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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When A Winter Storm Hits

While we are warm and cozy another winter storm and blizzard hit the midwest of the U.S. also depositing a good deal of snow north of the border. The headlines of the media are brimming with scary news and sensational pictures of how bad the storm is and how much damage and power outages it has caused.

2nd major snowstorm paralyzes parts of Midwest

In fact, schools are being closed as the school buses don’t go and airports are shut down and filling up with thousands of stranded travelers.  Thousands of employees can’t get to work. You have seen it in the press, right?
Yes, just about everything comes to a grinding halt.

North America is known to receive violent winter storms. But are they really so much worse than elsewhere?

We have been living 25 years in Norway and have seen winters most Europeans will never see. Snow piled up with 20inches during one single night, there is wind, there is ice build-up on the roads and yet the schools never closed a day. If there was a power outage it lasted for a couple of hours.

Road traffic was going a little slower, but mostly the roads were just fine.
We didn’t live in a big city where many snowplows were out. We had one or two plows working the district. It always worked.

Most people made it to work on time. Even though airplanes got delayed because they had to clear the runway, most times there were very few cancellations.
We had buses and trains working – life went on, even though people were trying to get out of the cold.

The big question is why are there so many more  problems in the U.S. and Canada during winter conditions?  Is it that we are not prepared for winter? Don’t we have enough equipment to clear roads and railways? Is the power grid in so bad conditions that the winds can blow them down? Don’t the power company’s keep enough staff at hand to get the lines back up and working?

After 11 years in Canada we have seen and heard catastrophic sounding news every winter. It seems like everyone complains when the first snow hits the ground and roads become impassible or the runway at the airport is closing down. Yet nothing ever changes.

As we spend winters down south it rarely becomes our problem, but it sure got me wondering.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 25, 2013

It’s Finally Warming Up Again

Boy, am I glad that we are done with the wind. As many other bloggers in this area have already reported it was very windy and since the wind blew from the north it also was icy cold. So, we stayed inside most of the day. We invited Allan and Railli for the evening and enjoyed each other’s company for a couple of hours.
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At the dump station

In previous winters we have been able to see flowers out in the desert by this time. That is definitely not going to happen until it starts warming up and we get a good rain.

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Thanks for stopping by!

OH…I forgot the Elephant Jokes

Q: Why do elephants paint their toenails red?
A: So they can hide in cherry trees.
Q: Have you ever seen an elephant in a cherry tree?
A: (they will say NO). Works, doesn't it?!
Q: How do you know there have been elephants in the fridge?
A: There's footprints in the butter.
Q: Why do elephants paint their ears yellow?
A: That's not paint, its butter.
Q: Why do elephants paint their toenails red, blue, green, orange, yellow, and brown?
A: So they can hide in a bag of M&Ms.

Q: How many elephants fit into a VW-bug?

A: 4 as the bug is a 4-seater.

Q: And how many giraffes are fitting into a VW-bug?

A: None. There are already 4 elephants in it

 

Gah….

Sunday, February 24, 2013

And We Had Yet Another Party

Today we had a nice breeze from the south and after weeks and weeks of northerly winds it felt just right. The air had this southern touch which I like so much out here in the desert.
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And with the sun shining out of a deep blue sky it was just the right weather for having another party.
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Al and Marie had invited to their place for a potluck supper. Shortly after 3pm the first cars were passing us by on their way to Al’s place. When we arrived with a home-made chili, close to 60 people had gathered around a burning bonfire.
We had been advised that women should wear the men’s hats and the men’s the women’s. So needless to say it was a rather funny looking crowd.

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Of course, the food was ….simply overwhelming even though I did spend most of the time eating desserts. I am a dessert-guy – always been and always will be. When I was a boy I had made up my mind that I would only live of desserts once I had my own place. :-) LOL.
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Once the food was eaten, Al took his guitar and entertained the crowd with many known old-time songs. Of course, we know most of these songs, but what does that matter – we sure like to hear them again.
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Finally the sun went down and some people started leaving, but the party went on until long after dark.

It sure was this season’s last big party. Already I have heard the hum of going home. It seems most people live their lives in the future – making plans.

It’s just human.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Holy Snake!

In this photo taken on Feb. 5, 2013, a Brown Tree Snake is held by U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist Tony Salas outside his office on Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam.

Found this article in today’s CBS’s news-room:

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam Dead mice laced with painkillers are about to rain down on Guam's jungle canopy. They are scientists' prescription for a headache that has caused the tiny U.S. territory misery for more than 60 years: the brown tree snake.

