Dragoon Gulch Trail – Sonora, Ca

Today is President’s Day, a holiday for the County.  Rather than stay home and do laundry my wife and I decided to take a hike.  We haven’t hiked a trail in some time so last night I started looking for some trails to stretch our legs on.  We initially were going to go back to the West Side Trail but I found another trail that looked a little more interesting: Dragoon Gulch Trail.

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We started from the Alpine trail head and walked down to the Woods Creek parking area first.  Had we known this was where the restrooms were we would have started from here.  We then walked back up to the Alpine trail head and started up the Vista Trail.  It’s an easy hike but is all up hill.  It was a beautiful day with the air temperature in the upper 60’s F.

We got up to the end of the trail (the vista) and were rewarded with a view of Downtown Sonora.

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We enjoyed the beautiful Spring weather for a while before heading back down the trail.

 

The Spring weather we are enjoying is known as Fool’s Spring or False Spring.  It’s only February, we will still have more cold snaps and rainy weather before True Spring makes an appearance.  This occurs roughly two weeks before Summer and 90 degree (F) temperatures set in.

We walked down to the Ridge Trail and decided to take that one back to the car.  It’s a longer trail but far less steep and thus easier on our knees.  It dumped us out on the Creekside Trail where we walked back to our car.

Once back to our car we checked my phone for some good eateries near by.  We settled on one that we weren’t too sure about; The Diamondback Grill.  The menu we downloaded to my phone said they had the gluten-free options my wife needs so we decided to give them a try.  I am so glad we did!  I ordered the Flatiron Steak Salad and it was AWESOME!  Grilled mushrooms and onions atop a grilled steak on top of a salad!  The steak was so tender and delicious!  Cristy ordered a Buffalo Burger but they deleted the bun and dropped it on top of a salad for her.  It wasn’t on the menu, they just came up with it for her.  Very helpful wait staff there!  If you are ever in Sonora please give these folks a try!

Diamondback Grill Hours
Grill – Monday thru Thursday – 11am to 9pm
Friday thru Saturday – 11am to 9:30pm
Sunday – 11am to 8:00pm (New)

Wine Bar Hours
Tuesday-Thursday, 5pm to 9pm
Friday & Saturday, 5pm to 9:30pm
Closed – Sunday and Monday

Address:
93 South Washington Street
Sonora, CA 95370
Phone: (209) 532-6661
Fax: (209) 396-2456
email: dbacksnake@att.net

 

Afterwards we walked around downtown Sonora and browsed the shops.  At least, the shops that were open, many were closed for the holiday.  We didn’t go into this next store but next time I’m up there I may buy this sign:

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Afterwards we headed back down to Modesto happy and content with the small adventure hike in our back yard.  You don’t always need to travel for hours to enjoy the beauty of nature.  This park is only an hour from our home.  Take a look around your town.  You never know what hidden gems you may be missing.

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Thousand Trails – Ponderosa RV Park

This past weekend we decided we needed to get away in the RV.  We’ve been planning on doing this for a couple of months now but things kept coming up and preventing our planned trips.  This weekend there was nothing to stop us so  planned a trip to Ponderosa RV Park.  Ponderosa is part of the Thousand Trails resort chain.  This was to be our first trip to a Thousand Trails park so we didn’t quite know what to expect.  We’d always heard mixed reviews.  Late last year I bought a camping pass from Thousand Trails which is good for a year.  This means I can stay in any of their parks in this region for free for up to 14 days.   You can bet we’re going to stay in a lot of Thousand Trails parks this year! (That’s what I thought when I got there.)

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The drive up to Ponderosa was a little exciting.  I wanted to take mostly back roads and avoid the freeways.  This was a mixed bag.  Most of the backroads were nice but a few got VERY narrow lending some excitement and adventure to the trip.  I ave to admit I’m not a fan of excitement or adventure while towing a trailer.  But we finally arrived (after missing the turn and having to turn around). Check-in was pretty easy.  I showed the gate attendant my membership card and she checked for my reservation.  Gave me my paperwork and sent us on into the park.  She was friendly enough but only JUST friendly enough.  She seemed mostly bored.  Not like the super-friendly welcome we have received at other RV resorts.

img_20200207_152255336Then the great hunt began.  You see, Thousand Trails does not assign you a camping spot.  You have to drive around and find one.  We drove the entire park (not that it was very big) and finally circled back to a spot we had driven past earlier.  It was in a small cul de sac and had no neighbor one side and nothing on the other side of us because this was the end spot.  Nice!  We got set up and then just settled in for a quiet afternoon recovering from the drive up.  Later I set up my Blackstone Griddle and grilled some meat and vegetables that Cristy has prepared earlier and put in plastic bags for our trip.  It was good but let’s just say I need to practice with the griddle some more to really get the hang of it.   We watched some TV on my laptop and then called it a night.  And thanks to the electric heater we brought along…

We slept good.

