Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mini Book Review: Blood and Thunder

Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides

With the subtitle: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West.

Kit Carson was there as American western history unfolded. This history focuses on the life and times of Kit Carson from his early years as a fur trapper to his eventual promotion to general within the US Army. With a vast knowledge of the Rocky Mountains and ability to speak Indian dialects and Spanish, Carson seems super human. There are times when the book seems to border on historical fiction as Carson crosses paths and meets many of the trappers, soldiers, Indians and other historical figures in the carrying out of Manifest Destiny on its journey to the Pacific Coast.

Weaving in the good and bad of humanity on the journey west, this is an easy to read American southwest history by a good story teller.

The photo is words on an obelisk honoring Kit Carson. The sandstone obelisk built in 1884 is in front of the US courthouse in Santa Fe.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Walk In Santa Fe

Looking at building design and construction is what drives my curiosity for walks in old down town areas of cities.

The oldest building in Santa Fe is the Palace of the Governors (today a museum) dating to the early 17th century. Probably makes it the oldest continually used building in the United States. The history of the southwest is forgotten by the history books as the focus seems to be about what happened on the East Coast.

The Loretto Chapel is just off the main square. Its fame is a circular staircase to the choir loft. The staircase has no visible means of support. Completed in 1878 and built of local sandstone, today it is a museum to preserve the building and the circular staircase. During this visit to Santa Fe, there was no inside tour. The walk was to look at the building exteriors.

When New Mexico became part of the United States in 1848, the building was conceived as the territorial capitol building. Begun in 1853, lack of funding and the Civil War interfered. The building was finally completed in 1889. Never used as a capitol building, in 1930 an addition was made to the rear of the building. This photo shows the building from the rear with the new portion to the right of the photo. The contrast between the two parts of the building is the notable use of concrete in the 1930 addition.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple was built in a Moorish style in 1913. That bright pink is the original architect's specification. Today's Santa Fe building codes would not allow that color. Today the required color is adobe.

This building was originally a gasoline service station with a covered section. It was cleverly repurposed as a drive through for an ATM.

Many times new construction will include an adobe wall around a courtyard with a door/gate opening to the street. This is one of many that I noted in my walk.

Great day for a walk to view a variety of building construction. Life is great.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Battery Testing

Oops. Been a while since the last post. I was so busy testing those new batteries that I didn't have time to post. Yeah. Right.

I'd gotten so used to the poor performance of the old batteries that I was rather shocked how the new batteries were holding a charge as I dry camped for the past seven days at the Colorado Springs Elks, the Santa Fe Elks and the Sandia Casino at Albuquerque.

Amazing. These new batteries hold a charge and allow me to use the stored energy far into the evening. Between computer, satellite radio and lights, the charge in the batteries was over 12.7 volts every night before I finally crawled into bed.

Battery test complete. Life is great.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Six More Years

After spending $1175, Wandrin Wagon is ready for travel to the southwest for my winter stay. The old batteries were no longer holding a charge. Voltage readings of +/-12.0 was not going to do much good when dry camping.

Since I plan to dry camp a few times as I head south, those batteries need to hold a charge for evening reading, running the inverter for the computer or charging the iGadgets. Those low voltage readings would not allow that to happen.

Considering my hitch up on Sunday, I panicked and called the local mobile RV repair guy on Thursday. By the end of the day I had four new Trojan 6-volt AGM batteries to replace the six and a half year old Trojans that were there. No complaints. They have served me well.

Now I have six more years of nomadic travel to recoup this battery investment.

Note: The batteries are recharged with 300 watts of solar panel. Parked in trees with hookups are the rare occasions when the onboard converter/charger charges the batteries.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Faux Model A

Always enjoy viewing vintage cars that are restored to stock condition. When I spotted this Model A Ford in a shopping center parking lot, had to grab a photo -- or two.

If I stopped to take a closer look, I might have noted a brand name. It could have been something other than a Ford from around 1930.

Looking at the photo at home, I realized that the car was not stock. Check out those tires. With those tires, the engine certainly was not stock vintage circa 1930.

At least the body was (appeared) stock and painted black. Sometimes things are not what they appear to be.

Note: Based on a comment from an anonymous reader, the post was edited changing Model T to Model A.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rain Masks Noise

It was almost eight when I awoke this morning. A steady light rain on the roof provided a melodic beat to mask all other sounds that manage to disturb my sleep every morning.

Searching for quiet is not easy here at the Westminster Elks. On the other side of the fence is Westminster High School. Right next door is the school bus lot. Six o'clock in the morning long before my usual rising, the buses start their engines. Soon the back up warning alarms on the buses are going. Too bad it couldn't be more melodic. Of course then it wouldn't be an alarm. At seven, the buses start to arrive at the high school and occasionally the bus back up alarms are heard again.

