

So, I cleaned that all up, and caused little pieces of grass to fly all over the place, and discovered some new species of plants growing in our ‘flower garden’ that I didn’t know we had. It was exciting to have time to do that. It was pleasing and made me very tired. I sweat a great deal so had to take another shower. With soap this time.

We didn’t sit long before deciding it was time for bed.

This morning, on the way to church, we stopped by Dan & Jennie’s house so I could turn their water heater back on. I worked a bit on Friday and turned it off because the kids had gone camping for the weekend at Big Eddy in Vernonia. Seemed like a waste of power to have it running, especially when I was turning the water off and on. The little work I did was to make sure the sink was level and secure it firmly to the wall. Still lots more to do, but it won’t happen until Monday afternoon. That’s because I get to go to the VA in Hillsboro bright and early tomorrow morning to find out how long it’s going to be before I go completely blind. I’m told it could be many years. Maybe I just need new glasses. I’ll find out because this visit is actually my annual checkup, not for the diabetic retinopathy test results. Though I’m sure that will be discussed. More on that later as I learn more.

Just in case it’s a bad diagnosis, I’ve been practicing braille. That’s not easy to do when you can’t feel anything with most of your finger tips. Most of my practice is on bathroom doors, and the ATM drive through. Regarding that, I’ve always thought it was silly to have braille at ATM drive throughs. I mean, how could a blind person possibly find that useful? I have this vision of a blind person driving up to the ATM with, perhaps, their cane sticking out of the driver’s window, or just sticking their arm out waiting for it to hit something. Then, when that happens, they feel around until they find the braille instructions, pull out their ATM card, stick it out the window, and drop it on the ground, like I do. Then, since they are alone, they have to get out of their car and search for the card. When they find it, they don’t get back in the car, they just face the machine and reorient themselves, finding all the various openings, and swipe their card. Since the ATM doesn’t talk, they have to swipe their card both ways to ensure the magnetic strip is facing the correct direction. Again, since the ATM doesn’t talk, they have to guess at what’s on the screen, unless they signed up for, and took, the ACLU sponsored program that explains everything a blind person should know about every possible version of ATMs world wide.

Eventually, they get their money, but they have to go on faith that what they got is what they requested. ATMs are almost always honest, so it’s probably correct.

Then they get in their car and drive off, running directly into the person in front of them who didn’t find it necessary to move along like a normal person should.

OK, I know. It’s not nice to make fun of blind folks, but I’m really not. I’m making fun of ‘situations’ where someone finds it necessary to cater to their ‘needs’ even if it’s dumb. I’ll tell you right now, when I go blind, Diane’s going to do all that stuff, not me. Just like she does now. I’m not allowed to use the ATM.

After church, we went to Zhens for some great Chinese food. We love that place, and I’ve talked about it before. Today I made a suggestion to our waitress that, considering the enormous size of their portions, they should just serve it in take out containers and save the need for washing plates. The problem, however, is that, since the take home container is totally full after eating, they’d have to serve the other part on a plate, anyway. Really. Here’s proof …

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After lunch, we took a trip to the St. Helens water front to see what was going on. Happily, The Maritime Heritage Festival was still in progress, and we got to watch the waterski show. From the car.

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What fun. I got out and went down to sit with an older gentleman on the rocks. He was taking lots of pictures. I learned that he has a little shop in town where he sells postcards that have his photos on them. They are all from the Columbia County area. Gotta look this guy up and see what he’s got.

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We must have been there for an hour, or so. During that time we watched more than a few cargo ships go up and down the river, and watched the sternwheeler, Portland, sail up the Columbia, heading back home, no doubt. Very picturesque and peaceful.

