2 Weeks On – My Trip Of Endurance

Well, it’s been 2 weeks since I packed up the car and headed out of Florida. I had not expected it to be quite the Endurance Test that it was.

This trip was supposed to be more leisurely than most of my mad dashes. I’ve done the cross country drive more times than I can count. A few as a kid. A couple while in college (one around the entire perimeter of the ‘lower 48’ in a ’67 VW Fastback, complete with one engine overhaul and several roadside repairs, and one in a brand new Honda Accord their first year of manufacture – returned to the dealer a month or two later with something like 5000 miles on it…), and many more since. The Banana Boat alone has done at least a half dozen.

So I’ve seen “fly over country” up close and personal A Lot.

I know Texas from edge to edge every route possible. I-10, I-20, I-40, Diagonal from I-40 to I-20, or vertical down to I-10.

I’ve done I-90 up north, I-70 through Colorado, I-80 a few times. I’ve done I-5 from San Diego to Canada (parts of it hundreds of times, some only a few) and I-95 from Florida to Maine (or Maine to Florida, some both ways…) and a whole lot of crisscrosses in between them. (After a while you start to take diagonals between the main I-x routes just to get some variety). FWIW, the time to take I-10 from Silicon Valley to Orlando is within an hour of the time to take I-40 or I-20, but it bumps up by 4 hours if you take I-80. Yes, I’ve done I-80 to Florida – usually due to weather issues on the other routes. It’s easy to lose 4 hours to a flood or hurricane…

So much of the time I just point the car “that-a-way” and wait for tomorrow. Texas is about 935 miles from El Paso to Louisiana, so it is 1/3 of the trip. West Texas feels more like 1/2 the trip on your 3rd or 4th time through it… THEN you get to tack on the New Mexico, Arizona, and California southern deserts… After a while sand and dirt are not so interesting. The result is that I’ve driven from Silicon Valley to near El Paso in “one day”, slept a bit, then crossed Texas the next. So I know what it takes to do 1/2 the continent in a mad dash. Typically 2 days, or at least 1 1/2 and a hotel / friend stop in the middle and at the end. I’ve also had occasion to make the mad dash the other way. From Orlando to Dallas in 24+ hours non-stop solo (family in Texas needed me to show up…) and from Orlando to Silicon Valley in 56 hours with only one hotel stop (New Mexico) after a phone call for a family medical event in California (though that trip we had 3 drivers in rotation and napping in the car). So yes, I’ve done long duration “butts in seats” too.

What I’d not done is a solo marathon without a stop for a nap as needed. And I had no intention of finding out what that was like, given the above list of experiences. I “had clue” enough.

The Trip Out

I headed out to Florida toward the end of July intending a “3 or 4 week” event of leisurely driving / stopping / sight seeing and visits. I needed to be back by about Aug 15 or so for a family special event. Plenty of time.

The first leg was out via I-5 to I-40 (Flagstaff Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico, blip of Texas Panhandle… did I mention I’ve seen Texas edge to edge too many times already? ;-) I can usually do that run very fast. Something like 12 hours to Flagstaff or near it. This time, I’d left about mid day (to avoid rush hour) so got to I-40 about night / nap time. An hour nap in the car (smelling bits of forest fire wafting in from hopefully far far away) at a truck stop in the Mojave and I was ready to press on through the next day to east New Mexico. Arizona and New Mexico along I-40 are very pretty to look at most of the time. A bit desert and bland in other parts.

About 3? in the afternoon in the high desert of New Mexico, I had a tire blow out. It was a rear tire, so not much of an issue to control. Looking at it (shredded having barfed out a ‘tread-a-pillar’ and then the inner-liner let loose) it was clear “has issues”, and a check of the date code showed it to be about 12 years old. Note To Self: Check tire date codes on rarely driven car before long trips… As I usually used The Banana Boat for long trips, and the sedan for ‘around town’, it had not worn the tires much over the years. But the rubber does harden and eventually has a kind of brittle fracture. There is something about the hot high desert of New Mexico that is hard on old tires, especially at 80 MPH… I’d lost a front tire there on the same car about a decade prior. It too had aged out. You would think I’d have remembered… (Well, really, I did remember. I had taken the hubcaps off as that time I’d lost one… but maybe remembering is not the same as learning…) So by the side of the road I got to unload the trunk and put on the spare under a nice warm July sun at the hottest part of the day. An hour or so later I was back on the road and really appreciating air conditioning.

Looking at the tire on the other end of the axle showed it to be the same make and age…

Somewhere near the Texas border I got a hotel for the night. Ah, bed. A very nice and very expensive Best Western. (About $107 for one). But we had ‘gift cards’ for some reason, and I was supposed to use them up. That took one night instead of the expected two…

In Amarillo, I had a replacement spare put on at the first place I found. That was a mistake. (The old Mercedes uses a 14 inch rim and it is hard to find 14 inch tires now. The places I tried in New Mexico said that they could order it in a couple of days…) So at a Sears Auto Center, where I’d gotten good Cooper tires in 14 inch before, they had some brand I’d never heard of ( Radar? R-something) made in China. Cost me $90 all told installed for a crappy no-name Chinese “truck SUV” tire… then about 3 miles down the interstate saw a nice “Discount Tire Store” that has better choices in 14 inch… Ah, the joys of decisions made in fear of another blowout… As it was raining and the folks at Sears had no clue how to start my Diesel nor how to use a stick shift (the Mercedes you pull up for reverse, not push down like American) I asked them to stop trying and just replace the tire on the rim in the trunk and put it back there. Thus continued driving on the other expired tire on the other end of the axle… though the spare I’d put on was Very Nice. Why was it better than what was on the axle? Um, …. I like having a good spare? :-)

