Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)


Not sure about those railroad guys...

So, if a few days ago was a rant about the emotional side of my weekend train ride, this would be a review on the actual train ride, and it's associated museum. 

For those of you asking yourself 'what they hell is he talking about', this last weekend my dad, brother and I got our families together for the first time in over 18 months, and to pass the time, we decided to ride the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, which also includes a visit to the Railroad Museum in Mineral, Wa.

The train ride itself was less impressive than it's name would lead you to believe.  There are a few peek-a-boo views of Mount Rainier and some of the foothills, but there are just as many unscenic views of rusted out singlewides and RV's parked on some of the rural lots lining the rail line, and you get to see them coming and going, because you just run the same 11 mile stretch of twice between Elbe and Mineral, with a 45 minute stop or so at the cute little museum.

I actually got more out of the museum than I did the train ride.  It's a train/logging museum, and I got the learn things, like the origination of the word 'flunky'.  While the word actually originated in Scotland, it's also what they called the girls that were brought in to run the dining rooms at the logging camps...and they did not have an easy life.  A camp of 70 men would be supported by two women, who did all the cooking and dishwashing for all those men...and one could only guess they pumped a lot of food into those lumberjacks at the turn of the century.

Also impressive was the sheer amount of IRON.  Growing up in an age of increasingly skeletal metal/composite frames covered by foamed plastic, the mass of metal making up one of these steam engines is AMAZING...190,000 pounds in some of them.

Of course, although I'm approaching 40, I'm still a 12-year old kid inside...and I think the same can be said for these railroad guys.

Rod.  Climax.  'Unit'.  You can almost imagine the Beavis and Butt Head giggle I kept whispering into my wife's ear.
One other interesting take away that my dad had: On our way out, we poked our head into the machine shop at the museum(which also functioned as their repair depot), and my dad observed that the machinery in their machine shop looked just like the stuff that had been in the machine shop on his first ship back in 1970.  I do know that the lathe they had wouldn't fit in your average home shop.


Family Gathering

This last weekend, we got together with my dad and my brother, and their family.  It's the first time since November of 2012 that we got all of my dad's granddaughters in one place.

It shouldn't have been that long...but, well...family.  My dad lives about 4 hours from us...the same general distance as my mom, whom we see every 8-10 weeks...but, even when we lived on the other side of the mountains, and we were less than 2 hours from each parent, we still saw my dad 33% as often as my mom. 

Many reasons, and none of them good.  Just...my dad is different than my mom, and his situation is different.  For the last few years, he has been fighting to get official custody of my step-brothers kids, something that finally happened earlier this year...so, he is not a gentleman in his mid-60s raising an 15 year old and an 11 year old. He is retired from the Navy, but still runs his own flooring business.  He is busier than he should have to be at his age with work, and dancing classes/girl scouts for the girls.  When he does get a day off, he feels he has earned the right to spend some of his remaining time on himself golfing, instead of driving 4 hours in a car with kids to visit us, I guess. 

It's also tough because, for some other reason, there is 'no room for us at the inn'.  Despite the fact that my mom has been able to find room for my wife and I, and our daughters to crash at her two bedroom place for a night, there is not enough room for that at my dads 2400sf place, so visiting him would involve having to rent a hotel room...an added expense we can't always swing, and frankly, I get pouty at the idea of having to do that...so we don't(I never said I wasn't at least partway to blame for the state of things).

Even this weekend, we didn't go to their place...we met in the tiny town of Elbe(1 hour drive for them, 3.5 for us) to ride the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad

It was a nice get together...a chance to visit, and catch up...even if it wasn't the chance to show off the life I am building for myself with my family(bitter much?).  True to it's name, there were even some scenic views of Mount Rainier(although, you also could have called it ''Rusted out Singlewide Scenic Railroad...there more than a few of those on lots lining the tracks).

It's not a perfect family...we don't see each other as much as we should...but we do still talk to each other regularly...which is better than some families do. 

I also got a chance to get an updated picture with me and my dad...which is going to mean more to me someday than it does now. 


Hope Springs Eternal.

There hasn't been a lot of 'garden boast posts' around here lately, because, well...there hasn't been a lot of garden boasting to do.  I've been getting vegetables, but the output, a handful of cherry tomatoes a  day, a few full size tomatoes and zucchini a week, and one nice initial batch of Anaheim Peppers, has not been bragable given the effort/expenses that were put into the garden beds. 

All is not quite lost yet.  My zucchini plants that I started from seed and allowed to get root bound in those stupid starter pellets are finally producing...just as the ones I planted from the store are petering out, so I should keep getting a few zucchini/yellow squash a week well into September.  I've got a steady stream of tomatoes, and a final batch of peppers that are setting, and well as a healthy number of tomatillos on those plants. Ideally, I'll have enough of those three things to justify canning a batch of salsa. 

I've also started a round of 'fall' vegetables...a few pots of kale and Swiss Chard, before ripping out some under-producing tomato plants, mixing in some new soil, and planting a few rows of turnips, something I have never planted before.

I'll probably leave some close together, for greens production, and thin some out for actual 'turnip' production.  


Not a bad opening act.

Last night, my wife went and caught a band at the Benton-Franklin Fair.

