Sunday, September 10, 2017

The eclipse




“My Moon Moving Experience”

            GRANDVIEW, WA – Back in March, Kay got us motel reservations at a place right in the path of last week’s total eclipse. Every hotel, B&B, rent house, doghouse, outhouse… had already jacked their prices way up there. But due to her due diligence, sticktoativeness, and true grit, Kay managed to find a room for under $200 in a small town outside of Nashville.
            That was back in March. Some of you may recall that since then, the forces that be (Kay) set in motion a scheme that put us here in Washington to wait out the completion of a new house in Conroe. So, stay with me here, instead of driving 800 miles from Texas to Tennessee to reach our reserved room, we would have to travel 2400 miles from Washington to Tennessee.
The question we had to ask ourselves was, “Considering the center path of the total eclipse was now 186 miles south of us, was a 2400 mile-drive to Ruby Jewel’s B&B worth the time, effort and expense?” 
A change of plans is no big deal for a person who is flexible as all get out. (Mark) You cancel the Tennessee reservations and make new reservations for a hotel in Oregon. – Excuse me just a second. – Sorry, I just lost it for a moment. Where was I? Oh, yeah, hotel reservations in Oregon. I’m here to tell you that pandemonium took a two week stop in the Northwest during this entire eclipse thing.
More than a few motels actually cancelled reservations for those who had reserved rooms months in advance and then resold the rooms at 20 times the original price. There is fine print that allowed some managers to do that legally, but many decided that any backlash from their illegal actions would be worth the added revenue.
            Farmers turned their recently harvested fields into campgrounds. Tent-sized plots were going for $25 to $300. No water, roads or other amenities were provided. I take that back. I did see a few port-a-potties in one area. Regardless, the hillsides were packed.
            I heard the story from Bend, Oregon about a guy who lived on a cul-de-sac and leased spots in his driveway for people to spend the night in their cars. I’m assuming all of the 24 hour Wal-Mart parking lots were full. All over the state, gasoline was in short supply. Prices at restaurants and greasy spoons shot way up there. Ruby Jewel’s was looking much better. 
Not to worry, Kay and I would switch to Plan B. A few hours before the eclipse, we would drive into Oregon, see the eclipse and then turn around and drive back. Easy peasy… and just as stupid as it could be.  
The news out of Oregon was that 30 mile long traffic jams were stopping traffic in all directions, and this was three days before the eclipse! Oregon state troopers said there would be no parking on the shoulder of the roads or on the grass. Vehicles on the shoulder would impede emergency vehicle access. Cars on the grass might start grass fires.
            Plan C:  Stay in Grandview and view the 97% eclipse. How big a deal can three percent sunlight be? Kay managed to order 20 pair of eclipse glasses in preparation for the viewing. That was two too few for all of the Washington family that showed up. Hey, you get bed, breakfast, lunch and supper, a restroom, shower and an above ground swimming pool. It’s party time!
            Turns out, we had the best time ever. Apparently, during a solar eclipse people get a little ditzy. I don’t remember if what was being said was all that funny, but we sure did laugh a lot. The things you can do with a pair of blinding glasses. You can play “Guess who just pinched you.” – “Catch the apple.” – “Name what you just ate.”
            During all the fun, we found it necessary to assign one adult as the designated child observer. – “No, no, hold the glasses horizontally! Put ‘em across your nose and use both lenses. And, no, we don’t play who-can-look-at-the-sun-the-longest-without-the-safety glasses. Uncle Mark, I expected better of you.”
            After the eclipse died away, four-year-old Bella asked if it was okay to now look at the sun without the glasses. This inspired some nitwit to respond, “Wait a minute. Were we supposed to use glasses?” Again I got yelled at.
            That night, PBS had a special on the total eclipse. The testimonies of those who witnessed the event were awe inspiring. “You can’t exaggerate the wonderfulness of the experience.” – “I cried. I really did.” – “Everyone must see it at least once. It will change you forever.”
            You know what would change me forever? The thought that I once paid $4200 for two nights at the Clean Beds Inn in Felltree, Oregon, or had to pay a $250 ticket for parking on the shoulder of highway 97 in Oregon, and another $375 for wetting on the shoulder of the road while pretending to check the oil.  
            No question, it was sad to be that close to a total eclipse without getting to see it. If I’m still around in 2024, I’ll get another chance as another total eclipse heads on a path through Austin, Waco, Dallas and Texarkana. You ask me, between now and then, you might want to flip a house in Waco and rent it, the front and back yards, and the driveway to the people from Oregon who will flock down here to see it.
end
 You can contact Mark at hayter.mark@gmail.com.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

total elipse




“My Moon Moving Experience”
 