Then it was back on the road about 2 PM Central Time…

Somewhere around midnight near the far side of Alabama? it had been raining a fair amount and I was just dead tired. Not much to see in the rain, so I’d just driven. But at the end of, what, 14 or 15 hours?, I was at an end. Motel 6… that was a Motel 6 only in name. Banner hung over some other name, shining through it in the night… $50. For a Motel 6? Originally named for the $6 it cost. Built in inflation gauge, that. I unloaded the car. In the process, I found that the A/C, in the humid East, was extracting a LOT of water from the air. And putting it on the floor of the passenger side. A known issue with old Mercedes in the dry west. Just enough condensate forms to collect dust in the drain, then it dries. Repeat until plugged with adobe concrete… Then in the East, it overflows as it is plugged. A couple of gallons of water sopped up in towels and wrung out… The next day I stopped at WalMart and bought my own cheap towel and a plastic tub (all up about $4) to act as water catcher and sop.

I’d intended to turn north to North Carolina and visit the friend I’d helped move. Last trip out was driving a van of his stuff, then flying back from Florida. Having a car trying to be a swimming pool made that less likely. What happened next ended the idea…

I was somewhere in Georgia and headed down the interstate. Got off at a low usage exit due to a sign saying Diesel! and went about 2 miles down a narrow winding road to a 2 pump gas station… On the way out, pulled over in a wide spot to dump the tub and sop / wring the rest (carpets in trunk slowly drying, it’s easy to mop the metal / painted floor). All done, turn the key — Nothing. Nothing. Get out for a bit of a think… Here I am, middle of nowhere, in a 35 year old Mercedes in a land where “old car” is anything made in the 2000’s and ‘foreign car’ means a Ford Truck made in Canada with the odd metric bits on it…

Now I know this “issue”. This car had about 160,000 miles on it. At about that point, the Diesels tend to have the starter brushes worn down. The Good News? It first fails when hot. Upon cooling, the casing shrinks a bit faster than the rotor and you can start again. The bad news? You get “a few” such starts and the brushes wear a bit more then you don’t get to start again… So right off the bat I know I’m not going to North Carolina for a brief visit. I need to head to Florida so I can complete “my mission” (of dealing with the crap I left there last time) and maybe getting the Banana Boat to drive home. It having been left at a muffler repair place back in December when, returning from Chicago and the birth of the Grandson, it blew out the exhaust pipe near Memphis and it was a lot shorter to Florida than to Silicon Valley… and I’d flown home… but now it was fixed and waiting for me. Part of what I was supposed to ‘deal with’ in Florida.

Have I mentioned that living Bi-Coastal can be a bit complicated at times?

Getting back in the car after about 10 minutes, it started. Oh Boy!

Now I just can’t shut it off until I reach Orlando…

So the nice thing is you can put Diesel into a running Diesel vehicle in safety. No sparks! The bad thing is with only one key, you must leave it unlocked and running as you go into the shop to pay for gas… I used a card at the pump a lot…

About Midnight I got to park the car and turn it off.

I was thinking that 10 hours or so of not turning it off was a lot. Little did I know…

In Orlando

I got done what I’d intended to do. The SLC was “moved on”. (I’d hit a deer with it a couple of years back, and realized I was not going to get it fixed long distance). The Banana Boat was redeemed from the muffler shop. For the next weeks I drove it around Florida. Mulling over the question of: Take IT home without A/C to have a full tune up and AC fixed by the folks here who do work on old cars, or take the sedan home with AC (and a bucket) to have IT fixed? On a couple of occasions I had to move the sedan and it started Just Fine each time. I figured I likely had at least 3 or 4 more “starts” left in it, so decided to take it home. One start to leave, 2 or three at hotels. Try to find hotels with a slope to the parking lot so I can ‘roll start’ if needed…. (Part of why I prefer manual transmission cars. You can do that. And both these are 4 speed manuals).

At any rate, I got my “stuff” cleaned up. Partied a bit with friends I’d not seen in a year. Got the Banana Boat back, and running nicely. Had a Meet and Greet with folks at World Of Beers, and generally had a pretty good time.

Watching the weather reports, it was pretty clear that to be back in time, I’d not want to wait. A tropical depression had been sitting in the Gulf just off the Florida Panhandle dumping rain along the coast. It was likely to come ashore either in the panhandle or up the Gulf Coast. Then a long rain band was projected to run from Chicago to Louisiana dumping a load. No clean path through without weather issues.

The Banana Boat would benefit from a tune up (points and rotor about every cross of the continent – 2500 miles+) and I’d brought the parts, but now time would be tight. Also, driving in humid wet South a working A/C can be important to getting fog off the windows, not just comfort. Then add in that it, too, had a window leaking issue over the passenger foot well.. I wanted to get it back to California for repairs, but it didn’t seem the right time to do it. Fall would be better. The sedan would work better in the wet and rain, and a ‘couple of starts’ would be enough to get home. I decided to load up the sedan. But first I put the new crappy Sears S rated Chinese tire on in place of the aged out old crappy Chinese tire… ( I really strongly prefer the nice Japanese Sumitomo tires that were on the other 3 positions, but they stopped making 14 inch tires for my car. 50 PSI and H rated… yeah, way overklll for a car than can’t hit 90 downhill ;-).

