Sunday, September 11, 2011

Newport Weekend

Luke and Kady
See pictures from the weekend by clicking HERE

     Rick and I take off early Friday morning (like 5:45am early!) to head over to Newport, OR, for the weekend - delivering Luke his beloved "Tinkerbell" green Honda and recovering our Honda truck which Luke drove over three weeks ago in moving large furniture, bikes, etc. to the coast.  We opted to drive via the middle of the state, after consulting Google maps and discovering it was 30 miles shorter via Hwy 26/20 and only 30 minutes slower.  Anything to avoid the pandemonium of Portland on a Friday afternoon!  As it was, we made the drive in 8 hours 15 minutes, including stops.  It was beautiful all the way.  Rick drove to Prairie City, I drove to Bandit Springs (Ochoco Summit), Rick to Sweethome, and I took us into Newport.  The little Honda probably deserved a good chance to "blow it all out" after a year in "captivity" in the Yeoumans garage!  We were loaded with TV, TV stand, vacuum, portable BBQ and big propane tank,  trunk (filled of course!), food supplies (including sourdough starter)....we were loaded!  The little Honda isn't that big! 
Luke's hood ornament....ugh!
     As the day progressed, the weather got warmer, but thankfully we were heading to the coast and it was nice and cool upon arrival!  Somewhere around Corvallis a flock of birds flew right into the front of the car.  When we pulled into Luke's we discovered we had a new hood ornament....not of the very attractive kind!  Rick took care of it for us!  
     Kady was still at work when we arrived at the little cottage bungalow (after checking into our Travelodge motel).  Luke showed us the house (which takes about 1 minute) and shared the news of his job interview this morning at the City Recreation Center.  He thought it went well, and he will hear on Monday at noon the results.  Say a prayer!  We then left to check out some building supply options and see if a fishing boat might be unloading (Rick and I had seen a sign coming through town.)  Well, I was so excited to get the fish I forgot to take any pictures OF the fish!  A tuna boat was in the bay, and we ended up purchasing 2 fish, at about 15 pounds each.  Filleted we got approximately 16-17 pounds of tuna.  Stopped at a Dollar Tree to pick up freezer bags and went right back to the house to package and get it into the freezer.  We are happy, happy!!!  The fish supply in the freezer was lean! 
     Kady arrived home from work around 5:40 and by 6:15 we decided it was TIME TO EAT!   A good time to try out the BBQ we brought over.  I had brought chicken tenders to cook, plus potato salad (we had a surplus of taters) and a huge tossed salad, plus tomato sourdough bread.  So dinner didn't take but a second to prepare, because it was all ready except for cooking the meat!  A bottle of wine and we were fixed for the evening!  
     Rest of evening was spent discussing options for window coverings, repairs, plans for Saturday, etc.  We headed back to motel around 9, having gotten up rather early! 

Luke installs curtain hooks. 
     A more leisurely rising, breakfast, and we meet at Luke & Kady's around 9, ready for a full day!  We made the rounds of building supply stores and Walmart, picking up the necessaries for a new portable mini closet, a board for the bed, window hardware, blinds, curtain materials, etc. I was excited to find the journal I've been looking for at this Wal-Mart!  Also a stop down in the Nye Beach area to pick up some clam chowder at the Chowder Bowl for lunch.  Andy Ferns had told Luke that it was the best chowder in Newport!  We tend to was VERY thick and rich and probably I don't want to even imagine the Weight Watcher point value!  
What are they??
     Back to the house to eat and then tackle the job of putting up blinds and stitching curtains together. Kady put together the wardrobe after she and I went out and picked blackberries for awhile.  I took pictures of the random flowers surrounding the house of which we are trying to figure out the identity.  Mostly the plants are blackberries!  The tree outside the front door is a holly tree, but it had us confused because the leaves at the very top were not pointy at all.  I have since read that only the bottom leaves of holly trees are pointy!  
Holly leaves on tree. 
     Since our pharmacy coverage ends on October 1, we thought we would get Luke his flu shot, especially since he might be working with kids.  He called Safeway, confirmed they were giving shots, and we drove down.  Well, we don't know WHICH Safeway he called, but it wasn't Newport.  They don't have a pharmacy department!  But the Rite-Aid next door did, Rick and I ended up getting our flu shots, plus Rick his Shingles shot.  But there was a problem with the insurance on Luke - end result no shot for Luke and I have to call OEBB on Monday morning to work it out.  
     Another stop at Radio Shack to pick up rabbit ear antennae for his TV - for a $12 investment he is able to pick up 3 stations.  Enough to make them happy!  
Luke & Kady at Green Gable
     Sunday is Kady's 23rd birthday and since Rick and I will be leaving early in the morning, we are celebrating tonight.  Kady is a great fan of the Anne of Green Gables books, and the little B&B around the corner is called the Green Gables Italian Cafe, so we try it out.  An eclectic little place - used book store, music venue, cafe, and B&B.  Kady and I have Chicken Pot Pies and Rick and Luke opt for spaghetti.  
     We walk back to the cottage just in time to open another bottle of wine and go up onto the roof to watch the sunset.  Since the house is set into the hillside, you can step right on to the roof on the back corner.  We sat and enjoyed what Luke and Kady said was the best sunset they've had since they moved to town.  Kady opened her birthday present and card.   Finally the cool night drove us inside where we talked abit longer before giving our hugs goodbye.  Rick and I will need to stop by in the morning to pick up the tuna from the freezer.  

