Venice Beach at Halloween

Today Teresa combined her love of children, tractors and fun by driving her tractor to school and handing out treats to students as they arrived. She braided her long hair in pigtails and wore a bonnet to complete her country farm-girl look. She had to drive the tractor a couple of miles on the main roads to get it to the school. On any other day this would have been news, but it's Halloween today so this is just part of the day.
Randy and I had an urge to see what Venice Beach looked like on Halloween, so mid-morning we picked up Aunt Jean and drove to Venice Beach. For awhile we watched kids (and a few older folks) skateboarding at the big Skateboard Park on the beach. The concrete structure has curved banks, handrails and short flights of steps - everything skaters love to play on. There were a lot of falls and trips but most people managed to avoid hitting the pavement. 
Most of the structures on the beach have been spray painted, aka tagged, including the trees. I don't know what this thing is but I would not hesitate to call whoever did it, an artist.
We walked through the sand a bit, then headed back to the boardwalk. Surprisingly we didn't see any street performers - they must have been waiting until the evening. There were a long line of vendors, though. "Vendors" is a loose term here; some were selling hand-painted pictures or dream-catchers, but several were just dressed oddly and asking for $1 per photo. I paid my dollar to take a pic of Lisa, the "Live Dead Dog". She was laid out on her back, wearing sunglasses and a bikini with money stuffed in it, and not moving a muscle until I gave her a little belly rub.
Some guys just had a hand-written sign asking for  "Change for Weed" or "Money to buy Weed". Well, at least they're honest! Medical Marijuana is very popular here and there are lots of "Green Doctor" offices offering a quick medical exam for $40. Somehow I am sure every exam results in a prescription.

The street art wasn't too special today, but several of the buildings have really beautiful murals on their sides.  





By then it was already 1pm so we shared an order of nachos for lunch, then hit the road back to Riverside. It's a 60 mile trip and we had been warned not to wait until 3 pm or it would take 3 hours to get home. We left a few minutes after 2 pm and it took four hours! Four hours. The longest and slowest stretch was on 91. Five to six lanes the whole way, and we still moved at a crawl.
But Aunt Jean knew how to cheer us up - at the end of the trip she took us to Baskin Robbins where we all had ice cream for dinner! As a bonus, the staff were dressed up for Halloween.

Tasting Menu, 2014

Randy loves to cook for people who appreciate good food. He wanted to do special for Aunt Jean and Teresa so yesterday he prepared another Tasting Dinner for  Aunt Jean and 9 of her friends (which, of course, included Teresa). 

Randy takes the preparation as seriously as the cooking. He went to several stores to get exactly what he wanted, including quail eggs, white asparagus, live basil and lettuce, Tillamouk cheese and raw sugar. He selected each individual green bean by hand.  
He was going to do about 6-7 courses this time, but his love of cooking got the best of him and he ended up doing 10 courses. Each course was small but even so, finishing it all was touch-and-go by the end! 

First Starter: Chilled White Asparagus Mayonnaise and Red Pepper Sauce, and a roll of Prosciutto Ham and Provolone Cheese. 

Second Starter: Bella Napoli - also known as Italian Nachos (one of my favorites!).
Soup Course: Potato and Cauliflower Soup, topped with shredded cheese and green onions.
Salad Course: Chicken Salad on Bibb lettuce.
First Entrée: Pork Belly topped with Apple Cream Sauce, sided with couscous and carrots.
Second EntréeA mini version of the famous St. Louis Slinger, topped with a quail egg.
Third Entrée: A tiny Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of Fried Green Beans.
First desert: Apple Fritter with Caramel Sauce.
Second desert: Pumpkin Crème Brûlée with a fresh strawberry.
And just in case there was any room left, he finished with a rich Chocolate Pâté. This looks like fudge but it's richer and creamier. Even I can only eat a small piece of this delight!




Perfect Birthday dinner!

Randy asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner. I knew exactly what I wanted - one of his awesome anti-pasta trays.
It was a perfect dinner, followed by a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. This time I didn't share the cake with Julienne, though.

2nd weekend at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum

On 10/25 we spent another fun weekend at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum. Cutest thing I saw there: Jack's solar-powered air-conditioned hat! 
Friday afternoon a few of us got on tractors and cub tractors and started riding around the grounds. The group grew and grew until there was more than a dozen of us. 
Saturday Randy taught me a little about driving one of Jack's tractors in an open field and Sunday Jack gave me another shot at it. I had a good time, but nobody thought it would be a good idea for me to drive anywhere other than the open field.