Most of Guam's native bird species are extinct because of the snake, which reached the island's thick jungles by hitching rides from the South Pacific on U.S. military ships shortly after World War II. There may be 2 million of the reptiles on Guam now, decimating wildlife, biting residents and even knocking out electricity by slithering onto power lines.

More than 3,000 miles away, environmental officials in Hawaii have long feared a similar invasion - which in their case likely would be a "snakes on a plane" scenario. That would cost the state many vulnerable species and billions of dollars, but the risk will fall if Guam's air-drop strategy succeeds.

"We are taking this to a new phase," said Daniel Vice, assistant state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific Islands. "There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam."

Brown tree snakes are generally a few feet (1 meter) long but can grow to be more than 10 feet (3 meters) in length. Most of Guam's native birds were defenseless against the nocturnal, tree-based predators, and within a few decades of the reptile's arrival, nearly all of them were wiped out.

The snakes can also climb power poles and wires, causing blackouts, or slither into homes and bite people, including babies; they use venom on their prey but it is not lethal to humans.

The infestation and the toll it has taken on native wildlife have tarnished Guam's image as a tourism haven, though the snakes are rarely seen outside their jungle habitat.

The solution to this headache, fittingly enough, is acetaminophen, the active ingredient in painkillers including Tylenol.

The strategy takes advantage of the snake's two big weaknesses. Unlike most snakes, brown tree snakes are happy to eat prey they didn't kill themselves, and they are highly vulnerable to acetaminophen, which is harmless to humans.

The upcoming mice drop is targeted to hit snakes near Guam's sprawling Andersen Air Force Base, which is surrounded by heavy foliage and if compromised would offer the snakes a potential ticket off the island. Using helicopters, the dead neonatal mice will be dropped by hand, one by one.

U.S. government scientists have been perfecting the mice-drop strategy for more than a decade with support from the Department of Defense and the Department of the Interior.

To keep the mice bait from dropping all the way to the ground, where it could be eaten by other animals or attract insects as they rot, researchers have developed a flotation device with streamers designed to catch in the branches of the forest foliage, where the snakes live and feed.

Experts say the impact on other species will be minimal, particularly since the snakes have themselves wiped out the birds that might have been most at risk.

"One concern was that crows may eat mice with the toxicant," said William Pitt, of the U.S. National Wildlife Research Center's Hawaii Field Station. "However, there are no longer wild crows on Guam. We will continue to refine methods to increase efficiency and limit any potential non-target hazards."

The mouse drop is set to start in April or May.

Vice said the goal is not to eradicate the snakes, but to control and contain them. Just as the snakes found their way to Guam, they could stow away on a ship, or more likely the cargo hold of an airplane, and begin breeding on other islands around the Pacific or even the U.S. West Coast.

That "snakes on a plane" scenario has officials in Hawaii on edge. The islands of Hawaii, like Guam, lack the predators that could keep a brown tree snake population in check.

Native Hawaiian birds "literally don't know what to do when they see a snake coming," said Christy Martin, a spokeswoman for the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, a partnership of Hawaii government agencies and private organizations.

A 2010 study conducted by the National Wildlife Research Center found brown tree snakes would cause between $593 million and $2.14 billion in economic damage each year if they became established in Hawaii like they are on Guam. Power outages would cause the most damage, followed by a projected decline in tourism. The cost of treating snake bites would account for a small share.

"Once we get snakes here, we're never going to be able to fix the situation," Martin said.

Though the snakes are native to Australia and Papua New Guinea, Guam is much closer to Hawaii and its snake population is much more dense, meaning it is the primary threat for snake stowaways.

So far, Guam's containment seems to be working. Only a few brown tree snakes have ever been found in Hawaii, and none over the past 17 years.

"If we continue doing what we are doing, the chance of success is very high," Vice said. "If what we are doing stops, I think the possibility of the snakes getting to Hawaii is inevitable."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Meeting Old Friends At The Hot Springs

I was just returning from my walk with Molly this morning and passing the site of a small fiber glass trailer when a little Mini-Schnauzer was coming from there, leash behind it in the sand. It was followed by a man who I thought was looking somewhat familiar.  Seconds later he shouted “PETER” and I realized it was Allan.

Allan dragged me behind his trailer and there was his wife Railli sitting in the bright morning sun.

We had met Allan and Railli 4 years earlier at the Hot Springs, even visited with them in North Vancouver a few months later, but had had little contact later. They are from Sweden and of course we had talked a lot Norwegian and Swedish with them back then.

It was a great little reunion and we chatted and chatted
until Molly started to give signs it was time to go home.

Later they came by our site and we showed our trailer to them and, of course, had some more talking to do.