            GRANDVIEW, WA – Back in March, Kay got us motel reservations at a place right in the path of last week’s total eclipse. Every hotel, B&B, rent house, doghouse, outhouse… had already jacked their prices way up there. But due to her due diligence, sticktoativeness, and true grit, Kay managed to find a room for under $200 in a small town outside of Nashville.
            That was back in March. Some of you may recall that since then, the forces that be (Kay) set in motion a scheme that put us here in Washington to wait out the completion of a new house in Conroe. So, stay with me here, instead of driving 800 miles from Texas to Tennessee to reach our reserved room, we would have to travel 2400 miles from Washington to Tennessee.
The question we had to ask ourselves was, “Considering the center path of the total eclipse was now 186 miles south of us, was a 2400 mile-drive to Ruby Jewel’s B&B worth the time, effort and expense?” 
A change of plans is no big deal for a person who is flexible as all get out. (Mark) You cancel the Tennessee reservations and make new reservations for a hotel in Oregon. – Excuse me just a second. – Sorry, I just lost it for a moment. Where was I? Oh, yeah, hotel reservations in Oregon. I’m here to tell you that pandemonium took a two week stop in the Northwest during this entire eclipse thing.
More than a few motels actually cancelled reservations for those who had reserved rooms months in advance and then resold the rooms at 20 times the original price. There is fine print that allowed some managers to do that legally, but many decided that any backlash from their illegal actions would be worth the added revenue.
            Farmers turned their recently harvested fields into campgrounds. Tent-sized plots were going for $25 to $300. No water, roads or other amenities were provided. I take that back. I did see a few port-a-potties in one area. Regardless, the hillsides were packed.
            I heard the story from Bend, Oregon about a guy who lived on a cul-de-sac and leased spots in his driveway for people to spend the night in their cars. I’m assuming all of the 24 hour Wal-Mart parking lots were full. All over the state, gasoline was in short supply. Prices at restaurants and greasy spoons shot way up there. Ruby Jewel’s was looking much better. 
Not to worry, Kay and I would switch to Plan B. A few hours before the eclipse, we would drive into Oregon, see the eclipse and then turn around and drive back. Easy peasy… and just as stupid as it could be.  
The news out of Oregon was that 30 mile long traffic jams were stopping traffic in all directions, and this was three days before the eclipse! Oregon state troopers said there would be no parking on the shoulder of the roads or on the grass. Vehicles on the shoulder would impede emergency vehicle access. Cars on the grass might start grass fires.
            Plan C:  Stay in Grandview and view the 97% eclipse. How big a deal can three percent sunlight be? Kay managed to order 20 pair of eclipse glasses in preparation for the viewing. That was two too few for all of the Washington family that showed up. Hey, you get bed, breakfast, lunch and supper, a restroom, shower and an above ground swimming pool. It’s party time!
            Turns out, we had the best time ever. Apparently, during a solar eclipse people get a little ditzy. I don’t remember if what was being said was all that funny, but we sure did laugh a lot. The things you can do with a pair of blinding glasses. You can play “Guess who just pinched you.” – “Catch the apple.” – “Name what you just ate.”
            During all the fun, we found it necessary to assign one adult as the designated child observer. – “No, no, hold the glasses horizontally! Put ‘em across your nose and use both lenses. And, no, we don’t play who-can-look-at-the-sun-the-longest-without-the-safety glasses. Uncle Mark, I expected better of you.”
            After the eclipse died away, four-year-old Bella asked if it was okay to now look at the sun without the glasses. This inspired some nitwit to respond, “Wait a minute. Were we supposed to use glasses?” Again I got yelled at.
            That night, PBS had a special on the total eclipse. The testimonies of those who witnessed the event were awe inspiring. “You can’t exaggerate the wonderfulness of the experience.” – “I cried. I really did.” – “Everyone must see it at least once. It will change you forever.”
            You know what would change me forever? The thought that I once paid $4200 for two nights at the Clean Beds Inn in Felltree, Oregon, or had to pay a $250 ticket for parking on the shoulder of highway 97 in Oregon, and another $375 for wetting on the shoulder of the road while pretending to check the oil.  
            No question, it was sad to be that close to a total eclipse without getting to see it. If I’m still around in 2024, I’ll get another chance as another total eclipse heads on a path throu

gh Austin, Waco, Dallas and Texarkana. You ask me, between now and then, you might want to flip a house in Waco and rent it, the front and back yards, and the driveway to the people from Oregon who will flock down here to see it.
end
 You can contact Mark at hayter.mark@gmail.com.

