ARIZONA TO ALASKA

CHRISTMAS DAY

By: joealaska, 8:43 PM GMT on December 25, 2013

That last weather front was a dud. As usual, The Ohio River diverted all the good stuff north. It has always been the case, but that one in a hundred makes the TV cover that long shot. Not this time. The TV weather guy was all over it. He was telling me the storm would hit my area in 2 minutes. I was ready with camera, even though it was dark. There was lightening and thunder. But TV BOY brought everyone down, as he said he just did not see any energy here. The storm was really no big deal. And he was very accurate. It hit when predicted, but that storm surge was nothing. Only a few gusts after that.

While it was light, I had a view of the action. The leaves were gone and I could see the creek. There was a big tree downstream about 200 feet that was fallen across the entire stream with room to spare. It had about three feet of clearance for water to flow underneath. The log itself is at least 12 inches thick, more like 18. But I saw all of this early, before the rain kicked in.

At some point I saw the water overflowing the little banks. Then I saw the water hitting the bottom of that log Three feet. Then the water was over that log. A 4 or 4.5 foot rise in water level. I think we have at least four more feet of room beyond that. Certainly that would never be reached!!

Meanwhile, I now pay the price for where I moved. Saint Matthews, next to Louisville. I live off a major road through town, US 60, Shelbyville Road. I live next to the main inner loop for Louisville, The Watterson Expressway. I live right behind a big shopping mall. Across that expressway I mentioned is another big mall. Not a big deal until lately. Sorta.

Even in slow times, the local mall road area is badly designed. It was probably TOP RATE back in 1965 when they were designing it. You can only enter the mall I live behind, Oxmoor Mall, by the sides. East or west, off Shelbyville Rd. Both of the big intersections feature three lanes going one way merging with three lanes coming the other. And in each case, the outer three lanes wants to get to the inner three. And vice versa. In a short distance.

I have learned the best ways to approach and leave, but it sucks. I miss Dutch!! But I move on.

Saturday I needed to run a quick food run. I had heard this was the busiest day shopping (that is why I was still holding off) and it WAS busy. Driving out from my apartment I come to a small intersection where I can go straight and go out to the main road, or I can turn right and go around the rear of the mall, eventually going all around and out to the same main road mentioned earlier.

I chose the first option, as the direction I wanted to turn on that main drag was left. When I got to that first intersection, traffic was backed up all the way to that point. There were cars waiting coming from the back of the mall wanting to turn right and get outta there. I had no stop sign from my direction, but I stopped short to allow oncoming traffic to turn left in front of me. Finally there was room for me to move forward, but I waited another second to let a lady coming at me to turn left through the intersection. She waved a thank you, then made a wide U-turn and tried to head the way I was going. Now the intersection was well blocked. That set the tone.

It was only a quarter mile or so to Shelbyville Road. There was one light before that. On the right there were two or three entrances leading from the road I was on into, or out of, the main parking lot. There were many cars trying to pull out into MY road from the parking lot. When there was a small bit of space, THEY were the first ones to move out. I could see the light up ahead, and I watched it turn green and red, over and over, and nobody in the back where I sat moved. Further ahead other cars were jamming in from the other side of the road. They were coming from a big department store over there, and when they came to the road there was no light there at all. So they were driving out across the road and sticking their noses into the line of cars, so there was no mistaking the fact they wanted IN and were coming IN. Once again, when a sliver of space became available, these cars way up ahead of me were getting in.

It took an hour to go that quarter mile. The Christmas Gauntlet. Ho Ho Ho.

I finished my shopping early this year, 2 days before Christmas. I ordered some stuff via internet and a couple items were out of stock and are not here on Christmas Day. Amazon Prime says they would make it just in time. But that “out of stock” excuse comes in real handy this time of year. UPS had trouble making all their deliveries this year. The demand was beyond their capacity. Damn “out of stocks”!

Joealaska.net is up and running. I still need to get more photos in there, but there are about 250 in there now.

Have a Happy New Year!

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SITTING ON 679.

By: joealaska, 10:16 PM GMT on December 17, 2013

I had a last minute surprise where I could use a time share near Gatlinburg, Tennessee if wanted it. This was on Wednesday, and the reservations were made for Friday and Saturday night. Check out 10 AM Sunday. Turns out my schedule was open at that time.

By coincidence, my old college buddy Donnie was passing through town Wednesdayand we were having a quick dinner. He lives in Nashville, so we decided it was a good time for me to pass through there while heading south. It was something I had wanted to do for some time, just never had the right chance.

