Thursday, March 22, 2007

Widener family updates

I just got back from spending a few days with my folks. My dad had another cancer surgery on Monday. This time it was on his back. It was probably the biggest tumor that's been removed. The incision is about 5" long and he's recovering nicely.

My mom went in for a hearing exam yesterday and has "significant" hearing loss. So next month she goes in to be fitted for hearing aids, much to her dismay.

Greg, Julie & I told her a few weeks ago that we don't want her driving anymore. She tells everyone who will listen that her "kids won't let her drive anymore". She's still very angry about it. But she's obeying our request and that's all we can ask for.

I have to do some bragging now. Our niece, Patricia, was just accepted to MIT! That was her first choice of many Ivy League colleges so we are very thrilled for her. Her family is moving to Rochester, NY the first of July. They will be much closer which will be a blessing for her. Greg works for Xerox whose headquarters is in Rochester. The plant he's at has had a staff reduction from 5,000 to 500 employees so there's no room for further advancement for him in Santa Monica. Xerox is paying all their selling & moving costs which will help greatly.

Tina recently had her thyroid removed. She had a nodule on the side of her neck which they removed half of in January. The biopsy showed it was cancerous so they removed the remainder in February. Greg says if you have to have cancer, thyroid cancer is the best as it's the slowest growing. She's fully recovered and is back at work.

My mom and I went up to visit her brother Art, sister-in-law Mary and cousin Calvin who flew in from Nebraska (that's where the Flanagin siblings were all born) on Tuesday. Uncle Art has been a pilot for over 60 years, beginning with the Navy in WWII. He was part of the Berlin airlift operation. He's recently decided to sell his plane as he can't physically do the maintenance on it so this will be a major adjustment for him. I'm so grateful there are so many of my aging relatives still around and we can share family times.

Richard's snoozing and since I have no clue how to upload pictures new photos of recent embroidery projects will have to wait.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Motorcycle Loader

Some people have expressed interest in how we carry our motorcycle with us so this post is to explain that. It will not be of interest to many family members but there are others who travel and want to carry their motorcycles who will be interested.

I purchased a Rampage motorcycle loader that is designed to be used in the back of a pickup truck. The normal installation is to install three special nuts in the bed of the truck so you can remove the loader when you are not using it. Of course, we do not have a pickup truck and wanted to load from the side instead of the rear. I also wanted to be able to move the loader forward and back to allow turning room for the trailer when we are hooked up and to allow access to the storage box when needed.

I modified the loader by welding brackets on the sides and mounting heavy duty wheels on them. This allows the loader to roll forward and back. It rolls easily both empty and when the motorcycle is mounted. One person on each side is all it takes, or one person running from side to side a few times. On the ends of the loader I welded some plates that hang down over the edge of the bed. I then drilled holes through the plates and through the lip of the bed in the places necessary to hold the loader in its forward and rear position. I use pins with clips on them to hold the loader in place. The motorcycle is also tied down to the bed itself with straps.

This is the loader. Notice the electrical connection. I use a 12V cable with Anderson Power Pole connectors on it that I made from welding cable. I mounted a 12V connector on the rear of the truck.

This is a close of of the bracket welded to the end of the loader.

This is a close up of the holes in the lip of the bed that are used when the loader is in its forward position. Because of the stairwell, I had to use a strap of steel to bridge the gap. If I had realized this before welding the plates on the ends of the loader I would have made the plates longer in the front so I did not need the extra strap.

The ability to move the loader forward and back allows me use of the truck bed for things other than just access to the storage cabinet. I carry a water bladder on the bed when we are boondocking between the cabinet and the loader. I place my portable waste tank on the loader itself. When we travel the bladder folds up and is placed in a small box in the cabinet, and the waste tank is placed on top of the cabinet.

This is the portable waste tank in its travel position.

It would be fairly easy to remove the loader from the bed completely if the need arose for more deck space temporarily. Since it is just held to the bed by the four pins it could be lifted off. It is pretty heavy but disassembles to two parts for removal. Even so, it would be a two man operation to remove.

