Sunday, June 1, 2014

The "Grindstone"



I typically do not write about my work in this Blog but for the past 3 months, work has been an overwhelming factor, allowing little time for anything else. I've been faced with 65 - 100 hour work weeks.  Been required to be on work sites 9 - 12 + hours a day, often 7 days a week, and then accomplish massive amounts of documentation (for the Federal Govt.) in the evening hours. This typically makes each work day a 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM affair. Weekends, if I'm not working in the field, are used to catch up on what paperwork is behind. At one point I was so overwhelmed that I had to develop a 3 page spreadsheet just to list the documentation items that were delinquent and the status of each item. I am working with a young Federal Govt. Engineer. All contract specifics are intimately scrutinized and expected to be carried out to the letter. In the "old days" we called many of the contract items "boiler plate" as they were in the contract but never really enforced or addressed. Not the case anymore. Plus the Govt. now requires contractor pay submittals / daily reports  via a secured Govt. web site. The focus is to eventually arrive at a "paperless" system. This goal is not realistic as all Govt. site entries must be "backed up" with documentation to accompany all specifics. At one point I was required to enter 6 - 7 different Daily Reports per day for different Project Sites while I was only physically present at one of the sites. Needless to say, I was at the mercy of other QC employees on their sites to keep the flow of information coming to me. The majority of the documentation "funneled" to me eventually. Add that the Govt. requires / expects all documentation be submitted within 24 hours, and the task is impossible. Luckily enough common sense occasionally prevails and a little more time was allowed.
The Project has been in 14 different National Parks / Monuments across all of New Mexico so not only are the work hours long, but some weeks we've had to drive 1000+ miles. Dragging all my office equipment from motel to motel and setting up every time we move, usually 2 - 3 times a week, is a task in itself.

Thankfully the Project is winding down and the 50 + work force is now down to 10 or so workers in one location at a time. Another 3 weeks and the madness will end....then we're off to a similar Federal Project in South Dakota. The "fun" never ends.....
You would think that working in the National Parks would allow some site seeing time, but after 6+ different visits to Carlsbad Caverns over the past year, we did not once have the time to tour the caverns. Chaco Canyon at sun rise was awesome though......
[click on photos to enlarge]

 These Vultures would roost each night in these trees. The same morning my Wife was at a "flagging" station right where this photo was taken. The morning was dead still and not a breath of breeze....Suddenly, the bushes in front of her started violently shaking and a tiny area of  "wind(?)" came up from the creek bottom and right into her where she was standing....the "wind" then instantly vanished after accosting her. She said it felt like an "entity" had passed over her. She was actually a little shaken by the experience....strange....




My wife recently had a medical emergency, ending up in a New Mexico hospital for a few days. Thankfully she is now doing OK, but while in the hospital we found that her insurance was not yet if effect. We'd received new insurance cards 6 weeks earlier (with no explanation) so were under the impression her insurance was in effect. Crap....

Enough whining.....life is good and we are very fortunate to be in decent health and working as so many folks are without work / health. My Wife always reminds me of the "off time" we have in the Winter to keep me going during my "low" personal  moments. Seems that work is getting tougher as we approach 60 years of age. Just don't have the physical / mental stamina we used to. But...I've "made my bed" and no one is forcing me to sleep in it...lol.

We did get a 50 mile sidecar ride in a few Sundays ago. Went across the Rio Grande a few times on our route...The river was running pretty full compared to last Fall, when it was just a trickle. I try to at least start a couple of the bikes every weekend, especially the Honda Gold Wing...it does not like sitting for very long and the engine likes to be "run up / warmed" up every 10 days or so. I've drained the carbs on my old /5 as it did not want to readily start a few weeks back. I'll get it running when I am able to get in some riding time later this Summer.



 We have a nice view from our currant RV site. Since we have to travel back and forth across the state, we have left our rig in a central location and commute "home" on weekends when we can.




