Sunday, March 28, 2010


Another week? Yep

Okay, I see that another week has gone by since my last post. There has been a lot going on in our lives so I'll use that as my excuse for not getting another done sooner. One thing that has happened is that our friend with the car lot has sold my Smart Car. I bought it about a year ago and when I look at what I got for it in this sale versus what I paid for it, including trading in my 2000 Saturn, I figure that it cost me about $10,000 to own it that year and drive it about 1950 miles. That cost figure doesn't include the fuel used but the fuel really wasn't much. If you figure the mileage that way, with my total cost included in the calculation, the Smart Car sure didn't do very well! Oh well, I did learn to not buy something like a car without first flying it by the wife.

Speaking of flying, most of you know that I bought a radio controlled model airplane a year ago last November and flew it. Once. There is nothing wrong with that plane, it is just that the pilot (me) and his flying adviser have failed to get together and do it again since that time. I have recently learned that there is a group near my home that meets a couple of times a month to fly inside a school gym, but they have to use smaller planes and they have to be electric powered. I get regular emails from a couple of hobby places and one recently had a small electric plane with a wing span a little over 18 inches that could fly inside. So I bought one from our local hobby shop.

Playmate flying
Here is a photo from the web (I can't claim taking it, but it is a good action photo) of a plane just like mine flying. It is called a Playmate which is a good name for a R/C plane that is almost like a toy in some ways.

The directions with it say to fly it only when there is no wind if outside but they recommend indoor flying as the best bet. Not in an average house but in something like a school gym. Well, I was anxious to try it out so I took it out into the common area of our park where I live on an almost calm day, and flew it. After about six successful flights, the next one ended up with it looking like this:
Playmate broken 01
Yep, I broke it. The breeze took it over the fence that runs around that yard and into another home's back yard area and when I turned it to fly back out, the wing hit the wooden fence. Yeah, I know, I was flying it too low but it was windier up higher. I am happy to report that my one ounce airplane did absolutely no damage to the three foot high fence, but I can't say the same for my airplane. The airplane is what is known as a foamy because it is built from a kind of hard foam that is very light but pretty strong. Until you bang it into a wooden fence.

Playmate broken 02
Here is a closer view of the damage. It is actually a fairly clean break and I've bought special two part glue to try gluing it back together. I think that will work, but if not, I have also ordered another wing. Maybe I should have ordered two.

I think that I may also have done this
Playmate broken 03
to the fuselage just in front of the tail assembly. This happened while I was lifting it out of the box it came in that I use as it's "hanger" as it holds it very well. I had my camera in my right hand and tried to lift the plane out with just my left hand. This may be a natural break in the body where two parts join together but I don't think there is supposed to be that much of a gap between the two parts, so I'll glue it, too. The shape of the break line looks too much like an intentional joint so I am thinking that this break was there but I've made it wider.

I have a lot to learn about these things, but they are still fun to fly. This one flies different from the bigger one and part of that difference is that there are no ailerons on the wings of this plane. To make turns you use the rudder. With the big plane when it is airborne I found I make most turns with just those ailerons and rarely use the rudder. Because of this difference, the control box for the Playmate only needs three radio channels- one for the rudder, one for the elevators and one for the throttle. That controller is fairly inexpensive, in fact the whole kit with the plane ready to fly including that controller is only $80. And it doesn't use fuel that costs $25 a gallon. Four AA batteries go into the controller and it is used to charge the small 130ma hour battery in the plane that runs the motor and the controls. It should be fun and inexpensive to fly for quite awhile. Oh, I guess I need to also add in the cost of the glue. I should have just bought it when I originally bought the plane.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010


A road trip to Leavenworth, WA

This past week we returned to one of our favorite area towns, Leavenworth WA. It is about 130 miles away, east of us on US 2 on the east side of Stevens Pass through the Cascade Mountain Range. Leavenworth was a railroad town but went into decline when the railroads decided to no longer make stops there. Some in the town recognized the similarities of their area to the Bavarian area of Germany and proposed that they go through a rebirth to make themselves a Bavarian community here in the Washington State Cascade Mountains. They did that and have been quite successful. It is close enough to the population area around Seattle that many from the Puget Sound region go there, for a day or for a bit longer.

Leavenworth spring 2010 1
This view is looking west in the downtown area of the village. There are commercial buildings on the left and the town square is on the right. In mid-March the leaves have not yet returned to the deciduous trees so they are bare. There is also not much snow on the foothills around town. The Pacific Ocean had an El Nino year this year and most of the precipitation that usually falls here in the NW instead went south to California. I know they need water but think this year they actually got more than they wanted. I understand that some of it also traveled east, as far as the east coast, so they got some of our mountain's normal snowfall.