Sunset from the rooftop. 
Up on the rooftop!
     Rick and I are up again early at 5:10 to pack up, check out, pick up ice at the open 24 hours Thriftway, and call Luke to open the front door at 5:50am.  The nearly full moon was turning bright orange as it dropped down into the ocean as we arrived at the cottage.  We loaded up the ice chest, another hug, a stop at the Shell for coffee, and by 6am we are on our way east again!  
     Within the hour and upon arrival in Corvallis, we are greeted with another stellar display of the sun....this time a sunrise!  The smoke filled skies of Oregon are rendering gorgeous skies!  We gas up and are again on our way!  Rick ends up driving clear to Sisters, I drive to John Day, and Rick on home.  We stopped briefly in Prineville at the Subway.  
Light shafts through the smoke near Suttle Lake. 
     Only big event enroute home was the smokey skies surrounding Santiam Pass area - there has been a fire near Big Lake and the wind either shifted or the fire flamed up because it was MUCH smokier coming home today.  You couldn't see Suttle Lake at all, but the light shafts through the smoke were pretty cool.  
     Home at 2:20pm safe and sound!  Quick, fast, but successful! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September Outings/Hikes

September 29, 2011

Shelli, Candy, Ginger, and Dan on top of Lakes Lookout
Click HERE for hike pictures
     Today I returned to the top of Lakes Lookout on a glorious fall day!  Shelli Swanson was visiting from Alaska and wanted to hike up in the Elkhorns.  Candy Arledge, who would much rather ride her horse than walk, was going also so we needed to pick a relatively short, but spectacular view, destination!  The Lookout was perfect!
      Shelli drove to the ski area parking in her rental car (it had free miles she said!) and we parked right behind the Bogarts and Johnsons who were going to explore the loop around Dutch Flat Saddle and Black Lake.  As their pace was slightly faster than ours, we never saw them again!  
Fall colors in all their glory!
     The fall colors were stunning!  The "wild African turkey grass" was almost past, turning from its reddish hue to browns, but from a distance it still lent great contrast to the deep greens and a blue blue sky!  
     We arrived at the top of the peak in about an hour and a half, having hiked the entire way up the access road rather than cut cross country up the hill.  Candy preferred a trail!  Took a little cajoling right near the top when the trail got rocky!  But she made it.  Her husband Dan was already on the top by then!  
Ginger and her Inuk with Gunsight and
Van Patten in back. 
     Shelli had packed marvelous treats - whole wheat fig newtons, cheese and some yummy healthy crackers!  I took the time on the summit to build an inuk since I realized we had never constructed one at the top of Lookout.  Or did Luke and I build one when we came up on our anniversary three years ago?  Can't remember, but another was constructed!  
     Since we spent so long up on top of the peak, we opted to NOT take the alternate route back down via Hoffer Lakes.  Candy's hip was starting to bother her as well.  So back down the road, which obviously seemed longer on the return than going up!  Or so I thought!   
Look what Ginger found!
     Back down to Anthony Lakes picnic area where Shelli pulled out the rest of the food she had packed for the day!:  salmon sandwiches!  plums!  We sat at the edge of the shoreline in the sunshine and ate.  It was beautiful and only one other car in the area.  After Dan eyed a bobbing red cork in the water the whole time, I finally took off my shoes and waded out to retrieve it for him.  Sure enough, a cork and hook with an attached weight which was keeping it in place in the water.  
     A beautiful day with good friends!  

September 24, 2011
Crest trail as it heads north
to Elkhorn Peak.

Click HERE to view hike pictures
White spot in the middle is a goat!
     Ginger was off in LaGrande at the EOPW meeting and Rick had a1pm deadline to be back in town to pick up the Bountiful Basket at Brooklyn School.  So this jaunt up to Elkhorn Peak was more a test of the new Honda 4x4 on the Marble Pass Road and a goat viewing expedition.  The summit was NOT reached!  
     The road is in no better condition than the last time we traveled up in Moon's borrowed pickup truck, but driven slowly it is definitely doable!  The Honda did great.  Fall colors beginning to show, especially on the south west side of the Elkhorn Ridge.  The beauty of this trail is always the ability to snag views both to Baker Valley and Sumpter Valley on either side. 
    When it became clear Rick wasn't going to get to the top, he took time to watch mountain goats on the hillside and some good views down into Goodrich Lake.  
     Back to Baker City just in time to pick up the vegetables!  
Late blooming lupine overlooking Baker Valley from Elkhorn Ridge. 