It sure was nice to meet them again and we will probably see more of them over the coming days.

I haven’t gotten any pictures today – maybe tomorrow!

Thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Eight More Days Or One Month

It happens every year and I hate the thought of it. Our stay down south is nearing it’s end. We have eight days to the end of February or just one month to our departure. But then I comfort myself with the fact that the day temps will have risen to pretty much unbearable levels. I really don’t like to be in a sweat lodge all day, and that’s what it will be when temps are crawling towards 90F.

This winter has been on the cool side though and who knows, it might even stay that way. Right now we have quite a storm rushing in from the north-west.
That little rain last night hardly left any puddles around and the rest of the humidity will be gone with the wind by tonight.
That’s life in the desert!

Had me a dip in the hot pool today. A guy was sitting beside me and chatting along with another guy in the other pool. He was rambling on about the American wars for Independence and let me tell you his stories let your imagination run wild.
But as he was rambling on it became too much for me and I had to get out of there. This guy was a history book!
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We are mostly spending the day inside the rig. The sun is on and off but the wind is soooo cold that nobody is staying outside. Molly is sleeping on the couch (where else eh?) and I can’t wait to have lunch.

We have had problems with our BEAMSPEED Internet connection today. making a call via SKYPE was all but impossible. After I ran a speed test the ping was down to the sixties and download often under 1mbs while upload was mostly between 0.1-0.2mbs. That is not enough capacity to use SKYPE. Now we are wondering whether the service provider has problems with his allocated bandwidth (too many users out there) or whether we should blame the high wind speeds. To compare we turned on our Verizon MIFI and the speeds were showing over 2mbs download and about 0.6mbs upload – a huge difference. So in the future we will just turn on the MIFI for the day when we want to make phone calls. And I’ll have to talk to the BEAMSPEED guys.

Remember I was wondering about those rock piles long I-8 in the San Diego Mountains?  Well a reader send me this explanation: (quite astounding)

The big boulders ...
... aren't boulders. They're a few huge masses of rock that solidified underground and are now being pushed upward and exposed by erosion. They're made of relatively soft stone, so they crack. The weather works at the cracks and rounds them off. That's why it looks like a pile of boulders. And yes, every once in a blue moon one of those masses gets loosened and rolls downhill. Unfortunate houses downhill may suffer. Welcome to geo-dynamic California. :-D

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How nice to know! Thank you “Unknown”.

And now I need to whip up some lunch. Hmm… let’s see what we got….

Thanks for hanging in here!
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Julian Pie Company

As a follow-up to yesterday’s story here’s about the Julian pie:
The Julian Pie Company became  a reality for Liz Smothers in September of 1986. It all started when she and a neighbour began peeling apples for a local pie shop where she was soon employed to bake and sell pies. Tim, her son worked after school rolling dough.

Recognizing her expertise, two other pie shops hired her to bake for them. While Liz enjoyed the activity and baking for the pie shops, she had a desire to be creative on her own and not merely bake someone else’s pie. With the assistance of a friend and emphasis on quality control and clean, neat surroundings, the Julian Pie Company began.

In 1989 Keith and Liz purchased an apple farm and with the help of son Dan, 17,000 trees were planted to supply fresh apples for the pie shop. While the orchard occupied much of Keith’s time, Liz’s expertise was in the kitchen ensuring quality control. Her goal was to produce a pie that would capture the essence of the small mountain town of Julian.
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Being the youngest of eight children, Liz attributes the love of pie making to her mother. “One of my fondest memories is standing on a box beside my mother putting leftover pie dough in a metal jar lid to make a pie.” Today she attributes the success of the pie shop t
o her dedicated team of bakers and staff.

It sure is a story of unique American entrepreneurship as it cannot found any better anywhere else.

Thanks to the Pie Company we had just another afternoon with Apple Pie and fresh whipped cream.

I could get used to that!

While we were enjoying the pie, the temps kept climbing up reaching 80F for the second day in a row.
So we kept ourselves within reach of a slight nice breeze.

Another gorgeous day in the desert south-west is slowly coming to an end and I cannot but think of that we only have another month left before we need to turn the van north and east. We sure will miss our nice trailer but then a new tourist season will keep us busy, and I kinda know that the summer will be on the fast track and over as quickly as this winter will be soon.

Thanks again for stopping by!

