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|Friday, October 9th, 2015|
|Merging Hyatts Ahead
As I mentioned a few days ago, our drive to Fort Worth for SMOFCon takes us through Albuquerque, where we intend to stay for two nights so that I can work remotely and thus not spend a vacation day. Originally we booked the Holiday Inn Express on Yale Blvd. where we have stayed before; however, while getting my Hyatt account cleaned up and a pair of accounts merged, I found that I had enough points for two
nights in a tier 1 Hyatt. That includes the Hyatt Place Albuquerque Airport. Lisa said she'd rather stay there than the downtown Hyatt (and looking at the amenities list, I agree; the Hyatt Place is more like a Holiday Inn Express). So I redeemed the points (which Hyatt was warning me were on the verge of expiring anyway; it has been many years since I last stayed in a Hyatt hotel) and canceled the Holiday Inn Express reservation.
Using those points, which otherwise would have expired in a few months, saves us $225 in hotel costs on the trip. The nights in Las Vegas and in Williams AZ are also on IHG points. I'm tempted to use the points on some other nights on this trip as well, but I usually try to save up the IHG points for use with the more-expensive hotels, such as how we used points for staying in the IHG Intercontinental Westminster for two nights last year. The only reason I'm using the points at Williams is because the room rate at the Holiday Inn Express is over $200, which makes no sense to me, but that's how it goes. Current Mood: pleased
|Thursday, October 8th, 2015|
|Oil Right Then
This afternoon, Lisa tackled getting the oil filler neck back where it belongs so that we can add oil to the Astro without having to take off the "doghouse" cover.( Oil Filler ImprovisationCollapse )
With both the air and oil parts fixed, Lisa got the "doghouse" secured. Unfortunately, in my exhausted zeal to force the engine cover back on after the Alternator Madness, I partially broke one of the latches that holds the cover down. It's not a serious problem, but it's something we should get fixed. But getting a replacement latch is tricky. However, there's a Pick-and-Pull in Sparks whose inventory claims to have two recently-acquired 1986 Astros, and the parts between the 1986 and 1987 should be virtually identical, so sometime relatively soon we'll try go to Sparks and see if we can salvage the necessary parts to replace the latches. Current Mood: relieved
|Wednesday, October 7th, 2015|
|On Top of Old Smokey
The minivan was overdue for an air filter change on the past two oil changes, but they couldn't do the changes because in the first case they didn't have the filter in stock and in the second, the amount of time it takes to remove the "doghouse" to get at the filter was too much for all of us. So today Lisa changed the air filter herself.( That Filter Really Needed ChangingCollapse )
I'm glad Lisa did the air filter change. That gunky filter couldn't have been good for the van. Current Mood: accomplished
|Tuesday, October 6th, 2015|
|Fernley Depot Before the Move
While we were at Hanneman's Service getting a propane bottle refilled yesterday, we got to talking with them about the old Fernley & Lassen
(Southern Pacific) railroad depot station that used to sit across the street from our house and is now located on Main Street fenced off and forlorn due to a dispute over getting it open to the public. Mrs. Hanneman said she had photos of when they moved the depot, and she brought a photo album over and let me take pictures of her pictures.( The Fernley Depot On The MoveCollapse )
For more photos of the station cut into pieces and moving around Fernley on its way to its new home on Main Street, see my Fernley Depot album
. I have other photos of the depot when it had more stuff around it before the Fernley Historical Society dissolved, but I never seem to have loaded the photos to Flickr. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Monday, October 5th, 2015|
|SMOFCon Is On
My vacation request for early December has been approved, so it looks like Lisa and I are okay to plan the trip to SMOFCon 33
in Fort Worth. I've booked hotel rooms along the route, including using the two free-anywhere-in-the-chain nights I had banked for two nights at the Palazzo in Las Vegas on the return trip. The only difficult part is that we'll get home on Saturday and I'll then have to turn around the very next day and drive to the Bay Area to work for a week down there, as it's the last full week in the year -- the rest of the month is partial weeks because of the holidays.
As it happens, the free-anywhere-nights are somewhat less valuable when I'm using them, as a Wednesday-Thursday night in the second week of December has (relatively) less expensive room ($259) than if we were booking a weekend night in a peak period. But it's still good use of the free nights, as is redeeming 20K IHG points for a night at Williams AZ on the way out, where the Holiday Inn Express is unaccountably selling rooms for more than $200/night.
