To Trains (T&P)

Aboard the Santa Fe Southern -- in 2001

Back in 2001 (or possibly in late 2000; we've lost track), Lisa and I went to Albuquerque: I flew; Lisa drove and collected me from the airport. She drove us up to Santa Fe, where we rode the Santa Fe Southern Railroad. (The Rail Runner commuter train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe had not yet been built. Also, she wanted to show me around the area, where she had lived for many years.) This is the former Santa Fe branch line from Lamy to Santa Fe that allowed the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe to actually reach all of the cities in its name. (The topography of the area meant that it was impractical to route the main line through Santa Fe.) The branch was spun off to a short line that ran honest-to-goodness "mixed" trains (passenger and freight) between Santa Fe and Lamy. Here's a photo from the panoramic camera we had at the time.

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The SFSR ceased operations in 2014, but it has come back to life as a partnership including George R.R. Martin has purchased it and is working with a group of others to get it running again.
Wildlife

Birds Return

Today the warm spell broke with a series of thunderstorms. There were a couple of times the thunder was so loud that I had to go look outside to make sure the lightning strike wasn't on one of the trees around the property or next door. Obviously, we weren't going to spend much time outside in that sort of weather. It did settle down later in the day, at least long enough to go get the mail, although it did start raining again as we were walking home from collecting a package of stuff we ordered. Ironically, the material was shipped from a warehouse in Fernley; however, MSC Industrial Supply doesn't have a will-call at the Fernley warehouse of which we are aware, so what we ordered on Tuesday evening had to ship on Wednesday, probably only go as far as Reno on Thursday, then back out to the Fernley post office on Friday, then get put in our box on Saturday.

When the rain cleared, the birds came back in force. We didn't take pictures of them today, but here are a couple of some of the quail that rediscovered us yesterday evening now that we've put out birdseed for them.

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All of the birds seem to be pretty happy that the birdseed is back.
Field Rabbit

Birdseed Bunny

I put out birdseed in the vacant lot east of the house to attract birds back for our amusement, but it turns out that rabbits apparently like it as well.

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Birds have been finding the feed as planned, as have the chipmunks that live around here as well. I haven't be able to get photos of the chipmunks yet, or the lizards that are now active with the warmer weather, as they tend to move more quickly and take off before I can get the camera turned on.
Fernley House

Simple Pleasures

As we are in one of the all-too-brief periods when the weather is pleasant enough to do so, Lisa and I are trying to spend part of our evenings sitting on the porch. One part of spring, however, is that the bugs are out taking advantage of it too, so when I went to Big R yesterday to buy more birdseed, I also bought a fresh can of insect repellent. I have always been a mosquito attractant; maybe it's the diabetes, and they can smell the sugar in my blood.

I let the bird feeder go empty a few days ago and two days ago tried to thoroughly clean it with Lysol wipes, to reduce the opportunity for the feeder to become a vector for bird illnesses. That of course means the birds lost interest in our yard, and now that I've refilled the feeder (and also set out some piles of seed in the vacant lot next door), we have to wait for them to rediscover the food. Last night, we were amused to see several quail walking through the field completing missing the piles of birdseed just a few meters away from them.

The rabbit (or rabbits; we're not sure how many of them there are around here), however, did discover that birdseed is to its liking, as I saw it chowing down on one of the piles when I went out to put up the flag this morning. I did not take a picture because it would have been blinded by the rising sun. Maybe this evening if it comes back for more.

It's amazing how relaxing it is to just sit on the porch, sip on a soda, chat with Lisa, and just watch the world (and the trains) go by. And it doesn't cost anything extra. It does remind me why we put in so much work on improving the house. I wish we had enough money to buy the lot to the east of us, but the last time I checked, they wanted more than twice the cost of our house, and it's only a vacant lot, albeit one with water and sewer hookups available. Lisa and I sometimes consider things we could do with it. Our current favorite would be to turn it into a miniature golf course.
Reno

Short Trip Made Long

Yesterday afternoon, when I got off work about 3 PM, Lisa and I went to Reno intending to get grocery shopping done at the newly-remodeled and rebranded Raley's O-N-E market in south Reno (Galena/Wedge Parkway). the O-N-E Market branding appears to be an attempt for the Raley's family of grocery stores to pick away at the Whole Foods Market segment, and in this case, it hasn't worked for us.

There is a long-term road project at the so-called "Spaghetti Junction" of I-80 (east/west) and US-395/I-580 (north/south) that makes the junction an annoyance to be avoided except in times of very low traffic. Fortunately, for what we wanted to to, Veterans Parkway, which forms a partial beltway on the east side of the Reno/Sparks metro area, bypasses the mess.