September 18, 2011
Lakes Lookout

Group picture on the summit
Click HERE for all the pictures

     Today we lead our 14th annual Hike to Heaven for the youth and families of the Presbyterian church.  Our destination is Lakes Lookout, hiking up from the ski area parking lot, for a round trip of about 4 miles and 1500 feet in elevation gain.  Our group shrunk to nine by the time we actually left, having lost people for a variety of reasons, especially illness!  Hiking this year were Molly, Bryson, & Spencer Smith; Liz Romvedt; Greg & Christian Miles; Mike Braymen, Rick and myself.  (Plus Spicer - Molly's father's dog!)
     We follow the road up "Road Run" for a short distance and then take off up Starbottle and Avanlanche ski runs (I have never skied this part of the mountain as they aren't beginner runs!) to the top of the hill.  The last steep uphill part takes us out right at the beginning of the Lakes Lookout trail - exactly Rick's intent!  
Can you spy the cross on the mountain slope?
     We spy a few stalwart snow patches between Lees Peak and Lakes Lookout, one of them I later realize makes the sign of a cross.  That was right below our spot on the summit for our worship service.  I think God was blessing our worship!  (And particularly our singing of Pass It On with the words, "I'll shout it from the mountaintop!")
     Luke's "wild African turkey grass" is in full fall splendor, casting a reddish hue to the hillsides.  It is especially beautiful around the Hoffer Meadow area in contrast to the bright green meadow grasses. 
Bryson is first to the top!
     Not many wildflowers remaining, although we did find a few gentians in the meadow area of Hoffer - closed up because the sun hadn't blessed them yet today.  Purple asters and a few lupines, all appearing on the "past" side.  
Ginger leads worship from the summit
     Bryson is the first to ascend to the summit, arriving around 11:05 and posing in front of the pole.  We snack and then decide we had better start worship because the air was definitely cool.  People weren't going to want to stay up on top for long!  Clouds are gathering, a wind is blowing, and it feels like fall!!  (At least it isn't snowing or raining!)  
    Worship follows with the theme of "Living Signposts" - short and sweet, but always profound when offered from the top of a mountain.  As we finish worship, the air cools, the wind picks up, and we decide it is time to leave....NOW!  People are getting cold!  
     Down off the mountain with Bryson and Christian in the lead and going down the road, while the rest of us take a slower pace and retrace our ski run trail.  Back at the picnic area we find Annie and Jason McClaurey and son Jake who have built a fire, cooked a few hot dogs, and in general have our lunch ready and waiting.  Disappointed that more couldn't join us today, either on the hike or on the picnic, but we had a great time.  S'mores, hot dogs, and plenty of brownies.  Thank you God for friends and a church family and the beauty of your world!  
Hoffer Meadows and Gunsight Peak

Labor Day, September 5
In front of Van Patten Butte
Click HERE for all the pictures

     Rick and I are off this morning for a short, low impact hike - I'm still tired from the San Diego trip and Rick enjoyed a fairly strenuous hike with Mark Bogart just two days earlier.  His knees need a break!
    We are off to explore a new road - specifically a jeep road that takes off to the north about a half mile from the Anthony Lakes cabin road.  We park right at the junction.  It appears to be a veritable highway as it departs from the Anthony Road, but soon is blocked off with HUGE boulders and a sign saying no motorized vehicles.  It is obvious that is ignored frequently as we follow ATV tracks the entire way!
Forested walk
     We were thinking we would be in a more open setting, but the jeep trail passing through a thick spruce and pine forest, dropping DOWN to a closed in meadow.  We originally had thought to climb Bear Butte, but it appears to be more inaccessible - heavy thickets, downed timber, etc.  So we just follow the road!  It is easy walking, and we can walk side by side!  
Rick confirms they are elderberries!
     Eventually we open out on a hillside that suffered a fire YEARS ago - all the trees are about 8-12' high, charred timbers, open spaces, etc.  We can see Van Patten Butte, Gorham Butte and the valley patchwork below.  The valley has a layer of smoke on the eastern side - winds are shifting from the Wallowa fires and the heavy fires over in the Cascades.  I spot a few huckleberry bushes with berries - but they are small and still red.  We did find several elderberry bushes!  
We startled a huge woodpecker!
Funny fir cones!
     Wildflowers are fading - lupine, paintbrush, gilia, asters - all in their last color.  The forest is dry - the lack of thunderstorms with rain in the past month is telling.  We did discover a deer skeleton - well backbone and pelvis, some pine cones that sparkled in the sunlight with a whitish secretion, and we spooked a huge woodpecker that yelled at us as he flew around in a circle about us before landing on a tree long enough for his portrait! 
     All in all, we hiked in about 2.25 miles and then turned around and hiked back out!  Drove up to Anthony Lakes just for a quick view and homeward!  


