For the last several months, Henry had last Saturday circled on his calendar, as it was the year’s last scheduled gathering of insulator collectors in our region. That, of course, was not to be missed.
Thus we headed out in the Westy after school, trucking out all the way past Fresno. We camped in dairy country at the ranch of a lovely couple named Frances and Henry, who kindly gave our Hen three insulators from his collection:
Afterwards we grabbed breakfast at a railway cafe that featured cute model trains running around the ceiling. From there we were off to the event, where Hen scored some great deals & got to visit with his old friends. Check out our gallery from the outing.
Oh, and here’s a little draggable 360º pano I captured at dawn with my drone:
After having had the date circled on the calendar for the better part of a year, last week Finn & I finally got to trek to San Francisco to see his favorite band—Gorillaz—perform live on stage at the Chase Center.
The band (comprised of a lead singer, a rotating cast of guest musicians, and four cartoon avatars who perform on the big screen) has been around for 20 or so years, giving Old Man (and Woman) Nack a chance to have enjoyed them before the Finnster was even on this planet. It was fun to move across time & space, connecting with (and over) them now.
Given that the show took place mainly in the dark, we don’t have many photos, but here’s a little gallery of clips in case you want a taste of the copious energy & showmanship.
After rolling into Denver on the Mountaineer, we were delighted to reunite with Margot & Finn (who’d driven down from Leadville), then rest up at our cool hotel just across from the Rockies’ baseball stadium.
From there we were off to Denver’s famous Brown Palace Hotel, an 1892 icon, to celebrate my folks’ 50th anniversary 🎉.
Though the hotel was founded by a Brown unrelated to Leadville’s famous Unsinkable Molly Brown, she did stay there just a week after escaping the Titanic (!). We were happy to add our names to the illustrious guest list, alongside everyone from the Beatles to Bill Clinton.
Dinner was exquisite, as you can see in the gallery. Thank goodness the chocolate truffles are exclusive to the location, as otherwise we’d all be equally round in no time. 😅
Following our great morning in Arches, the big show finally arrived: we boarded the Rocky Mountaineer train in Moab! The train itself (about which Henry could of course provide excessive amounts of detail 😛) was really lovely (clean, spacious, featuring overhead windows), as were all the staff.
Hen of course did his Hen thing, charming the crew by sharing his love of railroad minutiae & insulators:
The ends of the train cars featured neat covered vestibules that let us get some fresh air while shooting photos. I’ll always be grateful that Henry’s quick thinking (and keen observation of telephone poles suddenly disappearing) alerted me to an oncoming tunnel, thereby saving me from smashing Adobe’s new 360º camera into a wall! Here’s the slightly scary footage:
Happily the rest of the two-day excursion was far less dicey, as we wound our way from high desert through gorgeous river valleys:
After a quick overnight in beautiful Glenwood Springs, we arose for Day 2, kicking things off with Henry meeting the train crew & getting their printout of the previous day’s operating instructions:
Honestly it couldn’t have been more perfect, and if you’re ever tempted to make the trip, consider it highly recommended!
We were of course a bit sad that the journey, like all good things, had to come to an end, but it was great to roll into Denver & reunite with Margot and Finn for a great 50th anniversary celebration dinner with my folks. More on that next time!
Being in Moab with several hours free before the Rocky Mountaineer was scheduled to depart, we signed up for a tour of the spectacular Arches National Park. Our expert guide David did a great job of driving us around the park, providing color commentary (literal & figurative) on the ancient formations and their history.
Following our day at the Golden Spike, we got up early to visit Hill Air Force Base just south of Ogden. As you can see in our gallery, Henry & I loved admiring the huge range of historic aircraft while attempting to out-nerd one another. 😌
We even poked my 360º camera out to capture an interactive view from inside the ball turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress:
Hen & I had to shake a leg to get through the museum in time to make our way back to downtown Ogden & meet up with my folks to tour the great railroad museum there.
Check out the gallery from inside & outside beautiful Union Station.
Afterwards we sprinted town back to Salt Lake City to drop off our rental van, then hop aboard a scenic evening bus ride to Moab to begin the next day’s adventures. More on those next time!
Having driven all the way out to Promontory Summit to visit the Golden Spike site, we figured what the heck, let’s press on to see the Great Salt Lake’s massive & iconic Spiral Jetty sculpture. Here we are taking in the sight of the enormous earthwork, in both our human & Lego forms. 😌
The gang was kind enough to indulge me in a little drone flying, the results of which you can see in this video…
…and this draggable 360º panoramic shot from above:
…we headed up to Promontory Summit, site of the Spike interpretive center. Unlike last time, when tens of thousands of fellow spectators crowded the grounds, we had the place more or less to ourselves, enabling us to walk right up to the working steam engines.
