Tag Archives: America

American Atheists

Atheists are perhaps the most unjustly reviled minority in the United States. Often criticized as being nihilists, anti-American, or even devil worshippers, atheists are one of the few remaining minority groups that it is not considered politically incorrect to publically criticize.

In Austin, Texas, I attended the National Convention and 50th Anniversary Celebration of the American Atheists, the most outspoken organization representing atheists in America. I had never attended any atheist event or gathering before, and didn’t know much about the American Atheists before arriving.  When I heard the opening remarks of David Silverman, President of American Atheists, and noticed that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest under his suit, I wondered if perhaps I was in the wrong place.

Founded 50 years ago by Madelyn Murray O’Hair, once branded the ‘most hated woman in America’ because of her successful supreme court challenge against compulsory prayer in schools,  American Atheists is a non-profit, non-political organization dedicated to the separation of church/mosque/temple and state.  They promote freedom of thought and religious beliefs, secular education, and humanist ethics and they defend the civil rights of Atheists and other nonbelievers.  They are a provocative, grumpy organization known for in-your-face atheism, running billboard campaigns and launching legal challenges regarding state and church separation.  Some of their recent court challenges include the erection of a cross at Ground Zero, site of the former world trade center towers in New York, and displays of the 10 commandments on public property.  In the style of many religious proponents, they practice firebrand atheism, leading the fight against the privilege of religion in America.  David Silverman argues that his organization’s aggressiveness is critical to advancing the broader acceptance of atheism in the U.S. by shifting the debate and creating space for less strident organizations like the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association.

The number of Americans who say they are religious has been steadily dropping in America, down from 73% to 60% between 2005 and 2012 according to WIN-Gallop’s Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism.  According to this poll, the number of Americans who say they are atheists increased from 1% to 5% over this same period and the number of Americans who identified as atheists or ‘not a religious person’ was 35% (Canada was 49%).  The Pew Forum October 2012 Poll  found that 20% of Americans are not religiously affiliated.  This unaffiliated group has grown more than any other particular religion and more than religiosity overall.  This trend is likely to continue as young adults aged 18-29 are much more likely than those aged 70 and older to not be religiously affiliated (25% vs. 8%) and are more likely than the adult population as a whole to be atheist or agnostic (7% vs. 4%).

Despite these trends, American atheists still face widespread discrimination.  Although Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits any religious test for office, no avowed atheist has ever been elected to either of the U.S. Houses of Congress (only Congressman Pete Stark, who came out while in office, has been re-elected).  Although there are many suspected atheists in the over 500 members of the current 112th Congress, all profess to be members of an organized religion except one (an openly bisexual U.S. Representative from Arizona who won’t call herself an atheist).  Two Muslims were elected at a time when America is at war with fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, but not a single atheist.  This stands in stark contrast to Australia where the Prime Minister Julia Gillard is openly atheist.  Nonbelievers outnumber every religious group in the American military except Christians, yet have no secular chaplains to provide ethical and family counseling geared to their own non beliefs.  Atheists cannot be Boy Scouts of America nor members of its leadership.

In some parts of the country, to identify oneself as an atheist results in blackballing by the community, including the loss of one’s livelihood and friends.  In many religious groups, apostates are denounced and ostracized, eliminating their only support network.  In some families, coming out as an atheist results in rejection by one’s parents, siblings, and perhaps even one’s spouse.  Clergy who lose their faith often keep it a secret and continue to preach rather than lose their only profession, their livelihood, and perhaps their only means of funding after retirement.

I support freedom of religion.  Religious people have a right to worship, to organize, and of course to free speech, which includes the right to proselytize to consenting adults.  When I am in the home of a religious person, I follow their traditions, and I am courteous in houses of worship.  I am also a secularist and believe in an absolute separation of church and state.  The government should never promote not impose any aspect of any religion on others, nor allow this behaviour by its representatives or on its properties.  Will those promoting a Protestant Christian America, who are currently barely a majority (51%), be as supportive of public prayer and religious education when the Muslims or Catholics have the numbers to impose their will?

