Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012 !

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!! 

After all...we did survive the END OF THE WORLD!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2nd Annual Cider Get Together

Well, Fall has come and it was time again for a get together at my friend Jim's place for an apple cider extravaganza!  We had a few new faces this year as our squad has lost and gained a few folks, so we had an opportunity to introduce a few more folks to the tradition of hand pressed apple cider!

We drove through a rainstorm as we entered Port Orchard, but the remainder of the day would prove to be dry, if not a bit cold.  Everyone brought apples (and yes a few of us overdid it) and they varied from Braeburn to Gala...Granny Smith and Honey Crisp.

We chit-chatted a bit as Jim grilled up some early dinner for us and we took in a few "pot luck" side dishes as well.  Dinner shminner...its time for cider kids!!! 

We got started setting up the 100 year old cider press and it was not long before we had a small crowd gathered around, ready to try their hand at making some apple cider!!  Literally everyone that came had a turn at hand cranking the press and found out that you have to work for your reward!  It wasn't long before we had filled several gallon jugs and were sipping some sweet cider. 

At one point, I just felt compelled to get even closer to the cider...I wanted the freshest cider I could get...so a few of the guys were able to lift the cider press just enough that I could get my mouth under the table/spout...allowing me to drink the sweet nectar right from the tap!

We cranked out cider for several hours and produced about between 15 and 18 gallons of cider at days end.  It was getting quite cold as the sun began to set and Jim had installed a large fire pit at summers end, so we took some time to check it out and warm ourselves by the fire, before folks started heading out.

It was another successful "pressing of the apples" and I was glad we were all able to find the time to get together for a little fall celebration.  I look forward to next years already!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Riding The Western TAT


I have decided that rather than try to post 10 days worth of my summer adventure riding the Trans-America Trail, I will post the link to my daily "Ride Reports" that I am doing for the "Adventure Riders Forum".

The Forum is actually where I learned about the Trans-america Trail, the brainchild of Sam Correro...who is an avid off-road motorcyclist and "Adventure Rider".  Basically, the trail is almost 5,000 miles long and runs from Tennessee to the Pacific Coast of Oregon.  It is 95 percent off road.  It is purposely designed to keep one riding on dirt...trails, dirt roads, old railroad grades...etc.  It takes you through each state in an "off the beaten path" way, that lets you get a look at the different State's geography, small/tiny towns and people in a way most people never see.

Trans-America Trail Homepage 

The ADVRider Forum provides a wealth of information about anything to do with off road motorcycling.  I have learned a great deal from some of the members there, and a few contributed greatly to the success of my recent off-road ride from Colorado to Oregon/Washington.  Some of these members are mentioned in my ride reports as you will see.

I will post a link that will take you to the forum/specifically my posts and you will be able to read about/view photos from day 1 thru day 10 of the ride.  The title of the posting at ADVRiders is "The Western TAT on a Super Sherpa"  The "Super Sherpa" is the model name of my 250cc, Dual Sport Motorcycle.  It is not a glamorous bike, but as you will discover in my posts, it is a worthy and capable little machine. 

Included in the posts are some thoughts and observations about each days ride, the people we met and our impression of each days happenings.  once day 10 is completed I will add some thoughts and a few personal notes.  I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as Jim and I enjoyed doing it.

This is a work in progress and I am currently working on day 6...I am hoping to do "one a day" and complete the ride reports in the next few days.  A video will be completed after that.  Click below to view the Day by Day Ride Reports complete with photos!  (You can "right click" on the link and select "open in a new window" if you want to stay on this page/open a new one for the ride reports)

10 days, 2160 Miles, 5 States..On A 250cc Super Sherpa


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2,160 Dirty Miles

I recently completed an adventure that was in the works for the past 6 months.  It is called the "TAT" or Trans-america Trail.  In short, it is a motorcycle route from Tennessee to the Oregon Coast, that is 95 percent dirt...In other words, not on main roads or freeways.  It was imagined and then realized by a man named Sam Correro.  He envisioned an "off road" and "off the beaten path" route, that would allow Dual Sport Motorcyclists to see the geography and people of each of the States involved, in a unique way...avoiding the big cities and the neverending pavement of the Interstate. It is almost 5,000 miles in its entirety, though we only did 2,160 miles...in 10 days. (The western half)

