Spring Cleaning at Chaos Central

Once again, as winter draws to a close, it’s time to assess our systems, shovel out the office, and plan for the year ahead.  But, we seem to be a bit late, as everything catches up at once.  This has been one of those weeks/months where things fall apart when touched.

With tax time rapidly approaching, it’s that time of year to fire up the Windows XP virtual machine to run TurboTax.  Realizing that Microsoft is finally, in April of 2014, pulling the plug on the venerable platform first released in 2002, after three service packs, innumerable hotfixes, and an on-again, off-again sliding End-of-Life date, not to mention three successor (if not successful) systems.  Of course, many of us Unix professionals who don’t depend on Windows for our livelihood have nearly abandoned Microsoft altogether, but still are plagued with having to keep a working copy of Windows around “somewhere,” increasingly as a virtual desktop residing on a Linux or Apple workstation or server.

Vista was a complete failure: our copy–that come with “rover,” our 2007 Compaq laptop that has run Ubuntu Linux (and been updated at least every 2 years) since we unpacked it–spent its life unused but available as an alternate boot option until the hard drive failed and was replaced in 2012, with no hope (or desire) to revive the Windows installation. We had acquired a copy of Windows 7 with our HP Netbook ‘mini’ in 2010, which copy also lay dormant, minutes after unpacking it, taking up hard drive space until recently.  With the increasing dependence on Windows security (if there is such a thing) solutions for networking in the government, it looked like we might have to revive it, just to do business.  The first boot-up of Win7 in over three years took 3 days to complete, installing the updates, with multiple reboots.  Happily, in the meantime, the Unix/Linux support team, of which I am part, found a Linux solution to our immediate needs, so the NTFS partitions lapsed into dormancy once more–until the prospect of the demise of XP sent us shopping for an updated alternative for the Microsoft interoperability problem.  We do have some Windows applications that happily run under WINE, the Linux WINdows Emulator, but many others don’t.

Having migrated a friend’s home system from Apple (due to a serious case of narcolepsy in her Imac, a rare but aggravating problem that Apple seems to want to ignore) to a shiny new HP laptop, we had become painfully introduced to Windows 8, that ‘new idea’ from Microsoft that turns your desktop or laptop into a badly designed giant cell phone with no phone service.  A few minutes with that made me almost long for Vista.  But, realizing that Windows 7 seems to be Vista overlaid with the XP desktop, we decided the best option for the Chaos Central network would be to integrate Windows 7 into our stable of virtual machines, to be pulled up on demand, anywhere on the network it was needed.

Attempts to migrate the Windows 7 installation on the Netbook to a virtual appliance proved to be frustrating, as it appears to be difficult, if not impossible, to create a copy that doesn’t demand to see your genuine Microsoft license to boot up, which is difficult when you have a machine that doesn’t have an optical drive, and did not come with an install disk in the first place.  Thinking (wrongly, it turns out), that making a ‘recovery disk’ on a thumb drive would suffice, we proceeded to do so, which promptly destroyed the Ubuntu boot partition, rendering the machine totally useless, since that is also where the GRUB boot manager keeps the information on how to boot to all the systems, including Windows.  Erk.

So, time to reinstall Linux.  Having also been increasingly disenchanted with the Unity desktop (which turns your Linux desktop or laptop into a decently designed giant cell phone with no phone service), I decided to install Mint Linux (yet another Debian-based variant, similar to Ubuntu), with the XFCE desktop, a lightweight system that is annoyingly similar in appearance to the XP desktop, but nonetheless familiar and functional, as far as menu navigation goes, and with the ability to paste hot links all over your desktop instead of in a peek-a-boo toolbar with inscrutable icons instead of text labels.

Of course, once Grub was restored, we could boot to Windows, but, in process of trying to get around the Grub issue in order to export the Windows system, we ended up running the newly-created Windows Recovery disk, which restored the Windows 7 installation to Day 0 (no patches, no added software or files)–and promptly refused to boot again without the Genuine Microsoft Windows 7 installation disk, which we still don’t have, and for which the “Recovery Disk” is not a substitute, despite the fact that is the only thing we end users can create from the installed system we bought and paid for.  Have I mentioned lately how much I dislike Windows?

At this point, we are at the verge of simply continuing on with a static XP system, for as long as Quicken and Electric Quilt will support their applications on it.  Setting aside this issue for a while, having given up a chunk of our on-line and off-line storage to yet another unusable Microsoft product, we turned our focus back to the primary business of making and supporting Linux software, and the goal of organizing the accumulated piles of paperwork and other paraphernalia in the office.

Just then, my desktop workstation, ‘zara,’ which was recently converted to CentOS6 to be a bit more compatible with the customer development systems on the server, suddenly shut down in the middle of browsing the web.  That usually means overheating.  We had recently done a bit of mid-winter housecleaning on ‘strata,’ our big development laptop, which had been shutting down because of overheating, and also had thoroughly cleaned the interior of the virtualization server when we replaced the hard drives in it last month.  The laptop fan had stopped running, but a thorough cleaning and redressing the wire harness got it running again, solving that problem.