The Roswell Incident

In the first week of July 1947, a spacecraft containing extraterrestrial life crashed on a ranch northwest of Roswell, New Mexico. Many people believe this.  Known as the Roswell Incident, it has been the subject of controversy and conspiracy theories since the 1970’s.  What is not in doubt, is that something did happen in Roswell.

There is evidence that something unusual happened here many years ago, but exactly what remains unclear.  On July 8, 1947 the Army issued a press release stating that military personnel had recovered a ‘flying disk’ that crashed near Roswell.

Rowsell Daily Review newspaper front page saying "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell'

Front page news

Later that day, an Army press conference was held and the debris shown was instead said to have come from an experimental weather balloon.

Front page of Roswell Daily Record with headline "General Ramsey Empties Rosweel Saucer'

Change of Tune

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time the U.S. military has covered something up.

Aircraft Identification Chart showing that all planes are spacecraft are weather balloons, nad a weather baloon is swamp gas

Aircraft Identification Chart

In the 1970’s interest in this incident was rekindled, and further investigations and interviews were conducted by UFO investigators and the U.S. Air Force.  The Air Force reports concluded that the debris was likely from a top-secret project utilizing balloons to monitor Soviet nuclear tests, and that reports of recovered alien bodies were likely innocently transformed memories or hoaxes.  Many UFO proponents dismiss these findings, and offer their own evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps something did happen in Roswell.  Even today, aliens occupy the town.

Patrick standing beside large green wood carving of an alientholding a cell phone

E.T Phone Home — we both share the same physique

The townspeople don’t seem to mind their presence at all, in fact, I think it might be good for tourism in this remote New Mexico town of about 50,000 people.

Little green man driving a old wagon

Our taxi driver

White coloured male and femaile aliends made of paper in a window dressed as newlyweds

Newlyweds

There is even evidence of alien technology, though it didn’t appear to be in operation on the day we visited.

Diane croching beneath a silver model of a flying disk with little blue alien figures beside

Diane and flying disc

Today, Roswell is home to the International Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center.

I had the distinct pleasure of being escorted through the museum by my new friend Bob, an intelligent and thoughtful guy with a technical and military background who is also a UFO believer.  Bob, who spent a week in the museum’s research library before he came to his conclusions, was keen to show me around and answer my questions.

Rows of boxes containing UFO research materials around a reading table

UFO Research Library

I was thrilled to be visiting the museum with a believer, and a knowledgeable one to boot.  Diane wasn’t quite so excited, and was probably thinking about the nearest Starbucks.

Diane standing in front of flying disc and aliens

Is it over yet?

The museum provides the full chronology of the Roswell incident, laying out all the evidence in favour of a real alien encounter and a military cover-up.  In the short time I spent there, I wasn’t convinced that this was an alien encounter, but whatever happened, the military handled it poorly.

The museum also provides plenty of exhibits to encourage you to encourage you to think beyond the hard evidence.

Aliend body suspended in a glass case

Is it real?

I really enjoyed my visit to Roswell.  If you are a UFO believer or just UFO-curious, a lover of kitsch, or a student of America like me, this museum is not to be missed.

What do you think happened in Roswell?  Did they really recover an alien spacecraft?

White Sands

White Sands is not just a missile range but an amazing National Monument with some of the most unique sand dunes you’ll ever see.

White sand dunes extending into the distance

The 275 square miles (712 sq.kms. or 176,000 acres) of dunes at White Sands National Monument are the largest gypsum dunes in the world.  They are are not made of sand (silicon dioxide, Si02) but gypsum (hydrous calcium sulphate CaSO4•2H20).  Gypsum is the main ingredient in drywall (gypsum or plaster board) which is used to finish walls and ceilings.  Unlike sand, which tends to be brownish in colour (even the so called ‘white sand beaches’ are actually light brown), gypsum sand is pure white.