I hope this answers all the questions. If there is anything that is not clear, leave a comment and I will try to clarify.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cruisin the Coast

I guess we need to catch you all up on our latest comings and goings. The volunteer coordinator ranger dropped by a couple days ago. He chatted, left paperwork for us to fill out, and said do whatever we want (or nothing) until they figure out what they need us to do. Most likely we will be working the kiosk when the other couple here leaves at the end of the month. In the meantime we pick up litter a couple hours a day and call it good. I have no idea why I get such a sense of satisfaction in litter pick up. Probably because this is a nice, unspoiled piece of California coastline that some crummy people feel free to throw bottles and cans on. I enjoy being outside, and helping to make this place look like it should.

We have not done much this week. We made a couple trips to the market but the rest of the time we just stayed here in the park. On one of the trips to the market I decided to try a new route. I found a road that goes up along a ridge to the highest point above San Clemente. The view from the top is fantastic, as are the homes up there.

Today was supposed to be a big warm up, so we decided to take a scooter ride to enjoy the nice weather. Unfortunately, so did a gazillion other people, but that comes with the territory here. We followed the coast from San Clemente up through Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, Belmont Shores and into Long Beach. (How did that shores get in among all the beaches?) We cruised up Ocean Blvd. to the downtown Long Beach area and stopped at Shoreline Village, a shopping and restaurant area in Long Beach Harbor across from the Queen Mary.

We were going to have a mid afternoon lunch there but all the restaurants said they had over 1 1/2 hour waits and some were not putting any more names on the list. Oh well. So after wandering around a bit we headed back down to Huntington Beach where we stopped at another restaurant. Unfortunately, we got the same story there. It was a beautiful day which had brought out the masses. However, none of the places were staffed to handle all the people.

We continued south and finally stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Laguna Beach where we were able to be seated immediately. It was OK. Not great, but OK.

Traffic was really bad in all the beach towns, but it opened up pretty good between places. The trip was about 120 miles round trip and our backsides were pretty sore when we got home this evening. Although we have ridden much farther, we probably spent more time sitting on the scooter today than any previous trip. This was because of all the stop and go traffic, stop lights and people out for a Sunday cruise. One thing we have noticed is a continual increase in the number of motorcycles on the roads. I suppose it has something to do with the popularity of shows like Orange County Choppers, expensive gasoline and more affluent older guys who are reliving their youth. Hey, I resemble that remark! Well, maybe not the affluent part.

It was a good day. Dianna is becoming quite the biker momma.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

San Onofre Again

We don't have much new to tell you about. We have been here for a week now and still have no marching orders. Several rangers have stopped by to chat but none of them have given us anything to do. The ranger who is in charge of volunteers was off work until yesterday, so maybe he will drop by soon.

In the meantime, we have just been doing our own thing. We pick up litter for a couple hours a day which is also good exercise. The park is only open for day use now so the amount of litter is really down. It's a nice, quiet place in terms of visitors now.

The first day we were here I worked on the electric vehicle we use for transportation in the park. It was not working and I discovered that the batteries were the reason. They were not just discharged. They were completely dead and even my battery conditioner would not bring them back to life. I called the maintenance man who maintains vehicles and he came to pick it up. He said he had new batteries for it but we have not seen or heard from him since so maybe he is having other issues with it.

Dianna took the train to visit her folks over the weekend. They seem to be doing well except that her Dad is going to have more surgery to remove another skin cancer from his back. We just learned that it will be done at the Dr.'s office on an outpatient basis so there is a lot of relief about that.

While Dianna was gone this weekend I decided to do some litter pickup. Since the electric vehicle was not available I rode the scooter down to the end of the park. I parked it where we always park the cart in an out of the way area at the front of the Official Vehicles Only spaces. When I returned I found a citation for parking in an unauthorized area! I thought all the rangers knew my scooter but there is a new "gung ho" ranger who only started a couple months ago. They call him "Mr Citation". He writes more citations than all the other rangers put together. That is what we want during the camping season, but certainly not what I want right now.

I went up to the kiosk and contacted him by radio, asking him to give me a call at the kiosk. I told him who I was and what had happened. I told him that if I had to pay $40 every time I picked up litter that the park was going to get very dirty this year! He was good about it and told me to leave the citation at the kiosk and that he would take care of it. I thought it was pretty funny.