Friday, October 30, 2009

Snow, Snow, and More Snow!

Snow, Snow, and More Snow!

During this period while we are not traveling, I will be writing a few miscellaneous blogs. You probably noticed that I uploaded my travelogue from my 2006 China trip. I did that partly as a response to a blog that my daughter Judy writes. We are very proud of the job she does with that blog, and you may want to take a look (here).

A couple of days ago I wrote about the fun times we had in our VW bus. I had hoped to post of picture of our bus, but they seem to be buried somewhere.

Today I am going to post about our big October snowstorm. We have snow storms most months of the year somewhere in Colorado. In the Denver area it is not unusual to get snow in October. What is unusual is to get over 40 inches!! That is the number recorded in the Evergreen/Conifer area where we live. The photo to the right is our deck. Parts of Denver got over two feet! Unfortunately, it was an upslope storm and the Denver Airport (located quite a ways east of Denver) only got 7 inches and that becomes the “official” snowfall recorded.

We had left Monday to spend a couple of days with one of our daughters and her family. The live about 30 miles from us, but we decided that staying with them would give us extra time with the granddaughters (Madison 6 and Molly 4). We were scheduled to be “parent helpers” in both of the girl's classes. On Tuesday we went to Madison's piano class before she went to school In the afternoon we went to her class and had a great time.

That night it started to snow. By the time we got up Wednesday, it had snowed about a foot and most schools were closed. Molly was devastated that her class had been canceled and Grandma/PaPa would not be helpers that day. However, Madison and Molly got to build the snowman as shown in the photo. That was the first day of the snow -- it snowed another foot after the photo was taken.

It continued to snow very hard Wednesday and we decided to stay another day so that the roads to our house would be better. Thursday it was still snowing, but we decided we would try to make it home. We live at 7500 feet and it is a pretty steep climb up from Denver. We had our two wheel drive PT Cruiser, but it does not do too bad since it is front wheel drive. We made it all the way home and buried the poor little car in the entrance to our driveway (see photo).

Last week I had thought about replacing the mower on the tractor with the scraper blade (not a fun/easy task). Well, you guessed it – that did not get done. So, yesterday I “plowed “the driveway with the mower. Actually it did OK. It got the snow down to just a few inches and I was able to move the car up to the front of the garage.

The photo to the right is our '56 Chevy buried under the snow.

That is all for now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Eagle Rally Epilog

Eagle Rally Epilog

I wanted to mention a fun activity at the Eagle Rally. One of the Eagle bus owners has a VW bus that is re-powered by a small Ford V-6 (I think Capri). I had seen it at one of the other Eagle rallies and it really brought back fond memories.

In 1979 I bought a VW bus (camper) with no engine and rebuilt it so that we could travel as a family.

When our three girls were small, we planned three long distance trips so that they could see the country and experience traveling in this wonderful country. The first two trips were made in the VW camper bus. The first trip was to California in 1980. We saw many of the typical tourist locations in the LA area as well as other great locations in California (Hearst Castle, Big Sur, etc.). We made that trip with a somewhat stock engine in the bus. It was a slow trip when we encountered any sort of hill. Never-the-less, we had a ball.

One of the fun stories on the California trip was that our youngest daughter Judy (9 at the time) bought a huge Micky Mouse doll which was bigger than she was. On the way home our three girls had to share their space with this fourth “person” and Judy's two sisters were not happy!

Our next trip was to the East coast so that we could experience quite a bit of our country's early history. In preparation for that trip I converted the VW bus to a Ford Pinto engine. Not just any Pinto engine, but one that had been warmed over a bit. On that trip, the bus just flew! Unfortunately it was 1981 and the national speed limit was 55 MPH. Fortunately, some of the eastern states turned a blind eye to the new speed limit {grin}.

I sold the VW bus after that trip and I kind of regret it yet today. It was one fun vehicle!

Back to the VW bus at the rally. The owner knew my story and offered to let me drive the bus (with 5 passengers) when we went to tour the Boeing surplus store and other locations in Wichita. It took a bit of getting used to, since the throttle tended to stick and the shift linkage was a bit sloppy. However, it really brought back fond memories.