The top of a white motorhome seen above the white dunes in the distance

Gypsum is rarely found in a solid form as sand because it is water soluble and would normally wash away to the sea, but White Sands National Monument is located in the Tularosa Basin, a large depression in the New Mexico desert that 250-million years ago was at the bottom of shallow sea, and today is ringed with mountains, so no water courses drain it.  Crystals of gypsum (called selenite) up to 3 feet long form in beds at Alkali Flats along the shore of Lake Lucero.  The natural elements break these crystals down into small particles that migrate with the wind to form amazing dunes of soft white sand that feel look and feel like talcum powder.

Diane sitting at the top of a dune

Diane at the top of a dune

Since gypsum is water soluble, the sand that composes the dunes can dissolve and cement together forming a hard layer similar to drywall.  The road through the monument is made of gypsum and it’s like driving on a giant sheet of drywall.

Our white motorhome parked on a flat gypsum bed with white dunes in the distance

Parked on the gypsum

A great thing to do at White Sands is dune sledding.  Bring your own disc or purchase one at the visitor’s center, then head to the largest dunes.

Diane walking away across the white sand

Diane walking in the sand

Patrick in red shirt and hats and beige shorts sliding on a plastic disk down a white sand dune

Patrick sliding

Hiking up the sand dunes is a great workout, like extreme hiking.  With every step up you slide down one-half step. The soft footing requires all sorts of supporting muscles.

Diane walking up a white sand dune with a green plastic disc

Diane hiking a dune

After a couple of hours of hiking up and sliding down, I was exhausted

Patrick spread eagle on the sand

Diane seemed fine.  She couldn’t stop smiling and laughing, like a kid playing in the snow.

Diance cross-legged on her disc

Diane on her disc

At the close of the day, we still had enough energy to go on a sunset walk led by a ranger.  It was an informative and relaxing ending to a terrific day.

Sun setting over siloetted hills in the distance with a yucca flower int he foreground

Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument

The drive to this national monument in the Gila Wilderness Area is scenic, steep, narrow, twisting and beautiful.  Diane was stressed and her arm rest suffered.  The mountain highway approaching the monument has steep sections of 10-12% grade for several miles, and large drop-offs with no guard rails. A lower gear is necessary in sections to avoid burning out one’s brakes.  Larger vehicles, including bigger RVs, need to take an alternate route, which is still challenging.

At an elevation of 6,700 feet (2,040 meters), it was cool but sunny when we arrived in the late morning.  Snow was visible nearby, but had finally relinquished the trails a few days prior.  The cliff dwellings are accessible by a short but steep hike up Cliff Dweller Canyon, which was apparently a challenge for some prairie dwellers who were departing and complaining when we parked in the almost empty lot.  The south-facing cliffs, sun kissed even in winter, quickly became visible as we climbed among the ponderosa pines.

Large alcoves like caves in a brown cliff from a distance

Cliff Alcoves

The Gila Cliff Dwellings were built and occupied by the Mogollon people during a short 25 year period about 700 years ago (1275 – 1300 CE).  The Mogollon normally built pit houses or surface pueblos but, breaking with tradition, the Tularosa Mogollon built inside the 5 cave alcoves of this canyon.  It is not known why the dwellings were abandoned after such a short period.

Cave mouth closed mostly by white bricks whie tourists looking up

The Second of Five caves

Of the 46 total rooms, most of the walls are still standing.  There were believed to have been occupied by 10 to 15 families.

A large cave half filled with a hite brick wall

Cave Three

The dwellings were a practical place to live.  They were protected from the weather, and their exposure allowed the low sun of winter to enter while keeping out the higher, hotter sun of summer.

The interior of a large cave with brick walls and structure visible

Inside Cave 4 and 5

Cliff Dweller Creek, at the bottom of the canyon, provided a convenient source of water, and the nearby Gila River valley was a good place for hunting, gathering, and growing food.  Of the 32 species of plant remains found in the caves, 24 were native (e.g. grapes, berries, acorns, nuts) while the other 8 including corn, beans, and squash were cultivated.