Randy and Teresa volunteered in the kitchen most of the time and Jack had his tractors to take care of, so that left me with time to wander around by myself. That always took me to the steam-powered steam roller. Saturday it was in the parade and driving around the grounds, but Sunday it was sidelined. One of the gears sounded just a little off, and that was enough for the engineers that maintain it to keep it off the road. They did, however, hook it back up to run the rock-crusher for demonstrations, while they were looking into the problem. They told me it looked like one of the original shims around the gear had finally slipped or disintegrated; it held for 100 years, so what more could you expect of it? They will probably replace it with another shim. I am so glad there are talented people with an interest in keeping this beauty in order.
I love these big old things. 
Most of the guys driving tractors grew up on a farm. Theirs may be the last generation to see these machines at work, so it is important to get younger people interested in them. Here you often see some of those younger people having a great time with these old machines.
Randy's brother Butch brought his wife Lina to the event on Sunday. Since Randy was driving one of Jack's tractors in the parade, he took Lina with him. She has a natural beauty-queen parade wave.
This weekend a 1937 Power Horse ran in the parade. This unusual tractor was created to bridge the gap between horses and machines. The tractor could be hooked up to the farmer's horse-drawn equipment and was controlled by reins, just like horses. 
There are always some wonderful old cars here, too, some of which are perfectly restored. I would love to have something like this!
The big tractors and steam engines move more slowly, like elephants coming through the fields; they don't need to hurry - everything gets out of their way!
When not in the parade, many tractors are used as get-around vehicles. They were everywhere, sharing the roads and paths with golf carts. Most of these older guys ride their tractor with the same ease and comfort as if they were on a horse. 
Cousin Jack sits on his tractor exactly as if it was his old mare Dolly. Dolly passed away a year or so ago, so it's a blessing that Jack has these tractors to enjoy.


Remodeling an RV bathroom, part 1

Our next project is remodeling our bathroom. RVs don't give have many options to change room sizes so we are making what changes we can within the space available. First on the list is to replace the vanity. Our old vanity was awkwardly placed in a corner and looked very dated. Yesterday Randy pulled it out.
And today he is preparing the space for the new one. All the water lines and pipes have the be adjusted, of course.

Three years ago: Worst day on the road
Five years ago: A perfect day

What's for breakfast....

Quail eggs!
They taste just like chicken eggs. You wouldn't want to make a quail egg omelette, though; you could spend an hour trying to crack enough eggs!

Artifacts - everything tells a story

When we were in Maine Randy found an interesting stone artifact. The shape is sort of like an ax or adze, and the flat end has a lip around it that is probably where it was attached to a handle.
It's a lot thicker on the face of it than it is on the side. I can see how this shape would make it effective and still be stable enough to not break apart when used. It sure would take a lot of work to make this.
Later in New Mexico Randy found more artifacts. First he found a minie ball. It's not empty so it was lost, not fired.
Nearby he found an old button. On the front, which is damaged, is an eagle. 
On the back side, the loop that held the button on a coat has been bent back against the button and won't move. Fortunately the markings of "J.H. Wilson" and "Phila" are still clear. James H. Wilson was a Philadelphia button manufacturer from 1873 until 1904. The location and age of these things indicates to us that they were lost during the Indian Wars. 
Then he found something much older: this chunk of rock has a pretty good fire-starter hole in it. This hole is where a spindle would be placed, surrounded by dry tinder. When the spindle was rolled back and forth quick enough it would create friction, which would create an ember. There is also a smaller hole, and a faint line cut across the rock.



Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum

We just spent two days at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum's fall festival. This is at the outdoor museum that we enjoyed so much two years ago. They have all types of machines here - tractors, steam engines, cars, threshers - almost everything. The beauty of this museum/club is that so many old machines are being saved from disintegration. People who care about them donate them to the museum, and other people fix them up. There has been a lot of work since the last time we were here but there are still lots of machines waiting to be restored. This old truck is still waiting but its day may be getting close; I heard a couple of guys talking about what it would take to fix it up. 
Individual buildings on the grounds house various crafts. This weekend several weavers working in the Weaver's Barn. One of them gave us a tour, explaining different types of weaving machines and weaving methods. All of the weaving here is done by hand, although they have a couple of looms that they say use  "computer logic". The pattern for those looms is created by "on-or-off" logic, which is, indeed, the basis for computer language. In this case the on-or-off decision is controlled by pegs on a track. The track needed a little extra weight to hold it steady, so they added some really old-school technology - a  wooden rolling pin.
The pegs on the track moves parts that hold the threads, to create a pattern like this.
The Blacksmith Barn was busy, too, with several smiths were working on decorative and/or functional creations. This time I noticed the big belts that run overhead, keeping the machines and bellows going. 
There is a small grist mill on site that grinds whole corn into flour. Randy bought some; I expect he will make something really good with it.
The festival is a family adventure so they have activities for children, like picking up (stabbing) potatoes with a stick, from the back of a moving tractor. That's something that city kids don't know anything about.
And the festival isn't just for tractors; a car club brought in some really beautiful cars. 
Some were lined up for display but several were being used to get around the grounds. People here are as likely to cruise around in a gangster-style car or cub tractor as a golf cart.  

Almost any old machine is welcome here - they even have a tank, on loan from the Marine Corps Mechanized Museum in Pendleton. One of the cool things about this tank is that it carries it's own spare parts. Hanging on the outside are tow bars, drive sprockets, tools, cables, even extra tread.
The big parade runs on Saturday and Sunday. And we found out where Elvis has been hiding - he's here, driving tractors!
At the start of the parade the tractors, cars and what-have-you all line up, then drive slowly (which is as fast as a few of these can go) past the bleachers. This is what it looks like, from the line:
The reason we know what it looks like from the line is that this year we were in the parade! Cousin Jack had two tractors there, so Randy drove his Farmall B.
My very favorite vehicle, the big 1914 steam roller, is still going strong. At one point they had it hooked up to a rock-crusher, turning rocks into pebbles.
They took the steam roller out on the road for everyday, and guess who got a ride? That blond in the back me!

One year ago: The Snack Shack