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… and, here’s some of the routine traffic that transits the river past our quiet little corner of paradise …

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Thinking about comments from at least two of you, I did some research on the internet about publishing written works. There’s a lot of info out there about doing it and I’m absolutely sure most of them require a fee in association with their TGTBT offers. You don’t get that data until you provide your email address, which I didn’t. TGTBT, by the way, is my newest acronym for Too Good To Be True. It’s not original, just shorter. I’m sure there’s info out there for free, too, and I don’t have a problem with people providing information for a fee. It’s business. I might just use an Apple app I found that allows me to publish to iBooks. I’ve had it for a couple of years, so maybe it’s time to check it out.

First, however, I need something to write about. Sitting down to write a story, something with structure, is difficult. Nothing I do has structure, writing or otherwise. And I lie a lot. So, I’m limited to fiction. Being limited it difficult. Now all of this is a quandary.

The pie is done so I have to quit. It’s a cherry one. My favorite.

VA, Village Inn, and the ReStore Store

Today Diane drove me to my PT appointment at the VA Hospital on Pill Hill in Portland. I endured about 45 minutes of severe pain from EB then we went to the Village Inn, on Wielder Avenue, near the Lloyd Center, for breakfast. From there we went to the Habitat For Humanity ReStore store near Mall 205, which is, oddly, near I-205.

At the ReStore store we purchased some different festive ceramic tiles for the bathroom project, but all we went there for was to see if they had any pedestals that might fit the sinks Diane and Jennifer purchased last week. They didn’t, but we learned they allow returns.

So, while Daniel and I worked on the bathroom, to secure the overlayment flooring, Diane and Jennifer returned to the ReStore store to return the sinks and pedestals in favor of ones that match. This meant, of course, that they timed it just perfect for Portland’s rush hour traffic on Friday afternoon. They returned around 6:30 pm after stopping at Fred Meyer in Scappoose for salad to go with the lasagna that Lydia cooked. They got a watermelon, too. It was all very, very good.

As mentioned above, Daniel and I secured the layer of flooring, to which we will glue the linoleum. Because of that, it has to be absolutely smooth, with no nicks and divots due to the screws used, all of which were secured a tiny bit below the surface of the wood. Daniel used floor leveling compound to fill those divots, and the cracks between the board. Tomorrow we can see about cutting the linoleum. I’ve been wanting to do that for days, now. Just cut some linoleum. It doesn’t have to fit. I just want to cut it. With my knife.

While waiting for Diane and Jennifer to return, after we had done what we could do in the bathroom, I watched TV with Lydia and found out what I’ve been missing. We watched “The New Girl” which is all about sex and weird relationships. There are morals in there somewhere, but all of them are pretty loose ones. It’s funny on the same lines as “The Big Bang Theory” which Diane and I really like. I think there are 22 episodes stored on the DVR for later viewing, when we have a chance to sit down at home. Lately that’s been difficult.

I need to mow the yard again, too. The grass continues to grow even though we haven’t watered it all year. It’s still kinda green, too.

Did I mention hat Daniel and Jennifer laid out the new tile in a desired pattern for the wall? They did it wrong, of course, because some of the new tiles we got have a kind of rorschach pattern on them, and they are all the same. Lydia and her OCD-ness fixed it by ensuring all the patterns were lined up in the same direction. It’s going to look right nice when done. That will happen one of these days. I keep telling Jennifer that but I don’t think she believes me. She’s resigning herself to a life with nights interrupted by children using their bathroom who don’t know how to close doors quietly and who don’t realize gravity takes over when you let go of the toilet lid.

That’s it for today. Gotta save the cat from Panzee now.

St. Helens Under Attack

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It’s finally happened. With the onset of summer, Portland People have invaded the sleepy hamlet of St. Helens causing the need for support from local National Guard troops. They began patrolling the streets last Saturday to ensure the tranquility of this river town is not overcome by late night revelers who swarmed the public docks with their big fancy boats. Local merchants are not bothered are supporting a petition to disband the Guard and let the revelers be citing that there have been no arrests in the past three days and only six local residents have been injured. So far.

This is, of course totally untrue, a figment of my imagination, a fabrication. The picture was taken at the Kiwanis Parade.