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Oddly, both Winco (where we usually get bulk items) and Raley's (which usually has a better-quality selection) seemed to not only be out of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce (or any brand, for that matter), but also didn't seem to have any space for it on the shelves anymore. It's hard to believe that the stores would drop what seems like a standard condiment item. After the disappointment at Raley's we initially thought to head back toward home and possibly swing by one of the other grocery stores that direction that might still carry the sauce.

As we neared the north end of Veterans Parkway, we ran into a slowdown. While waiting our way through it, I spied off in the distance that the cause of our backup was that traffic on I-80 eastbound (toward Fernley) was at a standstill. That was not good. I-80 east of Sparks is a bottleneck between there and the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park at USA Parkway. Accidents or blockages there, especially during rush hour, cause huge delays. Even if it would take longer in net travel time, we'd rather keep moving.

Not wanting to spend an hour-plus in creeping slow traffic, I made a U-turn at the last available opportunity before being committed to the freeway, and made our third trip of the day down Veterans Parkway, turning onto US-395 Alternate (the former main highway, now superseded by I-580 between Reno and Carson City) and headed south. This is a pleasant enough drive, and usually lightly traveled, which suited us, even though the speed limit is lower. In Carson City, we turned back east, and as we got to Dayton, we decided to try the Smith's grocery store (part of the Kroger grocery conglomerate) there. We found that they had Worcestershire sauce, and bought several bottles. We also took advantage of gasoline prices 30 cents/gallon cheaper than Fernley to refuel the Astro before heading for home.

A wrong turn going to the gas station with the cheaper fuel also gave us the opportunity to read a historical marker. Dayton (site of Nevada's first gold discovery) has some interesting history, and we've meant for some time to come explore it more thoroughly, which we may do post-COVID. Alas, we'll never get to see the former Carson & Colorado railroad station, as it burned down a couple of years ago. The local historical society has pledged themselves to attempt to rebuild the station they way it used to be in the days when there was a railroad connecting Carson City, Virginia City, and Tonopah (and thus also Goldfield, Bishop, and ultimately Las Vegas and Los Angeles) running through here. The railroad is long gone, but there are dirt roads and embankments that look to me to probably be the old right-of-way.

It's never really a quick trip to Reno given that it's a minimum of 25 miles to the edge of the city from Fernley, but this was a particularly long day, and not one I enjoyed that much given that it was a work night. We got home, I had a quick dinner, and went to bed two hours later than usual. That has made today a bit of working through a fog, but I've managed.
Sheriff Kevin

Summer Uniform

With the small wood box removed from the front porch, the snow shovel finally stored away in the garage, the last of ashes dug out of the fireplace, and overnight highs heading for north of 30°C with overnight lows staying above freezing, I have started switching to my "summer uniform" of mostly khaki shirts and slacks instead of black. I do need to get out and trim more brush away from the fence-line to preserve a defensible space along our property line. Also, our brush-pile burning permit expires at the end of May when burn season ends, so we need to find a morning (maybe this coming weekend) to dispose of cut brush; otherwise, the piles will sit until October when brush burning is allowed again.
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Pointless Arrow

Train Pricing Oddities

We're getting almost confident enough to start booking our travel to DisCon III in DC this December. Our currently plan has us driving to the Bay Area (partially because there's no long-term parking available at the Reno Amtrak station, and partially because the portion of the trip through the Sierra is among the best parts), then taking the California Zephyr to Chicago, spending one night there (because we do not trust the connection), then the Cardinal to DC, spending ten nights there (including the five days of Worldcon, of course) before taking the Crescent to New Orleans, where we will stay four nights (IHG points, with a stay four nights for the price of three offer; possibly the last time my Spire level membership will work) before taking the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles and the Coast Starlight back up to the Bay Area.

One challenge of this is where to keep the minivan during the trip. It would be helpful if any of our friends in the Bay Area have a place where we could park the van with them during our trip. While we need to start at Emeryville, it's okay to stash the car in the South Bay if possible, as long as whoever is willing to keep it for me can shuttle us back and forth to San Jose's Amtrak station. (We're planning spending the previous night at the Hilton Garden Inn where I can use some Hilton points I have before they expire, so we'd probably go first to the hotel, unload our stuff, and then Lisa would stay in the hotel while I take the van to where it will be stored and then take the Capitol back to Oakland if necessary. I've stored the van at the Fremont station in the past, but Lisa is concerned about leaving the van there for three weeks.)