I will be posting a complete synopsis of this journey, complete with photos and video in the near future.  Given the scope of the journey, it will take a bit of work to produce an interesting and complete accounting of the trip...it was fantastic!  I made the trip with a friend and co-worker of mine, Jim.  We had a few ups and downs (Mostly ups!) and learned a few things along the way, but it was an epic ride.

Here are a couple of photos from the trip...just to whet your appetite!!  Just a sample of the views and different terrain we took in during the ten days we rode across this great country.

More to come!! Have to edit/clean up some pics!        

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Dream Receiver

Marantz 2285 Stereo Receiver

Many blog posts prior to this, I spoke about a vintage stereo receiver and commented on some old vinyl that I had enjoyed.  As I posted those comments, I was already working on obtaining what I wanted to be my "last" vintage stereo receiver.  I say this because over the course of a couple years, I had purchased about five different stereo's, looking for that "right one"...one that would satisfy me both aesthetically and sonically.

I spent money, bought this one and that one...sold two, looked at a few more...until I was contacted by the man that had sold me my first vintage stereo.  He was local, and he had a vintage Marantz receiver that he wondered if I would be interested in. (since he got me to buy the one that is pictured several posts before this)  I told him I would stop by.

A couple of days later, I stopped by and looked at the old Marantz.  It was a diamond in the rough to be sure.  The wooden cabinet was old and dirty, several lights were out on the dial face and it was simply dusty/filthy inside.  I turned it on, and listened to it through a couple of small speakers, tested a few things like DC offset and other such things that will make little sense to most of you.  The most important things checked out.  I said, "You arent going to budge on your price are you"?  His reply, "Nope". 

You see, he was asking 150.00 dollars for a 1977 Stereo Receiver that needed work.  Problem is...there is not a more desireable or attractive receiver on the planet, than the higher powered, mid-seventies Marantz.  They are, quite simply, beautiful...aesthetically and sonically!  I paid the man, and left with a project that I hoped would work out for the better.

I got the unit home and after opening it up, and cleaning the interior components and circuit boards with everything from q-tips to compressed air, it looked worthy of the next step....what is referred to in the Hi-Fi community as a "Re-Cap". This is simply the removal and replacement of all the electrolytic capacitors in the receiver. (thats oversimplifying it, but you get the idea)  Yes, all those tiny, colored little cylinders and resistors etc...replaced with new ones, since many would be leaking or simply bad/out of spec.

Soooo, the search for a qualified technician to perform the task?!  Long story short, after packing the stereo up to ship it to Montana, I get a call from a technician in Kelso at the last minute.  Seems he was replying to an email I had fired off a month before.  He tells me he can do the job and I arrange to drive to Kelso (2 hours south) to drop it off the following weekend.

After 3 or 4 months, i give the guy a call and inquire as to the progress.  He tells me he does the rebuilds as a sideline to his mainstream work and it could be a few more months before he gets it done!  Now to be fair, many people wait up to two years to get these type of receivers "Re-Capped" and the guy i was going to use in Montana, had a turn around time of just under a year.  Sooooo, I tell him thats fine and ask him to call me when it is complete.  I figure it will give me time to work on the wood cabinet that encloses the receiver.

I start working on the wood cabinet.  It is a 3 sided affair, two thick side pieces and a thinner top piece that interlocks with both sides.  It is hard to describe the quality that these Marantz receivers exude.  They really dont "make them like they used to".  After about 4 weeks of sanding, prepping, ordering in some veneer to repair a missing strip on one of the side pieces, I am ready to stain and finish the pieces.  I use a light walnut stain and after a few days I spray it all with polyurethane and some steel wool sanding and a few coats later...the cabinet is done.  It looks quite nice...not perfectly "shiny", but almost...more of a clean matte finish...which is the look I was after.

