Monday, November 23, 2020

Day 7 - Dan

I've had a long history with Yosemite. My aunt and uncle had a small vacation cabin in Foresta which is inside the park boundaries. I would visit them once in a while and camp out by myself at other times.

I was driving up in my Jeep late one evening, the cold seeping through my thin Army surplus field jacket. No top, no doors or windows, and most regrettably, no heater. Climbing up into the mountains only increased my misery as I reduced my speed to cut the wind chill factor.

A family in a station wagon flashed by and I, for a moment, wished I was just a little less radical. Then I thought to myself, “I'm the youth of America, master of the future, and everything else I can see before of me!” I sat up straighter, put the pedal to the metal, and roared off into the night.

When I got to my aunt and uncle's nobody was there. It was dark and I was cold. What to do?

I saw a light off in the forest and thought it must be somebody else's cabin. Mountain people are friendly and generous I reasoned. Surely they would take in the frozen nephew of Betty and 'Pad' Padilla for a night. Surely they had a warm couch I could sleep on until morning. Surely even a mug of hot chocolate for a weary traveler was possible.

I wasn't sure of the roads in this little community so I struck out cross-country with enough star light to avoid walking into trees. However, not enough light to see Crane Creek before I tumbled down the bank and into the water. Now I was really cold and miserable. I climbed up the other side continuing my quest for the light.

That's what I found, A LIGHT, hanging from a cord, attached to the A-Frame of an unbuilt house. Thus, I met Dan, who would become my lifelong friend. He was building the cabin but this was as far as he had gotten. He did, however, have some spare blankets he was willing to share and we ended up talking about life and carpentry into the night.

Dan was from San Francisco and had a real car with a real heater. He said he came up every other weekend and I was free to ride with him whenever I wanted to visit Betty and Pad.

A couple of weeks later he called me at work and said he was going up and asked if I wanted to ride with him. I accepted and it became a regular thing. Not to see my aunt and uncle but to help him build his cabin. Along with others we built it by hand over the next months and years. We would go up on Friday evening, work on Saturday and Sunday, then stop at the Pine Cone Restaurant in Merced for dinner on the way home. An interesting aside is that my mother worked as a waitress in that restaurant when she was a girl.

All who built it were free to use it with the exception of Dan's bedroom which was not only off limits but was too crammed with stuff to be usable anyway. 

Wherever I've been in the world that cabin has been a beacon of stability for me. Over 50 years of stories and misadventures have been witnessed by those walls. Maybe some of them will make it into these pages.



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Sunday, November 22, 2020

Day 6 - The Jeep

When I was living in San Francisco in the '60s I had an old World War II Jeep (MB Series) for a while. It had no top and no doors. What it had was a cracked windshield and a couple of bullet holes in the side. It was painted a ghastly green by some previous owner but I didn't care, it had 4-wheel drive and could take me to all the places I wanted to go.

My friend Chip and I used to drive down to Big Sur picking up any and all hitch hikers along the way. A jug of wine, a baggie of weed, a buck or two for gas; each sharing what we had to get a little further down the road. We camped out under the stars and told ourselves that we were free and that it would never end.

California was a lot less up tight back then. You could drive out to Ocean Beach and race up and down the sand chasing sea gulls. Another great idea that proved to be my undoing. While trying to have fun with a new girlfriend I got caught in the sand as the tide was coming in. By the time a truck came to tow me out the only thing to be seen was the top of the windshield. The tow truck drive handed me the hook and told me to swim out to the Jeep and connect it because he sure as hell wasn't going to do it.

Once on dry land I received a quick chemistry lesson. To wit: salt water does not play nice with copper wiring. The girlfriend stuck around for a while, the Jeep had to go.


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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Day 5 - The Vespa

The second important bike in my life was a motor scooter. A Vespa 160 GS. It belonged to a friend of by brother who was under orders to sell it because he had broken the rules once, or very many, too many times.

This was a disaster waiting to happen. Too much power, too little brakes, and absolutely no suspension to cope with the streets of San Francisco. Those little tires were never meant to deal with the craters euphemistically called pot holes.

The tiny tires also meant that cornering was always a challenge because leaning it too far over meant that it would scrape the bodywork. This would lever the back wheel off the pavement if one were not careful. Centrifugal force would immediately take over and fling the scooter and rider off the street and into the nearest stationary object. Ouch!

I didn't care. It was fun to blast through traffic, cutting in and out and in between the bigger cars and trucks. It was the '60s, the Haight-Ashbury generation, and all young people in San Francisco were supposed to act crazy!

The little wheels also meant that it was prone to doing wheelies whenever going up one of those famous hills. I once had a girl on the back and let out the clutch too fast. The Vespa wheelied, she fell off the back, hurled many bad words at me, and walked home. Alas, I never saw her again.

I did ride it to Yosemite one time. Remember, this is a 160cc machine, not the 50cc of my little Honda so I was not quite as crazy. Until the ride home …

There was a Corvette coming down the Altamont Pass at the same time I was. Now a Corvette and a Vespa are not usually in the same competition class but where he had the power, I had the maneuverability. I was cutting in and out, lane splitting before it was legal, doing anything I could to get ahead. Maybe he saw me or maybe he was just in a hurry but I was having the time of my life!

Until …

The engine seized!

Remember those little wheels? Let me tell you that they do not offer much stability when they are not turning. I managed to grab the clutch and keep it upright while I coasted to the side of the road. 50 miles to home in North Beach and I was wondering what I was going to do. Having nothing to lose I started kicking it over and over until it miraculously started. It must have overheated and seized but was able to restart once it cooled off. It didn't run very well but it got me home.