Then do a rapid dash past the rain target before stopping for the night. I set my sights on “edge of Texas”. Then figured a second night somewhere like New Mexico at a hotel on a slope… just in case.

The Marathon Back

It has been two weeks now, since I packed up and headed out, and I’m finally feeling a bit more normal again. My hands and feet still complain at me a bit when put on vibrating surfaces (like a steering wheel or car gas pedal…) and I’m still prone to an afternoon nap. But most of the OMG stress consequences have faded.

I’d set out on what I expected would be a 3 day “mad dash” of 2800 or so miles. Rough, but not anything I hadn’t done before. 2 nights in hotels and plenty of meal / rest stops.

The first day, I left town at 7:35 AM. The car started fine first try. Filled up at the gas station and again, an easy start. OK, I could leave town. Maybe I was just being paranoid about a humidity driven electrical issue or ‘whatever’. It had shown zero issues in a few starts since then, and even this warm start was OK.

I shot up I-75 and over on I-10 (filling with the engine running, no need to press my luck once out of town and running west… away from base and friends). There was modest rain up Florida and a bit across the south near Gulfport, but I was clearly making a clean getaway before the rain came ashore in strength. At 3:30 PM local time I was in Gulfport Mississippi and by 4:12 PM Louisiana. I-12 has a long viaduct (bridge over the marsh / swamp / lots of water) for miles. That’s the main flood area and I wanted past it. At some gas stop near Baton Rouge, I made the mistake of instinctively turning off the engine. OK, call it a feature. I was on “enough” slope to roll start ( I hoped) and this was a chance to hit the bathroom inside, have lunch sitting inside, and add oil. Check air in the tires. Etc. After all that, it started fine, again. I’m beginning to think my worries are for naught…

At about 10:30 PM local time I was at the far side of Louisiana on I-20 (moved up one level) and hit another Motel 6. This one had rooms that smelled way too much of ‘freshener’. Note to Self: Motel 6 is no longer a standard product that is inoffensive. It is now a collection of random things under their brand label. Find a different ‘cheap stop’ choice…

Now usually I carry a spray bottle of vinegar and one of ammonia to ‘decontaminate’ rooms. The thesis is based on a U.S. Military decontamination routine using acid / alkali alternating washes, but I do it with mild acid / base that fully evaporates. Spray one, wait 20 minutes, spray the other, wait 20 minutes, air out the room. Works a champ on things like tobacco smells and such. As tobacco makes me wheeze sneeze and not sleep, this matters. But the need for it has dropped off with increasing availability of non-smoking rooms and better enforcement by hotels. Besides, I can usually “hit the local grocery” if needed. But NOT when trying to minimize starts of the car… and I didn’t have the bottles with me.

I improvised (after not falling asleep…) I had a large bottle of Listerine. It has ‘essential oils’ in it that are reactive. That’s how it kills bacteria. Those oils OUGHT to also react with other things… So I dribbled a few ounces on a towel and walked around the room waving it. Let it hang on a chair and left for a few minutes. On return, aired out the room (or massively raised the humidity ;-) and then turned on the A/C again. That worked ‘well enough’ to get rid of the stink of perfume / ‘freshener’… And an OK night sleep followed. Somewhere around 6 hours later I was back on the road. ( I often don’t sleep well, or much, in hotels). In retrospect, it would have been better to have slept longer…

The car was parked on what I hoped was “enough slope”. I tested it, it wasn’t. But the car did start fine on the starter. OK, clearly I’m overly worried. This is something like a half dozen reliable starts in a row… I head out.

From here, I’d planned to ‘angle up’ to I-40 crossing Texas in a slightly different way from the usual. While the Truck Stops were all about $2.30 to $2.45 for Diesel, I’d learned to spot the Murphy’s signs that indicated a Walmart gas stop. As they let me use my Walmart card at the pump, that was a significant feature. In Wichita Falls. I got Diesel at $1.90.9 / gallon at one of them…

Then I hit Childress Texas.

The car had been getting ‘sluggish’. Having sat for nearly 2 years prior to this trip, then having a load of ‘bio-diesel’ run through it early on (Love’s and some other Truck Stops are now selling a bio-Diesels blend and it is known to loosen crud in old fuel systems) I suspected “stuff” was dissolved loose from the tank and was clogging up the fuel filter, slowly. The usual symptom is that it is all fine at low fuel flow, but at full flow it isn’t full flow… so acceleration and top speed fall off. I was topping out about 75 MPH to 80 MPH. “On the flat” this car ought to get to 85 MPH (wind permitting) and it had done over 85 on occasion on the way out. Though now, being quite full, and with a different unknown efficiency tire on it, it might not be fuel filter. (Type of Diesel didn’t change the performance). I decided, since the starter was behaving, to stop at an auto parts store and change the secondary fuel filter. The primary is a ‘spin on’ like a regular oil filter, and the secondary is a small screen like thing in the line just before the injector pump. 2 screws and you are done. I figured I could do one, and if things improved, maybe do the other at the hotel stop planned for just up the road near Amarillo /New Mexico border (where I knew I could make it home in ‘one shot’ having just done it the other way).

This little farm town no-where didn’t have the filter, but we figured out one that would work. Couple of minutes with a screwdriver, hand pump the built in fuel primer to fill it, and time to start. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. {tap starter with tire iron to loosen brushes if stuck) Nothing. Nothing. Nothing….