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Death Valley Airhead Beemers Rally - Furnace Creek - Days 3-4-5

Our riding time today was quite short....only 120 miles or so. Leaving Tecopa Hot Springs, we all went our separate ways. A couple of our friends had never been through the "Badwater" entrance into Death Valley so they went that route. We wanted to get to the camping area and get set up early so we took the shorter route in.



I always look forward to the "drop" into Death Valley from the Junction. Temperatures typically rise significantly on the way in.


We had a few clouds but temperatures were in the 80's.

The "Inn at Furnace Creek" boasts rooms for hundreds of dollars if you can get one....I've never tried. Even the tiny "cheap" rooms at Furnace Creek run over $200.00 per night.....crazy.

Approaching Furnace Creek.

Arriving fairly early allowed us a choice camping spot with a table. Soon other aquantances began showing up and it was like "old home" week with friends all around. The hard sided cooler from the trailer was nice to have.


"Check In" also had t-shirts and other "Airhead" goods for sale.



Someone trailered in a "rat" built BMW hard tail just for fun.
I have access to a few frames so maybe I'll slap together a "beater" one of these days. I have a spare engine, transmissions, final drives, etc.....on second thought...probably not....


This guy got tangled up with something on the road and tore off his cross over pipe and front turn signal. Lucky as it could have been much worse. He thought it was a piece of pipe or "something". His story was a bit sketchy...?...I am thinking maybe he hit a reflector along the road shoulder, but details weren't offered.


A nice old conversion "trailer queen" with a later model drive train. Hauled in via pickup / trailer. Very tastefully done, but apparantly not ridden much, unless he cleans it constantly.


A couple old vintage singles about too. Both were very nice correct restorations.


Another "conversion" bike.....

The typical morning "chair pile" which happens every year at Agua Caliente during New Years....the same "gremlins" must be about?

Pool side at the showers. Great view of the snow capped mountains in the distance. Temperature at the pool was well into the upper 80's. Had to take a quick swim.

We spent 3 nights at the Furnace Creek camp ground. Planned on traveling with some other folks over to the Panamint Valley but Darian (my Wife) had a medical issue (kidney stones) while we were there. She had a couple of very rough days and more extended camping wasn't sounding very inviting. She's a tough cookie and "soldiered through" the episode.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Death Valley - Tecopa - Day 2

Our first night out was a pleasant one with warm temperatures and zero wind. Camp "pack up" is about an hour task, so by the time we were ready to go the temps were in the 60's. We wandered into 29 Palms Ca. for a fuel fill and a quick McDonald's breakfast. Darian needed to stop at a pharmacy but after 20 - 30 minutes of searching we never could find anything resembling one. So...off we went towards Amboy.

[Click on images to enlarge]
We knew a few other rider friends were in the same area.....as we went over "Sheep Hole Pass" I looked to the right and saw a large rock formation and parking area....I told Darian, "I bet that is where our buddies camped last night", as they are "stealth" campers quite a bit of the time.
Approaching Amboy, the highway crosses through a mining area. I went to some satellite images to see the full extent of the mining in the area.

Wide open desert and part of the "29 Palms Marine Combat Training Area".

"Roys" at Amboy....Amboy is mainly a railroad town with a few sparse residences.  Gas is sometimes available....sometimes not.....

Our route took us East...then North up Kelbaker Rd. towards "Kelso"...another old railroad junction. We crossed under Interstate 40 and headed into Kelso.


A quick stop right before we crossed under I-40.The "wide open" country offers some fantastic views.
"Kelso" was quite a populated area during WW2. Now....not so much. The Historic Railroad
Depot had a functioning store and cafe last Winter...now closed. We took a break and visited 
with some other riders from Las Vegas.
 
We hit Baker Ca. about 2:00 pm and ran into our biker friends at a gas station... and sure enough...they had camped the night before right where I thought they had....then off to Tecopa Hot Springs....
    
The Hot Springs water table has suffered from the droughts.....one set of pools at a higher elevation was closed, but others were still in operation. Tecopa is a pretty desolate place but the view from our campsite was excellent.