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Once we are able to book our Worldcon hotel stay, we can start booking train trips. There are other things we may have to consider, such as the fact that we're setting ourselves to drive over the Sierra Nevada twice in winter.
Kreegah Bundalo

Vaccine Recovery

Friday wasn't a great day for either Lisa or I. We weren't actively sick, but besides our arms hurting badly, we were both deeply tired. I was able to log out from the Day Jobbe by Noon, whereupon I fell into bed and slept for about four hours, after which I was up for a few hours and then got a full night's sleep. Both Lisa and I are feeling better today. I walked down to the Wigwam and got a take-out breakfast. Maybe later this year I'll feel safe enough to start going to restaurants for dine-in service again.

I booked our first hotel stays since January of 2020 yesterday: three nights at the new Belvada Hotel in Tonopah. Instead of going to Westercon (which as I hope you all know has been nominally postponed, canceled in the original Seattle location, and combined with Loscon 47 over Thanksgiving weekend at the LAX Marriott) this year, we're going to go to Tonopah and check out the hotel in which we intend to stay during Westercon 74 next year. Indeed, we'll actually be there during part of what were the original Westercon 74 dates, but now we'll get to see what Tonopah is like over Independence Day weekend, and we'll be able to report on the new hotel.
Kevin and Lisa

Pfizer 2 Hit Us Like an Earthquake (Wait, that WAS an Earthquake!)

Yesterday afternoon, Lisa and I headed for Reno/Sparks for our second Pfizer vaccine dose. I got away from work early (after only eight hours, rather than my more typical 9-10 hours), so we also took the many boxes of glass bottles we'd been accumulating so that we could dump them at the facility in Reno. We'd noticed on our last pass through there that the big Twin City Surplus store in Reno where we had bought many things over the years has closed. It had previously shrunk in size by 50%, and it had looked to us that new owners had pivoted from the original military-surplus model to just buying cheap Chinese stuff from a distributor, so it was no surprise to us, and not as much of a loss as it could have been, for them to go out of business. Photos on Yelp show them having been evicted.

After dealing with the recycling, we headed for the Safeway store in Sparks, where we had an appointment for our second doses at their pharmacy. Although we were about an hour early for our appointment time, they were able to handle us. I wish I'd known that we'd need to submit the same waiver forms we'd done the first time around; I would have saved the PDFs from last time rather than having to fill them out again. I've saved those PDFs now, in case a round of booster shots is forthcoming.

The same pharmacist shot us up as last time. Lisa complained to me that instead of moving his rolling chair around to her right side (because she's mostly left handed, she prefers vaccinations be in her right shoulder), he hunched over her, so she felt the injection was less smooth than it should have been.

Rather than staying in the waiting area for the requested fifteen minutes, we did some grocery shopping, on the ground that if either of us had felt an unusual reaction, it would be easy enough to go back to the pharmacy area. Although we rarely shop at Safeway, they had given us 10% discount coupons, cross-marketing that worked for them in this case as we bought stuff that saved us a separate shopping trip. By the time we'd finished our shopping, the fifteen minute waiting period had ended, so we paid for our groceries and headed for home. We spent the evening sitting on our porch watching one of the local rabbits munch on the grass growing in the lot on the other side of our fence. (You go bunny! Eat them weeds!)

Yesterday evening around 9:30 PM, just as I was getting ready to shut off the computer and head for bed, I started feeling dizzy, as if I was shaking. At first I thought it was a strange reaction to the vaccination, but then I realized that I was shaking. It was an earthquake! There was no other obvious shaking, noise from the house, fixtures moving, etc. I checked the USGS earthquake site, and sure enough, there had been an earthquake northwest of Truckee and about 90 km west of Fernley. It was a 4.7 'quake, one of a swarm of three quakes in about a ten minute period, with the other two shakers being in the 3 range. Lisa said she thought it felt like a heavy freight train passing at just the right speed, something with which we are quite familiar, but there was no train. (As it happens, while I composed that last sentence, just such a train passed our house.)

This morning, my left shoulder feels a bit like I've been kicked by a mule; it seems worse than the previous dose, but I may be imagining it. I'm also slightly woozy, but that could still just be from not getting as much sleep last night as I should have thanks to the excitement of the earthquake.
Fernley House

Porch Mode Shift

The last wood fire of the season was only about a week ago, but it has not taken very long for the weather to turn warm. I reversed the ceiling fans today, and a couple of days ago, Lisa and I moved the small wood box off the front porch.

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See that tree behind the porch? About a week ago, it was nothing but bare stems. It's growing fast, which is why I never worry about cutting it back to a stub in the autumn. In a few weeks, it will be big and bushy, but that helps shade that part of the house. Yesterday, though, Lisa had to get the "poleaxe" (a saw blade on an extendable pole) and cut down a branch of one of the larger trees, which was annoying her with the branch banging against the travel trailer shelter whenever the wind blew. She'll trim it down and cut what's left into burnable sized pieces, which might be able to provide a bit of heat next autumn after they've dried out.
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