Leavenworth spring 2010 2
If we are not traveling in an RV, we like to stay in one of two hotels in town and they are both in this photo. This trip we stayed in the Linderhof Inn, the nearest one in the photo, but the Enzian Inn is in the background. Both are good places to stay while in Leavenworth. Both are right on US 2 as it goes through town and the entry to the shopping village is just a block away and across the highway. There are well marked pedestrian crosswalks and the traffic seems to be well trained to stop for pedestrians. Both these hotels have swimming polls (outdoors, so they were not yet open on this trip but the hot tubs were) as well as other things and breakfast is included in your room rate. At Enzian it is a full buffet meal.

Leavenworth spring 2010 3
There are many places to eat in town and most offer German food as well as regular American fare. Gustav's, shown here, is a tavern that is across the street and a block away from the Linderhof Inn. The food is primarily sandwiches but they are very good and there's a good selection of northwest brewed beer and ales. I like their Sleeping Maiden Porter but Pat prefers to stay with her wine. Beyond Gustav's in the photo you can see Visconti's, an Italian food place, that is also very good although more of a dinner place. We also love Cafe Christa in town on the second floor so you have a neat view overlooking the downtown village and the town square across the street. And they have a Bavarian chocolate mouse (did I spell that right?) that is so rich one serving is more than we two can eat together. A great place for a mid-afternoon break for coffee and desert.

Leavenworth spring 2010 4
Another view here of the foothills around town, showing how little snow there is this year. All the snow would normally be gone by mid summer but this photo was taken while it was still officially winter. These hills should be covered solidly with snow at this time of the year. Instead of it falling here, it went to Maryland and Virginia and that other Washington. Can we have our snow back next year, please?

Leavenworth spring 2010 5
I like attractive girls and anyone who has read my blog for very long knows that I really like my mochas, so when I spotted this young lady across the street pushing her baby in a stroller AND drinking a mocha, I couldn't resist taking her picture. It would be nicer with leaves on the trees behind her but I kind of like it this way, too. Made me want to go get a mocha. But not a baby. Been there, done that, and am now very happy with Grandkids. I can enjoy them and return them to their parents later in the day. But I think this is still a nice photo.

We only spent two nights in Leavenworth but that gave us half of the day we arrived and all day the second day, plus a little time on the third day. In a tourist trap type town where there are almost too many things to buy, that is long enough for one trip. We may well return later in the year for another visit and in a month and a half we will be going to the Oregon Coast for a week or so. Our travels now do not involve an RV but we are still getting out, seeing and doing things around the area and I will continue to take photos and make blog posts here. I have even started a Travel Photos set on my Flickr photo site (click on any of these photos to be taken there) and may go back in the Flickr archives to add some earlier photos to that set. More later.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010


Spring has sprung, at least here!

This El Nino winter has brought us an unseasonably warm winter and with it an early spring. The Skagit River Valley, where I live in Washington State, is still very agricultural and one of the main products of our farms are daffodil and tulip bulbs. Every year in the month of April the local Tulip Festival is held and visitors come from all over to stroll through the fields with these flowers in bloom. However, the flowers are not the main product, it is the bulbs in the ground. The growers try to leave the flowers as long as the can before "topping" them but it looks like this year that will come before the end of the festival at the end of April. If you want to come see them, come early, like at the beginning of April or even in late March.

As of today many of the tulips in our own garden are starting to bloom but I have no photos of them. However, this area has some beautiful flowering trees- some are cherry and some plum and I can't tell the difference. A week ago we had beautiful weather on Saturday March 6th and due to the early spring, the blooms on these trees were already changing into the red leaves of summer. I had wanted to take some photos and with colder temperatures along with strong wind & rain forecast for the next few days I figured I'd better get to doing it while it was still possible. So, I put my macro lens on the camera and took a hike in our park. Here are three photos from that trip.

Spring flowers 01
There are quite a few of these trees that have grown large enough to partially cover the roadway in the northeast part of our park. These are a few of them, looking north from Phillips Loop East (yup, that is the name of the road I live on.) You can also see one of another kind of "tree" that our park has grown a lot of over the last couple of years- a For Sale sign on a post. We are a senior park and some residents sometimes need a higher level of care than totally independent living that we have here, so they move. The real estate market has not been kind to us here either. There are people who would like to move in but most have another house somewhere else that they have to sell before buying one here. So, right now we probably have a good dozen homes (out of a total of 120) that are for sale.

Spring flowers 02
This closer view shows some of the red leaves along with the blooms. These trees are beautiful now with the flowers blooming and also during the rest of the growing season with their red leaves.

Spring flowers 03
I have always loved forsythia plants with their early spring very bright yellow blooms. They always look so bright and cheerful after our usually dull, dreary winters. So we planted one in our yard a couple of years ago and it is doing very well. Our only goal with it is to try to keep it from getting too big. Last Saturday when I was on my photo walk, our own forsythia was too beautiful to ignore, especially with it brilliantly lit by the afternoon sun.

I have other photos of spring plants in our park and will try to include them in posts here and I'll try to do it a little more often that I have been. We are going east of the mountains for a couple of nights in one of our favorite local towns, Leavenworth, next Wednesday and I should also get some photos over there. I think I will also have some good news about my car "collection" when we get back.

More later.

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