My two days as a sailor on board the USNS William McLean
Click HERE for a complete review of pictures

Tuesday, August 30:
            My adventure begins!  I haven't traveled solo in a long time, and I feel just a little guilty taking off on a five day adventure while Rick is laboring away teaching for the week.  But this is a chance in a lifetime and one I am not going to miss!
            I head out of Baker City around 9:30am, with the best wishes from Betty Spooner and the gals at Sorbenots, along with a free coffee courtesy of Bulldog Cards!  The valley is cloaked in smoke – there must be an increase of fire activity in the eastern half of the state.  It makes for a beautiful mirage of layered mountains as you head down the Burnt River Canyon, but otherwise the vistas are pretty well hidden.  Five minutes out of town I remember the first thing I forgot to do – leave Rick the hotel information.  Correctable.  Just past Durkee I remember I forgot to toss in the thumb drive to save all my writings and pictures on from Margaret's mini laptop.  OK, so I WILL stop at Walmart.  I had been trying to decide anyway between Walmart and Quality Art.  Had made up my mind for Quality because it wouldn't be open on Saturday.  Only have time for one or the other.  Another 15 miles down the road and I remember I was going to bring a water bottle.  Definitely a Walmart stop now, forget Quality Art.
            I find my necessary purchases at Wally World and proceed on to Boise, arriving at the airport just about exactly at my target time of  12:30.  Park on the third level of the parking garage, speed through security (the airport is NOT busy at this time of day!), grab a yogurt parfait at the MacDonald's in the airport (I am starved by now) and sit down to await my flight.  So far so good!
            Smooth flights south, although landing and takeoff in Las Vegas is still bumpy – I think the air currents there make things exciting.  I have a window seat, but quite frankly the views of Nevada and the Mohave Desert in the middle of August are brown, brown, and browner!  A little more interesting as we flew over the southern part of California and a few green mountains came into view. 
            Marg is waiting for me at the gate, we locate a shuttle from the hotel, and by 5:50 we are lodged in our hotel room at the Days Inn – Harborview.  Third floor.  A brief moment to relax as we try to decide WHERE to go grab a bite to eat.  Margaret has coupons and we look those over while testing out her new GPS unit, which basically tells us how far we have to walk to any of the choices.  We finally opt for the nearby Denney's and the senior menu!  Only a couple blocks away! 
            I enjoy a Shrimp Skewer meal – just right!  Then we walk around down along the harbor boardwalk for about a half hour until it gets dark.  There is a wonderful display of public art sculptures along the boardwalk.  I took a picture of the shovel tree, but there were at least 9 more, some whimsical, others more profound.  Fun to look at. 
Shovel Sculpture
            Back to the hotel to relax and head to bed early so we will be ready for our 6am pickup in the morning!!  The Continental breakfast starts at 6, so hopefully we can grab something on our way out!  If not, I'm sure the ship isn't going to starve us! 
            Marg loans me her phone at 8:50go ahead and call Rick.  Otherwise I have to wait until 9, because we are out of minutes this month!  Then into bed and lights out! 

WEDNESDAY, August 31:
            Up at 5am for a full day of …..We don't really know!  A driver is scheduled to pick us up at the hotel at 6am.  That's all we know!  Quick showers, check out of the motel, and grab some coffee and a mandarin orange to find our driver waiting!  A professional company has been sent with driver in suit, water bottles for us, and a can of mixed cashew nuts with m&ms!  We don’t want to take the whole can and appear gluttonous, so Marg fills her empty coffee cup instead!  We are only HALF gluttonous, we county bumpkins! 
...with our names on the back!
Fancy new hats...
            However, the driver is just as bad as this is his first trip to NASSCO and he takes us in Gate 2 of the Naval Base instead of Gate 2 Nassco.  The soldier obviously doesn't have a clue what is going on, so he has us park and then phone calls are made.  Eventually the error is noted and we drive across a small entry to the right gate and find Gary Breshears waiting for us.  We are greeted, given fancy NEW hats with our names on them, and then we follow Gary who is riding on his bike through the shipyard to the boat.  Introductions and we meet Karla who will be our guide, escort for the trials.  She is the NASCO employee in charge of making all the staff arrangements, berthing, etc. for the trials.  Nice gal. 
We are on board Uncle Bill's ship!
            Gary Breshears shows us to our staterooms on the 05 floor (port side – do you like my naval lingo?).  We are next door to each other and Karla is in the room next to mine.  The rooms are spacious with a double bed berth with drawers underneath, desk & lamp; chair, easy chair, closet, dresser, TV stand, mini fridge, and lavatory with shower. Very comfortable!  We have a mint waiting on the pillow and a box of chocolates on the bed!  This will NOT be a diet trip! 
            We are then taken to the mess hall on the 01 level and said “Make yourself comfortable here”.  Karla would join us as soon as she was done checking people on board.  The boat is currently 9 people overloaded, so Karla had to arrange for extra berths.  Full capacity is 197 and we are carrying 208.  The extras are Coast Guard personnel, and various others who must go out on the trials.  There are Naval people on board plus all the NASCO employees.  Basically the trials are to make sure EVERYTHING works – it is all tested – before the boat is officially turned over to the Navy in September.  We are given a full schedule of the tests to take place, some of them extensive, some of them quite short. 
Marg is ready for "Abandon Ship" trial!
            Then we wait while the mess hall fills up with workers and at 7:00 quiche, fruit platters, and sweet rolls are brought in.  Karla assures us that we will eat well and often! 
            At 8am there is a life boat “abandon ship!” drill and we find our station (well, it took awhile!) and put on the life jackets.  They just have to make sure everyone checks in and then we can take them off.  The life boats are huge orange things with enclosed roofs – they will hold 99 people each.  There are four of them.  I asked why the extra and it is because if the ship is submerged on one side, there are enough on the upside to hold everyone. 
            After the abandon ship drill we wait for nearly 45 minutes, talking with Karla on the top deck, while we wait to start moving.  A helicopter is flying circles around us taking pictures.  He will continue to do so until we pass Pt. Loma.  The ship will be piloted by a professional bay pilot until it leaves the bay at which point the official “captain” will take over.  At the bay a little boat comes alongside and the pilot gets off the ship. 
San Diego skyline as we depart the harbor
            And then...finally, we start to slowly move.  Our three little tugboats are available to push us going and then they accompany us the entire way to the mouth of the bay. We enjoy watching the cityscape of San Diego downtown, seeing the Omni and Petco Park, Seashore Village Marg points out, and the aircraft carrier currently in dock that was the one Osama Bin Ladin was on prior to his burial at sea. 
            Around 10 pm we head up to the bridge level and inside (we couldn't be in there when the pilot was working), and then eventually down to “settle in” our rooms prior to lunch.  The first test was conducted then – the checking of the ballast on the ship.  Basically they ballast the ship with sea water. 
            Karla comes in at 10:45 to tell us some whales are visible, but we can't see them! Time out until next time when I'll write more!  I've already taken 118 pictures this morning! 

