Updates for Oct-Dec 2004

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25 November 2004 (Update #54)... Hello from Santa Fe!

We're back in Santa Fe after a trip to New Zealand. Both of us are sicker than we want to think about (flu? bad cold?) But in a few days I'm sure we'll be saying 'it was worth it!'

The trip to New Zealand was almost spur of the moment. We actually wanted to go to Scotland and Ireland but couldn't make it work before it started getting colder than we wanted to deal with. So we thought 'where's it warm when it's cold in Scotland'. One correct answer is probably 'almost anywhere else!', but so too is 'southern hemisphere'. I'd been to New Zealand in 1998 but wasn't able to see much, so the Admiral agreed figuring it wasn't worth listening to all the whining!

We traveled via Air New Zealand to Auckland and then worked our way south. We had a couple days each in Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington on North Island. The highlight of North I. was a home-hosted dinner with a family in Rotorua where we spent the evening as the guests of the former chief of the Rotorua precinct. I'd never heard of something like this and believe it's a Kiwi idea. And what a great idea!

From Wellington we took the 3 hour ferry ride south to Picton on South I. After we left the 350' ferry we walked about 150 yards to board a train for the 3 or 4 hour ride to Christchurch. Conveniently we were able to check our bags straight through to Christchurch so we didn't have to drag them to the station. We had only that evening in Christchurch, then off to Queenstown for 3 days (included a side trip to Milford Sound). From Q'town we went to Mt Cook for a night, Franz Josef glacier for a night, then back to Christchurch for the last night before heading back to Santa Fe.

A note about the glacier and global warming: it turns out that the southern hemisphere has a experienced far more significant warming than we have in the northern hemisphere... or at least more than we've been told about up north! The parking lot for visiting the glacier was paved in the late 1980s right at the base of the glacier, but it's now well over 1/2 mile from where the glacier ends. PBS-like shows discussing the thinning of the ozone layer and the near epidemic increase in skin cancer make it clear something has changed drastically in the last decade. What I came away with is that the warming threat is far more real than I was aware and that we really need to take this seriously!

Q'town is a gorgeous tourist haven that attracts people from literally all over the world. You don't go to Q'town to see natural unspoiled beauty of New Zealand, but you can sure have a great time here! Unfortunately, I was getting pretty sick by this point while Celia was starting to recover a little. Since I'd wanted to try a tour (Globus), we had to this point had little choice but to keep going. I finally had a chance to stay at the hotel in Queenstown to try to recover a bit while Celia and the rest of the tour group went on to see Milford Sound. Milford Sound was one of the main reasons I had wanted to go, but there was no point in being foolish about it. Fortunately Celia kept the camera busy so I got to enjoy it vicariously.

The resort at Rotorua, South I. No... this isn't where we stayed, but we did stay in some very fancy hotels!
A geothermal power plant on the way to Wellington. I remember a trial project like this in California that was a flop because of the intensive maintenance required from mineral contamination. Looks like the Kiwis have that all worked out. Very inventive lot, these kiwis: working geothermal power, bungy jumping, the marine jet drive... the list goes on and on!
Mt. Cook. Sir Edmund Hillary trained here before climbing Mt. Everest. We saw Sir Hillary (whose image appears on the NZ $5 note) in Auckland at the Hyatt Regency on Albert Park. Cool!
Milford Sound. Celia was there on a very rainy day and got this pic during one of the few breaks.
An 'eye dog' herding sheep at Walter Peak Station. No barking, no charging at the sheep... he only uses his eyes. He works on both hand signals and sound (whistles, noises). This is about as close as he gets in order to keep the sheep moving and under control. Absolutely amazing to watch this dog work the sheep.

Regarding our impression of how expensive it was in New Zealand, I concede that a tour takes you to places to shop or eat that are probably not the most economical and perhaps that's why we felt it was pricey. Even so, I left wondering how anyone can afford to live there! Which goes a long way to explain the favorable exchange rate in 11/2004 ($0.71US = $1.00NZ).

Now that we're back in Santa Fe we can finally get some rest and put ourselves on the road to recovery. On the plus side, all this sitting around gives me a chance to think about what we've just seen and make a few notes about the trip. My overall impression is that...

