Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taiwan Housing

Looking through some photos that I took back in March, I came across these.

Taiwan penthouse (a deeeluxe apartment in the skyyyy-yyy-yy), taken from my Taipei hotel. Lots of cinder blocks and corrugated stainless steel. And soot. Plenty of soot.
Which still beats this, taken outside of Taichung:
Why bother to knock down a building when you're widening a road? The remaining structure makes a great place to hang a few banner ads.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Things I Miss About Monona

Getting ice cream at Monona Bait & Ice Cream.
Tacked onto the front of a typical 1950s ranch house (and likely occupying the spot formerly used for the house's garage), Monona Bait & Ice Cream was always a fun destination for Celeste & I to pedal to on summer nights. Serving only the best ice cream from UW Madison's Babcock Hall dairy, it was always a treat to buy a scoop or two and then walk across Monona Drive to the park on the shores of the lake.

Make mine a scoop of chocolate peanut butter please.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Down on the Street

This late-70s "bay window" bus is yet another one of the many VW vans that have seemingly failed to disappear from our local streets. A nice, era-correct shade of green; I wonder if it has the oh-so-70s orange/green plaid fabric underneath those seat covers.

Sure looks fresher than one of the other bay window busses that lives in our neighborhood.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Those Wacky Kiwis

First they give us Flying Nun Records, now they give us this. I want one for my backyard.

Replicating Winter

Nothing quite like the refreshing feeling you get when spreading your toes between ~5 lbs of leftover ice from the cooler.

I Weap For Are Nashun

From Jalopnik.com...
to which I can only say...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vintage Danville, IL Postcard

I found this image a couple of weeks ago when I surfed over to the Wikipedia entry on the small city in Central IL that I lived in from June 10th, 1977 'til June 9th, 1985.
The first non-kid's movie I remember seeing was at the Fischer Theater (c. 1884), pictured on the right. Star Wars as a six year old in the summer of 1977 was mind-blowing.

A few doors south of the Fischer one can faintly see a SEARS sign, the store that my dad was the Merchandise Manager of for seven years. The drugstore across the street from the Fischer (surprisingly not a Walgreens) was Alexander's when I lived there. The last of a now-extinct breed - a family owned sporting goods store.

I don't miss Danville one bit but I do have some very fond memories of growing up in that small city.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We're Baaaack...

grrrls, picnic lunch off of Hwy 1 in Malibu

After a week on the road - and no bouts of carsickness, we've made it back to Carlsbad. I'll try to post some pix and such within the next few days. It's good to be home - even if home doesn't quite feel like home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Toll Change

Back before the days of the Illinois Toll Authority's iPass system (and before they had video survelliance at every tool both), when you had to throw a fistfull of change to open the gates on the TriState, Necco Wafers were often found in my car.
Why would I have these horrible-tasting "candies"? Well, when I started terrorizing the suburbs in my mom's sweet turd-brown 1981 Buick Skylark (powered by the mighty Iron Duke 4-banger) in the mid-80s, WLUP Chicago DJ combo of Steve Dahl and Garry Meier started talking about how these putrid pastel pucks were the *exact* dimensions of a US quarter.

Now of course I would *never* gyp the bottomless pit of Springfield or the Illinois Toll Authority out of their rightful .40, but from what I am told the technique was to stack two on top of each other and slide them down the basket so that they wouldn't break on the way down. Bingo, you just overpaid by ten cents! I also heard that it was a good idea to have .40 in coinage on hand just in case it didn't work - which might happen about 25% of the time.

