Sunday, August 05, 2012

 
My, it has been a while since I last posted anything here. It isn't like we haven't been doing anything but I just seem to have gotten out of the habit of doing it. We went to Ocean Shores, WA at the end of May and first of June. We returned to Leavenworth last month for a few days. Pat has complained that we always seem to be there when the weather is fairly cold. It wasn't cold July 9 - 11th with daily high temps of about 102. Yesterday we did something a bit different. Pat's son-in-law is a pilot and loves to fly. He & his wife were going out in the Cesna on a site seeing trip and we suggested they fly to the airport in Concrete, WA where we would meet them with our car and we could go to lunch. That happened although the place we went to lunch had a special fund raiser going on for the local volunteer fire department so the meal wasn't what we were looking forward to. Although the hamburgers were okay. Anyway, we got there a little ahead of J & P arriving in the plane, so I took photos as they came in over the airport then turned to land and if I can figure out how to get them into Blogger I will put them up here. Flying to Concrete 1 Here they are crossing over the runway so Jim could check the wind sock. He had a pretty good idea what the wind was like (it was lite) but it can be different on the ground and Concrete is located in a canyon formed by the Skagit River so there can be surprises. Flying to Concrete 2 He has circled around and lined up with the runway. You can see the hills in the background behind the plane. Flying to Concrete 3 Getting lower. There is a lot of grass in the foreground but the runway is paved. Flying to Concrete 4 Almost on the ground. It is coming in nice and level. Flying to Concrete 5 On the ground and taxiing along the runway toward the tie down area. Flying to Concrete 6 You can see where he is going to turn to come toward me. I was right beside the tie down area. Flying to Concrete 7 On the taxi way. Flying to Concrete 8 Here he is turning the plane to park above the tie downs. Flying to Concrete 9 Engine off, getting ready to climb out. It didn't take long to tie down both wings and then we were off for Birdsview Brewery for lunch. No, Jim only drank root beer but Pat & I each had one of their fine ales. When J & P left they were going to continue out into the San Juan Islands to land at Rosario, just to look around and maybe get something else to eat. I sure wish I could get Pat to go flying. There are four seats in that plane!

Monday, April 30, 2012

 

Our 5 year anniversary

Saturday April 28th was Pat and my fifth wedding anniversary. It doesn't seem possible that we have been married now over five years! The day after our wedding we went to Leavenworth, WA for a couple of nights and every year since then we have gone to Leavenworth for a couple of nights at about that time. This year it was last Wednesday, the 25th that we drove across Stevens Pass on US-2 to spend that night and the next at Linderhof Inn. We left home in rain but came into sunshine as we started up into the mountains. We stopped for lunch in the old railroad town of Skykomish and still arrived in Leavenworth before 13:00. Our room was ready so we unloaded the car and went on into the village. Weather there was upper 60s and sunny but the forecast was for rain later that night. We visited quite a few shops and did some gift shopping as well as picking up some wine to bring home. There are a lot more wine shops there now than there were last year and I didn't see any vacancies so it looks like business is pretty good, or at least the hopes are there for a good tourist season this year. It did rain overnight and early in the morning on Thursday but had cleared up before noon, although it didn't get as warm as it had been the day before. We had lunch at one of our favorite places there, Cafe Christa. I am trying to lose some weight and Pat really doesn't care for sweets so we did pass on their great but very high calorie Bavarian thing we (me, anyway) like so well and I just had coffee rather than a German ale. See, I am trying to be good! Dinner was at Gustavs, another favorite place and I did have an ale but didn't drink all of it. On Friday we went to Sandy's Waffle Haus for breakfast, then checked out of the hotel and drove east to the Applet & Cotlet store in Cashmere where we bought some more gifts before heading for home. On the west side of Stevens Pass we got into ice rain but it wasn't sticking to the road and only lasted a couple of miles until we got to lower elevation where it was just rain. We got to Smokey Point near Arlington, almost home, and stopped for lunch at the Hot Iron Mongolian Grill, then was home before 14:00. The next day we filled the gas tank. Pat's Kia Optima went over the 2000 mile mark on the trip and averaged 27 1/3 miles per gallon, so it is doing much better on road trips than it does around town, although the mileage does seem to be getting better as it gets a little more broken in. Right now it only has about 2234 miles so is still pretty new. It was a short trip and I do have some photos but haven't done anything with them yet so will have to post them to another post a little later. In another month or so we will spend a few days down on the Washington coast at Ocean Shores so have another little trip coming up before long. And it does look like summer weather is getting closer. I hope. Maybe I'll try to post a photo that is straight from the camera using Blogger's photo posting thing:
This as you can see is Gustav's where we ate dinner on Thursday evening. This is an unedited photo taken with my Nikon1 V1 camera and it's standard lens.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