The next day we drove into Placerville and shopped a bit.  Well, Cristy did.  I mostly just followed her around.  It’s urban hiking after all.  The we had lunch at The Farm Table restaurant.  Always one of our favorites when we’re in Placerville.  The we drove over to historic Coloma, site of Sutter’s Mill where gold was first discovered in California.  Coloma is a town that is a state park much like parts of Columbia.  We walked around and enjoyed the sites for a bit and then headed back to the trailer.  When we got back we discovered a HUGE 5th wheel trailer 20 feet from us which brought 2 parents and 9 kids.  Oy.  There goes our peace.

And that is what we are finding is the downfall of this particular RV park.  If it is like this in the off-season I can’t imagine what it would be like in the summer.  Everyone here is “camping” meaning, the have to put out ALL their camp toys, even if it means completely surrounding our campsite with their stuff.  There are no clear boundaries and there is little to no enforcement of rules.  Again, probably because this is the off-season.  I won’t judge the entire Thousand Trails system by this park, but I certainly won’t be back to this park.

Sunday morning after a quick liquid breakfast I kicked the next-door neighbors’ toys out of the way so I could start packing up and making the trailer ready for travel.  We got everything stowed, the slide pulled in, and everything locked.  Cristy stood guard to make sure no children (who were literally 3 feet away) got run over.  Although there were no sewer sites available there was a dump station on the way out.  We dumped our tanks and hit the road for home.  It turned out to be quite the exciting drive because the winds were 30 gusting to 40 mph.  Luckily for us the winds were mostly at our back coming home so we had incredibly good gas mileage.

So all in all our stay at this Thousand Trails was a mixed bag.  The area was beautiful but the park itself was cramp and noisy (for us).  We’ll try a few more TT trails parks before passing judgement but as of last night those 55 and over RV parks were looking pretty good!

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Never Too Old To Be A Rookie

This morning my flying buddy Jordan and I decided to take a quick flight from Oakdale down to Los Banos, just ’cause.  We hadn’t been flying together in a while and just decided to take a quick flight somewhere and Lost Bananas is just as good as any place.  The morning started out great.  It took a few tries to get the airplane started because it was pretty cold out.  But finally we were airborne climbing up into the silky smooth air.

The flight down to Los Banos was uneventful and we chatted happily (for us anyway) about life’s goings on.

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We finally had Los Banos in sight so made a long lazy approach and perfect landing.  Good job Jordan.

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We swapped seats and I taxied out to take off.  I finished off all the pre-flight checks and took to the runway, rolled on power, and off we went.  Then Jordan tells me his door isn’t latched.

Okay.

So that’s supposed to be one of our pre-takeoff checklist items:

DOORS and WINDOWS CLOSED and LATCHED……CHECK.

Who’s fault was that?  Mine.

No problem.  I tell Jordan that I’ll just climb out and when we get a little higher, I’ll slow down and he can shut the door.  I slow down to about 60 MPH and he still can’t shut the door.

No problem.  The slipstream is going to hold the door closed anyway so we just decide to fly back to Oakdale with the door cracked.

We make a beautiful approach back to Oakdale and I call all my pattern positions, downwind, base, final using my best professional pilot voice.  Except, something doesn’t feel right.  I’m too close on my turn to final approach and too high.

No problem.  I’ll just use all 40 degrees of flaps on the plane we were flying.  Most only have 30 degrees but not this beast.  I was still high when going past the first taxiway and I should be touching down at that point.

No problem. Go around.

I advanced the throttle, eased the flaps back up and tried it again.  Upwind, crosswind, downwind, base, final… Exact same result.

Huh.