Very small corn cobs in a basket

700 Year Old Corn Cobs!

Visitors are welcome to enter and explore the caves.

Diane's upper body wearning puple fleece visible over wall in a cave

Diane exploring

Patrick in red shirt and jeans standing on a walkway in Cave 4 & 5

Patrick in Cave 4 & 5

Ladders and walkways are provided to move about the caves.  Scrambling around the cliffs reminded me of our visit to Petra, though this was on a much smaller and more primitive scale.

Patrick seated on a large wooden ladder made of poles that is exiting from a cave

Patrick descending

The first European contact with the Gila Cliff Dwellings was by Henry B. Ailman who was living in Silver City at the time, about 45 miles away.  Legend has it that in the summer of 1878, Ailman and some friends were on a jury list. To avoid serving, they organized a prospecting trip to the Gila River where this site was discovered.

Diane in purple tshirt and beige pants with Gila Cave 4 & 5 in the background

Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument is an interesting place to visit.  The beautiful drive, the remote location, the natural splendour, and the hands-on exploring of a historical site made for an really enjoyable day.

City of Rocks

After a night camped beside the stables at the fairgrounds in Safford, Arizona we headed east into New Mexico.  We crossed a desert where yucca, straight out of Dr. Seuss, dot the roadside, and arrived at City of Rocks State Park in the afternoon.

Tall strange y-shaped plant with hairy body, green leafy top, and stalks sticking up into the air

Roadside Yucca

We really didn’t know what to expect, but were immediately impressed when we saw the rocks rising from the desert in the distance.

A desert with rocks in the distance

City of Rocks from a distance

The best thing about the park is that access to the rocks isn’t restricted in any way.

Diane posting on path with rocks rising behidn her

You can hike among them,

Car campers among the rocks

camp among them,

Patrick standing on high rock

and climb them.

The desert landscape is even more beautiful against a vertical backdrop.

Yucca plant on desert with rocks in the background

The rock that forms the City of Rocks was created 35 million years ago by the eruption of a nearby volcano.  Over the millennia erosion sculpted the rock into its present form.

City of Rocks is a small, unique state park, not more than a few square miles in size.  The dirt road around the rocks is a bit bumpy, but still accessible by motorhomes.  Most of the campsites are primitive, without any hookups, but there are some bathrooms.  Some of the spaces will accommodate even large motorhomes.

Large motorhome parked amonth the rocks with nearby bathrooms as viewed from across the desert

Large motohome among the rocks

We found a nice spot up against the rocks facing nothing but miles of open desert.

Our motorhome against a backdrop of rocks as viewed from acsross the desert

Our campsite

In the evening we attended a star party, where astronomers gave a guided talk about the crystal clear night sky of New Mexico.  They pointed out the visible planets, major stars, and constellations using a green laser, and we looked through 2 telescopes, including one which is permanently mounted in a small observatory in the park.

Like cloud gazing, looking at the rocks brings images to mind.  What do you see here?

A grey rock against a blue background that may resemble a face to some

What do you see here?

The Gun Show

In my continuing quest to learn about America, I went to a gun show in Phoenix.  For many U.S. citizens, especially those in the Southwest, guns are a key element of the American identify.  The right to own and bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Many Americans have a strong and outspoken affection for their firearms, and gun culture remains a very visible and hotly debated aspect of American life.

Yellow billboard with black writing adversing the Gun Show

Gun Show Advertisement

In the wake of the latest school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, the U.S. Federal government and many state legislatures are debating gun laws (though not all of them are trying to restrict them).  I heard that potential changes to the gun laws were resulting in increased sales of firearms and ammunition, especially items that might be restricted like assault rifles and large ammunition magazines, so I wanted to see for myself.

The show had hundreds of vendor booths packing 3 large buildings plus an outdoor display area.  There were a lot more women and children in attendance than I would have guessed.  For many, it was a family outing.