 

New Year's Day at the Old Edison Inn

No, this doesn't refer to something real recent, but last January 1st the weather here in northwest Washington State wasn't bad for mid-winter and we decided to go for a little drive. The "town" (it isn't much of a town size wise) of Edison is one of the oldest in the State although it probably hasn't grown much in the last 140 years or so, but it is not far from where we live in Mount Vernon and has a good place to eat. We arrived at the Old Edison Inn for lunch and I had taken my then new Nikon 1 camera along. I decided to play with it by taking a few photos inside, just to see how it would do in natural light. It did pretty well and here are a few of those photos:

Old Edison Inn #1
This is a view of a part of the main area, where the large TV and the bandstand are located. On this day there were not a lot of tables set out (you can see some of them with chairs stacked on top at the left of the photo) because the night before there had been quite a party there to celebrate the new year and this space was used for dancing.

Old Edison Inn #2
Here is the bar with the kitchen at the far left side of the photo. In the foreground is a long game table. I don't know what it is officially called but I call it shuffle board. The discs are small, about 2 1/2" in diameter. They sprinkle some sort of a powder on the surface and slide the discs from one end to the other. I think they try to get as close to the end of the slide area on the table as they can without going over the edge. Of course the opponent can and will try to knock your disc off if he/she can and try to leave their disc on the edge. From what I have seen, each player has three discs and they of course alternate as to who goes first. The speed of the discs is quite slow. I believe they have some fairly serious challenge games on a regular basis.

While we were sitting at our table waiting for our lunch order, I thought the lighting on our drink glasses was interesting so took a few photos of them. I do not regularly take still life photos but I kind of like the look of these, so here are a few from that set:

Old Edison Inn #3
Pat's white zin wine is at the left, my Mac & Jack's ale to the right and both of our glasses of ice water nearby. The lighting is affected by the Christmas lights that were still strung around the interior.

Old Edison Inn #4
Pat's wine is really pink or light blush in color but here it almost looks yellow or amber, due to the lights behind it.

Old Edison Inn #5
Here is my ale with a poinsettia plant behind it. The Molson sign in the background is just a bar light. Mac & Jack's is a Seattle area ale that is very popular in this neck of the woods.

These are not spectacular photos but they do show a bit of what that little Nikon 1 camera can do. There is very little work with Photoshop, mainly just to re-size the images from their very large original size. The general feel of the place is kind of bar dark and the photos have been left that way to try to retain that feel, so I hope they will look okay on your monitor. I have been thinking about doing a post like this with these photos and finally decided to go ahead and just do it. The photos I use are hosted on my Flickr site and clicking on one of them should take you to there if you want to see them in a larger size that what is shown here.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

 

Pat's new Kia Optima EX car

Earlier this month Pat started talking about maybe trading "Baby", her beloved VW New Beetle in on a new car. It was a diesel powered model and got pretty good mileage, especially out on the road. It was also a 2001 model with 69,000 miles on it and while hasn't caused any problems, she was aware that in another 11,000 miles it would be due for an expensive service call. So that started the thinking process.

We looked at the current models of the New Beetle but they have changed the car a lot. It is now bigger, almost looks fat, and they didn't seem to be able to get any diesel models in. On February 1st, we stopped again at the VW dealer, got the same message, so went to the local Kia dealer. She had watched the Kia ads (everyone must love those hamsters with the Soul model) so we decided to look at that brand. Neither of us is fond of those square looking cars like the Soul and we both appreciate the convenience of having a 4-door car, so that was what we looked at.

Some of them, the small and mid-sized models, were too low getting into to be comfortable so we looked at the one whose lines she liked best on the TV ads, the Optima. It was a car that she liked and they had one in stock that had everything she wanted it to have and then some. So, she bought it.