Only this time I finally looked at the windsock.  Well there’s your problem.  We’ve got a fairly decent tailwind.  You see, we took off to the west on runway 28.  There was ZERO wind.  When we got back a mere 45 minutes later the wind was coming from the east meaning I should be landing on runway 10.  On cold mornings the cold dense air in the Sierra Nevada mountains just east of Oakdale starts rolling down the mountains.  It blows down into the low lying Central Valley for a few hours until things heat up and the wind starts blowing the other way.  And I KNOW THIS.

So I changed my pattern to land on runway 10 and made a beautiful landing, right where I meant to touch down.  The moral of the story is that you’re never too old to be a rookie.  If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Happy landings.

NFC Playoffs

This past weekend we had a happy bit of circumstance smack us in the face.  Us being my wife and I.  I was offered two tickets to the NFC playoffs between the San Francisco 49’ers and the Green Bay Packers at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

* Stunned silence *

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Yes, sure I’ll take them!

And took them I did.  But it was more than just tickets, it was preferred VIP parking right outside the gate.  It was also in one of the Blackhawk Casino Suites which as fully (and freely) catered.  We didn’t have to pay a dime for food, parking, or seating.  It was like winning the lottery.

We showed up just as they opened the parking lots.  Traffic was a huge snarl as you can imagine but once we got to the parking lot the attendants directed us to our parking lot quickly.   We ended up waiting at the gate for about 45 minutes but there were other fans to talk to so the wait wasn’t that bad.  When the gates finally opened and we got to the entry gate, here is where one of the headaches I had with the whole process started.

They do not issue paper tickets, you MUST have a smartphone to show your ticket on.   Now, if you have an iPhone you can load the ticket into your Apple Wallet and show that.  If you are a lowly Android user (as Cristy and I are) you must use the Levi Stadium or 49er App which is just a web front-end.  So basically you have to go to the ticketing website every time, log in, select your event, select your seat, and then show them your ticket.  Since there were so many people there, cell towers were swamped and cellular data was moving …   …   …  s  .   l   .  o   .   w   .   l   .  .  .   .   .  y.

We had to step aside and wait for our tickets to load.  Once we were in the park we had a hard time finding our seats.  The ever helpful Levi Stadium staff did not know where the Blackhawk Suites were so they directed us to the 49er merchandise store.   That was hell on earth.  It took us another 30 minutes to find the suite.  When we did we had to load our tickets again.  This took more time.

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Finally…

We got to the suite and what a pleasant surprise that was.  There were two rows of comfy seats up front, there was a row of barstools at a bar behind the seats, in the middle was a buffet bar, and all along the side were more buffet foods.  The refrigerator was stocked with beer, whine, champagne, soda, and water.

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All free.

img_20200119_140752027We claimed our seats and then set about having lunch.  Beef brisket nachos, lobster macaroni and cheese, pineapple bacon cheeseburgers, the most tender pork loin, and hot dogs if you wanted them.  It is a ballpark after all.  After eating we got an opportunity to go stand on the field and get our pictures taken.  Pretty cool but pretty crowded.  While we at we watched the Kansas City Chiefs win their game against the Tennessee Titans.  Good, I like Kansas City, my mother was from there.  I hate Tennessee.  My wicked stepmother was from there.  True story.

img_20200119_152404766_hdrJust as the game was about to start my wife heard from a very old friend of hers that was also at the game.  We snuck her into the suite and visited for a while.  Then kickoff happened and the noise was deafening!  I’ve never been to a professional ball game of any kind so I really wasn’t prepared for the noise level.  I brought ear plugs just in case.  We wore them for a while and then just gave up.  Since this was our first football game I found it hard to keep track of what was going on.  I really miss those fake lines they use on TV to show you where the line of scrimmage is, and the 1st down line.  We had a pretty good view of the field but it was still hard to figure out who did what.  The stadium announcer was nowhere near as descriptive as the TV commentators are.

Early on in the game it became apparent that the 49’ers were going to the Super Bowl.  They ran and ran and ran the ball.  They intercepted, they sacked, they recovered a fumble.  It was the 49’ers I remember.   And that last fumble recovery… game over.  Green Bay gave up and the 49’ers won, and Levi Stadium went crazy.

So needless to say, I CANNOT WAIT for this Super Bowl, the 49’ers vs the Chiefs.  Red on Red.  I love both teams so really, it’s a win-win situation for me.