It’s about 3 PM, hottest time of the day, and the car has just run non-stop from Louisiana some of it up hill, often full power, with a load. I decide to walk across the street to the Sonic Drive In and drown my sorrows in Ice Tea while enjoying their A/C.

I contemplated things for a while. My Indiana Jones hat on the table. Their Largest Ever Ice Tea slowly slurped… about a pint of ice saved in the cup. Looking out the window at the car, the parking lot, the slope. There just MIGHT be enough slope down the side of the building to roll start. I’d roll back from the door OK (having NOT ‘chosen wisely’ where to park for best roll…) and then have a small push to get it pointed across the front, then ‘enough’ slope to likely make the side and roll start. Maybe I could slip someone a $5 to help push… And I had my pint of ice to cool the starter… After about 45 minutes, I decided to ‘give it a go’ and find out what condition my condition was in.

TAP TAP on the starter again. Close the hood. It starts! Yeayyy!!!

But now I’ve been up and driving about 9 hours, it’s 1/2 a continent to home, and I just can’t chance another non-start. I’ve had 2 that recovered, and MAYBE it would work when cool again, but… to miss the date back home would not be acceptable. No hotel for Mikey tonight…

At about 5:50 Mountain Time I reach New Mexico. Now I’m into this about 12 hours already, and I have a “normal max limit” of drive still ahead of me. Oh, and I can’t shut the car off for a nap, so no vibration free time either. The fuel filter swap has bought a bit more speed, but the primary is likely crapping up a bit too. I need to get 3 or 4 more tanks of fuel through it, that’s all. In Amarillo I’d picked up the proper filters at an Advanced Auto Parts store, so at least I had them if it totally crapped up. So IFF I’m lucky, in about 24 hours I can be done. Let the games begin…

The short form is that crossing New Mexico was easy. About midnight I reached Arizona. There’s where things started getting hard. Some (a lot…) of caffeine and aspirin helped. (Aspirin also to prevent leg vein clots from so much sitting) A few times I’d try a ‘speed nap’. Take an hour and pull off at some no-where exit, often behind an 18 wheeler, and slump over the front seat trying to nap. It’s very hard trying to nap when the engine is still running, the car vibrating, and you can’t move as that risks hitting the shifter into the rotating transmission parts… Eventually, at about sunrise, on the far side of Arizona, I saw an exit with a hill behind it… It was a nearly instant dirt road off of the pavement stub, but it was a hill. I parked facing downhill and risked shutting off the motor. There was a long enough slope to try one start on dirt, then a good run to hard pavement for a real start.

I had, maybe, a 2? hour nap with both doors open. Top of the head out one side, feet out the other. Blissful quiet. No vibration. Only a modest lump under the pillow at the transmission… (The rear seat was full of stuff and I didn’t really want to unload it into the dirt…).

But it’s hard to sleep well with 400 mg of caffeine in you and the sun rising… So after a couple of hours I was ‘ready to go’ again.

An easy ‘roll start’ down the hill and back onto the highway. At Kingman Arizona I got gas at Smith’s grocery for $1.93.9 / gallon (when the Truck Stops were again at $2.35 ish) and continued on my way.

By this time, I was uncomfortable with the hand and feet vibrations. I’d used every possible surface on both feet and both hands on the steering wheel and peddle. Cruse Control had died decades back. Never was very good in that era Mercedes. So I was committed to holding the wheel and pushing something. It was a Very Long drive across Arizona and the Mojave of California. Then the turn north up I-5 to Silicon Valley.

The closer I got, the longer it took, or so it seemed. I even accepted buying way overpriced fuel at the fastest stops. $3 / gallon in Kettleman City ( that once was a nice priced stop, now overpriced).

At 6:25 PM, I pulled in to home. In about 10 minutes had “the important parts” unloaded from the car, then had a quick rinse off shower and collapsed into bed and had a ‘few hours nap’. That evening, had a bit of dinner, and returned to bed. The next day, unloaded the trunk of the car.


In two weeks, it hasn’t moved.

It may be another two weeks before I move it.

My palms and soles of the feet are still a bit sensitive to vibration and persistent pressure (the drive to The Presidio that normally would be nothing was a mild irritation) but getting better. I’m almost caught up on sleep (but an occasional afternoon nap makes its desire known).

I’ve actually had enough real meals to have caught up from ‘snacking across the continent’.

It was about 38? hours of almost non-stop driving from Louisiana to here. I didn’t know I could do that. I hope to never do it again.

I’ve discovered I can still, even at 60-something, do everything I ever could do (maybe more), it just hurts more the next day ;-)

I’d have chosen to have the starter changed in Amarillo, but for the risk of a several day loss of time as parts were ordered from far far away. Unloading a fully loaded car into a hotel room for an unknown length of time is not conducive to making a required engagement in “a few days at most”. Driving around / phoning for a few hours would have assured I could not make it home in one go. Prior attempts at ‘old Mercedes repair’ outside California have not been very successful, either. It takes a lot more time and money than I’d like.