            Marg and I headed down to the 1st level where the mess is located for lunch.  But we couldn't figure out where to get our lunch because where we were earlier only had salad and dessert.  So we eventually went back up to our staterooms to wait for Karla!  Read the US Today that I picked up this morning at the motel until Karla came by around 11:30.
            Lunch is quite the choice – BBQ ribs, beans, fries, Pollo tortas (baked chicken with a pepper in a bun), plus a salad bar, and desserts.  There is a cooler in the mess hall with bottled water, sodas, etc.  Marg had some ribs and fries, while I tried the chicken without the bun, plus a few beans and a salad. 
4 shots of anchor are out - color coding!
More were watching the whales than the anchor! 
            After lunch we went up to the front of the ship on the top level to watch the trials for the anchor.  We ended up talking with Ed French, one of the top Nassco guys, who introduced us to Rear Admiral Wray from the Navy.  Both of them were quite informative about the procedure for the anchor trials.  They test both starboard and port anchors, letting out 4 “shots” - which is basically 90 feet each.  Each shot is marked with a colored cable – red for #1, white for #2, blue for #3, red again for #4 and so on.  To distinguish between the different shots, each color is surrounded by white cables – one on each side for the first, two for the second, three on each side for the third, etc.  The anchor cable is a total of 12 shots in length.  It was quite a process, because the “brakeman” has to stop the cable on every shot in the release and then they inspect.  It was a little distracting at the time, however, because as we were sitting there in the ocean, a whole pod of whale surrounded us.  We could see blow holes going off three at a time in places.  One whale came very close to the boat, and I could see his silvery body as a light bluish shadow under the water.  Pretty cool. 
Engine room