Each roll holds 40 wafers - equivalent to a $10 roll of quarters. Not a bad investment, as long as you didn't get caught.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Down on the Street

Another cool car - this one a domestic - that lives in the neighborhood. A 1970 El Camino wearing original black California plates (meaning that it's lived it's entire life in this rust-free climate).
This Elco has been hard to snatch as it's often living underneath a car cover, as shown in the bed of this car/truck (cruck?).
Nothing fancy here, just simple white paint, Chevy "Rally" wheels and likely a small block 350 engine. Perfect for cruising El Camino Real. Thanks to Chevelle/El Camino expert Ron for IDing the model year.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Vintage Wisconsin Postcard

Since we're currently on vacation, here's a vacation-themed postcard from my favorite state in this great land.
Titled "The Nation's Summer Vacation-Land", this card dates from 1944. Wisconsin Dells, Interstate Park, Copper Falls State Park and Devil's Lake State Park are all called out in captions. Now to the back...
"Wisconsin, area 55,265 square miles, the 'Land of Lakes,' fishing streams, deep pine forests, diversity of scenery, good fishing, extremely interesting state parks, is the ideal vacation land."

Dear Friend -

Thanks for the nice card. I hope you (strike through) this one is new to you. We are having spring weather. Write again.
Mrs. Aug. Van Acker
Ft. Atkinson
R2 Wis

(addressed to)
Mrs. Phyllis A McLeod
2255 W Diversey Ave
Chicago-47 IL

If Google Street View is correct, that nice Chicago two-flat is still standing proud on Diversey.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On Vaca

(artist's rendering)

Howdy to my three or four readers. We're out on the road for the next week-ish, visiting friends up north. I've pre-loaded a few updates, but my timing may be sporadic over the next few days. Check the Twitter updates on the right side of the page as those are easy to update while on the road.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Five Perfect Things - Road Trip Edition

We're heading up California's Central Coast on a trek to the Bay Area starting tomorrow morning. Here goes with a few things that'll make a great trip even better...

Driving Albums

As I previously wrote, music is an essential part of any driving trip for me. I simply can't hit the road without great music as it motivates me, keeps me alert and forms the soundtrack to so many great memories that are gathered while racking up the miles.

Rocket Box
Our trusty nine year-old Yakima Rocket Box has been a godsend, especially when our "large" car consisted of an efficiently-sized Subaru Forester that generally had a large black lab riding in the cargo area.

These days we're fortunate enough to have Klaus the EuroVan, so the box isn't quite as necessary. However, it does allow us to stretch our legs in the passenger compartment without stuff getting in the way. We also don't have to shuffle the camping gear around as much when we configure the van for dining a the fold-up table or sleeping in the van's bed.

Polarized Sunglasses
I'm constantly amazed at the fantastic glare reduction afforded by my Oakley Five(squared) sunglasses. The key are the polarized lenses that drastically reduce strain on my (very) light sensitive eyes.

I wasn't fully sold on the benefits of GPS when I bought my low-end Garmin last summer prior to making the move out to California. However, I've grown to love using it on longer trips to unfamiliar areas. Especially useful is the ability to find gas stations, restaurants, loging and other points of interest. Still, I'd be foolish to leave home without the excellent Michelin road atlas and a California Gazzeteer complementing the technology.

Red Bull Sugar Free
"Go juice" for someone that (sadly) never acquired a taste for coffee.

and one bonus Almost Perfect Thing...
VW EuroVan MV
(obviously an older photo - it's never that lush out here!)

Our EuroVan MV (Multi Van) is a great road trip machine. It's especially roomy, fitting seven adults comfortably (try cramming seven "regular" Americans into a three-seater bench in any typical minivan) and having the added benefits of a fold-out table, snap-in curtains, accessory slide-in window screens and the pièce de résistance - the previously mentioned rear bench seat that folds into an almost queen-size bed that's far more comfortable than you'd ever imagine a "sofa sleeper" could be. Powered by a peppy and wonderful sounding 24v 2.8l VR6 engine and giving the driver and passengers commanding views of the scenery through panoramic windows while perched upon seats that are designed for all-day stints behind the wheel.

So how does it fall short of perfection? Mainly due to fuel consumption. US-spec EuroVans only received the 201 HP gas engine while other world markets were able to choose from three diesels, netting mileage figures over 30 MPG. If we're lucky we'll likely get about 17-19 MPG (on premium fuel to boot) during this trip. But still, we plan on holding on to this rig for the long haul.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gear Coming Outta My Ears

I'm amazed just how much "stuff" we've loaded into Klaus the WonderVan. Off the top of my head, it reads something like this...