I drove the first leg of the trip and the owner drove the rest of the way. He could make that thing fly! The passengers (I was sitting on the porta-potty) were bouncing around as we drove through Wichita. I wanted to take a picture of the VW at the rally, but he left before I could get to it. The hosts of the rally sent a CD and it had a picture where part of the bus was visible. I have attached that photo (cropped).

Until we are back on the road, I will continue to post a few stories that might be of interest to our readers.

VW Bus with Ford Engine

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hello from Shanghai. (second travelogue from my 2006 China trip)

As noted in the previous post, I am posting two travelogues from my 2006 trip to China. It would be best to read the post below this one so that they will be in the proper order.

Hello from Shanghai.

Friday evening; September 8, 2006 (Second travelogue of this trip)

In my first travelogue I forgot to mention that the weather is very warm (over 90 degrees) and quite humid. When we took our evening walk the other night, we came back ringing wet. It does not cool down much in the evening (perhaps 80 degrees). It did get a bit cooler later in the week. The temperature should not be a surprise. Ningbo is about the same latitude as New Orleans.

We spent four very intensive days in the plant. The production area was not quite as bad as we had thought, but they really have a long ways to go to get up to USA standards of perhaps 10 years ago.

The plant was very hot and they had almost no lighting in the plant (actually, they had the lights installed, but no bulbs in them). A rubber plant is very dark because of all the carbon black that goes into the product and with not much light, it is seems even more dark.

The plant used many solvents that have been outlawed in the US. I suspect that some were very toxic. The built their “cement house” (where the solvents are used to disolve the rubber and make an adhesive compound) on the roof of the building so that the fumes would not travel through the plant. The fumes were vented to the atmosphere.

For Tom’s benefit, they are ISO 9000 certified, but there is no way that they should be!! I did not see one ISO required document or any signs of ISO compliance in the factory. It just makes my blood boil to think of all the money companies all over the world spend to get certified and it really does not assure the customer of a quality product. I guess I had better get off my soap box, but Tom will relate to what I am saying.

Working with the Fengmao folks was very challenging. In spite of the fact that we had three folks serving as interpreters, it was very difficult to get our concepts understood. The interpreters were OK at conversational translation (marginal would be a better description), but had almost no ability to translate technical information. We had to really compromise our descriptions and we have no way of knowing if our compromised thoughts translated well. When we write our report, we can use precise terms and they can take their time doing proper translation.

With the exception of lunch and dinner today, every meal has been Chinese. While I sort of like Chinese food, a little goes a long way. We returned to Shanghai today to prepare for our flight home. The hotel restaurant had hamburgers and they sure tasted good. Tonight I had spaghetti.

Roy is quite an adventuresome eater. This time it caught up with him. They warn you not to drink the water, eat un-peeled fruit, raw fish, etc. - kind of like Mexico. In any case, he has been a bit under the weather for the last two days. He said he knew better, but just wanted to try everything.

Speaking of meals, we had a special dinner with the Fengmao folks last night. It was quite an event. The table was about 8 feet in diameter (gorgeous inlaid wood) and had a large “lazy Susan” wheel in the center. They kept bringing dishes of Chinese food that is typical Ningbo dining and placed the dishes on the lazy Susan so that all could eat a bit of each dish. Most of it was pretty good. Anything that was not cooked we avoided. Two things that I remember that were different were bamboo shoots, and duck tongue. In general it was fun and the owner of Fengmao is quite a character. He seems to have taken a liking to Roy and me. His wife was there and she seemed very nice. They all invited our wives for the next trip. I doubt that that will happen since the plane tickets are over $10,000 (not a typo)!

Dress in China is very casual. I saw almost no suits or sport coats even in the financial district of Shanghai. The first night and tonight we are staying at the Marriott and it is about $165 per night. It is very fancy and still casual dress. Our hotel in Ningbo was just as nice and it was about $70 per night.