After the anchor test, we went on a tour of the engine room – VERY noisy down there.  They supplied us with ear plugs, which then made it doubly hard to hear the very young super of the engine room.  Evidently many of the NASSCO engineers are trained back east at a certain marine engineering college.  Four main engine power the ship's generators, which in turn provide the electricity to run the prop and all the other electrical needs of the boat.   The engine section was a maze of turns and small noisy rooms.  I'm not sure I'll be able to identify everything when I get my pictures downloaded!
Transferring the admiral off the ship!
            From the engine room we went to the main flight deck at the back of the boat.  We saw more whales and then watched the transfer of the Rear Admiral Wray and three others from the ship to another small boat that would take them back into San Diego.  An exciting piece of video there!  The boats were shifting considerably in the wind and wave.
The tether system for cargo holds. 
            Karla then took us on a tour of the cargo holds – both freezer deck (we walked in and it was definitely COLD!) and the dry cargo.  Everything has anchor holds on the floor to secure all the cargo in transport.  There are at least 10-11 forklifts on board to help move cargo.  They won't be doing any cargo transfer trials on this ship.  That will be part of the final Naval Shakedown cruise later this fall.  The cargo holds right now are relatively empty.  Definitely no ammunition on board at the moment! 
Ship exercise room
            We finished our tours with visits to the ship library, lounge, hospital, gym, laundry, bank, all located on Levels 2-4.  We met the firemen who go out on all the trials, even though when at sea the ship doesn't usually have any fire personnel on board.  There is a fully equipped operating room, ready even for obstetric services.  We used the stairs for most of the afternoon – I figured I was earning my ice cream social for tonight, but Marg was finding the steep, steep steps of the cargo hold parts tough on the trifocals!!  We were ready for a chance to sit down and crash for a bit this afternoon before dinner.  Basically it sounded like there is very little to actually WATCH for the rest of the evening.  Tests are being run, but nothing that we can see! So it appears the evening will be dinner, ice cream, then more food later. 
            Tonight we understand that the full speed ahead test will take place, with the stop and start test in the morning.  Right after lunch they will do the full wash-down, which we are going to participate in, but it means we will probably be getting wet!  Think I will wear old clothes for that part, because I didn't bring a lot of extra stuff! Back later for more!
            We were taken to dinner by Karla around 5:15 – a long line had formed in front of the galley.  Dinner was a choice of beef stroganoff on noodles or fried rice with sweet and sour chicken.  I opted for the latter while Marg had the former.  Best part of dinner was a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and basil with a vinaigrette dressing.  Excellent!  I shall have to try and make that sometime when they give me lots of basil again. 
            We sat and talked with Karla at dinner until 7pm when she suddenly realized she had a meeting!  So Marg and I headed back up to the rooms (she took the elevator and I raced her up on the stairs.  I won because she had to wait a long time for the elevator!)  I have avoided desserts all day so I could enjoy the ice cream later!  We basically just read in Marg's room the USA today and magazines until the intercom announced the ice cream social in the mess hall.  Went down and found the line again – vanilla or chocolate, with strawberries bananas, syrups, all sorts of nuts, m&ms, candies cut up, caramel, cherries, etc.  Top it off with whipped cream and sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top!  When we walked into the mess hall itself, there was a meeting going on, so we decided to head back up to the rooms.  That didn't make us very “social” at this ice cream social, but it sure tasted good in the room! 
Tasted great!
            After ice cream we decided to try out the showers so our hair would have time to dry.  That was a great success – showers are awesome.  Each room has its own on demand hot water heater with a pretty good pressure and variable shower head. 
            Back together after showers in Marg's room to type here. Some test is going on right now but we can't figure out what.  The ship seems to be stopping and starting, but the full speed stop and start test isn't scheduled until morning.  It is blacker than blacker outside now – certainly isn't a lot of auxiliary lighting anywhere!  Karla warned us if we got out on the deck at night to be VERY careful and ONLY go out on the little short deck right outside the doors to our rooms. 
            We have decided to head to bed rather than hit the “mid night” rations – soup and sandwiches – served in the mess hall at 11:30pm.  Those are mostly for the crewmen who will be on duty all night.  So with that I will bid goodnight from the USNS William McLean.  It is now 22:00 hours!  I have switched my watch to military time! 