31 December 2004 (Update #55)... Hello from Key West!

We're back in Key West, somewhat overwhelmed with the work ahead of us. Amazing what chores accumulate when you're not on the boat on a daily basis to keep things in shape. It's not completely unexpected. Since this was the 'Year of the House' we stuck with things that needed attention in Santa Fe knowing we would pay the price later. Since it's New Years Eve, and we aren't about to venture out with that wild crowd down on Duval St., it seems like a good time to recap the years highlights.

2004 started with us just having just moved our belongings from San Francisco to Santa Fe. Unfortunately we had way more things than we could hope to stuff into the house since we had to find space for all the Admiral's furniture plus what I'd kept of my parents. I have some pix posted in an earlier Update that gives some idea what we were trying to deal with. And the store room with all the Captains' tools was of no use for overflow since it was already full. So now we have two storerooms. Aaarrrgh!

Eventually we got things pretty much put away... or at least hidden! If you're into denial as we seem to be, hidden is good! Took 3 months before we saw enough headway that we didn't feel guilty if we took a ride somewhere just for fun. During this unpacking process we learned firsthand about just how cold it can get in Santa Fe in February. Frozen copper water pipes can burst... and did. Which damaged the on-demand water heater and led to a replacement. We learned first hand about leaving a faucet dripping in an old house during the coldest weather. Trust us, there's nothing like watching a couple Santa Fe-newbies for a few laughs! :-)

Spring launched with a vengeance in late March when all the frozen stalks of lilacs, aspen and unnamed desert plants suddenly started showing green. It seemed to happen overnight! And when we saw mushrooms push their way through the flagstone of the patio we were introduced to our first improvement project- it was time to replace the patio. Plus, when we turned on the sprinkler system we found that the beds were being watered from places that were meant to contain the water, not distribute it. Oops! Plus we realized there were many areas that weren't being watered by the irrigation system meaning we could never leave for more than a week at a time during the driest part of the year.

So we stopped by a nursery supply store and asked if they knew anyone we could call about getting it done. It was a lengthy process, but eventually Adam Steinberg and his guys created a very nicely done patio with Arizona flagstone that we're told will be more durable than the New Mexico flagstone we previously had. We also had the irrigation system rebuilt and expanded so we can have the freedom to travel when we want.

Also in March we got a call from my son Brad telling us that we needed to get to Maine for his wedding to Stephanie in November. Then in April we got another call saying they were moving the wedding up to July and oh-by-the-way I was going to be a grandpa come January. Yee haw! Off we went to Maine for the 10 July wedding. Great event held at Brad's mothers place on Orrs Island. It was an especially nice trip since we were able to stay with cruising friends Fran & Char Tschida who had just moved into their new home in North Yarmouth. [ Funny... the Tschidas don't seem to have the same problem with "too much stuff". We may need to take e few lessons here! ] Oddly enough, Fran & Char live in North Yarmouth, about 2 miles from Brad's place in Yarmouth.

Not long after we got back from Maine, as we were driving home from the plaza, we spotted a sign for Santa Fe School of Weaving. I mentioned to the Admiral that I had always been interested in learning about weaving. Before I knew it I was taking lessons from Miriam Leth-Espensen, making a blanket for our soon-to-be granddaughter. By the end of that week I had made what I thought had to be the most expensive baby blanket in the world. Then a week later I bought a loom and discovered that the price of the blanket paled in comparison the the price of the 2 scarves I made for Christmas gifts!

We also got our ham radio station assembled after returning from Maine. Now the available work space on the Captain's desk is about 6 sq. inches. But hey... that's what ham radio is all about: more equipment than space to operate it on! :-) Our new radio hasn't been the happy purchase it should have been as we struggle with a Yaesu transceiver (FT-1000MP Mk V) that has already gone back to the mfr once for warranty repair and will be headed back a 2nd time for at least 1 and maybe 2 other problems. It's beginning to look like a lemon.

Also related to ham radio, we both asked for new call signs when we changed our addresses with the FCC. The Captain asked for W5BAB and the Admiral asked for K5CMB. Then the Captain decided he'd tackle upgrading his license to Extra Class (I need all the class I can get!) and went into isolation to cram for the test for 2 weeks. At the end of October we drove down to Soccoro for the night and I passed the Element 4 the next morning. The Captain got yet another call sign and is now NM5B.