I took my time leaving on Friday morning, getting out around 10:30 AM. It was east on I-64 and south on I-75. When I left Louisville there were 6 inches of snow on the ground, but when I was in Lexington it was almost all gone. There are some nice hills and views approaching Tennessee, and the temperatures were not bad, so I punched in GOLF COURSES on the GPS and saw what was coming up. I called a few as I drove and asked if they were open. Everyone said there was still patches of snow and ice on the courses, so it was no good. I wanted to get a round in if possible. The time share I was going to was on a golf course, but weather was predicted that was BAD for golf.

I finally found a course near La Follette, Tennessee. On Norris Lake. The Greens of Deerfield. The GPS took me through a couple small towns as well as La Follette, and it seemed to take forever.
Next thing I new I was on a narrow country road with 10 mph turns and steep hills. I never saw a sign that a golf course was nearby, and wondered what I was getting into. Just after I came around a turn and saw a deer leg laying in the road (no sign of the rest of him) I came to the course. It was wide open, nobody around, and I needed that as I was running out of daylight.

The course was interesting, with steep hills and narrow fairways through trees. Deer were everywhere grazing on the course. I played quickly and got the round in, running into one other group just when they were walking off the last green. Perfect timing.

I headed toward Knoxville, back through those same little towns before I got to the freeway again. It was getting dark quickly, and it was Friday night rush hour. Perfect BAD timing. I turned east and headed toward Gatlinburg. The exit to Gatlinburg was backed up on the interstate for a mile. The drive through Pigeon Forge was a mess with the traffic. Then I took one last narrow winding road to the time share. That was a 13 mile stretch that went forever. Very dark there, hairpin curves. It was a relief when I finally pulled in.

I had two bedrooms, two baths, and two kitchens all to myself. Was not sure what I would do next day as there was a prediction of 100% chance rain. I think there is 50% chance of rain EVERY day EVERYWHERE...

It was raining next morning, so I took a ride into Gatlinburg. TOURIST HEAVEN. It was packed.
Many years ago I camped out there with some friends. My main memory was eating Dinty Moore beef stew that someone spiked with vodka. No more Dinty Moore for me since then. Not a lot of vodka either, come to think of it.

I drove into Smoky Mountain National Park and headed to Clingmans Dome up in the mountains. It was pouring and near freezing. Warning signs said beware of dense fog, snow, and ice. There was dense fog patches right away. But traffic was moving and I drove onward. First sign of trouble and I would just turn around. When I got to the turn-off for Clingmans Dome, it was closed.

So I returned to town and had a big late breakfast. I could not believe it as I watched the sun come out as the rain stopped . I had an Alaska coat on with a boat name, and a couple of the waiters wanted to hear about Alaska, so I was there a while. When I headed back to the time share I saw big clouds still blowing through, but it was not raining.

I went to the pro shop at the golf course and saw there was one car in the parking lot, the guy working there. He said the course was actually open, just soaked. There were big puddles in the fairways. Even so, I came back and played it in about an hour. Several crazy holes on the back side. Very narrow fairways, hitting through gaps in trees. Still, had a good time playing. Once again, I had to move to get done by sunset but did so easily.

That night I wanted to use the jacuzzi to loosen up after the golf, but the hot water seemed to go cold
during the initial filling. I gave up. Years ago I almost got in a jacuzzi at CASAS house. But when he opened the lid we saw it looked like a thriving Petri dish. We shut that lid before something crawled out. Pass. Joejacuzzi just does not sound right.
.
Sunday I checked out of the time share and headed east to Nashville. Music City. Donnie and family live in nearby Brentwood. He and his wife Brenda and myself went south to Franklin, a small old fashioned town that was known for many festivals that take place right downtown. The festival this week had a Charles Dickens theme. The characters of The Night Before Christmas were walking around in the crowd, talking with people and standing for pictures.

Next day Don and I went to Hermitage golf course and played the last round of my weekend. It was a perfect day. One guy came up from behind and cut around us, now getting in our way. There were a few words spoken, none of which should be mentioned here. He hurried to get ahead and out of our way. A couple times we saw him and let him know he should keep moving. AGAIN we finished just as it was turning dark. Then we said BYE and I headed north to Louisville.

It had been a long day, so I flew along and got home in a little over two hours.

I am now at 679 courses played. This was the first time I played in Tennessee.

I ordered one of my own photos to check the lab quality and service. It looks good, and got to me in a couple days. I still have a LOT of pictures to put on there, be patient and check it out every once in a while.

Done.

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SUPERMAN? BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.

By: joealaska, 8:49 PM GMT on December 08, 2013

Woke up this morning expecting to go to our usual Sunday family breakfast, but Dotmom had an email saying the snow was coming down and was a problem. I looked outside and saw nothing. Then I squinted and I did see a very fine snow falling. It soon got heavier, big wet flakes. At one point I got a little excited thinking, NOW we are going to get some real snow. But 10 minutes later it was done. Just enough to smooth out the footprints in the snow we got Friday.