The final downside to the trip came as we were leaving.  You see, I didn’t really keep track of where we were parked.  I knew what parking lot we were in but not really which gate it was or how to get there.  I saw some friendly looking security guards near one gate and asked them if they could tell me how to get to the Red Lot.  One of them immediately got in my face and asked me how come I didn’t know where I was.  He interrupted as I tried to explain… “How did you get here?  How can you not remember how you got here??!!”  Luckily one of the non-security officers piped up and told me that was the right gate to get to the Red Lot.

Geez, that’s all I was asking.

We quickly found our car, warmed up a bit and when traffic on our aisle died down headed home.  The trip home was MUCH faster than the trip to the stadium.  It only took 2 hours to get home from Santa Clara.  Trust me, that’s not bad at all.

So after all that would I go again?  You bet!  As long as the tickets are still free. 🙂  But personally for the most part I will just enjoy watching from home.

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The Obligatory New Year’s Post

Happy New Year 2020!

Wow, 2020.  Seems so futuristic.

Sealab 2020 (1972)

When I was a kid in the 1970’s 2020 seemed so far away with it’s underwater cities and moon bases.  Here it is and we don’t live underwater or on the moon.  Instead we’ve expanded to living in tents on sidewalks or under freeway overpasses.

But I’m not going to turn this into social commentary.  I am, however, going to take a look at the past 10 years and how much things have changed for my family.  Way back in 2010 I was building my second airplane with the help of my kids.  I did the majority of the work but they did help on many components.

We were attending church at Central Valley Presbyterian where I was a deacon.  Also, Cristy had to make an emergency trip back home to the Philippines because her father passed away. That’s how the decade began.

In 2011 I sold our pop-up tent trailer in which I had taken the family on several camping trips.  The most memorable of which was Zion Canyon National Park.  I also flew the Rans S6 to Oshkosh, WI for EAA Airventure.  My oldest graduated high school.

In 2012 we took a family trip to Maui.  Yep, all of us, mother-in-law included.  However, my daughter had broken her ankle just prior to the trip… and then came down with a cold!  She didn’t get to have much fun in Hawaii, poor thing.  But she made up for that later.

In 2013 life was pretty much on auto-pilot.  Going to work, going home.  Home-schooling our daughter was coming to an as we put her in a private school so she could get some socialization and a real-live high school diploma.  Two kittens named Jovie and Truffles showed up in my son’s pockets one day when he came home.  Truffles still lives with us.  Jovie moved on shortly after he came to live with us.  Cristy and I also took a trip to Oregon to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

   

In 2014 I was beginning to explore full-time RV living.  I started coming up with a plan to travel from property to property for my employer to do network work.  However 2015 would put an end to those dreams, temporarily.

2015 was a harbinger of change for our lives.  Our daughter graduated from high school and we changed churches.

2015 was also when I had an accident in my airplane.  I landed up in the Sierra Nevada foothills and took the landing gear off.  Hey, it could happen to anybody!  Unfortunately, it happened to me.  We got a big insurance settlement and everything was good.  I was putting the airplane up for sale anyway.  It was at this point Cristy and I were seriously looking at RV’s so I was looking for a more portable form of aviation.  I found it in the form of powered paragliding.

2016 was a gut punch.  I was told that my entire department would be laid off that year.  Also my son was going through some extreme behaviors.  It seemed like my life was about to hit rock bottom.  SEEMED.  We started putting my son in group homes which he kept getting kicked out of due to his behaviors.  But 2016 was the year God truly moved in our lives.  He found a home that was able to really work with my son.  And He found me a job.  This is when I started working at San Joaquin General Hospital.  To celebrate my getting a job we took a family road trip to SoCal.  I also got a Ham radio license so I could legally use a Ham radio on my powered-paraglider.

 

In 2017 life started getting somewhat better for us.  My son was living in a home only 5 miles from where I worked.  My daughter was getting very involved in church and starting college.  Cristy and I also celebrated our 30th anniversary in Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, Angela finished the Spartan Race

By 2017 I had sold my powered paraglider and had bought my powered parachute.  Cristy and I had also started walking more, trying to get in shape.

2018 was another year that brought a lot of change.  Mostly in me.  Through walking and intermittent fasting I was able to lose about 50 lbs.

This is me just prior to losing weight…

And this is what I looked like post weight loss…

2019 was a sad year.  We lost my sister Sheila to cancer.  We lost my wife’s cousin Jaime to kidney disease.  I was diagnosed with invasive malignant melanoma.