I like me some Montgomery Gentry.  They are rocking enough for anyone, but about 1.5 steps more 'traditional' than some of the current crop of 'country' artists getting their songs played on the country stations now.  Mostly, I feel the difference is that the songs Montgomery Gentry sing seem to be about something while current Top 40 seems to be a contest to 'Out Red-Neck' each other...the songs all seem to be about getting drunk and crazy around the bonfire. 
It's not our first time seeing MG...we saw them a few years ago at the Puyallup Fair. 
It was our first time seeing their opening act, though. 
Typically, in overly simplistic terms, an opening act falls into one of two categories: 'up and comer' or 'past their prime, but still enjoy performing, and willing to settle for a shorter set just keep experiencing the rush'. 
You could say that the opening act last night fell into the 2nd category, but he put such a great show, it's hard to think of him as 'past his prime'...Eddie Montgomery's younger brother, John Michael Montgomery.  At the height of his popularity in the early/mid-90s, he had the #1 selling country song two years in a row: 'I Swear', and 'I Can Love You Like That'.  In total, he had 5 #1 songs, and over 30 top 40 hits.
Things got rougher for him in the late 90's...vocal cord growths, a visit to rehab, and just the way country music shifted away from his sound.  He had a brief comeback in 2004 with a great song, 'Letters from Home', which made it to #2, but for the most part, he just seems to tour when he wants to, and sings where he can.  He played a great little 45 minute set, during which you knew every song.  I'm not going to say he sounded exactly like he did 18 years ago, but he put more feeling into his songs than I ever did.
In the end, you aren't going to get a chance to see an opening act with his resume very often.
It was a perfect night.  The last week or so, we have had some cooling...temperatures in the low 90's/upper 80's...and last night it was only 85 or so with a nice breeze when the show started.  Close to perfect.
And of course, country music has quite a reputation for attracting some attractive young ladies, and this concert was no different.
I was just lucky enough to bring the prettiest one there with me.


Target Identification

Bummer of a story out of Florida.

Woman shoots grandson; thought he was an intruder

The seven year old grandson is listed in Critical Condition...I hope for the Grandma's sake that he pulls through.  Whether he does or not, I don't want to be a meanie, but Grandma looks to be guilty of negligence: Failure to properly identify a target.  A hunter can't shoot into a rustling bunch of bushes because they 'thought they heard a deer'...a homeowner can't hear a noise in a dark house and fire a round in that general direction. 

This one is a perfect chance to learn from someone else's mistake. 


That might work out okay.

There had been a rumor floating around work that we might be doing a bit of a shift change, and today the company made it official: September 8th we will be rolling to a 4 X 10 shift...0600-1630, Monday-Thursday, with every Fri, Sat, Sun off.

It should work out more conveniently with hunting season coming up.  I won't have to burn leave time on Fridays, even though I'll get charged some extra time on the Mondays and Tuesdays I'm taking off. 

Also on the 'Yay' side of things: 20% less gas money each month...it will actually be a sizable savings. 

Most of the techs that work for me are pretty happy about it. Some of the other contractors on site area already on 4 tens, and so some of the guys have experience with it.  A few of the older guys just feel it is a LONG day, and having to be in to work at 6 gets old after a while.  For me, being a manager and having meetings that start before the actual start of work, it's really only an extra half-an-hour a day to get every Friday off. 

I'm eager to see how it works out.


And that is why I don't fix problems.

For...a 'while' now, we have had a loose floor tile in the bathroom.  A couple of weeks ago, I tried taking the easy way out, and just chipping out and replacing the grout around that tile...and that helped for a week or so.  Finally,  my wife was able to convince me to do the 'right thing', and just pull the tile up, and start from scratch.

Of course, things are not ever that easy.  First, roughly half the mastic stuck to the floor, and half stuck to the back of the tile.  And, there was a suspicious looking intermittent black staining on the subfloor, which is actually two problems in one: it's most likely some mildew/mold(not 100% unexpected having a loose tile on the damp bathroom floor), and, from everything I have read...I shouldn't be able to see the wooden subfloor.  The current standard for doing floors in bathrooms(and I only know this because I studied to fix this tile), is laying cement board over the wood subfloor.

I am lacking a cement board layer.  Bummer.

I'm not in a position to address this problem right now, either skill wise, or finance wise.  Problem noted, and added to the wish list somewhere in between a camping trailer/boat/or an outfitted elk hunt. 

Cleaning the floor wasn't tough, and it didn't take too long, as long as you don't count the drying times.  Cleaning the old mastic off was the only real sweaty part...and getting it off the floor was 18 times easier than  getting it off the back of the tile I had to reuse.  As I was using a putty knife and hammer to remove the old stuff from the back of the tile, I was constantly worried I was going to hit too hard, or at the wrong angle and break the tile. 

Once the mastic was off the floor, I gave it two doses of bleach, letting it dry overnight. Then I painted on a latex based sealant to protect the wooden subfloor until we decided to redo the whole bathroom, letting it dry most of the day yesterday before I finally laid some knew mastic, and set the old tile back in.  It's currently setting in the bathroom with a 5-gallon bucket full of something on it, weighing it down.  I'll let it set a good 36-48 hours before grouting it.

The only real negative with the process(other than learning I will need fix the whole floor at some point(or sell the house!) is that it takes the upstairs bathroom mostly out of business for a several day period, meaning no soaking bubble baths for me while the wife and kids are out of the house...just the downstairs shower stall.