On the plane to San Francisco, I talked to a lady who was moving to China.
She told me about a computer to computer voice system. The software is Skype and it lets you “dial” another computer and have a conversation just like you were on the phone. It uses the microphone and speaker in the computers and even makes a dialing noise. You connect via a system that is a lot like instant messaging. You can see if anyone on you contact list (Pat in my case) is hooked up to the internet. You can even use a web cam and see the person you are talking to. Pat and I downloaded the software and have had several lengthy conversions at no cost. There is a delay in the transmission, so you need to use the old two way radio method and complete each communication with the word “over”, but it works pretty good. We had a couple of conversations that were garbled, but we also had at least one hour of good conversation. I told Pat that I probably talked to her more on this trip that many previous trips .

Today we traveled from Ningbo to Shanghai and will fly home tomorrow, departing at 12:45 PM and arriving in SF at approximately 9:00 AM. We checked in to the hotel and then went over to the SAE office. As soon as we left the hotel a lady approached us selling fake watches. Roy looked at them and that was a mistake. The lady offered Roy a fake Rolex for about $30. He said no and she followed us for at least a block loudly telling us she was dropping her price. She ended up at about a dollar. There were several folks selling these watches.

Now for some general observations and information:

The average factory worker makes about $115 per month. The skilled worker makes about $160 per month (or slightly less than $1.00 per hour).

As I mentioned in the last travelogue, there are about 30 cars per thousand people. However, the death count from accidents is over 100,000 per year. If you ride around much in a car you will quickly understand why. People on bikes and scooters go the wrong way on the street and cars dodge them by going into the other lanes. There is no way to describe the chaos in the streets that we were on.

Fuel is not expensive here. Diesel is about $2.35 per gallon and mid-range gas is $2.50.

The Chinese are huge users of cell phones – especially the business folks. In the Fengmao plant, the higher level folks were on their phones at least 10-20% of the time. The Chinese talk very loud (apparently part of the culture), so it is very disconcerting to try to have a discussion in a meeting room with a couple of folks on the phone.

The Shanghai population is about 17 million. There is at least one city that has over 30 million in population. Everywhere you look there are high rise apartments.

Well, I guess that will have to do for this trip. My brain is fried. I have not slept well at all, and the mental impact of the drastically different culture and language has taken its toll. I will sure be glad to get back to the good ole USA!!!

Trucks at a fueling station

A mixture of modern and primitive transpertation

Hello from Ningbo China (a travelogue from my trip to China in 2006)

A word of explanation: I am posting a couple of travelogues from a trip I took to China in 2006. At that time I was writing travelogues and sending them out to an email list (mostly family and close friends) . I wanted to post this trip, as it was quite an experience. I had hoped to be able to change the posting date to reflect the 2006 date, but it does not look like that is an option. I will be posting a second China travelogue in a few minutes.

Hello from Ningbo China

Sunday evening, September 3, 2006 (first travelogue of this trip)

As most of you know, I have traveled to China on a consulting trip. A good friend who retired from Goodyear is also on this trip with me. Roy Semin and our wives have traveled to many countries together for ISO standards meetings. I am copying Roy’s wife ViAnne in on the travelogues for this trip.

Roy and I met up in Denver and flew to San Francisco, leaving Denver a bit after 11:00. Our flight was supposed to leave SF at 2:51 PM, but because of mechanical problems they had to switch planes and we left 4 hours late. The plane was a 747-400 which is a great plane. We traveled first class from Denver to SF and business class to Shanghai (ticket cost over $10,000). This level of travel is a part of our contract with SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). The flight from SF to Shanghai was just under 12 hours.

Business class is wonderful. You can’t touch the seat in front of you and there are a huge number of adjustments on the seats to make them very comfortable. I slept quite a bit on this flight. This is unusual for me, but I had stayed up till 2:00AM getting Pat’s computer running again after a disk crash. I then got up a bit after 5:00 to get to the airport in plenty of time.

Denver is 10 hours ahead of our time and Lincoln is 11 hours ahead. For example, I am writing this at 7:30 Sunday evening and it is 5:30 AM Monday in Denver.

We arrived in Shanghai around 11:00 PM and a person from SAE met us at the airport and drove us to the hotel (Courtyard by Marriott). This was a great hotel.

Today we drove from Shanghai to Ningbo. Ningbo is a four hour drive and is located south of Shanghai.