So the upshot of all this is that I’m pretty sure I’m not going to plan any more cross continent trips in Very Old Mercedes. I might bring the Banana Boat back from Florida as a final trip to sunny dry climates where it can stay and not further rust away. (Being a 1979 it didn’t like the 2-ish years in Chicago and ‘a few’ in Florida all that well. It now has “skin cancer” in the drivers side fender and a few rust spots elsewhere; so needs dry…) They just aren’t suited to the wet, and the ability to do ‘surprise repairs quickly’ is very very low. Exactly one guy in Orlando can do / will do tuneups on the Banana Boat. “Dwell Meter” not being in the vocabulary of any shop staffed with folks under 50… and “points” being something you get on your iPhone when you play games…

I’m very very slowly in the market for “something else” better suited to a cross continent run and repair in Middle-Of-Nowhere Texas or South-Swamp Florida… Preferably good in rain, mud, sand, storms and desert; and comfortable to drive for 12 hours straight.

Or maybe I’ll just fly into Orlando / Chicago and call Uber ;-)

For now, moping around the house and sleeping whenever I feel like it is about the top of my ambition. Well, that and cooking dinner….

FWIW, made a very nice quick and easy burrito like thing yesterday. Warmed tortillas in a large cast iron skillet. Heated canned refried beans in a medium sized one (giving them that real refried crusty bits flavor ;-) and took a nice sausage (like a polish) and Julianned it. Fried for a couple of minutes in oil to brown a bit.

Now assemble. Tortilla on plate. Smear with beans. Sprinkle on sausage strips. Dot with Olives and top with packaged shredded Mexican mix cheese. Sprinkle hot sauce to taste, and top with butter lettuce from a packaged butter lettuce salad bag. Roll. All up, less than a minute.

Had two, wanted more but was out of room! Yummy. We used Jenny-O Turkey Sausage, but any favorite ought to be fine. (Beef makes the arthritis hurt, turkey doesn’t) Maybe I’ll have another one today… it is lunch time ;-)

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Posted in Human Interest | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Not Liking This SPY S&P 500 vs GLD Gold Chart

Not much to say about it, really, other than to me it looks ugly. It looks very much like intervention by {someone} to prop up a narrative and not at all like normal market actions. SPY is rising, but with nothing real behind it, and GLD has topped, while the news is pushing it.

This is a 2 year chart, so shows both context and to some extent recent detail. It is a daily chart, so more detail oriented than the weekly tick mark charts that emphasize long term trend, still, with 2 years on it, you can visualize the trends.

SPY vs GLT and TLT 2 year daily chart Aug 2016

SPY vs GLT and TLT 2 year daily chart Aug 2016

First off, price of the main ticker, SPY, is rising, and all the normal trend following indicators say it ought to continue to rise, yet the strength indicators say “there’s no there, there”. So what the heck does that mean? Usually, that means the trend is ending or over. But with The Fed at Zero (or close enough for all practical purposes) does “usually” apply?

So the SMA Simple Moving Average stack is “normal” for a rise. Price over slowest over longest. The MACD is going sideways in a sort of an almost weave as it does in long duration trends, and is above the zero line so positive trend. Yet it is “red on top” that means exit or get ready to exit (put in stop loss orders or buy puts). Downward sloping indicating a weakening trend too.

ADX / DMI has blue over red (above black) all of small size, showing a confusion in the trend. The “positive” blue headed to nothing (trend up ending / ended) and with black ADX line at 15 and dropping indicating “no trend”… After a run up, no trend precedes drop… and red headed upward to take over the trend (i.e. “down soon” implied). (Click to embiggen the chart. There’s a tiny upturn in red in August).

Then there is volume. Just look at how weak it is under the latest up days. Volume dries up on rises before drops. (Look back at last Christmas / New Years and the August / October before that. Volume dries up, then prices drop. The market is a volume seeking mechanism as that is where commissions are generated.) Very much not good.

Now, some months back (June 16) I said the trade was to be in gold. It has been rising nicely for a while, but the last two months has not gone through a new high. Lows are rising, but not highs. Someone is selling at a price and putting a lid on rises. Looks like Gold needs a new look in more detail. It does have long stretches of near flat wobble, then jumps up in a few days, so this could be ‘toppy’ or just another waiting sideways.

Now also this graph has TLT on it. Long term bonds in a fund. (Why anyone would buy near zero bonds in a flat market facing a Fed Rate Hike “soon” is an interesting question, but clearly someone has been. Until the last couple of months…) It now has the same “spike and dribble” shape as the recent gold prices. So what the heck is going on? To me, it looks like prices have hit a top and big money is selling at that point.

But what the heck are they buying?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t look to me like it is on this chart. So I need to do a broader brush look at global assets. Big Money is looking for a return, and it isn’t seeing it in bonds, nor is gold interesting at this price, and stocks are just way too much risk for the tepid return. So is it all just running for cash, or for something / somewhere else?

While I’d not immediately abandon the whole gold trade, I’d start scaling out of it. Same thing for bonds (the odds of any rate decrease that would raise the value of existing higher premium bonds is near zero). Stocks look like a possible short “soon”. That mostly leaves real estate and commodities as places to look for play. Commodities not likely in a flat global economy and real estate a maybe.

OK, I have my work to do. This is just a heads up at best. A first glance “What The?” that says to go spend time figuring it out.

But I’m really not seeing anything in the US market to be happy about. Maybe from a ROW Rest Of World perspective the strong dollar makes it worth the near zero coupon on the bonds, but even there I’d be surprised as a straight currency trade would be as good. Then again, a lot of folks, like me, rarely or never trade currencies.

With that, I need to go digging and see what else turns up.

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Posted in Economics - Trading - and Money | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Disney Family Museum

Yesterday was spent going to the Disney Family Museum. This was set up at the San Francisco Presidio. A former US military base, now a national park. The Presidio is worth a day just on its own, but living ‘near’ it, I’ve been there several times.