A month or so later I receive a call from my technician...much sooner than I had thought!  He tells me the receiver is all set!  Now, I should be excited by this news, but I suddenly realize I have to come up with the 450.00 dollars it cost for all of the repairs that he had done.  Yes, you heard me right...450.00 dollars.  I know...  In short he had Re-Capped it, replaced all the lights with LED lights that dont put out the heat of the original lights...installed the new "vellum" paper (the blue toned paper that gives the receiver its blue dial/meters) and had aligned the tuner, checked DC Offset, DC Bias adjustments and on and on.  These are things I simply cannot do myself.  450.00 dollars...i know.  I gather up all of my "off duty" money earned over the past months and I drive to Kelso and pick it up.  He puts it through its paces and ..it simply sounds beautiful....

Let me give you some perspective regarding the cost of this though.  I bought it for 150.00, add the 450.00 for electronics repair and add 29.00 dollars and several hours of my time for the cabinet refinishing.  629.00 dollars total.  I know you are thinking..."just go buy a new one"!!!  And I understand the sentiment.  You might be thinking...."it cant be any better than the new receivers you can buy for 600.00 dollars"!  And you would be wrong. 

Seems the glory days of powerful and very high quality receivers was the 1970's.  Not for nostalgic reasons, but for honest to God quality both in sound and specification.  I was quite aware of the cost of this receiver in 1977. (The year it was made)  It listed for 670.00 dollars....in 1977.  I used to drool over these in 1977...but there was noooo way I could have ever afforded one.  What would be the equivalent cost today?  Why would I spend so much to get it back to original condition?  How expensive was "670.00 dollars" in 1977?  Adjusted for inflation 670.00 dollars then is equal to...are you ready?....2597.00 dollars!  Soak that in.  That's right kids...this was one expensive ass receiver!!!

For reference..you could buy a brand new Chevrolet Camaro Z28 for under 6,000.00 dollars in 1977.  Buy nine of these receivers and you paid more than you would for the Z28.  Gives the whole project some perspective.

I already had some high quality floor standing speakers connected to my original, vintage Pioneer receiver. (a nice little unit in its own right)  I connected this thing up, installed the very nice wooden cabinet tossed on a Jim Croce album and fired her up.  Wow!!!!  It is the finest sounding receiver I have ever heard or owned...period.  While it is true that I could spend the 2597.00 dollars today and equal the sonic beauty of this receiver...I could never match the analog, blue glow, wood enclosed beauty of this receiver. (Not to mention the "gyrotouch" tuning knob!!)

To say I am happy with how it turned out would be an understatement.  It is nice knowing I finished the cabinet myself and saw this receiver rise like a phoenix rather than being thrown out. (like we do with so many things these days)  It is hard to explain, but sometimes i just turn the thing on to look at the warm, blue glow while I putz around in my office.  I just listened to an extended version of "MacArthur's Park" by Donna Summers, (Vinyl LP) and if I closed my eyes for a few moments, I could be back in Michigan delivering pizza's, listening to my car radio and wondering how the hell disco became so popular!?

My Marantz 2285 Stereophonic Receiver.  I hope to have it a long time and pass it down to my daughter, should she ever want to listen to a vinyl record instead of iTunes!

(More pics to come)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Piano Practice

Ever wonder what I play when I sit down and practice on the Piano/Clavinova?

Well, heres a few songs that are literally that...practice...complete with mistakes and all!  I simply recorded the songs that I last practiced/played the last time I excercised my fingers.  With any luck, you might even recognize a couple of them!

I Get Lost


Perhaps Love

Friday, April 20, 2012

Seattle Skyline At Night

Seattle Night Skyline

I took a trip last Friday up to Seattle.  My sole purpose for going was to try to capture a "Postcard Perfect" photo of the Seattle Skyline at night. 

Never having photographed the Seattle skyline, I poked around some local photography forums and determined that the spot I would attempt to shoot from was a place by the name of "Kerry Park".  This is in the Queen Ann Hill area of Seattle. (Meaningless to me as I had no idea where this was!)