Driving in China seems to be very “disorganized”. Lane markings are, at best, a suggestion, and changing lanes seems to be almost a sport. When you want to change lanes, you simply make the change and the person behind you honks their horn and barely makes room for you. A pedestrian is simply a target. Tonight we took a walk and I almost got run over. It really seems that the drivers speed up (even if you are in the cross walk) and honk their horn letting you know that you are about to die.

We are staying at another great hotel in Ningbo (Ningbo Grand Pacific). It is an older hotel, but very well decorated and probably the nicest hotel in the region.

We met for about an hour tonight with the Chief Engineer of the rubber company we are contracted to help resolve some manufacturing and testing problems. While we were assured that the translators would be capable of technical translation, it appears that communication will be a real challenge.

China is just slightly smaller than the US, as measured in square miles (3.717 million for the US and 3.705 for China). However, the population is over 4 times that of the US (1.306 billion vs. 296 million). Our translators estimated that there are 30 cars for each 1000 people). Shanghai is directly west of Japan, perhaps 5-600 miles and south west of Korea by about the same distance. It is directly south of Russia (with Mongolia sandwiched in between). Grandson Josh asked how close I was to the Great Wall. It is about 800 miles north of Shanghai, close to Beijing (which is the capitol of China). A good website for maps and information is:

The internet over here is rather restricted. My home page is on Earthlink and contains various stock market and news items. Only part of the page will load (no financial or news). Many of my favorite sites will not load. My connection is via a “CAT5” cable which should be very high speed. However, the speed is about that of a dial-up connection.

I guess that is about all my jet lag brain will permit me to write tonight.

China traffic. Note the fact that cars and scooters don't pay any attention to direction of traffic

More China traffic. Take a look at the modified motorcycle carrying a huge stack of boxes

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Tuesday morning October 6, 2009 (Third travelogue of this trip)

Sunday we drove a bit over 400 miles and ended up in Springfield, CO. Our day did not start well. When we travel on these trips, we carry quite a bit of luggage that contains Pat's Stampin' Up! Supplies for her classes and I have to take a lot of files. Saturday night I loaded several bags in the truck so that I would have an easier time on Sunday. Well, it rained during the night and it was pouring rain when I got up. I thought I had re-sealed the topper so that it would not leak, but I checked as soon as I got up and found quite a bit of water leaking in. I made a quick trip to Wal Mart and got a box of trash bags to put each piece in.

Then I started to load the last of the luggage and the cart decided to take off. It overturned and dumped my backpack in a large puddle. That bag had not one, but both of my computers in it! The backpack was pretty soaked, so I did not fire up either computer until they had at least 24 hours to dry out (I don't think they got all that wet, but we did not want to take a chance).

We tried to make it to a town that had a Holiday Inn so that we could have a good room. We needed to be settled in in time to watch the NHRA races. We finally had to settle for Springfield which only had three motels and all of them were straight out of the '50s! I was very discouraged about the room which had two standard size beds and two straight chairs. It turned out to be an acceptable room that seemed clean. The worst part was the races were rained out and the telecast was mostly clips from previous races.

Yesterday our trip was not too bad. We started out in fog, but it cleared up and the rest was nice weather. We arrived home mid-afternoon.

The service truck did pretty darn good on the last three trips. It is not a great highway truck, but it performed fine (except for the 10 MPG). I had added cruise control and that really helped with the longer drives. We put right at 4,000 miles on the truck in the last three trips. From now on, it will make the trips being pulled behind the bus.

We stayed in Shawnee for several extra days so that I could make a presentation to the Prevost Owners Group. They had a rally with about 60 beautiful and expensive coaches based on Prevost bus chassis. Many were probably sold new for close to $1 million dollars. I had a good group and can only hope that will translate to sales in the future. I felt kind of honored, as they only have vendor presentations by invitation.

Now, let's go back and pick up a few items from our stay in Oklahoma.

When we first drove around Shawnee, we saw several horse sculptures that were painted in very artistic patterns. I have attached a picture of one that was at the Sonic Drive-Inn. It turns out that the city established a program as an art project that helped to build civic pride, and benefited local charities. It was a part of their centennial celebration ( Pat had heard that there were thirty horses in the project.