I also seem to have enough Hyatt points for one free night, but there are a lot fewer Hyatts along my route than there are IHG hotels. One of the plans was to use a night in Albuquerque; however, we need to spend two nights there (I'll work remotely that day; it saves a vacation day), so it wouldn't make much sense to change hotels in mid-stay. Also, it looks like Hyatt and I have a confusion and I have a pending query to their customer service about why I seem to have two different accounts with them, with two different balances. We'll give this some more thought. None of the hotel stays booked yet are non-refundable, so we might change a few things around if more free nights become available to me. Current Mood: satisfied
|Sunday, October 4th, 2015|
|Trains, P/l/a/n/e/s, and Automobiles
Today we had intended to go down to Silver Springs for the Lyon County Fly-In
aviation event at the Silver Springs airport, but heavy rains and flooding Saturday night canceled the vendors and many of the events, so instead (since we needed to do our heavy grocery shopping anyway) we drove into Reno to see the National Automobile Museum
, also known as "The Harrah Collection" inasmuch as it is built from the core of the late Bill Harrah's (of Harrah's casino entertainment group) huge collection of vehicles. Harrah's collection (apparently as many as 1,400 cars) was at one time housed in a building in Sparks, and Lisa and I went and visited it there years ago. Harrah had made no provision for the care of his collection after his death, and when he died most of the vehicles were sold, although 147 were saved for the 501(c)(3) museum formed after his death. The museum is just south of the Truckee River in downtown Reno. (If you'd been at Renovation and wanted to see it, it would have been a short bus ride on the express buses that run along Virginia Street.)( A Drive Through the PastCollapse )
There are more photos than what I show here; click through to see the rest of them.
We spent a fair bit of the day at the museum. I'd allow at least one hour per gallery if you like reading the displays. Also note that aside from a single vending machine, there is no food and drink available at the museum. By the time we were done, I was pretty tired and my legs hurt. It might have worked a bit better to be there at opening, look at a couple of galleries, walk across the river to downtown Reno for lunch, then come back for the rest of the afternoon.
In our case, after our day at the museum, we drove down to the Atlantis and had a late lunch/early dinner at Cafe Alfresco, where luck was really with me on the keno, and even after using some winnings to buy five more games of keno and tipping the keno runner, I still had $3.50 more than I started. Lisa also had good luck initially with the slots, but it did catch up with us later.
We did not forget to do the actual errand for which we came to Reno, and made our trip to Winco to stock up on groceries before heading home. Our timing was good; we avoided the thunderstorms that have been moving through the area, and they didn't hit us until after we got the groceries in. Current Mood: tired
|Saturday, October 3rd, 2015|
|SilverRail: A RailCon
Many of my friends are spending this weekend at Con-Volution
in the Bay Area, but Lisa and I attended a railroad convention instead. We spent all day today in Carson City at the first ever SilverRail Railroad Photography Exhibition. This amounted to a one-day railroad fan convention with maybe as many as 50 people attending, with dealers in the lobby of the Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall (a converted church), and the programming being a series of presentations on various rail-related subjects. For example, there was a presentation about the last days of electrified freight operations in Marysville-Yuba City on the Sacramento Northern. (The wires came down a few months before I was born in 1965.) There was another about the obscure Mina Subdivision of the Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific) Railroad, which branches off the mainline at Hazen, ten miles east of Fernley.( Full Day in Carson CityCollapse )
This was the first SilverRail fair, but I hope it will not be the last. Current Mood: pleased
|Friday, October 2nd, 2015|
|Heavy Haul on the Rails (by Truck!)
As I've mentioned, Union Pacific is working on our stretch of track (the Nevada Subdivision), including a substantial tie replacement project. This means we get to see some odd pieces of rail maintenance equipment, including a heavy truck that also can pull a train of cars.( They"ve Been Working on the RailroadCollapse )
Of course none of this is of any interest to you unless you find trains as fascinating as Lisa and I do, but that's one of the main reasons we moved here to Fernley. Current Mood: pleased
|Thursday, October 1st, 2015|
|Wednesday, September 30th, 2015|
|Special Train Coming Through
Shortly after 1 PM today, the regular eastbound "Z" train (high-priority intermodal) came through through Fernley, and as often happens, Lisa and I went out to watch it go by. Not too long thereafter, we heard another train coming, and Lisa was out ahead of me. She spotted it first. "Look! Look! Look!" she shrieked, and I realized it was the BNSF business train.