 

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Trip Out West And A Pie

Hey, I’m back in blog land! Yep, skipped two days. Oh…I’m feeling bad, sorry folks, but when nothing happens (and nothing DID happen) and I have no alternative ideas, then nothing’s gonna appear on this blog.
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       Heading west on Hwy 78

However, for today we had planned a trip out west- into the San Diego Mountains. We’ve been there before, but like with all kind of places we liked earlier, we want to see them again. We left the Hot Springs at about 8.30a and were soon running up Hwy111 towards Brawley.
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North of Brawley is a permanent Border Patrol Station. We slipped through and right behind is where Hwy 78 turns west towards Julian. First thing we noticed was hundreds of “Duners” (=people who play in the dunes).
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Their RVs were parked just about everywhere, and even the road was pretty busy with them.
What makes adults to kids? What is it that makes them park their expensive rigs right in the flying sand and race on ATVs along the desert floor like the devil was behind them. I mean, seriously folks, gas prices in California have passed the 4-Dollar mark and here are hundreds and hundreds playing with their gas-driven ATVs like there is no tomorrow????
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1-DSC_0306We finally got past all these maniacs and were heading further west. Once we got into the coastal mountains the scene changed from tan coloured desert floor to lush green mountain meadows, dark green live-oaks and lovely little places where people enjoy life. A few yellow flowers were already out, but obviously, it was too early for the big desert flower show. We really hadn’t expected anything like that either.
Wonder whether there’s any
Wildlife left at that noise level

After driving through narrow canyons and climbing up  long winding mountain roads and getting through a few hairpin curves, we rolled into Julian.
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Much can be said about Julian. It is certainly an inviting little town, even though I think that there is a little bit too much of the tourism character over everything.
It is almost like a tourist trap, OK- a nice tourist trap, and because of that we stopped and took a little walk. There is not much of a walk-about, it takes all but 30 minutes to walk up and down Main Street.
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Left: The Julian Pie Company
Walking down, I thought of apple pie. That is always a good enough reason to take a drive to Julian. The town is the home of the Julian Apple Pie Company. It was founded in 1986 by Liz Smothers and I will make a separate posting of this as it is well worth to know about it. So I walked right in and bought a lovely crisp “Dutch Apple Pie”.

Yummy, yummy…

All I want to say here is that these Apple Pies are the best pies I have ever eaten. Especially as we topped it with real whipped cream after we got home.

From Julian we went even further west down to Santa Isabel and further on through the lush green Ramona Canyon and through the town of Ramona.
1-DSC_0353 1-DSC_0356-001   A private driveway in bloom
It became clear that the beautiful weather had intrigued many people out of San Diego to head out and get up into the mountains. Once we counted a group of 24 Harleys droning along through town. Boy, these guys sure know how to make them heard. Not my cup of tea though.
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        I-8 east of San Diego

We were now on Hwy 67 and headed straight down to the broad Interstate 8, which turned out to be pretty empty, at least in our direction back east. There was way more traffic running towards San Diego though.
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When rolling down towards the desert floor into Imperial County we always marvel at the big boulders towering along the road. I really wonder how this landscape was created, what is the story behind these odd-shaped rocks.
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We put in a short stop at the Wally-mart in El Centro where we got a quart of HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM and a few other groceries.

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As soon as we had arrived at our trailer I made myself busy with that whipping cream and whipped up a good portion of it.

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There is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING, that can compare to the taste to this delicious apple pie topped with cream. After too good size slices I called it quits though and I can still feel it…..ah and taste it.

Thanks for staying around here and sorry if you got hungry for apple pie. You just have to make the tour yourself.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Good Morning America, How Are You….

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Yippeee…..  It’s February 14 and Valentines Day. The preparations at “SNOOPY’S” have been underway since the early morning hours. Tents have been raised, tables been set up and a blue tarp has been stretched out on the sand – the dancing floor.
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    “AL & Carlos”
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                                                                          The umbrella-march

The annual Valentine’s Party at the Hot Springs is popular and about 100 people from camp are expected. Preparations are not limited to preparing the grounds, but extend into just about every RV, as many desserts have to be prepared for this afternoon. Valentine is prime time for every sweet tooth in the desert. Bea has made a coupla plates of cookies adorned with pink frosting.
And as you can see on the pics here, there’s been made a large variety of cookies, cakes and desserts.
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Of course it’s not only a dessert party, but we are also being entertained.
Al, Carlos and Steve have been rehearsing and another couple, Pepe and Sue, have come from Yuma to contribute with their music. 
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Taking pictures…so important

The weather is nice too, not too hot with that light breeze out of the north-west.
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 The dance floor                                                  What’s Al saying…?

A couple tells me that they have been visiting
Campobello Island and loved it out there. Where travelers go travelers meet with each other.
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Dancing with Teddy…                                                   “Snoopy”…our party organizer

The good company we enjoy out here is what makes this place so special.