Henry was of course in heaven, impressing the train crews with his detailed knowledge of their gear, and finally charming his way aboard the engines & ultimately into a private tour of the maintenance shed!
Here he helps back up the wood-fired “Jupiter” engine into her maintenance bay:
Our summer adventure started off with a bang—literally—as we celebrated the Fourth of July with my childhood best friend Ben Dodds. Ben & his sons live in Salt Lake City, where Hen & I met up with my folks following our flights that morning.
Seeing Ben & catching up on old friends was a real treat, as was having him show us (in our weird little rental van!) around the area, including ascending to the beautiful Wasatch National Forest…
…then knocking back a few Polygamy Porters (“Why Have Just One?” 😅) at dinner.
We’re so happy to say that Finn has finished up his grade school career with flying colors! Over the course of several days last week, we got to join him to receive awards marking his accomplishments in bilingual learning & theater arts…
…plus his official graduation from Hoover Middle School!
Following the ceremony we forced him to hold still for a few family pics😉…
…and then headed to Palermo Italian Restaurant for a joint celebration of his milestones + Margot’s birthday. Check out the gallery!
It’s pretty rare to get the ol’ Finnster interested in camping these days, so I was especially delighted that he wanted to mark the end of eighth grade (!) with me & Seamus by spending a couple of nights amongst the redwoods near Santa Cruz.
We headed out on Friday night following his school dance, and we spent a chill Saturday cruising up Highway 1 to his favorite restaurant (the Roadhouse in Davenport), letting Seamy cavort on the beach (tiring out a small new pal!), and generally relaxing at our campsite. Check out a gallery from our dudes’ weekend.
Even though we’d just taken in two insulator-themed shows in the past month or so, Hen couldn’t pass up one last chance (until fall) to catch up with his tribe, so on Friday we left Finn & Seamus at home, then headed south to the beachside community of Cayucos. After battling through horrible traffic, we treated ourselves to sandwiches & sundaes at the Sea Shanty:
Afterwards we headed to our campsite where—in the absence of Margot and Finn—we found ourselves absent proper sleeping gear, making for a chilly night. Ah well: both the stars & the sunrise were spectacular:
After fueling up our cars & bods, we headed over to the pier where table upon table was teeming with insulators & other ephemera. It was heaven for Hen, in both his real & Lego forms:
The crowd was, as always, beguiled with our guy’s superhuman knowledge of the hobby, and they were incredibly generous in handing him freebies. (Tell mom not to worry, it’s all going in the basement. 😌)
On our way down we’d spotted various old insulators “in the wild,” still clinging to abandoned poles. Thus we stopped off at the funky little town of Bradley, CA (pop. 150). We contented ourselves with taking only pictures of our finds, and happily we saw dozens of old vehicles up close:
All in all it made for a memorable 24 hours—and I’m glad we’ll be getting a respite to recharge from these things for at least the next few months. 🙃 Here’s a gallery from the journey, and below you can click and drag to explore a 360º bird’s-eye view of our campsite, captured via my drone:
You know the phrase “red letter day”? You could say that Henry has had a few “blue bubble days” circled on his calendar for months—those being the first gatherings of glass insulator enthusiasts in the year since he discovered this funky passion.
Two weeks ago we took in our first show, up in Antioch, CA, but last weekend was the main event—a big meet-up in the farmland north of Fresno. Over a 100 folks descended on “Rohde Ranch” for the 26th annual such event.
Given that the median age of guys at the show is roughly 350 years old 😅, Hen was quite the point of fascination. People loved meeting him (naturally), and he was equally thrilled to meet many of the guys who write articles in Crown Jewels Of The Wire.
Folks were incredibly generous with their time, knowledge, and even (to Margot’s slight chagrin) boxes of free or dirt-cheap insulators. Henry made a new friend (14-year-old Jason), and we (okay, mainly he) look forward to future events.
Hey everyone—Happy Easter! We had low-key but fun celebrations here, hunting for & then cracking some beloved confetti-filled “rompecabeza” eggs on one another’s heads.
These things—which I discovered through cousin Alicia in Texas years ago—are really called “cascarones,” but we insist on calling them “rompecabezas” (literally “head breakers”), which is the word for puzzle. In any case, we had a smashing good time with the kinetic redistribution of their contents, and Seamus enjoyed trying to eat their colorful shells.