The desktop machine was another issue.  The CPU heat sink resembled the filter in the clothes dryer, and the fan was barely turning over.  After cleaning the heat sink fins of lint and giving a fan a few spins in an attempt to “loosen it up,” it still wouldn’t turn over more than a few turns.  So, we pulled it and peeled off the sticker over the shaft bearing. intending to re-lubricate the bearing.  Unfortunately, the bearing seal on this fan was plastic instead of rubber, and couldn’t be easily removed.

'armonk,' cannibalized only days after being removed from service

‘armonk,’ cannibalized only days after being removed from service

But, we had recently retired our Internet gateway server, ‘armonk,’ a 12-year-old IBM desktop machine running FreeBSD, replacing it with a Raspberry Pi, which is more than adequate for that use.  The IBM had been running smoothly, so I  went to the temporary holding area for dead computers (which has encroached on the studio area downstairs), popped the lid, and pulled the CPU fan.  It spun smoothly, so I bored out the mounting screw holes to countersink the shorter screws for the AMD CPU heat sink on zara, reassembled the system, and we’re back on the air again.

So, here we are, behind in our work, with the retired IBM now truly inoperative, no Windows 7 working copy, taxes undone, and the office and network still not completely reconfigured as we planned.  The fan fiasco occurred in the middle of replacing the printer table under the window with a storage cube system.  The old HP 1200 laser printer, which we haven’t used for several years, was finally taken off “standby” and retired along with the IBM server.  The storage cube now holds the ethernet switch, wireless router, Raspberry pi network servers and overflow books, in preparation for moving Judy’s desktop workstation, ‘giskard’ from her downstairs studio to the table formerly occupied by the IBM, and the old laptop, ‘rover,’ downstairs, to make space on the office table.

'zara' and 'rover,' with the network fixtures tucked away in the new storage unit, but clutter still in plain view...

‘zara’ and ‘rover,’ with the network fixtures tucked away in the new storage unit, but clutter still in plain view…

Oh, and the color laser printer suddenly decided it is out of cyan and yellow toner, printing everything with a magenta cast.  With receipts on the government contracts running behind (30-day due dates are simply ignored, by official policy) and a few months of lean billable hours behind us, the prospect of shelling out several hundred dollars for new toner cartridges just doesn’t fit the budget this month.  The ink-jet printer in Judy’s studio is out of black toner–we have a new cartridge, but waiting to move the workstation upstairs to service that one…

So it goes.  Spring cleaning continues: the goal here was to unclutter the office and upgrade the network services with fanless/solid-state low power devices that are reliable and recover automatically after power failures.  At the same time, it is hard to schedule a shutdown time to open the cases and blow out the accumulated dust that is the primary killer of computers, and to replenish supplies.  We don’t print a lot these days, and toner seems to have a finite shelf life that sometimes is longer than the useful life of the printer itself, so we tend not to order ahead.  A couple years of competitive bidding on contracts that trimmed upgrade/replacement budgets to the bone, plus the low ratio of billable to overhead time during contract turnover times means keeping vital systems running well past their reliable life, risking work disruption due to inevitable disk and fan failures.

'giskard's new home, next to the server.

‘giskard’s new home, next to the server.

On a final note, moving Judy’s old workstation upstairs seems to have killed the monitor, an old, early flat-panel model that had been cantankerous at best.  So, we’re up and running on our one remaining ancient and massive glass CRT monitor, until we can afford a new modern one to service both her workstation and the Dell virtualization server.  Right now, we have to switch the cable back and forth for the rare times we need a console on the big Dell server.  I did dig out an old KVM  switch (keyboard-video-mouse, not to be confused with Linux Kernel Virtual Machine, which is what we run on the server) to share one console between two machines, but the circuitry in that had failed either from lack of use or too much moving.   We’re due for another desktop machine, budget permitting, as ‘giskard,’ a Linux machine built from spare parts at least six years ago, isn’t modern enough or robust enough to run what we need, and the audio has never worked right, and we are way overdue for new monitors.

Happy Birthday World Wide Web

Today is the 25th anniversary of the birth of the World Wide Web, which is known today simply as “The Web,” or, even more generally, “The Internet.”  The “‘Net,” of course, is much more, encompassing email and communications other than HTML, but for most people, the Web is their main contact.

Tim Berner-Lee didn’t invent the Web out of thin air, though.   During the period of proliferation of personal computers in the early 1980s, the diversity of languages, applications, and data formats made it difficult to exchange data between different systems.  An early attempt to make a universally-readable data file was in the GEM (Graphical Environment Manager) system, which initially ran on top of CP/M, one of the first microcomputer operating systems.  GEM was based on research at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).

The “killer app” that resulted in GEM-like interfaces being ported to Apple and MS-DOS was Ventura Publisher, an early desktop-publishing software system that promoted WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editing.  The data files were plain text, “decorated” with markup language “tags” to identify elements like paragraphs, chapter and section headings, and all typographical marks that editors normally penciled in, hence “markup.”  The first standard in this was SGML, or Standard Generalized Markup Language, and style manuals, most notably the one from the Chicago Press, were published to promote standardized markup notation.   SGML really didn’t catch on, though, as popular word processors of the time, such as WordPerfect and Microsoft Word and desktop publishing software like Aldus Pagemaker (now owned by Adobe) retained their own binary document formats.  GEM and Ventura Publisher became buried in history with the demise of CP/M and the introduction of the GEM look-alike Apple Macintosh and the decidedly inferior Microsoft Windows graphical desktops that took center stage.