1 4-person tent (yeah, we could all cram into the van, but tents are fun)
3 sleeping pads
3 sleeping bags
3 pillows
2 Mexican blankets
1 camp lantern (battery powered)
3 camp chairs
1 3 D-cell Maglight flashlight
1 large cooler
1 camp stove
2 small propane bottles
3 dish, cup and utensil sets
2 small titanium stock pots (at least they're lightweight)
1 really cool new camp cookset
food (I could make an entire boring list of that alone)
1 car GPS unit
1 California Gazetter
1 US atlas
2 iPods
2 cell phones
1 laptop computer
1 external hard drive
1 digital SLR camera
2 digital point-and-shoot cameras
3 Electra bicycles
1 hitch-mounted bike rack
3 helmets
1 jug o' water
1 small rolling duffle
1 large rolling duffle
1 day pack
1 juvenile day pack
2 bodyboards
1 beach umbrella
1 pile of reading materials
4 Webkinzzz stuffed animals
1 4500 lb van into which to put it all

Of course I'm certainly missing many of the other things we packed for the trip. Man, when did it get so complicated to "get away from it all"?

I'm still looking forward to the trip. Maybe I should try to fit the kayaks on the roof. Hmm...

Water Rocket!

A favorite toy of mine growing up was a water & air-powered rocket. Well, when Celeste and I were at Fry's over the weekend I came across a pretty close reproduction of the rocket that I launched dozens and dozens of times on hot summer days while living in Danville, IL (not a city worth visiting, trust me on this). The main difference is that my rocket had a translucent red nose cone and a red and white pump. Why do I remember this sort of minutiae?
five bucks, how could I say no?

We filled 'er up about half way with water (instructions state between 1/3 to 1/2 full) and pumped it 15 times to generate the needed air pressure.
Of course I never pumped mine more than 15 times (tongue planted firmly in cheek). After making sure the coast was clear we counted down for launch. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
LIFTOFF! With soaked shirts and firmly-planted smiles we watched it sail 10-12 feet up in the air. Not only sideways (as pictured), but on a few occasions actually up. Of course I remember my old rocket sailing hundreds and hundreds of feet, scraping the clouds hovering above Central Illinois. But everything seems bigger when you're a kid.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Because Man Cannot Live on Beer Alone

Beer isn't the only great liquid that flows from the Midwest.
Captain Curt's Famous Boss Sauce, straight outta south Cottage Grove Road in Chicago makes what is arguably the best BBQ sauce in the world.

Check out his site here. Thanks for the gift, brother Dan!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Green Lake Super 8, 1983!

My brother has been digitizing some of our old family super 8s over the past few months. Here's the first of hopefully many.

I'm pretty sure that this reel was shot in 1982 (note - just confirmed as '83, I've made edits). Our cousins, the Bloeckers, would have a week's vacation overlapping with our two weeks up at my grandparent's place on wonderful Green Lake, WI. Having many kids around always made for the best weeks, the week when it was just our family and the cousins weren't there was pretty mellow. Kind of hard to play hide-and-go-seek, kick the can, ghost in the graveyard or rag tag when it's just you and your brother. Back-in-the-day tubing consisted of wrapping a ski rope and handle around an old truck inner tube and towing it behind a Lund fishing boat sporting 20 HP. No 300HP Ski Nautiques for us!

I'm the scrawny toe head kid second from the left. Behind me is cousin Jeff while my cousin Kimmy is in front of me. In front of her is my brother Dan while cousin Lindy is in the front, clearing water from her face.

The video looks a little crummy as had to compress the file down quite a bit (from 3.2GB to 6.5MB) to fit YouTube's file size limits. If anyone wants a disc with the uncompressed file, let me know.