Later in the day we revived the new tradition we started in 2020—that of each person making an egg for each other person, filling it with a custom message & promise of a little gift (e.g. Hen promising Mom unlimited hugs anytime, now & forever).
With Finn off touring DC with his class, the rest of us decided to make a quick overnight jaunt down to Monterey & Carmel.
First up, we swung by Henry’s favorite antique store, where we were delighted to find a toy BMW Isetta. Years ago, when I first met Margot & asked what kind of car she’d be, she immediately replied, “Ooh, I’d be one of those little three-wheeled jobs that Audrey Hepburn drove in Roman Holiday.” Thus we loved finding this one, and then introducing it to its real-life, not-so-big brother.
Our overnight accommodations (waaaaaay out in Carmel Valley) were delightfully bizarre. A couple of old coots run a little campground that’s replete with some 90 peacocks and peahens (!).
Besides constantly strutting their stuff, these flashy little guys kept warbling like crazy little dinosaurs. Following our cold evening in the van, Henry observed, “Those chatty guys were going off all night!”
Seamus was of course fascinated & tried his hand (er, mouth), at devouring their feathers. 😛
The campground features all matter of decrepit old equipment (including a couple of glass insulators that Henry was all too happy to accept), and our hosts encouraged us to add our artwork to their dump truck:
Later in the day we headed back to Monterey with an eye to visiting the aquarium & kayaking around the bay. It was too cold for the latter, but Seamus kept warm gallivanting with his new friend Orca.
Check out our gallery to see the full set of photos.
Our second full day of desert adventures saw us awaken from a fairly brutal night. I’d been unable to locate our campsite, leading to lots of circling in the dark before finally, in desperation, picking a bare patch of gravel.
Mercifully Hen had long since nodded off, but the next hours featured me struggling to sleep on the van floor before he woke up & we stretched out the bed. (Oddball upside: Spotting a midnight coyote patrolling the campground just a few feet from us.) Little did I know that our cousin Sarah Murray was sleeping not more than a few campsites away—but that’s a story for another day!
We skedaddled down to catch some morning light on an old engine of the Death Valley Railroad, bringing our Lego selves & engineers in tow.
We followed up by making the most of the tourist-gouging breakfast buffet, carrying off approximately 936 buttermilk biscuits. Hen kinda overdid it, as you can see in our gallery. 😛 Now suitably refueled, we explored the nearby visitors center & ruins of some old borax works
Soon after, our Adobe friends began to roll in, and we strategized about our photography plans at Badwater Basin, the nearby dry lake. Hen had thought ahead & brought along a collection of vintage Lego spacemen & vehicles, including a number from my childhood. It was particularly special to me that Henry chose to include a moon buggy through whose windows I remember peering up at the stars while my mom drove us home from Rockford, circa 1981.
While our friends conducted an eye-popping photo shoot with a talented acrobat performing handstands atop a stack of chairs (!)…
I joke with Henry that our adventures often consist of four days of doing stuff, followed by four weeks of editing the photographic results. That’s not much of an exaggeration, as we love to capture so many moments that it’s a bit daunting to figure out what to share!
Most recently, he & I headed to Death Valley (hence “DV22” in the title of this & the related posts) for some picture-taking fun with a couple of my Adobe colleagues, plus a fire breather & acrobat (!).
First up was our stop in Tehachapi, site of the famous railroad loop that we’ve visited the last two summers. As we were watching trains back in June (gallery), we ran into a couple who said they were staying at an AirBnB with its own caboose (!) just down the hill. Here’s Hen just outside the fence last year:
Naturally it’s been on our to-see list ever since, so we were delighted to book a spot.
For some people the location would be a nightmare, with freight trains rumbling past at all hours, reminding me of the Blues Brothers yelling over the El noise, “How often does the train go by?” “So often you won’t notice!” For Hen this was of course a feature, not a bug! At 3am I awoke to find him pressed to the glass, watching the action, and the next morning we spent hours getting a tour from the friendly & local proprietor.
Check out the detailed narrative Hen made for his YouTube channel:
After we finally tore ourselves away, we made our way to Tehachapi proper, where we toured the local train depot/museum as well as a funky antique store Henry dubbed “the man-cave-iest man cave that ever man caved!”
With many miles to go before we could sleep, we then headed north towards Death Valley. First we stopped off at Trona, home of the famous fish rocks…
…as well as some great derelict train cars to explore.