Thursday, September 1:
Early morning on the ship. 
            Hmmm up a little earlier this morning as the intercom starts making announcements again around 5am in the morning!  Marg and I had agreed to be ready to head down to breakfast at 7a.  I am up and dressed, Bible study done, exercises done, book read, etc.   I slept restless – a little cool with just the thin blanket.  Turned the heat up, and then got warm, but not really. 
            Karla came knocking early to say we needed to pick up our “wash down gear” now, but that the drill wouldn't start until 9am.  So we follow her to the end of the ship somewhere and find a gal with a pile of “fisherman gear and boots”.  One size fits all and the one size is 3x!!  Oh boy!  I find a pair of size 9 men's boots and we'll hope! 
            Breakfast follows with scrambled eggs, bacon, half a bagel (onion!) and fruit.  Good thing this trip will only be two days because I couldn't keep eating like this! 
            After breakfast we wander the ship for abit, finding the bridge area, taking picture of the gym/rec room.  We then head back to the room to get dressed for the counter measure wash down and foam test.  We have told Karla we want to participate fully in the trials, so this is part of it!  I change into old dirty clothes because we are told we will get VERY wet! 
So a 3x for One Size Fits All is just a little big!
            The next two hours pass slowly.  Marg and I are to be on the flight deck at 9:30 in our gear.  We got there early because we wanted to see the wake trail during the steering and rudder trials, where they go full speed and then turn sharply to port and then to starboard.  Backup, turn around in circles, go backward, etcs.  Those trials took longer than we expected, and we kept wondering where everyone was!  But eventually Karla showed up on the flight deck and assured us we were in the right place!  Marg is in a blue suit and mine is yellow.  We snapped all the places to make it smaller, but I later realize it would have been smart to have wrapped my old belt around the middle to pull the jacket in a little more.  It is literally HUGE!! 
We pose while waiting for the wash down trial. 
            The foam test takes place first – jets implanted in the flight deck, nozzles on all sides and along top edges.  It is pretty much a mess of white foamy stuff that tastes terrible in your mouth!  I stomped around in it some, but didn't make “snow angels” like one of the other sponsors! 
Just a little damp!
            Then Karla took us up to the bow of the ship for the wash down. The entire ship, one section at a time, is washed down with salt water.  Again nozzles on the floor, sides, above, EVERYWHERE!  They spray with considerable power and the salt water gets into your eyes.  That was the worst part.  Another time I would be prepared with eye goggles!  You definitely want to keep your mouth closed because the salt water doesn't taste that good either.  I had my camera wrapped in a zip lock bag, but still didn't have the nerve to take it out of the inner pocket to actually take pictures during the wash down.  If we had wanted pictures, we couldn't participate.  Pictures were best from the bridge or the upper levels of the ship!  But most of the crew was very impressed that Marg and I were participating FULLY in the experience!  Many of them were watching or in charge of inspections on lower decks to make sure they weren't leaking salt water.  After the salt water, a fresh water wash down of the ship also takes place but on a more limited basis. 
            Time for a shower!  And then lunch.  I had a huge cheeseburger and some fries – probably the first cheeseburger and bun I have eaten in a year.  It tasted OH so GOOD!  But I am very full now as I type.  We are probably going to be in port by dinner time so Marg and I figured we would eat a full lunch so we didn't have to buy a big dinner later tonight!  We are such Scots! 
Cruise ship time in the afternoon!  
            After lunch Karla has given us free reign of the ship  probably a dangerous move on her part but she has said that we are “low maintenance” sponsors – not a lot she has to do today once we were done with the wash down.  First we went out back – the sun has come out on the flight deck and it was beautiful!  I felt like lying down on the deck and just soaking up the sun for awhile!  By 2:30 or so we were nearing the entrance to the bay.  We decided to go up to our berths to get everything packed up so we would be ready to leave on time, and then went on up to the bridge area to watch as we neared the bay.  In trying to get from one side of the ship to another and from the upper level to the lower, I slipped coming down a set of steps.  Fortunately only slid about 4-5 steps and caught myself with my wrists on the side rails.  Did teach me to slow down just a little on those steep steps – they were still a little wet from the wash down.  We were trying to switch sides to watch the pilot debark from his little boat – ready to guide us back into the bay. 
Our awesome vantage point
as the ship enters the harbor
            The pilot came on board around 3:45 or so.  Karla had said it would take two hours to go from the mouth of the bay to fully dock at the pier.  She was right – just getting into the pier took 45 minutes alone!  The trip into the bay was gorgeous.  The sun was lowering in the western skies, but everything was bathed in light – much different from leaving on Wednesday morning in the foggy clouds and all was gray, gray, gray.  Lots of sailboats out on the bay.  Eventually I checked with a fellow who had spoken to us several times asking if we could join them up on top – they were up on the top platform of the ship on top of the bridge.  Only things above us were the smoke stacks, the radio towers, etc.  It was a marvelous place to watch the boat come in – we could see in all directions. 
            Fun passing under the Coronado Bridge, only this time it didn't seem like we were quite so close to the bridge.  It must have been a higher tide yesterday morning when we left. 
Coronado Bridge Panorama
Final shot prior to arrival back at the shipyard. 
            Marg and I were intently watching all the details of the docking, from the tugboats to the tying off the moorage ropes, when we suddenly heard Karla coming across the deck saying “There you are!  We have to go!  You are the first ones off the ship!”  She had been looking for us!  We hurried down to the staterooms where a couple of crew members took our suitcases and we elevatored down to the flight deck.  Still had to wait for the crane to finish maneuvering the stair platform and crossing bridge on to the flight deck so people could leave.  About 8 NASSCO employees lined on either side of the stairs and bade us goodbye as we left.  Felt quite like the royalty!!  We had already watched our driver following Gary Breshears on bike come on to the pier, so we knew he was down there waiting. 
T-AKE 13 and 14 are being built. 
            This has been an exceptional experience!  We have been made to feel special throughout and a part of the trials.  Our only regret is that Uncle Bill's family didn't get to participate.  For once being female has had its advantages.   It has been interesting to understand the “integrated” part of the trails concept.  There are Navy, Coast Guard, etc., here conducting the trials as a unit.  Previously separate tests were run.  Karla said the Wm. McLean has scored with about half the “problems” cited on previous ships.  The problems can be VERY minor and if they can be corrected at the moment, they will be fixed right then.  Otherwise NASSCO will keep the ship another month making corrections, then sign it over to the NAVY.  The Navy will take it out on a two week shakedown cruise, the first time Captain Baus actually is in command.  That cruise will be up to San Francisco, and Marg was able to talk with him about visiting the ship in SF then.  After another month of fixing ANY remaining problems, the ship is finally considered DONE and it will be assigned or “repositioned” as Captain Baus said. 
Uncle Bill greets us as we dock. 
            Our driver delivers us to the Days Inn Downtown where we arrive around 6:15pm.  Check in – we are again on the third floor – and then take about a half hour to find some place to eat.  I told Marg we didn't need much.  We finally picked out a place close-by serving salads and smoothies, only to find it closed when we arrived.  So we ended up purchasing a foot long sub from a Pizzeria next door and taking it back to the hotel room to dine.  Dinner for $4 each!!! 
            We are ready to hit the sack early tonight – another early morning today.  We make a few phone calls to family, finish downloading some pictures and discuss our plans for the day tomorrow. 
Screen capture of Marg's GPS unit tracking our
course at sea