White sign with black letters saying :No Loaded Guns in the Show"

Sign at the entrance to the show

I was surprised to see that you’re allowed to bring your own firearms into the show, the only safety requirement being that they be unloaded and a very thin zip tie be put around the trigger.  Many attendees were carrying firearms around and signs listing the guns in their backpacks that they had to sell.  Ammunition was sold in 2 areas separated by plastic flagging tape, a symbolic division at best.  There was no visible security, though I’ve never heard of anyone shooting up a gun show.  Does this add weight to the gun advocates case?

Handguns on a table

Handguns for sale

Note – Sorry for the poor image quality.  Photography was banned at the show so these pictures were taken surreptitiously.

Vendors were selling everything I could have imagined related to hunting and personal protection (e.g. rifles, shotguns, hand guns, targets, ammunition, knives, etc.) plus a lot of stuff that I didn’t expect to see for sale:

  • exploding targets
  • survival gear (for the prepared and the paranoid)
  • 3-D human shaped targets
  • concealed carry clothes and purses, each with one or more slots to conveniently carry your concealed hand gun(s)
  • brass knuckles, pepper spray, stun guns, and tasers
  • firearm themed jewellery, and
  • toy guns for the kids
A lont of long guns for sale, laying on a table

Yes, that’s a Thompson machine gun in the foreground

Although I’ve never been to a gun show before, it seemed like there was a general sense of paranoia about the place.  Training courses offered at the show with names like, “How to Survive when the Bad Guys Come” may contribute to this.  I had a helpful guy explain to me how to kill someone with a keychain. I understand hunters and target shooters, but why is everyone here so afraid?  Perhaps I can’t relate because I’ve never lived in a situation where I felt threatened.

There were a lot of T-shirts for sale with slogans like:

  • “It’s a right not a privilege”
  • “In God we trust, but carrying a gun doesn’t hurt”
  • “Armed Patriot”
  • “Power to the People”, and
  • “We don’t dial 911” (i.e. we shoot first and call the police later)

Large black rifle with legs sitting on a table

I was shocked to see the following for sale:

  • magazines that hold up to 100 rounds (there is no limit in Arizona)
  • Kevlar body armour
  • semi-automatic pistols that look like a sub-machine guns (they’re only called a ‘pistol’ because they don’t have an obvious front hand grip)
  • targets with zombie versions of Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Michael Moore, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden (note that only the last 2 are already dead), and
  • a lawyer offering his services (for after you shoot someone)
A large yellow sign with a skull and crossbones saying "Blackgunstuff.com, Your 1 Stop Assault Shop"

Tactical Weaponry Dealer

There was a heavy emphasis on tactical equipment from companies with names like “Death Dealer Tactical”.  Why do people need weaponry intended for soldiers and SWAT teams?

Assult rifles lying on a table

Assault Rifles for sale

They were selling military hardware and gun accessories like:

  • Pistol grip shotguns
  • Assault rifles, with or without LED lights
  • Bayonets (a bit old-fashioned in my book)
  • Drum magazines that hold up to 100 rounds
  • Military-grade body armour with heavy metal strike plates that can withstand fire from a .308 (I was told, “you’ll hardly feel it”)
Snipre rifle on tripod legs with a white background

50 Calibre Sniper Rifle

For me, the most astonishing items I found being sold were huge .50 calibre sniper rifles, each with a maximum killing range of over 1 mile (1500 – 2000 meters).  Yes, these things are legal in the United States!

6 rifle cartridges in front of a U.S. dollar bill to compare sizes

They fire the bullets on the left

I asked what would be required to purchase one, besides a lot of money.  “Only a 1 minute telephone background check”, I was told.  “You can buy it and be shooting in 15 minutes”.  Scary.

Held on the Arizona State Fairgrounds, this is one of 52 gun shows that Crossroads of the West holds each year in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.  Children under 12 are free with an adult.