BTW, I heard from a good friend who noted that I must have found some sort of time machine, as I had us departing Goddard KS on 10/21 which has not occurred yet {grin}. I have corrected a couple of those dates. That is just proof that you should not write these blogs when you are wiped out.

In the last post I talked about our tour of the Oklahoma City Memorial. I only wish that I could find words to describe how moving the memorial and museum are. I have posted some pictures of the memorial.

This finishes up this travelogue. We do not plan to travel until we have the bus on the road. I plan to devote the next several weeks to getting it running again. Assuming that everything goes well, we are looking at two options. The first is to head to Florida for a large Bus Rally and a racing components trade show that I thoroughly enjoy. We would depart Evergreen in late November. The bus rally is ends on New Year's day. However, we need to be on the west coast in early January. That is a ton of miles and probably does not make economic sense. If we just head to the west coast, we will leave right after Christmas.

I will try to make at least one post in the interim to let folks know how the bus project is going.

That is all for now.

One of the decorated horses in Shawnee.

A map of the area around the bombing

The same area showing the memorial

The Memorial Reflecting Pool

The Reflective Pool in the foreground
and the Field of Empty Chairs in the background

Close up of the Field of Chairs
(the bases are illuminated at night)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hello from Shawnee, OK

Hello from Shawnee, OK

Saturday evening October 3, 2009 (Second travelogue of this trip)

I simply can't believe it has been so long since I posted the first travelogue of this trip. Lots has happened since then.

We left Goddard, KS on Monday 9/21. We are staying at the Holiday Inn Express (map). If you look closely at the map (zoom in) you will see a big building just to the west and that is a huge Wal Mart. That makes it very handy to do quick shopping (just like when we are in the bus).

Tuesday we started setting up for a regional FMCA rally at the fairgrounds. The actual show was Thursday through Saturday. We did just OK in sales, but had lots of good leads. If any of those come to fruition, our sales will increase significantly. Part of the issue is that the sales tax here is 8.5% and that really gets folks attention on large dollar sales. Several folks said that they would order on the Internet and pay shipping. I did two seminars that were reasonably well attended and Pat did two craft classes. Her first one was full, but the second one was at 8:00 in the morning and that was too early for some of the ladies. It was about half full.

Monday (9/28) we drove to Tinker Air Force Base ( It is a huge (9 square miles) aircraft maintenance facility and has over 26,000 military and civilian employees. There we met up with some good friends who were staying in the “Fam Camp” (map) Many military bases have campgrounds that are available to active or retired military. This campground was very well laid out and would look like a good commercial campground. The campers are charged a nominal fee (about $12 at this location for full hookups). That fee is about 30-50% what you would pay for a commercial campground. In addition, they have full use of the facilities including the base exchange which is like a fully stocked Wal Mart. The prices are lower than public stores and they do not have to pay taxes. Our friends barbecued steak and we had a great time.

Getting onto the base was a real challenge. We had to travel around the outside of the base to a check station where we had to show our identification, truck registration, and proof of insurance. We then had to drive back to the gate close to the Fam Camp and undergo a full vehicle search (hood open, all utility doors open, etc). At least we felt secure.

Tuesday I worked in the room and took Pat to a close-by casino. This whole area is basically Indian reservation.

Wednesday we went back to Tinker and toured the base with our friends. From there, we went to nearby Oklahoma City and toured the Oklahoma City National Memorial and museum ( This is located at the site of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. This was the terrible bombing that killed 168 innocent people including 11 children in a day care center in the building. The remains of the building have been cleared and a beautiful reflection pool and “Field of Empty Chairs” that honor those killed. There are 168 chairs arranged by the location and floor where the people were at the time of the blast. The children who were killed are marked with smaller chairs. I will post some pictures on the next blog (too tired tonight).

The museum was very well done and extremely emotional. It included a recording made at a Water Board meeting in a building adjacent to the bombed building. By the time we left the museum we were emotionally drained.

We returned to Tinker and had another cookout.

I will continue our Oklahoma stay in our next blog.

Tomorrow we will head home. It is about 700 miles. We will probably take two days to get home, but we are wiped out and may take three days.

That is all for now.