But that snow coming down reminded me of a snow story from my college days. I may have told it here before. If you have heard it before, skip ahead, or just amuse yourself by guessing the next sentence.

DAYTON OHIO, circa 1976. Living at 452 Kiefaber in the student housing neighborhood affectionately and accurately called The Ghetto. One of my housemates was Jeff Ramus from Michigan. Great guy. He was a rare student who had a car. A brand new Triumph TR7, bright yellow. He not only would let me drive it, he encouraged it. When we both went along, he let me drive. I took it out a few times just for a cruise with the top down and drove around beautiful Dayton checking out the sights. Short trip.

Jeffs family had money. I think it Grandpa who was on the Board of Directors of BF Goodrich. I think Jeff got free tires. Anyway, Grandpa owned a cabin and land north near Alpena, Michigan. Way north. So we were able to take a long weekend and take a cruise to check it out. This was during the heart of the winter. Plenty of snow on the ground, and more coming down. This only made it more exciting and we hit the road. The CB craze was in full swing, and Jeff had one in his car. So we listened to the truckers and took it easy.

We pulled in late at night. We could see nothing of the land, it was way out in the woods with no lights anywhere. Even the cabin was dark. It was a vacation place, nobody lived there regularly. And “cabin” does not do that place justice. It was NICE.

There was about a foot of snow on the ground, and the snow was coming down steady and heavy. We had a few beers and talked about our futures. I had that dream of ending up in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Might have been the beer. Then we hit the sack. There were no real plans for the next day. Probably spend most of the time stoking the fire and watching some football.

But next morning we looked outside and it was WINTER WONDERLAND. The snow had worked overtime all night and DUMPED another two feet of new powder. POWDER is the perfect word to describe that snow. I had never seen snow like it. It was a surprise when we first walked outside and stepped into it. If I closed my eyes and walked I could not even feel it. Light and dry and fluffy.
Growing up in Ohio and going to UD I had seen plenty of snow, none like this. Not since then either.

Then Jeff says, EVER RIDE A SNOWMOBILE? (“Snow Machine” to those farther north). No, never. He opened up the garage door and there were a couple machines in there. He fired one up and brought it out, doing a couple of loops in the big yard. Then he pulled up and said TRY IT. This was the extent of my training. Jeff explained there was not much to it. Aim it, and gun it, no brakes to worry about.

He told me there were plenty of trails through the woods. Someone had cut paths through the trees with one of those cute mini-bulldozers. The woods were pretty dense, but there was those 8 foot wide highways leading you through the snow covered forest. A maze of many paths. Grandpa had 800 acres, and it seems they were solely for snowmobile riding. Jeff assured me I could not get lost, as all the trails ended up back at the cabin. Eventually. Even an idiot could handle it, so I headed off INTO THE WILD.

At the first sharp turn I went straight into the briar bushes. Not good, but much better than a grove of oak trees. Here I learned my first two important lessons of snow machines. First: No reverse. And second, they are heavy. It took 20 minutes to get out of that mess and pointed in the right direction. What Jeff had not told me (years later I still think it was on purpose) was the importance of shifting your weight while making turns. In fact, you do not sit at all. You kneel, and put your foot in back in a loop so that you can literally throw the rear end of the machine left or right to help in the turn. The snow machines I see nowadays seem to be twice as big as the one I rode. Maybe this is not correct anymore, as they seem to weigh to much to move very easily.

All I know is that if I was going fast at all and turned left or right without that weight shift, the sleds would turn, but the machine would just continue straight ahead with the momentum. OK, lesson learned. I admit, I was shortly in the brambles again, but I figured out the weight shift thing to a degree and continued onward.

It was great. I had no idea where I was, and there was nobody around. The snow and woods were beautiful. Then all of a sudden I popped out into a huge field. No trees, wide open. Everything was white. Blinding. Hard to get any depth perception. How deep was the snow? Hard to tell. But it was deep and was a bit more damp than that fluffy stuff I mentioned earlier. Next thing I know was I bogged down in deep snow and leaned to the side about 45 degrees and stopped. I was stuck in a snow drift. Getting out of that was much harder than the bramble bushes. It took a lot of hand digging, and revealed to me the unfun side of snow machines.

But I got out. Would have been interesting if I did not, as I was a couple miles down the trail and alone. Just another carcass to be found in the spring melt. Sure was pretty out there, though.

So I started to wonder if the secret in the deep stuff was to get up some speed so I could plane on top? Only one way to find out. Plus, I wanted to see what that PIG would do, especially since there was nothing but snow for another half mile or so. In a few seconds I was flying. There is a little windshield on there that perfectly directed that fluffy stuff straight into my face. I could see nothing, except off to either side. Those machines can easily go 70 mph. I was not anywhere close to that. It was hard to tell, as I COULD NOT SEE. I was a human comet, flying along virgin snow in a big cloud of snow.