Our Unplanned Route

This trip has been an ambition of mine for a while.  Although not officially on my Dreams List, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for several years, and it will provide an opportunity to fulfill other dreams that are on my list.  Initially, I had only the vaguest of ideas.

Map of Canada and the United States with an red oval surrounding most states and provinces with the words "See This" in the center

Initial Concept

We left home with only the vaguest of routes in mind.  Head south to the warm weather as quickly as possible.  Turn left in Southern California.  Visit family and friends in Arizona.  Continue East until Florida.  Turn left again.  Drive North until we cross the Canadian border.  Turn left somewhere in the Maritimes.  Drive West until we return home.  Along the way, stop as appropriate.  That was it.

Map of Canada and the United States with lred lines around the perimiter of the Unisted States and going through the Canadian provinces

Version 1 of Route Plan

Our only constraints are:

  1. Canadians can stay for a maximum of 6 months less a day in the United States for immigration and taxation reasons
  2. we want to be home in British Columbia before the Canadian winter makes travel difficult.

The basic idea is to follow the sun while circling and seeing as much of Canada and the United States as possible.

Before leaving home, I made a list of the things that I wanted to see, those that I could think of off the top of my head.  I also searched the Internet for ideas of places to visit (e.g. “top travel destinations United States”).  I combined several of these Internet lists into a spreadsheet.  I also added in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites from both Canada (16) and the United States (21).  I sorted my list by state and province, and hoped that I might get to as many of these places as possible.

Now that we’ve been on the road for a while, we’ve had some time to think and some excellent advice that has allowed us to refine our route further.  The overall plan hasn’t changed, but now we have an expanded list of places to visit, attractions to see, and even some places to stay.  The details remain to be worked out.  We try to roughly plan a route as we enter each state, but not the day-by-day details.  We’d rather take it one day at a time.  And of course, everything is subject to change.

We have also gained a few contacts in various parts of North America, people who can give us their local suggestions.  We would really like your input also.  Please leave a comment with your North American travel recommendations — places to visit, routes to drive, ‘must-see’ attractions, favourite restaurants, places to stay, etc.   If you have a friend who can provide us with recommendations on any of these, please forward this post to him or her. We would be very grateful.  I look forward to blogging about some of your favourite places!

Taking it on the chin — Mountain Biking in McDowell Mountain Park

Our friends Kevin and Annette flew from Vancouver to Phoenix to visit for a few days.  They’re active people, so we planned 3 full days of mostly outdoor activities.  On Day 1 we hiked Pinnacle Peak, the ‘Grouse Grind’ of Scottsdale, though it’s not as challenging.

A rocky double peak with desert leading up to it and a dirt trail in the foreground

Pinnacle Peak viewed from the back side trail

That afternoon we enjoyed the Fountain Hills Festival of Arts and Crafts, a twice annual outdoor show, where we consumed a giant bag of kettle corn (OK, it was mostly Kevin and me).

On the morning of Day 2 we headed out to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, a popular place for mountain biking in the Phoenix Area.  With the addition of 2 borrowed mountain bikes (thanks!), we had enough for 4.  We had a few hours to ride and so we headed north on some trails that I had explored a few days earlier named Wagner, Granite, Bluff, a short section of Pemberton, and Rock Knob.

Everything was going great.  It was sunny and the temperature was perfect for cycling, a lot warmer than Vancouver!  The trails were good and the terrain moderate.

A desert landscape with small mountains in the background and a sign post intersection in the foreground

Great mountain bike trails!

We climbed gradually as we pedaled further and further away from the campground where we began our ride.

A trail in the desert with Diane riding her mountain bike on the left side and small rocky mountains in the background

Diane riding

We turned around at the park boundary, aware that we had to get back in time for our planned afternoon activity.

Patrick riding his mountain bike on a dirt trail with a large Saguaro cactus behind

Patrick cruising

The return trip was mostly downhill.  Easier and faster.  Aside from a small section as we crossed a little valley, it was not difficult.

Kiving riding his bike down a short dirt hill with desert in the background

Kevin coasting

Everyone was having a great time, stopping to pose for pictures along the way.