I did not have my camera-phone on my belt. I just got a new smartphone yesterday, and it's bigger than the old phone and thus doesn't fit in the holster. I dashed inside and grabbed the phone off the desk. But by the time I got the phone unlocked and the camera app launched, the train was upon us, and the cars parked in the Fernley "house tracks" blocked most of the view.( Glimpse of the Business TrainCollapse )
After we returned home from our fruitless train chase, I configured the new smartphone with one-button access (even when locked) to the camera. I also need to go buy a case for the phone, hopefully one with a belt holster. Current Mood: disappointed
|Tuesday, September 29th, 2015|
|So Much For That
Well, it's an odd-numbered year, so we shouldn't have expected the SF Giants to have repeated their performance from last year. It would have taken a miracle to pull off the run of elimination games to somehow catch up to the LA Dodgers, and in this case the Dodgers were able to clinch the division at San Francisco, doing so for the first time since the Giants moved to Emperor Norton Field (currently known as AT&T Park). Wait till next year. Maybe the Giants' injuries will have healed. Current Mood: depressed
|Monday, September 28th, 2015|
|Chasing the Moon
Yesterday evening we could see that the clouds were moving in just as the sun was heading for the horizon. Moonrise was supposed to be about one minute after sunset, but obviously we wouldn't be able to see the eclipse with all of these clouds moving in. Looking to the north and checking the satellite images, it looked like there might be clearer skies up toward Gerlach, and if we moved quickly, we might be able to get there while the moon was still eclipsed. So on a whim we headed north up NV-447 (the road to Burning Man, for those of you who have been there).( No JoyCollapse )
The one good thing about last night's trip is that we've now spotted a place where if we want to go look at the sky at night, we can probably get a really good view far away from most city lights and with relatively few passing cars (about one every twenty minutes) to spoil our night vision. The sky last night was clear to the west and above, and we had a great view of the Milky Way straight overhead, and we both think we saw several shooting stars. So it wasn't a wasted trip, even though we didn't get to see the Main Event. Current Mood: disappointed
|Sunday, September 27th, 2015|
Late this afternoon, Lisa came in the front door very carefully and motioned for me to be quiet. "The bunny is right in front of the van outside." I carefully went outside and had a look. ( Very Useful RabbitCollapse )
As I've said before, I don't think the land around here can support large numbers of rabbits, so I'm not really worried about them over-producing. Besides, there is a whole colony of feral cats two blocks away, and I expect the cats prey on the rabbits. Current Mood: cheerful
|Saturday, September 26th, 2015|
|Getting More Mileage From the Museum Memberships
Today Lisa and I went over to Carson City to the Nevada State Museum (to which we have free admission due to our membership in the Friends of the Nevada State Railroad Museum) and looked through a couple of the galleries we skipped last time. In particular, we spent a couple of hours in the geology section, which was fascinating and went through the series of events that explains why a high desert plateau about 4000 feet above sea level is a major source of diatomaceous earth, the source of which is ancient microscopic sea life. (Answer: much of what is now Nevada was part of a shallow ocean hundreds of millions of years ago.)
I got tired fairly quickly and Lisa's sleep schedule is very dislocated these days, so around 1 PM we went home via Reno, stopping for lunch at the Manhattan Deli. (Lisa's slot machine winnings counteracted my keno losses with $3 extra to boot.) Then we made our major grocery run to Winco before rushing home before Lisa collapsed from fatigue. She's been slowly working her way around the clock the past few weeks, so today she was up at about 3 AM. She does hope to last tomorrow until sundown and moonrise so we can watch the eclipse. Current Mood: footsore
|Thursday, September 24th, 2015|
|Almost Missed Out
As I mentioned yesterday, I was told we could have the scrap wood from the pile of grade-crossing replacements stacked up across the street once UP got them all loaded up and hauled away. Lisa and I were planning on collecting them this evening after they finished. But this morning, Lisa looked over and saw that while they were loading the last batch of concrete, someone else was throwing the wood into the back of a dump truck. She dashed over and asked if we could please have the rest of the wood, and they said yes and stopped throwing scrap boards into the dump truck. She then came and told me, I got my heavy gloves, and we recovered what wood that we could.