By this time it was dark and she didn't want to drive it home in the dark, so we went back to pick it up the next day. I have some photos of it:

Pat's Kia Optima 1
Here Pat is about to get into the driver's seat for a "tour" of the dashboard, with our salesman, Mike explaining things. This car has almost everything that is available except a navigation system and we have a portable one so that isn't needed. It has the sun roof that will open just to vent or fully and there is even a sun roof for the back seat passengers. It has heated seats in both the front and rear and the front seats are even cooled. The radio system has something like eight speakers and a thing that we are really enjoying called the Jukebox where you can upload 700mb of MP3 music files for it to play. The cell phone connects through the Blue Tooth system that works like it does in the Prius for a voice call, but if she gets a text message it will ask her if she wants it to read the message. If she says "yes", it reads it in very clear English. The driver's seat is power operated and it has two memory positions. If Pat is driving, she presses #1 while if I get in to drive I press #2. The steering wheel is even heated if you want to turn it on.

Pat's Kia Optima 2
The car in a frontal view. I think the lines are beautiful. Mike, our salesman, is from Germany and he told us the chief engineer on this car was hired by Kia from Audi where he worked on designing some very expensive cars. Much of what the Audi cars had has been included in this model of the Kia but it is much less expensive.

Pat's Kia Optima 3
Here Pat and Mike are starting to connect her cell phone to the Blue Tooth system.Pat's Kia Optima 4
A closer view of the dash where the radio system is located as they are working with the cell phone connection. It works well and the text message reader is really amazing.

So far we both like the car. We have been driving it most of the time although the Prius does get better mileage so as gas prices are pushing up towards the $4 a gallon level, we will probably start to drive my car a bit more. But this one is very nice. Oh, and her beloved Baby is now being driven by Pat's daughter, so it is still in the family!

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

 

Is it Spring yet?

I don't think it is Spring yet although it is noticeable every day that it is staying light a little later in the evening. I really am ready for Spring, though, as I really don't like winter. Today we are expecting a high temp of close to 50 and not much wind, so that isn't too bad, for a January day but I really like temps in the 70s better.

Another thing I'd like to see end is this silly season of political junk. I don't know why the major political parties make us go through all these hoops, listening to this crap on TV and radio, seeing more of it in the newspapers and probably magazines but I don't read many of those. The parties pretty much know who they are going to foist off on us and we really won't have much choice, then come the election in November we can mark our ballots for Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum and there really isn't much difference between them. Maybe at least after that Congress can do the work of the people rather than only paying attention to what they think will best help them get re-elected and of course raising more money for those stupid ads. Some time ago (years) I read that our Presidential election may eventually come down to a National Lottery and the loser will be stuck with the job. I think that time is getting close.

I really haven't taken my new little camera out to play with it very much as the weather hasn't been very nice or the kind that would entice me to do that. We are starting to think about getting away to go somewhere this spring but the challenge is trying to figure out when "spring" might be here. Maybe by the end of February we will start getting some really nice days and about that time some of the early flowering trees and bushes may spring out with blooms. See, everything points to spring!

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

 

Trying out my new camera

I really love my Nikon D200 camera and the quality of photos that I get from it. I have half a dozen different lenses, a special flash unit that works with it and some other features that make it a wonderful system. BUT, it is large and heavy to carry around so I find it tends to sit at home on a shelf unless I know that I will specifically want it to take photos, so then take it along. Sometimes I'll even take an extra lens or the flash unit, too.

So, I saw an ad on TV for a new Nikon camera, the Nikon 1, that looked good, offers some of the features of the D200 (interchangeable lenses, view finder, etc) plus a lot of things that the D200 will not do. I looked into it and found that Nikon had sale prices on the lenses that go with it that would be in effect until the end of the year. I hadn't yet bought myself a Christmas present, so went ahead and ordered the basic camera that comes with a 10 to 30mm zoom lens ($50 off on the sale) and a 30 to 110mm lens ($100 off!) from Amazon.com. They came last Thursday- the UPS guy came with it about 11:00am. I put the battery on to charge and Pat & I went out to lunch, with the quick start direction sheet.

When we got home, the battery was fully charged so I put the unit together, found an empty SD memory card, took a picture of Pat & one of our cats, Peewee
First Nikon 1 photo
and I headed off to my local Starbucks to read the owners book, drink a mocha and learn about my new toy.

I decided to start out with it just letting it handle its own settings so took a couple of photos of one of our barista's while sitting at my table drinking my mocha and reading
Unedited our Starbucks
This photo is totally unchanged from when it came out of the camera except to reduce its pixel count to upload to Flickr and I think the camera did a very good job on setting the best white balance, exposure and focus.