Kevin and Annette posing with their bikes

Annette and Kevin posing

Diane was having a good time too, enjoying her first mountain bike experience.

Diane stradding her bike and holding another

Diane smiling

Then, with less than a mile to go, things took a turn for the worst.  While making a left-hand, off camber turn, Diane drove off the trail.  Her front tire slide in the loose gravel and she fell forward and to the left.  Luckily she avoided serious injury to her hands and body by catching herself with her face.

Picture of Diane's face after her crash, bloody chin, lip, and nose

Diane bleeding

Diane was a great sport about the whole thing, despite the sand embedded in her chin and the blood running down her neck

Diane standing with blood on her face

Diane bleeding AND smiling

She was very concerned though about bleeding on her precious Blacka Chicken jersey.  She splashed some water on her face and cautiously rode back to the car where she changed and cleaned up a bit in the campground restroom.  Kevin had a large bandage in his backpack which she put over her chin.  Her top lip started to swell as we drove back to Scottsdale.

We arrived in Old Scottsdale just before game time.

Green Scottsdale stadium sign showing names of teams play

First game of the non season

We had tickets to see the ‘World Champion’ San Francisco Giants play the Los Angeles Angels in the opening game of the Cactus League, the series of baseball games that take place in Arizona during spring training.

Diane with a bandage on her chin and Annette talking to the park staff

Annette and a bandaged Diane entering the stadium

We had great seats about 10 rows back on the 1st baseline.

Wide shot of baseball stadium taken from 1/2 way down 1st base line

Take me out to the ball game

At the end of the 3rd inning, Diane and I went to the ball park’s first aid room.  They used distilled water to clean her wounds, but didn’t have a good replacement bandage.

First aid attendant cleaning wounds on Diane's face

Diane’s new dermatologist?

Instead they used a giant gauze pad and some white tape, creating a small Santa Claus beard.

Diane's new and not improved bandage

Diane’s new and not improved bandage

Remarkably unphased by the whole thing, Diane bought a hotdog afterward to take back to her seat.  Eating that hotdog with the ‘chin sling’ in place was quite a feat.

Kevin, Anette, and Diane with new chin bandage standing in the stadium bleachers

Still having a good time!

Except for the bike crash, it was another great day with our friends.  I was very impressed with how Diane handled with whole thing.  She even went out to a honky-tonk, greasy-spoon for dinner that evening!

Patrick, Diane, and Annette seated at a table with other tables and a country western band in the background

Still going sans bandage

———————

Thanks to Kevin and Annette for joining us, and to Kevin for allowing me to use some of his great photos in this post.

Paddy Get Your Gun

While visiting our friends Gail and George in their top-secret desert boondocking location outside Yuma, Arizona, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream of mine.  Something that’s been on my Dreams List for years.  Nothing life changing – more of a guilty pleasure kind of thing.

Gail and George had other friends visiting them with their RVs – a retired tugboat captain and his wife from ‘War-shing-tun’ state, and a retired veterinarian and his wife from Colorado (names withheld to protect the innocent).  We learned that the vet (‘veterinarian’ not military ‘veteran’, at least to my knowledge) enjoyed pistol shooting, and he offered to take those from the group that were interested out in the desert to shoot targets.

Although I have had some experience with firearms, I’m not a gun guy.  I learned to shoot a .22 rifle around the age of 12 at the old Langley Rod and Gun Club.  I fired a shotgun at clay pigeons, flying disks that explode when you shoot them, at a Boy Scout Jamboree (I wonder if they’d allow that today?).  I have even taken the Canadian Firearms Safety Course which teaches gun safety, gun storage practices, and responsible gun use.  But perhaps because I’m Canadian, where handguns aren’t common, I’ve never fired a pistol before.

A small group of us drove out into the desert, which wasn’t far at all because we were already camped there.  We set up targets on a hillside, and took turns shooting.