FWIW, my favorite “approach” avoids most of San Francisco city and all of the traffic. I run up I-280 on the backside of the peninsula, then at the Hwy-1 / Hwy-35 exit, head over to Hwy-35. Also known as Skyline, it runs along the mountain top backbone of the peninsula from down near Saratoga / Silicon Valley all the way up to near San Francisco. A great ride the whole way, especially on a motorcycle in spring… But the shortcut for a fast run to S.F. is that cutover as you approach San Francisco. Then there is a left turn to something like The Great Highway or ‘whatever’ ( I know, I ought to look it up, but I’ve driven it so many times I just “do it”…) and that runs along the beach to The Cliff House (a very good and always packed restaurant hanging on a cliff overlooking the Pacific and dumps you out near Grant? Avenue. It is then a bit of a wander toward the left to find / enter the Presidio on the backside. Again, my apologies, but I like the wander part of it. Making it a formula would break some of the magic… You can always just go straight forward to 19th street / ave whatever-it-is that is the Park-Presidio highway (Golden Gate Park / Presidio) and enter the front way… or use GPS…)

At any rate, we ‘wander’ in the back “gate” via a certain random walk approach. It makes it a bit more mysterious and a lot less crowded. It also tends to have us drive past the cemetery / chapel… with the Golden Gate and Bay in sight… and that’s rather special and sobering at the same time…

Then the Presidio itself is not set up on a square grid for quick crossing. More a set of wandering cow trails that were designed for horse drawn wagons to have an acceptable slope, inside a base with lots of interbase movement but little entry exit via a few (historically) controlled points. So you can find yourself on a 2 way road wide enough for 1 behind what had been base housing (who lives there now? Donno….) but eventually you will see the red brick buildings of the Main Post and now the central square. It is much closer to the ‘front’ of the base and overlooking the Bay (and traffic and…). Frankly, I find the wander through the back worth a lot more than the time it takes…

The Museum

It is on “Montgomery Street” IIRC. 104? At any rate, the one with the big banner on the front saying Disney. Parking is on the opposite side of the ‘quad’. It costs $8 for the day (or something like $1.50 / hour) payable only by credit card into the meter / pass printing thing. No real money allowed. It eventually prints a little receipt that tries to blow off your dash if both doors are open… be advised chasing it isn’t all that fun… (Caught it in three steps and a leap…) You want the ‘all day’ as the museum takes longer than expected.

Their is a ramp at the south end of the building, but most folks go up the stairs in front. Built on a hill, the south end is near grade, the north off the ground a good ways. Entry is near the center. Signage is “ok”, but not great.

On entry, you are in the middle of the building in both side to side and up-and-down. It is actually about 5 stories tall, but some below ground and beyond your reach. This lobby level has the ticket sales to your right, snack bar and store to the left, and awards display to the far right past the ticket sales. Again, signage is a bit lacking but OK. There is an elevator to the rear left that takes you down one floor for the bathroom / movies / exit from the displays (or take the stairs to the immediate left) and past the ticket sales and awards room on the right; is the entry to the main museum display at the far right end / rear.

Prices? Oh, they are absolutely absurdly horrible. But, for a Disney fan, worth it. Snacks were: Coke (bottle 12 oz / 355 ml) was $3.25 while a ‘bowl’ (about 8 to 10 ounces) of “Walt’s Favorite Chili” was $8 and a tuna salad sandwich was $10.25 or some such. (The chili was actually pretty good… little minces of beef, not ground stuff, and spiced just enough, but not overly hot). Spouse ate her sandwich and liked it, so was likely good. Entry? That depends. They were having some kind of special exhibition on Pinocchio? for an added $10, but we didn’t get there until noon, so skipped it. Basic admission was $20 / person, so $40 for the two of us. It would have been $30 / $60 for two had we done the add on. This price includes tickets to two different movies shown on site, if you ask for them (they do offer…) so we saw Winnie The Pooh and Pinocchio movies “for free”. This also consumed about 2.5 hours that in retrospect might have been better spent in the museum proper as we didn’t realize how big it was.

The movies are best seen from the middle of the fairly small theater, but even from the rear the view was very good (and the print was clearly near / at pristine quality). You are given separate tickets for each movie that are scanned at entrance. You get to keep them as scrapbook material if desired. On the wall around the waiting area / bathrooms / downstairs studio (that isn’t on display) is a story of one of the major artists for Disney. Mel Shaw. Worth the time to read and look at the art work. Seems Disney had a thing for polo, and on one occasion his “team” was sent to Mexico as he was too busy to attend, they then played the Mexican National team. VERY interesting paintings of centaurs playing polo… Outside the movie theatre in the waiting area (that wasn’t used for waiting) is an art display of drawings and small statues. Seems Mel kept most of his works and they were not sold or displayed. Until now and here. You can see how his connection to living things (and especially horses) shaped many Disney characters.

But by this time were were nearing 4:30 pm and had not even started to look at the actual “Museum” (“galleries”). Two movies. Lunch. Art Gallery. Wall mural of Mel and polo and… The place closes at 6:00 PM. With 1 1/2 hours left, we headed straight past the room of trophies and awards and into the Gallery Entrance. (And another ticket scan).