By the time I headed home at almost 17:00 it was getting dark and the homes in our park had begun turning on their outside Christmas lights. I thought that would be a good test of the automatic settings, plus it was raining so there should be some pretty good reflections on the wet pavement. Here are a couple of those shots, again with very little correcting of the image after it came from the camera.
LME Christmas lights 1

LME Christmas lights 2

Yesterday we went to lunch with a good friend over to La Conner, Washington. La Conner is a quaint little village on a waterway that separates Fidalgo Island from the mainland and the restaurant we went to is right on that water way. I left Pat & Barbara to place my order with theirs and went outside onto the dock to take some photos. It was a crisp, windy but sunny winter day and although it was shortly after noon, the sun in the winter this far north is waaaaay to the south in the sky so even at noon we don't have that terrible directly overhead lighting that you tend to worry about while taking photos around noon. I am just including one photo that looks across the waterway toward the Indian Reservation but I think it shows what the little camera is capable of in delivering landscape photos.
Winter scene in La Conner

My lovely bride and I have a habit of going out to breakfast together on Saturday mornings and I have been carrying this little toy along so of course used it to take a picture of Patti B as she sat across the table from me.
Patti B on New Years Eve morning
There has been no image changing here, other than a very slight darkening of the image so it is almost as it came from the camera. There is a fireplace to her left providing some lighting and the lighting in this part of the restaurant is what I'd call cozy comfortable (not real bright) but the camera seems to have handled it very well.

I like the Nikon 1. There are two models, the V1 with a viewfinder and a 3" monitor screen. When you put your eye to the viewfinder, the monitor turns off. The other model (L1) just has the monitor screen. In my experience, those monitors are harder to use especially in bright light, so I spent a little more money and got the one with the viewfinder. So far I've only played with the standard lens which goes from a slight wide angle view at 10mm to a slight telephoto view at 30mm. The aspect ratio to compare to a lens length on a standard 35mm camera is 2.7, so the "normal" image size would be with this at about 18.5mm. Shorter than that would be considered a wide angle view, longer a telephoto view. At the higher 30mm setting (81mm on a 35mm camera) it is about the perfect length for people portraits. Oh, and the camera will take HD level video with sound and even has a connector for an external microphone for the audio. Some day I will get brave and give that a try but for now, I am having a lot of fun learning how to use it to take still photos.

I hope everyone who reads this had a good Christmas and will follow with a Happy New Year. Pat & I don't like to go very far from home on New Year's Eve but will be going to a party here in our park with the Singles Group. We went to events with them before we were married and they keep telling us to please continue coming as they consider us to be alumni.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

 

Travel Signs

I've done quite a bit of traveling by roads in my life but have never seen a sign that was quite so wrong as this one:

Keep Right Sign
Don't people pay attention to the signs they are putting up? You'd think those putting it up would have noticed that it was just plain wrong.

Our North Cascades Highway has now been closed at least over this next weekend due to expected snow. The forecast up there calls for at least 22 inches of snow overnight tonight and more over the next few days. The State Department of Transportation will check it on Monday for avalanche danger and assess then if it will stay closed for the winter. Last year it wasn't closed until Dec 1 and then it was a good month late on opening in the late spring/early summer.

That is a beautiful route for us to take going to Eastern Washington. It starts right in our backyard in Burlington and drops us out at the town of Winthrop in the Methow Valley. We usually actually usually come back that way, taking Stevens Pass (the US 2 Highway)when going East. The two together, along with the connecting roads, make up what is called the Cascade Loop Trip and it is a wonderful outing for a weekend (or longer) trip. The two main passes on the North Cascade Highway (Washington State Route 20) are each about a mile high- there is only one regular pass highway in the state that is higher in elevation and there is so much snowfall every winter plus a very high avalanche danger so they don't even try to keep it open. I believe I heard this past spring while they were trying to clear the roadway to make it passable that there was still something like 70 feet of snowpack up there. That is a lot of snow to have piled up.

At The Alps 01
Here is a scene taken along the Wenatchee River about eight miles west of the town of Leavenworth at The Alps, a store that all my vehicles seem to find it impossible to drive by without stopping. They have some of the best candies you can find anywhere and also a good stock of toads and other collectibles that others in my family like to look at (and buy). This is just an example of some of the fantastic scenery along the Cascade Loop Trip. You could easily spend a week making this trip and visiting all the things to see along the way. Don't forget to take your camera along.

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