The following weekend I took it over to my friend Dan's place because he had a garage I could work in. I took out the engine and carefully cleaned it off so I could disassemble it. Then left it out on the sunny sidewalk to dry off while I went into his apartment to make a sandwich. He came in and said, “Wow, you've got it back together already?”

“No, I'm waiting for it to dry off so I can work on it.”

“Well it's not out there now.”

I ran out and, sure enough, it was gone. Vanished!

I called around but a replacement engine was more than I could afford so I sold the body for a little money and became a regular patron of the MUNI, San Francisco's bus and trolley system.



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Friday, November 20, 2020

Day 4 - My first Honda

Looking at a digital album of the motorcycles I've owned I'm amazed at the variety of interesting bikes I've had the pleasure to ride and the vast amount of adventures I've had on them.

Street bikes, dirt bikes, touring bikes, and what's come to be known as “adventure” bikes. Mostly Hondas but a smattering of Brit and Euro bikes to add flavor.

My first bike, a Honda C110. 50cc of awesome power! My dad wouldn't let me have a driver's license but did allow me to purchase this tiny tiddler.

It was a magic carpet for me. I used to sneak out of my bedroom window at night and push it down the street so he wouldn't hear it start. I would go up to Skyline Drive and rode along the ridge with the lights of San Francisco beckoning across the bay. I'd go for hours and miles until I was exhausted. Then return home to push it into the backyard, climb back through the window, and fall asleep to happy dreams of adventure.

The following summer, after convincing my parents that I wasn't crazy, I rode the bike down the Coast Highway (Rt 1) all the way to Disneyland. It took me 2 days to get there but I was in heaven. After a couple of days roaming around L.A. I got on and rode up to Yosemite. Trust me, the Tejon Pass is 10 times as long when you only have 5 1/2 horsepower. My aunt and uncle lived in Merced so I stopped there for the night.

I got in late and didn't want to wake anyone so I spread out my sleeping bag on the front lawn and fell asleep. My uncle liked to tell the story about how he thought one of his kids had left their sleeping bag out and was very shocked when it let out a scream when he tried to pick it up.

They fed me breakfast and offered opinions about the sanity of going anywhere, let alone Yosemite, on my little bike. However, I was not to be deterred and left in high spirits.

Past Briceburg the the old Yosemite Railroad roadbed parallels the highway on the far side of the Merced river. Since my bike had a high pipe it must be a dirt bike, right?!?!

Bouncing along the rutted and washed out path it was wasn't long before I went over the side. Luckily the bike only weighs ~160 pounds so I was able to drag it back up the bank and head back to Briceburg. Then up to Yosemite and my first of many, many visits to the valley medical clinic. They patched up the tear in my arm and offered their opinion about my mental capacity. It was beginning to seem like a familiar chorus.

A couple of nights camping out in the valley and hiking around the falls with my Kodak Instamatic made me feel the stirring of the great wanderlust that continues to this day.

It all started with a bike so small that it wouldn't get a second glance these days. But it was the start of a wonderful relationship between me, Honda, and the world!


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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Day 3 - Fire

I just read an interesting article on preventing California wildfires by Sashi McEntee, mayor of Mill Valley, CA. She states that people must take direct responsibility for their circumstances. Blaming climate change or other factors does not reduce the need for “Vegetation management, Evacuation planning, Early detection and alert systems, and Neighborhood preparedness”

I recall all the people who cheered the old ladies who chained themselves to trees and said something like, “Every tree is precious!”. There was another woman in Oregon who built a tree house and sequestered herself in it to prevent it from being cut down. Admirable at the time but creating a policy that has come to haunt us now.

Every tree is not precious. Some have to go so that others may stand. Nature takes care of this in a natural manner but humans seem to think they know better. No logging to thin the forest, no roads to create fire breaks, no natural fires to clear the underbrush.

Who or what will save the forests from all these good intentions? The Law of Unintentional Consequences dictates that the more we try save nature, the more we will destroy it.


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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Day 2 - The Book

Sitting down this morning I wrote ~250 words on the merits and limitations of a Vino 125 motor scooter for an internet forum. Good, but not what this writing challenge is intended for.

I am proposing to write an educational tech book. The premise is that most books teach in isolation. As if any real world technology was an island unto itself.

There are plenty of books to teach the Angular framework. They help you setup the environment and show you how to write Hello World to the console. Which is very nice if you think there are any jobs for Hello World writers.

The real world demands that you write your program, write tests for your program, and integrate it with the work of others. You have to keep a record of your work in progress, check the work of others, and attend a daily meeting where you explain your work. If all you have been concentrating on are the basics, your first day on the job will be like trying to take a sip from a fire hose!

I've never found a book that brings it all together for the reader. Time will tell if I accomplish this but I'm going to give it my best shot!



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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

100 words for 100 days

One hundred words doesn't sound like much until you have sit down and write them. Then it seems like staring down a very long and dark tunnel. In fact, it isn't such a big deal. I simply have to have some kernel of an idea and then let the words follow one another onto the page.

The premise is simply this, 100 words for 100 days. No breaks, no excuses, no “I'll do 200 tomorrow”. Of course anything over 100 is OK but it buys no future exemption for a missed goal. 100 * 100!

See, it's not really so hard. Already I'm over 100 and I've hardly begun to babble



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