Our Tecopa "no frills" campsite:

The view was worth a thousand bucks...as was the camaraderie with our friends.....
Our new large tent is great. Only 4 poles for the main tent and 2 for the rain fly. Assembly of the tent only takes a few minutes. We never did use the rain fly over the week's use. The tent has a large gear storage loft overhead which was capable of holding coats, towels, clothes or whatever. Also has wall mounted storage pockets and water bottle holders. It has two different collapsable "shelving" units which hang in the corners...one with three shelves and a fabric "mirror". My Wife loves the tent. Also room for chairs if wanted.
The tent was not exposed to any high winds over the course of our use so far. The tent has a very high profile so high winds would be an issue. The rainfly has a "kite" appearance and could be a problem if not securely tied down. I read some reviews of the tent in high winds and it faired well.....as long as it was tied down properly / securely.
The tent is quite large when stowed and likely too big to haul on the bike without the trailer. It is pretty heavy as the material used is quite thick. The poles are a very large diameter fiberglass...and long.

We were treated to a long air show with a couple of A-10 "Wart Hogs" in training going round and round over our heads for an hour or so......

Awesome aircraft....
The Hot Springs were great and we enjoyed our overnight stay...."Thanks Dave". (Buddy Dave picked up the tab for the night)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Death Valley Airhead Rally 2014 - Day 1

Fantastic weather prevailed for this years Airhead Beemers Club 21st. Annual Death Valley Rendezvous.
This Rally is the "Oldest & Lowest".
We traveled a circuitous route heading first West then North.
["Right "click" on photos to enlarge]
I made a few stops on the first section of the ride to check things over. All was well.
We headed North on CA. S34 to CA. 78 through the Glamis dunes area. This is our typical route to the Salton Sea area. For a change, and better roads we decided to take CA. 86 North, which routes up the West side of the Salton Sea.


Unfortunately I failed to think about the Border Patrol Check Station on that route. The traffic back up was over a mile long and barely moving. The bike got pretty hot inching ahead for 30 minutes or so to cover the
mile.

We were at 131 feet below sea level at this point.
Finally getting through the Station we headed North and then took "Box Canyon Road" which cuts across to I-10 and into Joshua Tree Nat. Park.

The road follows the west shore of the Salton Sea for most of the distance of 60 miles.
We turned East at Mecca CA. after a fuel stop. The sidecar / trailer combination was getting around 26 MPG. The same as the sidecar got without the trailer. The machine seems to like pulling the weight, rather than carrying it all. 

 The Box Canyon Road follows through a series of washes to the I-10. Pretty cool formations along the way. During a rain event the road often floods and is closed.

The above photo was taken through the side cars windshield.

 The road goes over I-10 and leads directly into Joshua Tree National Park.

Fuel availability is nil.  We've ridden these routes in the past so always have fuel stops planned in advance. I also carried an extra 1.25 gallons on the sidecars step....never did need it. Some sections are over 120 miles of remote areas along the trip.

 Joshua Tree is fairly cheap for motorcycle entry....only $5.00.

The desert is diverse and lots of different fauna to be seen.


The roads are in pretty good shape on the route we took. We only covered a small area of the Park The Western most section is supposed to be very scenic also. We have never ridden to the Western side.

The "Cholla Gardens". These cacti are not something you want to get too close to. The needles almost seem to "jump out" at you. I've brushed against some in the past. The needles are miserable to remove.


We decided to camp at "White Tank" Campground. $10.00 per night.


The rock formations are interesting in this area.


Darian & I took a little hike after setting up our campsite.






Great spot!


 The Western section of the Park has a campground called "Jumbo Rocks".....I think the area is similar to this but with much larger rock formations...climbers like to camp there and climb some of the formations. We'll have to make a point of visiting the Western side next time....


There are numerous trails throughout this area.





We had a very pretty sunset.......


 Just enough clouds for an interesting shot.


As the sun set...the full moon appeared.