The GOOSEBUMPS crew managed several great side trips during the warm season:

I think the most spectacular trip was the one to Raton. If you happen to be one that thinks New Mexico is just desert, you will be amazed to see the huge expanse of the grassy plains along I-25. The green goes on forever! The Santa Fe Trail passes through the corner of Ft. Union on its way toward Raton Pass.

Our home in Santa Fe happens to be near St. Vincent's Hospital, a fortunate coincidence we hadn't planned. Finding the hospital was easy but finding a doctor turned out to be something of a challenge. Celia got on the phone and started calling one office after another only to be told the doctor wasn't taking any new patients. I'm convinced it had to do with the fact the Captain is on MediCare these days, but who knows? Eventually we found Dr. Rhymes whose specialty is internal medicine and (are you ready for this?!) geriatrics. Guess there's not much way she would turn away someone on MediCare! :-)

Santa Fe always has several things of interest going on that draw crowds from all over the country and we did our best to try many of them. Last winter we saw a big number of skiers headed for the Santa Fe Ski Basin; near Christmas there's la Posada down at the plaza that re-enacts Joseph & Mary being turned away from lodging (you hafta be tough for this one: it can be bloody cold on a winter night; the compensation is that they serve hot chocolate behind the Governor's Palace afterward); and home decoration during the year end is spectacular as people put out faralitos (candles inside a paper bag that has an inch of sand on the bottom) or stand near the luminarias (either a bon fire or a fire in a steel barrel) to sing Christmas carols. During spring and summer Santa Fe hosts Spanish Market Days, Indian Markets and several other crafts and art festivals at the Plaza or at Sweeny Center. The Santa Fe Opera is among the major operas of the world and has a very full summer schedule in the most spectacular setting imaginable. In-town there are free evening concerts in the Plaza during the summer. And the Lensic Theater just off the Plaza regularly books some terrific names. We managed to see Winton Marsalis and Celia couldn't pass up tickets to see Joan Baez. The highlight was the night we saw Randy Nieman, Pedro Marquez and Don Edwards for a night of cowboy poetry and cowboy music. It may sound like a hokey event to anyone that hasn't been introduced to cowboy poetry, but these working cowboys put on a great show. The Captain will probably have a tantrum if he doesn't get to go again next year!

In early December we got an urgent call from our boat watchers to let us know the boat had sprung a leak. We would never have intentionally done it, but we learned first hand that the floatation of the Gemini really will keep it from sinking! We had about 7" of water in the port hull coming from a hole the Captain had drilled through the centerboard case. The really bad part is there was no one else to blame it on. Drat! With Layne and our dock-neighbor Jim on the other end of the call, I told them where to look and sure enough, there was a tiny geyser of seawater streaming in. After I'd drilled the errant hole, I'd plugged the hole with a stainless screw dipped in 5200 with every intention of properly filling the hole at the first haul out, then promptly forgot about it. Please... spare me the blond jokes! :-)

With the emergency behind us, there was no need for me to fly back to Key West. So we finished a few winter chores in Santa Fe then loaded the truck and arrived in Key West on the 23 Dec. Lousy weather chased us the whole way there, but thankfully we were out of Texas before the snow hit. The worst we had was some really nasty rain in Louisiana, Georgia and Florida. The night before the rain hit we were driving through Baton Rouge, LA in heavy commute traffic when we had to stop suddenly. We heard the commuters night mare coming from behind us... screeching tires followed by 2 sequential thuds, the second one simultaneous with impact to the rear of our truck. The Admiral was driving and got us off the road where I took a quick look at the truck, expecting the worst. Instead I found nothing. So I looked again. Still nothing. Then I looked at the 2 vehicles behind us. Yikes! The Baton Rouge PD made quick work of the administrative part of it and we were on our way thankful that we didn't have one of the many smaller trucks or SUV's. This is one of those times size does matter! :-)

More latter as we plow through the maintenance we need to get under control and rethink our situation of living in Santa Fe and owning a boat in Florida.

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