Harvey




“Should’ve being there”

105 headed east. Golf World and Vernon's parking lot.

            GRANDVIEW, WAI feel so guilty for not suffering along with you guys. The area in and around my hometown experienced the worst flood ever, while I’m living in an irrigated valley in the middle of a desert.  
            Had my sister Sue not invited Kay and me to come to Washington for a few-month visit, we would now be living with Jill in LaPorte. At the height of the disaster. I called Jill to ask how she was doing. She said she had enough potato chips to last a good while. Had I been there, that would not have been the case.
Jill told me that her street was flooded, and the water had just overflowed the giant drainage ditch next to her house and was only a few feet from her door. There was nothing I could’ve done for her, but I needed to be there. Jill told me not to worry. She said, “If the house floods, it floods. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”   
            Turns out, within the next hour or two, the rain subsided a bit and the drainage ditch was able to do its job. The water receded, never again to escape the ditch. That’s pretty much the story for my entire family. Everyone came out if it with little or no damage.
            Wednesday, Big Al was able to get to the new subdivision where our house is being built. He told me there was no indication of flooding. If you live in a house that didn’t flood during this storm, there’s a pretty good chance it’s not going to… at least for a few years. There is a chance the 500 year floodplain will be demoted to a five year floodplain.
            When the hurricane went past Beaumont, I imagined it would go up and circle around Kentucky and re-enter the Gulf at Apalachicola, FL. It would then circle around again and come up I-45.
Speaking of a hurricane circling, how on earth can the Weather Bureau predict that a hurricane is going to backup, reenter the Gulf and then circle around and then head for Beaumont?  I’m beginning to think there’s more to this science thing than a lot of people believe.
            The only thing Kay and I have suffered up here is a lack of news. We were only able to get the 5:30 national news from CBS and NBC. (By the way, we get the 5:30 news at 7:30.) I hate to say it, but the local channels in this area weren’t big on reporting the hurricane. After the national news, our nearest TV station opened with a story about how the city decides where to put traffic signs around a school zone. You’ve got your hurricane; we’ve got our “Slow Children Walking” signs.  
            I have learned a lot from watching small town local news. In fact, I’ve determined that could be a good small town weatherman. I don’t know if big city weatherpersons read their report or have all the facts stored in their noggins. They make it look so spontaneous. I don’t think the small town stations have the equipment to make them look like they’re spouting stuff off the top of their heads. They look off screen to read about the temperature in Yakima while pointing at Salt Lake City. I could do that. I would do that.
And the boy and girl anchor teams do a lot of pausing during the coverage. And they can go from serious to somber in a nanosecond.  – “The ex-mayor was 84. So, school starts tomorrow, Shirley. Ha, ha, ha…” – “Yes, it does, Bert. Let’s go back to Carl to see what the weather will be for the kiddos’ on their first day of school. Ha, ha, ha.” You will really have a greater appreciation for your big city news team after watching small town coverage. Of course, the laughing thing is pretty much universal. Except for BBC. Those Brits don’t even smile. -- “And the Parliamentarian had to remove his trousers after discovering ants in his pants. Now, let’s go to Reginald in Afghanistan.” 
            I just imagine you’ve been saturated with a 24 hour rehash of news. I would’ve tired of all of that during Hurricane Ike, but we didn’t have electricity for nearly eight months. (Seemed like it.) Dennis said that he never lost electricity during Harvey, but he did lose his cable provider. With his old antenna, the only channel he could raise was the Walker Texas Ranger Channel. That alone is cause to evacuate.
            Kay and I did get a lot of storm news off Facebook. We learned what was happening with our friends. I don’t know if you read my old friend Brad Meyer’s posts. He had pictures of the water from the small lake in his subdivision. He mentioned that the pier floating in his backyard belonged to his neighbor.
            Brad also shared a list of observations he made during the storm. They were the most candid and worthwhile of anything else I read or heard about the disaster. He posted it on Facebook on August 30. Give it a read.
            While Brad’s coverage was a well-written, serious response to Harvey, I have tried to  tackle the subject in a lighthearted manner. I realize that for some of you it’s near impossible to find humor in anything related to what you’ve experienced.
I wrestled with the notion of using a no-nonsense approach to such a severe happening. But, I thought a lighter view of the time might be slightly uplifting. – What am I saying? If I had been there, and was forced to crawl into Jill’s attic to knock a hole in the roof so we could be hauled up in a wire basket, I would’ve still found some humor in the experience. It’s the same reason we find ourselves laughing with friends at funerals, as we remember the life of a loved one. It’s the stuff that keeps me marginally sane.
end
You can reach Mark at hayter.mark@gmail.com