In retrospect, I wish I'd asked the UP guy if he wouldn't mind just dumping the boards he'd already put in the truck in our front yard and we would take care of them. As it is, I suspect what he picked up is going into a landfill. At least in our case it will be useful as firewood once we've cut it down to size. Current Mood: accomplished
|Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015|
|Rail Rush Hour in Fernley
There appears to be a maintenance project working its way across Union Pacific's Nevada Subdivision from Sparks to Winnemucca. Lisa and I have seen a train full of replacement ties going by dropping off new ties for installation. Trains have been going relatively slowly through the area, presumably due to temporary speed restrictions on newly-serviced track sections. This afternoon it was especially busy.( Two Trains and a MaintainerCollapse )
After Amtrak and "Big BN" left, the "Little BN" Local had room to come out from the "R-Max" industrial lead at the east end of Fernley and come back to the little two-track yard across from the house to do some more of their work before they could head home to Sparks. Current Mood: working
|Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015|
Yesterday evening, the accumulated fatigue of the past week, topped off by the Attempted Car-B-Que, caught up with me. Lisa asked what I wanted for dinner, and I said, "sleep," and fell into bed around 7 AM. I slept for twelve hours. I'm a little better, and the sunburn is fading, but my muscles still all ache like mad. The bruises are getting better, and it looks like I took no long-term harm from catching my left hand in the serpentine belt tensioner while trying to get the belt into place. But I'm nowhere near 100%. Current Mood: sore
|Sunday, September 20th, 2015|
|Old and New Alternators
I noticed when I got home this evening that I included the caption for a photo that I forgot to include in the story of the Burning Alternator. I've put it into the original story, but here it is by itself.( Side by Side ComparisonCollapse )
Everything seemed to work okay on the trip home, and the charge meter was showing more current than it had been for quite a while. I'm grateful that if this had to fail on the road, it happened where it did and not in the middle of southwestern Oregon on the trip to Worldcon, for example.
Getting home tonight was challenging. There was a bad accident on I-80 between Reno and Fernley, closing the 29-mile direct route between the cities.. Signs warned of the road closure at Truckee. I stopped and checked Nevada DOT's road conditions. It turns out that my first alternative route (NV-445/Pyramid Ln through Spanish Springs, then back south on NV-446 to Wadsworth; 63 miles) was also blocked, so I had to go the even longer way (80 mi) around down I-580 (US-395) to Carson City (hampered by weekend road construction), then east on US-50, then north on US-50A/95A. But I made it.
While we still had some daylight, Lisa and I ran over to O'Reilly and bought a new headlight (and an air filter, which we'll change out when we next take the doghouse cover off to work on the oil filler neck), after which we popped in to Scolari's for groceries. We got home and as twilight was fading, I held screws while Lisa installed the replacement headlight. As I thought, two people could do the job much faster than one, even if one of them (me) just holds tools and parts. Lisa says I make a decent mechanical scrub nurse. Current Mood: relieved
As I pulled into the hotel parking lot last night, a passerby alerted me that my left front headlight is out. I normally carry a spare, but when we last trimmed down the amount of stuff I carry in the back of the minivan, the box with the spare seems to have made its departure. I'm betting that I can get home by dusk tonight, or at least close, and we can deal with the headlight tomorrow.
I did waste sunlight this morning, however, sleeping in a couple of hours because I was completely worn out from yesterday's Alternator Antics. As I feared, I feel like a limp dishrag. Both arms are like overcooked spaghetti. And speaking of cooking, a full day in the late-summer sunshine wasn't that great, either.( TMI: Black and Blue and Red All OverCollapse )
After I get some coffee, I'm getting back on the road, going to Sacramento to visit my sister briefly, then making for home. Current Mood: sore
|Saturday, September 19th, 2015|
|Narrowly Escaping Car-B-Que
Today started off pretty good, but then turned into one of those days that I hope I don't have to repeat anytime soon.
I checked out of the motel in San Jose, drove to Fremont and got a haircut from my old barber there, then set off for home, via Altamont Pass and Sacramento. I didn't make it to Sacramento. I almost didn't make it anywhere at all.( Driving Like the Van"s on Fire -- Because it Was!Collapse )
So taking stock of today's adventure, I note that things could have been much worse. The alternator seized up at a point where I could get off the freeway and drive into an auto parts store parking lot before it gave up completely. O'Reilly loans out tools as a matter of policy and doesn't shoo people way working on vehicles in their parking lot. I had enough money to buy the necessary parts. I can manage the extra hotel night. And of course, the van didn't turn into a Car-B-Que.
Thus ends the seventh night of what was supposed to be a five-night stay in California. I really hope tomorrow is less intense. I still have to visit my sister in Sacramento, and then go home and get ready to go back to work on Monday morning, thankfully from my living room home office. Current Mood: exhausted