The sailboat at the end was bought from a Sears in Indianapolis with help from my parents. I saved up a few hundred bucks from mowing lawns, delivering newspapers and shoveling snow (all things kids no longer do) to pay for half of this plastic-covered foam Snark that sported a whopping 60 square foot sail. Still I managed to teach myself to sail and have a great time doing it, even if the wind wasn't blowing this particular day.
the "Banana Split" coming in to port

Best Travel Center Name Ever

I've been clearing out my iPhone's "camera roll" and came across this one - taken back in March outside of Taichung. And with our road-tripping vacation up California's coast later this week, it's the perfect time to post.
A thoroughly modern "oasis" (as Illinoisans call 'em) off the highway. Delicious foods too, even though I didn't recognize a thing. Lots of fish-related items. Not sure how glad the embankment air was though, I didn't have time to check it out.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pink it and Shrink It II

A timely find, we saw this at Fry's this morning - a computer towers and cables for the ladies! Defying Fry's NO CAMERAS policy, I snagged a quick shot of the tacky display. Oh, and the USB, power and data cables aren't just pink, they're also oh-so-cutely adorned with crappy and tacky plastic crystal jewels.

Strong Enough For a Man...

Those two readers of mine* that lived through the 70s know that tagline.

Anyway, a lazy (and somewhat accurate) term for developing women's-specific gear is to "pink it and shrink it". Make it somewhat smaller and give it a girly color and the ladies will spend, spend, spend as something was developed specifically for them. Back in WI I came across these on sale at the Monona Menards:

OMG!!1!, isn't that 7/8-scale hammer just soooo cute?? The bottom set is labeled for repairing and redecorating. Not for remodeling or renovating.

I wonder if it was going to be free after rebate in a Sunday circular.

*also my only readers.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Camp Prep - Stage 1

With a trip up California's Central Coast and on to the Bay Area planned for next week, I had to make a trip up to the attic to retrieve all of our camping gear.

While it looks like a messy pile of plastic and nylon, there *is* some method to the madness. Really. We'll be going through the crap this weekend to determine what's needed and what can stay behind. Not pictured is the Yakima roof-top box into which a majority of these items will be carried. That has been sitting alongside the house for months, now speckled with bee poop.

Another Day, Another Tree

Celeste has really been in to climbing trees lately - just as I was when I was her age. So even though I was dog tired Friday evening after a long week at work (thankfully at a job I love), I happily obliged when she asked to go out hunting for good trees to climb. Most of the trees out here are pretty slender and not that tall - no nice canopies to be found. So we hopped on our Electra Hell Betty tandem and pedaled to a local park. Well, I did most of the pedaling, she mostly rode with her feet planted on the bike's top tube.
what time is it? tree:30.

The park was somewhat of a bust as far as good climbing trees are concerned, but we did find three fresh tennis balls for Juno, the World's Fattest Lab. And I got a great smile out of my grrrl when she did find one decent tree.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bird in a Tree

We went down to the Carlsbad State Beach Campground the other night as some friends of ours were able to secure a primo oceanfront spot when they made their reservations - back in JANUARY. Celeste found a nice bush to perch in.

Down On The Street

Found this gem of a Toyota FJ40 down at the Poinsettia Plaza Ralph's (The World's Most Expensive Grocery Store (R)) a couple of weeks back.
All of these disappeared into clouds of iron oxide in the Midwest decades ago. When living in Boulder I had the chance to buy a solid 1973 example from a neighbor for the whopping sum of $2000. Faded baby blue paint and a brake system that needed an overhaul, but complete, straight and rust free. Every time I see one of these on the road I kick myself for passing on the opportunity.
Sure looks better than the numerous FJ Cruisers that call North County home.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cool Shop - One On One Bicycle Studio, MPLS

Back in February when I took a business trip back to the Midwest, I was fortunate to visit One On One Bicycle Studio in Minneapolis.

Part espresso bar, part art studio, part bike shop, part junkyard and all cool, One On One is one of the few bike shops that I could hang out all day in.