The high school has also disturbed an afternoon nap. Starting at 3:30, it was football practice that disturbed a late afternoon nap. The coach's whistle was the disturbance. Again and again. Sure got my attention. So much for the nap.

Not forgetting the trains. They are heard around the clock. There are three railroad grade crossings about a quarter to half mile away. Requiring the train engineers to warn of the train's coming, the engineer does the usual two longs, a short and a long at each intersection. Frequently, I time the long blasts. The longs are typically 3-5 seconds. However, there appears to be one sadistic engineer who is on the night shift run. The first two longs are always five seconds. That last long was nine seconds one night -- usually seven or eight. In fairness, there are also the more polite engineers in the middle of the night who blast for shorter lengths of time.

Most nights I sleep through those train whistle blasts. It is a credit to the marvels of the human brain to hear those train blasts and not stir me to consciousness.

Scheduled time to leave the Westminster Elks is this Sunday. It was a good stay, but I am ready to move on. Even if the next stop is in a noisy neighborhood.

Searching the internet, I learned of other possible train whistle signals. Most of the signals had meaning for the railroad yard and rail station.

Add this to your list of useless factoids... The two longs, one short and one long blast is the letter "Q" in Morse Code. That was the code that the steamships used when the Queen was aboard and other ships would yield the right of way. Yielding to trains was a good idea, so the railroads used the same Morse Code sequence at railroad crossings.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

From Wagon To Avanti

Here's a car that is not often seen. Studebaker had a long history of car manufacture ending with the Avanti -- a personal luxury coupe. The Avanti delivered in early 1962 became the last gasp for Studebaker to remain a viable auto competitor. At the end of 1963, Studebaker closed its doors.

Studebaker started as a wagon manufacturer about 1830 and continued to make wagons until 1920. This conestoga wagon at Scotts Bluff National Monument may have been one of those wagons made by Studebaker.

Studebaker did it all from wagons to horseless carriages to automobiles.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Demolition Continues

Keeping current on the demolition of the one time GEICO building, I made another journey to the neighborhood. (The excuse was the Whole Foods near by.)

This was the last photo I took mid last week as the hill of dirt was being built.

Faster to destroy than build. As I walked across the street to take photos, I saw that I was not the only one playing sidewalk superintendent. There was an older man (probably about my age) sitting on a lawn chair watching the progress. Asked how he was doing. He responded that the scene beat watching TV.

Wondering where they were able to get that much dirt for the hill, the man said that most was brought in by the truck load. No doubt at some time the dirt will be hauled away again.

While I was snapping photos, a lady drove up and was carrying a McDonalds bag to the gentleman sitting in the chair. I commented that I didn't know that McDonalds made deliveries. Perhaps not. But the lady was happy because she ended up with a two for one deal -- one for him and one for her.

I wished them an enjoyable day of watching and headed over to Whole Foods.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

One Time Home No More

Some months ago, I received an email that my one time home in the Pearl Street neighborhood of Denver had been razed. When in Denver last summer, I had heard that the house had sold and the new owners were going to scrape and build a new home. A photo of the house when I was living there:

According to court house records, the house was built in 1895. One floor, flat roof, no basement and 950 square feet. No doubt there were many caretakers of the house before it came into my possession. Lived there for nine years before hitting the road in a 200 square feet home on wheels. The foundation for the 2012 home is in place.

There are many properties in the older neighborhoods of Denver that are being scraped and new homes built on the site. Those hour long commutes to downtown Denver from the suburbs gets old. That was my reason in 1992 to move to that home.

Based on the commercial and home building and construction around Denver, it appears Denver's economy is doing okay. Or some one has a lot of money to borrow the money to build.

The changes to the building scape is changing all around Denver and suburbs. Driving through some areas of the greater metro area, I wonder out loud, "Was that shopping center there last year."

The changes in downtown Denver continue. James became my usual annual guide to relate the construction and planned construction in the Denver LoDo area -- and beyond. Then there are the light rail projects in all directions from downtown. Under construction is rail to Denver International Airport.

Hmmm. Living at the end of a light rail line sounds attractive. It is something to consider for that day when I give up the traveling home on wheels.

Change is a constant. The one time home is no more.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Building A Car Garage

Exploring around the Denver area, came across an unusual scene. The apparent remodeling of this office building to put a car garage on those upper floors. How else to explain that ramp being built.

Okay. I can't fool my readers. Really it is building demolition. Seems to be a strange way to demolish a building. Wonder why a swinging wrecking ball would not have been faster and more effective.

A week later, I took another photo from the opposite side of the building. Not too much progress except that the ramp has gotten larger.

Plan to keep going back to take more photos at weekly intervals. Hope some destruction has been done before I hitch up on the 16th.

The building is at the corner of Wadsworth and Alameda. It was the Geico building many years ago.