Death Valley Days





Eastern side of the Evergreen State
 
            GRANDVIEW, WA – Being a careful learner of stuff, I have managed to make several observations that merit consideration for an episode on “Nova.” I’ve always wanted David Attenborough to read aloud something I wrote. Yes, Porky Pig might be more appropriate. Everybody wants to be a clown.
            My observations come right out of East Washington, which happens to be where I do most of my sitting. I’ve made no mystery of the fact that Kay and I are living in Washington, while our house in Conroe is being constructed. Considering the amount of rain Montgomery County has been getting, the estimated completion date is early 2019.
            Were the house being built across the street from here, rain would be no hindrance. Heavy smoke coming from forest fires in Canada would slow it down before rainfall would. Boy, Canada has taken a beating.
There are no forest fires in East Washington, because there are no forests. Weeds and grass we’ve got, and that stuff burns like, uh, dry weeds and grass. Which, oddly enough, brings us to the descriptive name of the state of Washington. It’s known as the Evergreen State, named by someone who has never been east of the mountains. Without an irrigation system, the entire eastern part of Washington would look like an episode from Death Valley Days. As is, only most of it looks that way.
Fortunately, there is an irrigation system provided in large part by a guy named Grand Coulee. I mean Calvin Coolidge, our 37th president. -- Wait a minute the spelling is all wrong. Give me a minute to check this out. Take a restroom break, unless you’re already there, in which case, try to remember why you’re there. – Ah, turns out Grand Coulee has nothing to do with Silent Cal. The name was actually derived from a French word meaning “dry streambed.” Or more appropriately, “Stream in need of a dam.”
            Three months ago, I would’ve lost in Final Jeopardy had Alex Trebek read -- “The Grand Coulee Dam is located in this state.” I had no idea that the dry streambed was actually the Columbia River. If you remove that dam, we’ve pretty much lost the irrigation system… and the nation has lost a bunch of its apples, cherries, peaches, sweet corn, raspberries… Hey, did you know that 90 percent of our nation’s red raspberries are grown in eastern Washington?
            But, let’s put aside the raspberries. I’m not crazy about ‘em, anyway. Let’s divert our attention to hops… or hop. Up until the time I entered this state, I had never seen a field of hop vines. I didn’t even know the plant was a vine.
            There are thousands of acres of hop vines in the Yakima Valley, where we now reside. Seventy-nine percent of this nation’s hop(s) is grown right here. Just down the road you can see acre upon acre of the weirdest array of vines in the entire Solar System, assuming we can rule out Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.
The aforementioned vines cling to a maze of twine configured by migrant workers. These men and women meticulously set up a grid of cord that runs across a massive area of plowed ground. The last part of the maze of cord is strung by two guys standing on a platform in the back of a flatbed truck.  As the truck travels slowly beneath the network of tautly strung cords, each man simultaneously tosses the ends of two cords over the line. Then, with the flick of a wrist, ties the ends of both strings to the cord. Without pausing, they reach behind and grab the ends of two more strings and do the same thing, all within in three seconds.
I beg you to Google “hops farming” and see these guys in action. We’re talking about a few talented workers who are essential to the growth of hops. No idea what they get paid, but it would take several planting seasons to train others to do what they do.
After all of that, I’ve got to tell you that I’m not a big fan of the hop. I hear it really stinks when it’s ripe. Because of all the rain in Conroe, I’ll likely be around during harvest season, and get to sniff the stink. I’m pretty sure that the smell is what got people to thinking about using it to make beer.
At Bill’s Berry Farm there are no bad smells, except those coming from the dairy farm next-door. A bunch of well-fed, confined cows can out-stink a field of ripe hops. I'd put money on it. But, the cows in no way curbed my enjoyment of Bill's Berry Farm. An absolutely fantastic place, on the other side of all the cows. See? Everyone wave at Julie. "Hi, Julie!"
            Julie is Bill’s wife. You ask me, she does most of the work, at least on the retail end of the farm. I’ve seen Bill once. I think he was smoking brisket. Smoking something. I should’ve saved more space for Bill and Julie, but we’ll have to catch them another time. It will be a fun write. Unfortunately, it would be inappropriate for Attenborough to read the article aloud. Elmer Fudd? Maybe.
            Until next week, try to stay dry. That’s a done deal up here in the eastern part of “The Evergreen State.”

end