Friday, September 2:
            We arise around 7am to be ready for a day of exploration without much direction!  Our plan is to take the trolley first off north of the airport to “Old Town” – the earliest section of San Diego.  Many old, reconstructed or restored buildings remain, now museums, shops, restaurants, etc.  We grab a quick breakfast at the hotel and then set off to find the trolley stop about 5 blocks away and purchase our day pass.  We each have a five dollar bill in our pocket to use in the machine. 
            The transit system in San Diego is actually pretty good for the main heart portion of the city.  There are three different trolley lines plus a full system of buses.  Our Day Pass gives us free rides on any of it!  An extended pass would include the Coaster Train that goes about 45 miles north to Oceanside.  By 9:30 we are in Old Town, only to find that most of the shops and the visitor center don’t open until 10am!!  Oh well, still places to check out!
I had to try out the fake donkey ride!
            Our plan was to peruse Old Town and then make the connections to Balboa Park and visit some of the gardens.  Well…..we leave Old Town at 5:30pm, having spent the ENTIRE DAY there!  We were just very relaxed as we poked around various shops, investigated the stable museum, an old Catholic church,  and the Estudillo hacienda.  The hacienda was fascinating with its U-shaped design with a central fountain and courtyard, period d├ęcor, gardens, outdoor kiln or oven, and well.  We talked to a couple of donkeys (one with barely visible zebra stripes!)  We ate lunch at a rare Irish pub in the midst of all this Spanish cuisine – Marg had a coupon for the place so we saved $8.00!  I dined on a Mission burger – grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, tomato, and lettuce.  It was delicious!  Marg had soup and salad.  One soup was white beans, cilantro, carrots, tomatoes, and onions with a chicken broth.  It was good!  I’ll have to try making it. 

Kitchen at the hacienda. 
            Around 12:30 we try to get wireless internet access long enough to check me into the Southwest flight.  No luck, so eventually we text Jed and Jen and have them go to computers and check us in.  It worked just fine!  Thanks to them! 
            The shops ranged from leather works to candy stores, tin craftsmen to candle shops, bookstores and mercantiles to rare coffees and teas.  We sampled, read, and in general had a great time taking our time!  
Sunset in ship rigging down by harbor. 
            A crowded trolley back into town – we had to stand the whole way.  Tried a new “stop” at City College, and it ended up being a more direct walk back to the hotel.  Unloaded the backpack, which was getting heavy!  Then down to the same Pizzeria we found last night, this time armed with the coupon for two for one!  The guy remembered us and gave us a bad time for our “dry turkey” sandwiches!  But we ordered two more and this time only paid $3.95 for dinner for BOTH of us! 
            Then it is off on the Orange Trolley line for Seaport Village – more shops, restaurants, etc. down at the harbor.  We definitely will have spent plenty of time on our feet today!  We spend nearly a half hour combined coming and going waiting for freight trains on the tracks.  Seemed to always be on the wrong side when a train went through!  Saw the fireworks from the Padres game at Petco Park, and mostly wandered around.  We didn’t buy much, but poked a lot!  I did pick up a low-fat Mexican cookbook with some yummy recipes. 

            I still found I wasn’t completely comfortable walking around downtown at night – at least not as two gals.  I just haven’t spent a lot of time in recent years in big cities.  We didn’t get back to the hotel until a little after 10 pm.  I quickly called Rick, and then Marg and I packed up to be ready to leave first thing in the morning. 

Saturday, September 3:
            Up early around 6:15 to shower, eat, check out, and by 7:35 be walking the 4 blocks down 9th St to Broadway where we were to pick up the bus to the airport.  All went smoothly and by 8:20 we were through the security line at the airport with boarding pass in hand.  Good thing we got there early, because during the night Marg remembered that we hadn’t transferred all the files from the computer to my thumb drive.  It took about a half hour while sitting at Gate 3 for the files to transfer, but with 30 seconds left on the pictures, the thumb drive was full.  Eight gigabytes worth FULL!  Oh my!  I took too many video clips I fear!  Oh well.  We decided we would figure out what I didn’t get later after I go through the pictures. 
Catalina Island off Southern CA coast. 
            My flight for Reno leaves at 9:45, and Marg will wait at the airport reading her book until her 12:05 flight for Sacramento.  She’ll leave for Sacramento and arrive all while I am waiting on a lay over in Reno! 
Yosemite Valley from the air
Burning Man site in Nevada
            Neat flight up to Reno as I pick a window seat on the west side and am able to pick out Catalina Island, Yosemite Valley, peaks of the Sierras, and Lake Tahoe.  I try taking some pictures, but through the plane window isn’t always real effective.  When leaving Reno, I snap a couple pictures of the arid lands northeast in Nevada – one that almost looks like the “Burning Man” celebration site. 
            My flight out of Reno is delayed 25 minutes, so I read, eat, wander the concourse, and talk with Rick between my 11:05 arrival and  2:25 departure!  Into Boise at 3:20, out of the parking garage at 3:40, and home to Baker City by 6pm! 
            What a great experience AND time spent with my sister!!!  Now to try and keep track of where the William McLean is at sea…..and where in the world my sister is at the moment! 
To quote Rick’s dad, “Home again, home again, jig a d’jig!”