The Gallery is a series of rooms. Many more than I’d thought as it wanders over a couple of floors and wraps around the other spaces. 3/4 of the way through you walk down a hallway with a glass wall facing the Gold Gate Bridge. The view is spectacular. Before that, you enter a time sequence presentation on Walt Disney, his companies, and related artists and projects. Many of the displays are interactive (with hand held earphones to hear descriptions in the voices of those involved, often Walt.) Often with many buttons to push for alternative views of things. In once case, an entire photo album with notes is on display in a sealed glass box, next to it is a high quality video display of it. Each page available with the touch of a spot / slide of the tab. THAT was the killer on time. It would take several hours to touch all the tabs, listen to all the recordings, view all the slides… So in many cases we got a ‘taster’ of a few pages / slides / voices; but then needed to “move on” to finish by 6 pm. We will be back… Starting with the galleries at opening and then doing movies / etc. “if time permits”. No flash photography, but low light images OK.

The time sequence presentation works well. From a 16 year old kid lying about his age to drive an ambulance in W.W.I (full size one on display) to doing copy work and line drawings to making art move to The Disney We Know… You can see the progression of a man driven by a passion. For me, that was THE key takeaway. If you would do great things, you must have a great passion about something. (Sadly, I only have minor passions, having been raised to be ‘in control of myself’…) At the end of that first block of “as a kid to W.W.I” you reach an elevator that takes you up to the second floor and the next time series.

A note on elevators: At the south end of the building is the elevator down to the movies and bathrooms. Take it to the 2nd floor, you will find yourself in the middle of the time series of galleries. (About W.W.II) The 3rd floor is not open to the public. Take it down, you are at the bathrooms / movies and a mysterious door marked “no entry”… It is the exit from the galleries as you find out when the trip is done, just after the end of Walt’s life. The 2nd basement is also closed to the public. So in all, there are 5 floors and you will be wandering around 3 of them. Just realize that nothing tells you to go to the back of the awards area to enter the galleries and that if you take the elevator to the 2nd floor you are starting in the middle. (I’d poked my nose in to see what was there while waiting for the spouse). Just start everything to do with the galleries at the back of the awards room.

The galleries have various treasures on display. From family photos to home movies to Walt’s “treasures” saved from his ambulance driving days to various cameras used in production. Many people just dashed past the ‘hardware’. I was fascinated by it. They had actual cameras (likely the actual ones used, but perhaps just ‘period correct’… I didn’t check) of the type (and perhaps the ones) used at each stage of the development of the Walt Disney Way. From simple ‘on a tripod and crank’ all the way up to a 2 story tall multi-plane camera that held acetates of 3 different depths movable in all three axes and a camera at the top similarly movable. A video about it is here:

The “circlerama” movies were a staple of Disneyland / Disneyworld for generations. To see the actual camera(s) used was special. A very large industrial strength metal plate with a plethora of Kodak movie cameras bolted in a ring. Then the optical mask machine they invented to take all the outline of masking from matt work, improving all sci-fi and fantasy films for generations ;-) I’d not realized it was a Disney Company creation. Now a staple of all things Star Wars and Trek… You can just see this driven by passion person moving from pen to camera to pushing into new cameras and new ways… and on into an immersive experience in the parks.

There is a long slow ramp down from the second floor to the first basement. You pass views inside the Mr. Lincoln anamtronic and get to pilot a speaking parrot with a joy-stick. There is a model of Disneyland that’s a dozen or more feet across, with things now long gone, but living in that first vision and in the memories of some looking at it…

The last gallery is about his passing. Projects still in the works (Disneyworld) and pushing to the end. How the world reacted to his passing. Then you exit the ‘no entry’ doors and find out it’s that elevator and stairs back up.

We had about 20 minutes left, so went back to the Awards Room. Just astounding the number and range of awards. One award from an Army Battalion. Another from the Coast Guard. Some in Italian. A Presidential award (signed by Johnson). Film awards. Awards for directing, acting, you name it. Then there was the whole case of Oscars. I’d guess a dozen? And that very very special Oscar. The one with the Seven Dwarf Oscars next to it… While some folks spend a lifetime hoping for just one, here was an entire case floor to ceiling of them… (well, maybe not all the way to the ceiling… but it seemed like it).

And then it was time to go.

We will be back. Taking more time in the galleries, less in the movies. Maybe making sure to catch the ‘special talks’ given about one an hour in the galleries. Maybe seeing on of the special exhibits on some other aspects for that extra $10. Our timing was set by traffic. We could not get there until after “rush hour” let us out of Silicon Valley. Next time, we’ll leave here at “0 dark thirty” to be there at the open, then spend a nice long time in the galleries pushing buttons and listening to voices from the past. Lunch basket in the park / quad. Back for movies in the afternoon.

I knew a lot about the history of the Walt Disney Company, having watched it grow my whole life, and having worked there on and off for over a decade (as contractor, not Cast Member, though the spouse was a Cast Member for a short while). What I’d not appreciated was how much new was invented early on by Walt and associates. Just how much was driven by his drive for more quality, for doing what others had just said was not worth it. That at least 2 and maybe 3 times he had ‘bet it all’ on a vision and a drive for more. Not just funding Disneyworld toward the end of things, but during W.W.II where they almost went out of business (instead filming 300,000 FEET of film a year, or about a one hour movie every 2 weeks of training films and more; along with designing some 100+ insignia for units – giving a specific feel to the whole era of history…) and earlier where they have telegrams on display saying things like “Need $3500 STOP. Find a way”… And that was the major “takeaway” for me. Passion first. Always put quality of product ahead of money. Find a way to make the “operational” aspects work. Then go grubbing for money if you must. Look at what everyone else is doing. Look at what you are doing. Then say “We can do better.” and ask “How?”. Then do it.