Next thing I know, I slipped off the seat. I was still holding the handlebar and accelerator, and now my legs were dangling behind me as I flew along, kinda like Superman. But it was fun, and I was still almost in control. Was this the way the regulars did it? Who knew if they were way out there by themselves? Wish I had some film of it. I can imagine some local farmer catching a glimpse of me. DAMN TOURISTS...

I enjoyed the ride for a minute or less, but decided to back off as I may have been heading toward a barbed wire fence for all I knew. How could I know? I could not SEE. I slowed down and immediately sank into deep snow and got stuck again. Looked like I may have been right about that planing thing after all. Eventually I dug out again (riding snow machines can be extremely taxing) and I headed back from where I came from. I wanted to ask Jeff how a path returns to the cabin when it crosses a huge field.

It was a lot of fun riding that machine, especially being Superman for a minute. But all that digging out got old.

When I returned Jeff got out the other machine and we both went out. I cannot remember why we did not do that in the first place! But he showed me how to hook my foot in the back, and while I followed him I could see the secret way to use your weight while making turns. It was a great weekend.

Hard to believe that was my last time on one of those machines. Probably a good thing for all.

I remember driving back to Dayton in a blizzard.

Meanwhile, I am trying to sell some photos. Have opened a new website. The name is a bit different...

www.joealaska.net

Still working on it, probably will keep adding to it. Eventually there will be a link to another site that will let you buy photos if you like. I am also setting up that site. For a guy with no job I still do not have enough time.

I am even back on Facebook. Hard to believe. If you poke me, poke with purpose.

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ENTER WINTER

By: joealaska, 6:16 AM GMT on December 05, 2013

I am sitting by my wide-open patio door at 12:30 AM enjoying the breeze. In Louisville, in December. Fairly unusual. But reality is coming back. The clouds are coming through, that breeze is bringing TRUBBA. Tomorrow (technically, TODAY) rain moves in, and temps start to drop. A lot. Today it was 70. Friday highs will be in the 20s. They are talking 2-4 inches of snow. A lot more just north in Indiana. The Ohio River tends to block weather coming down here.

This morning I went grocery shopping as I was low on almost everything. The KROGER stores are all being expanded. They are going from large to mahoosive. They have all of this floor space now, yet they have backed off on one critical figure...aisle space. Today was ridiculous.

There are two sizes of push carts. Wimpy and huge. Today I needed the huge. You go into the store and right away you are in the PRODUCE section. There is one aisle that goes straight through there. It is only wide enough for two carts, if both carts are off to the side. One cart can easily block the aisle if the driver is not paying attention, letting the cart sit in the aisle as the driver looks for the perfect head of lettuce. But the biggest part of PRODUCE is small aisles that wind in and around all the display racks. It is a puzzle that needs concentration to solve. One big shopping cart will dominate any of these mini aisles. Or BLOCK it.

Looking around at the big picture, it is obvious that everyone is fighting the congestion. People are turning around because they cannot get directly to those cantaloupes.

The rest of the store is similar. The outer aisles are widest, but not wide enough. But mosr ailes are INTERIOR. Maybe 20 or 25 aisles crossing the store, with one aisle down the middle going the length of the store. Those are the problem. That vast interior. I was fighting the crowd the whole way. The elderly walking very slowly. People not thinking, or caring, leaving their cart to block an aisle. The only success is gained by experience. When you stop and look at the shelves, put your cart hard against the side. Otherwise, someone eventually gets disgruntled and pulls an Uzi.

I wanted to go down a number of aisles, but there was no room. So I ended up going to the next aisle, looking to go around and come from the other direction. In a few cases I ended up going down 5 or 6 aisles to find one open. Finally I resorted to leaving my cart in a slow spot and walking to shop, then returning to the home base. I saw other people doing the same thing. I made a few jokes with some people who were feeling the same frustration.

I do not understand the reason this happens. Some merchandisers feel that breaking up traffic flow increases sales as people suddenly find themselves in a new area. All I know is that food is food. Everyone needs it. You got me! Just give me some room to get that food.

Hey Biff Kroger, are you listening?

I played my first round of golf today since my golf weekend way back. NINE weeks. I have been sick for a lot of that, but my golf game sucks too. No motivation. Today was perfect. 70 degrees and very cloudy. On the front nine I skipped a couple holes with a backup (like Kroger) of golfers, and played a few holes twice. On the back nine I wanted to shoot for a score. I was happy with the results, at last. I hit a few long putts. Now I am ready to go.

Just as the snow moves in.

Right now 68 at 1 AM.

Updated: 6:25 AM GMT on December 05, 2013

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About joealaska

On June 4th I left Kentucky driving my RV known as Leggs. The trip is mostly unplanned, it will be interesting to see where I end up. Let's GO!