After a quick and painless drive of about 55 minutes (how was that possible?!) I arrived way early, as I needed to shoot around 8:30 pm or so.  I arrived there at about 6:40 pm.  I should have brought a chair!

I started taking 8 second exposures at about 8:00 pm and continued shooting until about 8:45, when the lack of light was requiring 30 second exposures.  I packed up, drove home and hoped I had captured a few reasonably nice shots.

Much to my surprise, the photo above was one of the resulting pictures.  It is truly a very nice photo!  I am rarely content with the photos I take, but in this case, I am quite pleased.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Didn't She Almost Have It All

Whitney Houston, dead at age 48.  Wow. 

I remember her first album and its immediate and spectacular success.  I was a young soldier in Berlin, Germany at the time.  She was the same age as me.  Without television, (in english) it was a time when I listened to/bought more music than any other time in my life.  She appealed to so many demographics, young and old, Pop and R&B, black and white.  She had a sweet and powerful voice.

Cousin to Dionne Warwick, her Mom a professional singer...and she, blessed with a beautiful voice that matured through her singing at church.  She was a very attractive lady with a captivating smile, and actually modeled a bit.  She quite literally "had it all".

Some years later she met Bobby Brown and everything started to unravel.

At the time, I remember thinking what this Christian raised, Gospel singing vocalist saw in Bobby Brown?!  Perhaps it is the "bad boy" allure that I see young women falling for time and time again.  Whatever it was, it appears to have been the beginning of the end for Whitney Houston.  She started fading a bit.

Some years later, I would see her distorted pictures on the tabloids as I checked out at a grocery store.  Stories of her tumultous marriage and drug use would be pasted on the National Enquirer.  I thought it was sad.

About a year ago, I came across a song she did as part of a "comeback" album.  I remember listening to the song and hearing just a bit of what I remember her sounding like.  The voice was older, lower in tone and sounded tired.  I really liked the song and I downloaded it and told my wife how much I liked it.  It was as if I were hoping Whitney Houston would really "come back".  The song was "I look to you".  I half thought it was a reference to God or maybe her Mom. (Though she did not write it)

I can't help but think had she picked a different man...a different influence, she might have lived a different, longer and more rewarding life.  I wondered what she felt when she looked back on her life.  I cant help but wonder about the words from one of her hit songs that she had sung more than 20 years ago, "The ride with you was worth the fall, my friend...didn't we almost have it all".

Almost Whitney....almost.

(photos courtesy of Bing Search)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Fresh Start

Ahhh, another New Year.  Countless "resolutions".  Seems the New Year allows us to "re-boot" and consider the previous years accomplishments...within the shadow of new and exciting possibilities for the coming year.  I would like to say I am above such things, but I'm not.  I am just like the rest of you, hopeful, a bit more optimistic and "determined" to get a few things done.

My family and I had a very nice Christmas and a happy New Years celebration.  December proved to be a bit of a challenge both mentally and physically though. 

The Police Department was considering (still is ) laying off between 50-100 Police Officers at the beginning of this year.  That has been temporarily "resolved" but the likelyhood of some layoffs between now and next January seem more likely than not.  While the layoff's would not have affected me personally, it was stressful to see people I care about being placed in a precarious situation right before Christmas.  It was stressful for all of us, and especially for the younger Officers.

I underwent knee surgery in December as well, and between the injury and the recovery from the surgery, I was laid up or limping  around for the better part of a month or more.  Everything seems to have gone well, and I am back to work and trying to get my lame legs strong again!

Goals...resolutions you ask?  Yeah, I have a few, but I wont bore you with them.

I am looking forward to a few new adventures this year, a family vacation that has yet to be determined and perhaps a bit more photography than last year.  I have a few projects going as we speak, but I will post more about them when they are complete!

I wish you all a very healthy and happy New Year.  It looks like we are starting this year out with some ice and snow!!

Godspeed on your fresh start and your goals for 2012!