One minor sidebar on railroads.

Seems that the little railroad running around Disneyland was not made of custom built engines. At the time, dinky rail engines were used in various industrial operations. It was a ‘rescue’ of sorts from a (trees? wood or paper? operation) that was converting to something else. An open area to “dig here”… that little backwater of history of ‘small rail’. A time when small steam locomotives were not just toys in a park, but working tools of industry. Walt also had a couple of custom built rail lines in toy scale made for his own fun. On display was an engine at 1.5 inches to the foot ( 8:1 ) scale (IIRC). A real, live, steam engine and cars. Castings made to scale and all working. Anyone loving trains will need to spend extra time at the train display… Maybe on my next trip ;-)

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Tips – August 2016

About “Tips”:

While I’m mostly interested in things having to do with:

Making money, usually via trading
Weather and climate
Quakes, Volcanoes, and other Earth Sciences
Current economic and political events
(often as those last three have impact on the first one…)
And just about any ‘way cool’ interesting science or technology

If something else is interesting you put a “tip” here.

You can also look at the list of “Categories” on the right hand side and get an idea of any other broad area of interest.

This ought not to be seen as a “limit” on what is “interesting”, more as a “focus list” with other things that are interesting being fair game as well.

The History:

Since WordPress has decided that comments on Pages, like the Tips pages, don’t show up in recent comments, it kind of breaks the value of it for me. In response, I’m shifting from a set of “pages” to a set of “postings”. As any given Tips Posting disappears or gets full, I’ll add a new one. That will restore the broken function.

I will be keeping the same general format, with the T page still pointing to both the archive of Tips Pages as well as the series of new Postings. With that, back to the Tips boiler plate:

This is an “overflow” posting from prior Tips pages as they had gotten so large it was taking a long time to load. Same idea, just a new set of space to put pointers to things of interest. The most immediately preceding Tips posting is: https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/tips-july-2016/.

The generic “T” parent page remains up top, where older copies of the various “Tips” pages can be found archived. I have also added a Tips category (see list at right) and will be marking Tips postings with that for easy location.

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China Joining Russia in Syria

On R.T. they had a story of China sending support and “trainers” to Syria. With Russia now flying out of Iran, we’ve got a ‘3 way’ of support for Assad shaping up… “Oh Dear!” for Obummers strategy…


Looks like others have the story too…


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Posted in Political Current Events | 22 Comments

O.T.R.A. Part 2

Somewhere between about 4 am and 6 am Eastern I’m going to once again be “on the road” and out of contact.

I’ve accomplished most of the goals for this particular trip. The old Mercedes SLC that had been damaged in a deer strike some 2 (or so?) years ago on the the start of my last contract here, then spent a while in the garage of my Florida Friend, has gone on to another friend who will be fixing and restoring it. Loved the ride, but fixing a damaged car long distance just wasn’t in the cards… So a gift to a friend with land, time, and tools. May it bring him joy and lots of ZOOOOMmmmm!

The Banana Boat was retrieved from the shop where it had be reposing for a few months. Some may remember my trip to Chicago for the birth of the grandson. On the way back, the car started to “have issues”. Mostly an exhaust system blown open and off the headers, but also very rough running (likely a combination of wrong back pressure from the headers and worn points, yes, points, and rotor…) Now fixed, it reposes in the garage of the Florida Friend where the SLC had been. Waiting for a return via air by me… In a few months.

And more, but less interesting… Pool time. Time with friends. Cooking some simple but tasty and satisfying meals to share.

Now the car (the 240 D Diesel Sedan) is loaded with 1/2 of the “stuff” I’d stored here when the last contract ended. (Other half to go via Banana Boat if I don’t score another contract in the next few months). Laundry is done and packed. Just sleep, morning coffee, stop at the ATM on the way out of town, and a long long drive west…

So once again, an “Open Thread” for an O.T.R.A. span.

I’d intended to make a posting of it, and may yet, but one thing to note is that Gasbuddy had earlier confirmed: Truck Stops are no longer selling cheap Diesel. They are price fixing with significantly higher prices than nearby regular gas stations. Yet just now, a check of prices showed them down significantly and more in line with nearby non-truckstops. I wonder if other folks noticed and were also squawking?


I’m sure y’all will find other things to discuss…

One topic that came up at the W.O.B. table was how to make a movie / social movement to roll back the Left Wing Propaganda Machine. From news outlets to entertainment movies, it is a swamp of spin and deception to create the mess we have today; subtile and continuous pressure to The Collective.

So how can those of us who are still believers in Individual Responsibility and Individual Liberty “push back” via a media creation. Say an entertainment movie, but leveraged to promote the America we remember and loved?

What would it take? How to do it? ‘Tis a puzzlement…

Perhaps The Trump will start the shift… but there’s a whole lot of shifting needed. From Universities to TV Production, there’s a Left Wing Ideologue slant well removed from the center of gravity of America that needs rooting out. Driven in some indirect way by the Global Left / UN / whatever. Being passive hasn’t stopped it, so what will?

Well, that ought to keep folks busy for a couple of days! I’ll check in when I can.

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OMG! – What An Epic Rant!

Just Epic. WARNING: Coarse language, especially at the end.

One hopes she doesn’t show up as another “suicide” with inexplicable shots from behind…

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Posted in Political Current Events | Tagged , | 24 Comments