Looking over the shoulder of a man wearing a couwboy had with targets in the distance on a sand hillside

Looking Down Range

Diane, appropriately attired, watched nervously.

Dinae wearing a cowboy hat and sun glasses

Diane looking on

I fired 3 different semi-automatic handguns.

Patrick shooting a handgun seated with arms outstretched on a table

Please ignore my cowlick, our shower was broken!

I couldn’t hit the proverbial ‘barn door’ with the first handgun, but a  red-dot sight makes aiming easy.

Close-up of hands holding 22 black target pistol with a large sight

.22 target pistol with a large red-dot sight

I couldn’t miss.

Patrick firing a target pistol with a large sight

Firing the target pistol

At this point, Diane was encouraged by the group to give it a go.  Diane had never held a firearm before, let along shot one.  Perhaps peer group pressure was a factor, but soon Diane was in the shooting position.

Diane seated getting ready to fire with others assisting her and looking on

Sweaty Palms

Diane cautiously fired a full clip.

Diane firing the target pistol

Little Diannie Oakley

Luckily this .22 had no kick, otherwise her form may have been an issue.

Diane standing looking relieved with white pickup truck in background

A very relieved Diane

The final handgun was this monster.  A ladies purse gun, still semi-automatic, and surprisingly accurate.  I was shocked that I hit every target I aimed at.

Patrick shooting a tiny black handgun

Dirty Harry?

Another dream fulfilled.  More of a whimper than a roar, but still plenty of bang.  Live Boldly.

Layed Up In Lynnwood

Because our license plate and taillights were blocked by our new bike cover, we decided it wasn’t safe to proceed.  Before we had even made it to Seattle, we were at a standstill.

Rear of motorhome with covered bikes, and not taile lights or license plate visible
Not a light in sight

I spent the morning developing a solution to add some additional rear tail and signal lights and to move the license plate (and its light).  Unfortunately, regulations vary across the United States about the minimum and maximum heights of both brake lights and license plates and also the colour of signal lights (red or orange?)  After some online research and trips to Walmart and O’Reilley’s auto parts, I came up with a design that should work, without requiring any permanent alternations to the motorhome and using only the tools that I had on hand.

By the end of the day, I had acquired all the necessary parts and roughed up a wiring diagram. Still in the Walmart parking lot where we’d slept the previous night, I laboured into the very cold evening until I had a working prototype.

Patrick working on project at rear of motorhome in Walmart parking lot

It’s still winter in Lynnwood!

Patrick standing in front of bikes on rear of motorhome

At least it wasn’t raining!

When it got too cold, we walked back to the same pub where we’d eaten the night before, this time enjoying an inexpensive prime rib and helping a team of young guys win the trivia competition (“We’ll take the Food Network for 400 Alex”).

I spent most of the next day completing the build and installing everything.  It was cold but sunny, and not the ‘liquid sunshine’ that the Pacific Northwest normally receives at this time of year.

Patrick kneeling at rear of motorhome working on lights and wiring

Still at it the next day

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, as prior to this, my collective experience as an electrician included:

  • the science kit that my parents gave me in Grade 4, which I tried to wire into a household electrical socket and almost killed myself
  • changing light bulbs when Diane couldn’t reach them

The rear of motorhome with 2 new tail lights, the license plate and its light relocated to the ladder

The completed project -2 new tailights, license plate and its light relocated to ladder

The parts included a 7 pin to 4 pin trailer wiring adapter, 2 LED rear lights, a license plate holder, automotive wire, a variety of connectors, wiring shrink wrap, kitchen drawer liner, some non-skid carpet tape, a lot of zap straps (known as ‘wire ties’ in the U.S.), and of course, duct tape.  Canadians can’t build anything without duct tape.  Total Cost $160.

Close up of new tail light on rear bubmper on right rear corner of motorhome

Look close to see the white drawer liner covering the wires

And so, almost 3 days into our trip, we set off again, passing through Seattle just in time to enjoy the evening rush hour.  At least we were moving again!