Run by Gene O, a former Bianchi pro mountain biker and winner of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival classic MTB race. Here's a wall of Gene's Bianchi single speeds adorning the coffee shop/bike shop.
For me the real treat was walking downstairs into the basement "boneyard". He's got hundreds of bicycle carcasses and a few dozen complete bikes. It's a pick-your-part for the two-wheeled set. (advance apologies for the poor photo quality - iPhone + low light = crap pix)

Bins line one wall with parts sorted by type. Shifters, cranks, stems, seatposts, etc. Everything was reasonably priced. While you're not going to find vintage Campagnolo parts down there, they should have what you need to keep a mid-priced mountain or commuter bike on the road.

"Decent", non-damaged frames are also available. They may be ugly and dated but are completely serviceable.
Also downstairs is a pile of semi-collectible bikes. These bikes are sold complete, thankfully not to be parted out.
if I remember correctly, that Monark was $200-$250 or so

I didn't really need any parts, but did score a couple of classic Schwinn stem-mounted "S" shifters like the ones pictured below for $3 each. Score!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wisconsin Souveniers

When I was back in Motown (Monona) last week, I managed to find a little bit of time to make a Woodman's run. I've blogged about Woodman's before - excellent prices and selection. This time my goal was to score some beverages to take back home to Carlsbad.

Since my bag was closing in on the magic 50 lb weight limit on the trip to Madison, I only grabbed one twelver.

And it's a great one. Capitol Brewery's Wisconsin Amber - the "Beer for Badgers", from Middleton, WI. Now I'm not a UW graduate, so I'm not technically a Badger, but for all intents and purposes, Wisconsin is where I have felt most at home during my life. A self-described honorary Sconnie.

Canned beer travels well, I've flown back from Europe and Asia with various canned as well as some bottled beers with no problems. Same goes here, but I am somewhat surprised that the MSN TSA officials didn't snag a few for their morning breaks.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Noble Canyon MTB Ride

A few Saturdays ago my friend Derek brought me to a classic San Diego mountain biking destination - Noble Canyon.

Located 30 miles due east of San Diego in the Cleveland National Forest, a little bit south and east of California's beautiful Anza-Borrego State Park.

Since we were a little bit pressed for time, we were at the trailhead, ready to ride at the tree-rimmed Pine Valley parking lot about 8:00 that morning.
There are a few variations of the ride that can be done, with many others doing the ride as a shuttle. We chose to "earn the turns" by making the trek up the steep road to the trail head.

Pine Valley Road is a narrow paved road that climbs from the parking lot (elevation 3700') to the start of the trail - about four miles long and 1600' up. The climb is pretty constant, but at times became a 20% grade. Aside from other riders shuttling up, there's zero auto traffic.
one of the steeper parts of the road

looking back down

still more climbing - see road cut across the slope

The group spread apart on the climb with everyone pretty much finding the pace that worked best for them.

After the long climb we finally hit the dirt.

There were a couple of other groups that were taking the trail on the same day, a little map check was in order. Note the dead trees - a forest fire swept through the area back in 2003.

The trail starts out as relatively mild (but fun) singletrack in a pine forest.
Surprisingly there were a few small creek crossings.

About a third of the way down is where the technical and rocky sections start.

pushin' back up a loose and steep section

Most of the trail is exposed with scrub brush providing zero shade along the way. Bring lots of water - and it's probably best not to ride it in the middle of the summer.

Towards the bottom the trail is mostly buffed smooth and super-grippy. Here's Derek pushing the pedals after a long morning in the saddle.

The Pivot worked admirably; an efficient pedaler with just the right amount of travel (140mm) for a longer ride on rougher terrain.

And finally a map of the ride, ridden clockwise starting on the bottom left corner.
mileage - 13.13 miles
time - 2 hours, 46 minutes
2500' elevation gain
max speed - 41.5 MPH

Here's a link to more info on the trail.