2019 was a happy year because we became part of a small group at our new church.  We received a lot of support from them and they came along side us in prayer many times.  The doctors were able to remove all of the melanoma.  I also sold my powered parachute and began flying rental airplanes.  I got back into regular airplanes after a young man from my old church took me for a ride to pay me back for all those times I took him for rides when he was learning to fly.  Now we fly together whenever we can.

2019 ended with my son being removed from a bad living situation in the group home he was in.  He now lives back in town with us, which, he has been asking for quite some time.  My daughter also bought a poodle this year.

It’s been a tumultuous decade.  We’ve covered a lot of territory in the last 10 years.  Who knows where we’ll be 10 years from now.  Not sure but I sure like where we are now.  I wouldn’t trade a second of the last 10 years for anything.  I’ve seen God’s faithfulness and Providence countless times.  I see God’s love in those around me every day.  I don’t expect that to change much.  I’ll keep doing what I can to reflect God’s love to those around me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edgey Technology

Microsoft Edge is Microsoft’s next gen browser.  It’s slated to take the place of Internet Explorer.  I’ll believe that when I see it.  Be that as it may, I was surprised to learn that the next major release of Edge will be based on Chromium, the open source version of Google Chrome.  If you’ve ever run Linux, you’ve probably downloaded Chromium and I don’t need to explain what it is.  Or you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Firefox devotee and could care less.  But for the curious, Google Chrome is a commercial product supported by Google.  Chromium is pretty much the same product except that Google has released the source code to the public.  Various interested parties can use the Chromium source code and compile it for use on their particular platforms, mostly Linux variants.

Microsoft has always held it’s technology pretty close to the vest which is why I’m so surprised that they are adopting Chromium as the base for their browser update. You can read more about it here.

https://www.pcmag.com/news/371746/chromium-based-microsoft-edge-browser-launches-in-january

I’ve been using a beta-release version of the new Edge for a few days now and I have to admit I like it.  It’s like having a version of Chrome that plays nicely with Office 365 which I use at work.  It already has a section of the Microsoft App Store devoted to Edge (Chromium) extensions, bits of code you can load to expand the functionality of the Edge browser.  And more surprisingly, it allows you to load extensions from the Google Chrome store.   I’m still deciding which I like better, Chrome or the new Edge.  I’ve been a long time Chrome user but Microsoft might just ‘edge’ it out with their new offering.

 

Generally Speaking

One of my hobbies is Ham radio.  It’s not one of those hobbies I was just dying to get into but slid into sideways.  When I was flying my powered paraglider a lot of the other flyers used Ham radios to communicate.  I wanted to be able to communicate with them too.  So knowing you need a license to operate a Ham radio I went and got the bare minimum you need to operate a Ham radio; a Technician license.  Well, the joke was on me.  After receiving my license I found that none of the other powered paragliders had Ham licenses and were using the radios illegally.  After finding out that I was licensed they stopped using Ham radio, fearing I would report them!

*Sigh*

Instead I used my license to talk to local Hams.  I joined the local club and talk on the radio every day coming home from work.  It’s a great way to pass the time.  Just like talking on 122.75 Mhz Air to Air when I’m flying the plane with my buddies.

That all being said there are three levels of licensing for Ham radio.  The lowest level is the Technician license.  It’s easy to get and lets you talk on the most common bands.  If you put this in terms a pilot can understand it’s like when you solo your airplane.  You can now fly without an instructor but you can really go anywhere.  You have to stay near the field.  Once you pass your flight exam and get your Private Pilot’s license, then you can go anywhere you like all by yourself.

This is what the second level of Ham license is like.  This is the General license.  You can talk on any frequency available to Amateur Radio.  Like the high frequency bands that will let you talk to someone in Europe from North America… if the conditions are right.

I took my test for the General license yesterday and passed!  It was a grueling all-day study session followed by the test.  Not exactly how I’d like to spend my Saturday but in the end it was worth it because I passed.  I had TMJ when I got home, probably from studying SO… HARD.

There is a third level of Ham license, the Extra license.  This only gets you a few more bands to talk on.  Mostly it just gets you street cred in the Ham community.  In the airplane world this would be like building your own airplane and flying it around.  I’m not there yet.  I’m just going to enjoy the General license for a while.  Slowly start looking for a cheap radio that will let me talk to Argentina. 🙂