Meanwhile, in the Unix world, networking and inter-networking was the focus, along with a graphical desktop environment, the X Window System.  The X Window System was too cumbersome and tied to Unix to be used over the relatively slow inter-networks and with the now predominant IBM PC running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows or the niche Apple environment.  Meanwhile, Berners-Lee was experimenting with a subset and extension of SGML called HyperText Markup Language (HTML).  Hypertext introduced not only markup for the appearance of rendered text, but the ability to cross-reference one section of text from another, even between documents.    Hyper-threaded text concepts were known at least since the 1940s, and used to create alternate endings or story lines in printed fiction, but computers made it possible to achieve smooth navigation between paths.

At the same time, networks were becoming mature, with the introduction of the Domain Name System and the TCP/IP network protocol in an internetworking scheme that provided unique names and addresses for every computer in the network, on a global scale.  Incorporation of DNS names and local paths in hypertext references made it possible to connect any document on any computer with references stored in different files on the same or any other computer in the network.  To implement these connections, a new network protocol, HyperText Transport Protocol (HTTP) was developed, and the World Wide Web was born in a flash of inspiration.

To complete the system required software that could speak HTTP and render HTML into formatted text and links on a computer screen, a server, and a client, which came to be known as a web browser.    The first web server was on a Next (Unix) machine, and early browsers were text-only, as the Internet was still largely based on dial-up modem access over ordinary phone lines.  But, with the increasing use of graphical displays, browsers also became graphics-capable, adding imaging and other visual effects to the HTML palette.

Today, 25 years later, most web servers are running some form of Unix or Unix-like operating system, mostly the open-source GNU/Linux system, though Microsoft Internet Information Service (IIS) runs many corporate internal services and public sites.  Browsers are now graphical, either Microsoft Internet Explorer or based on the Mozilla project, an open-source release of the original Netscape code derived from Mosaic, the first graphical browser.

The Web itself has evolved, with the addition of scripting capabilities on both the server and the client browser to create dynamic pages created at the moment, tailored to changing data, with the ability to refresh elements on a page as well as the whole page, and the ability to stream video and audio data as well as display text and images.   Indeed, HTML version 5 replaces many of the commonly-scripted constructs with simple markup tags that modern browsers know how to render.  The advent of social media sites to connect multiple people in real-time as well as  provide private messaging and real-time chat has largely replaced the spam-plagued email system for many people, and brought the promise of video-phone connections to reality.

The Web, in 25 years, has transformed society and our technology, nearly replacing newspapers, magazines, the telephone, and the television and video media player.  Even the personal computer has been transformed: the advent of software as a service (SAAS) means that users no longer have to purchase expensive applications to install on one computer, but can “rent” the use of an application on a distant server through the web browser, and rent storage space in “the cloud” that is available on any computer, even small hand-held devices like tablets or phones.  The web has also made possible the concept of wearable computers, such as Google Glass.  The World Wide Web not only covers the planet, but beyond (with live feed from the International Space Station and the Mars rovers), and has infused itself into our experience of reality.

I’ve evolved with the Web, starting with experimenting with SGML and HTML in the late 1980s, writing HTML in the mid-1990s, and in the late 1990s writing CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts in Perl, then server-side scripts in PHP,  progressing to Ruby CGI scripts and Javascript client-side scripting, some generated by the underlying server-side scripts to dynamically add images to slideshows.  Today, I still write CGI and server-side scripts, and create Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for page layout and element design, but increasingly use content management systems like WordPress or CMSBuilder that make editing web sites no more difficult than writing an email or posting a status to Facebook.  Yet, I’d like to see the grandchildren and great-grandchildren–who have lived with the web either from the time they learned to read (for the older grandchildren)  or since they were born–learn to see “under the hood” and learn how the web works, so they can shape the future instead of being shaped by it.

Road Trip 2014 — Ventura Highway to Olympic Highway



Rainbow near Paso  Robles


Downtown L.A.


Ventura Highway, Pacific Coast

Finally, our family duties discharged, we headed north on the Ventura Freeway, winding up through the coastal mountains and farmland, electing to spend the night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a port of call on free weekends when I was stationed at Fort Ord in 1966. Rain followed us intermittently. We stayed at a lovely cottage resort, braving the rain to go out to dinner at Yafa, a middle-eastern establishment not far from our cottage. Excellent food, friendly staff.

The next morning, since we didn’t have far to go to our next destination, we toured the city. A short walk on one of the beaches, a drive-by for a re-take of a 1966 photo of the city beach, a stop at a mid-town coffee shop, in the courtyard of a block of shops. We also stopped at the local yarn shop, located behind the Yafa restaurant, and toured the restored 244-year-old Carmel Mission (officially, Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo), still an active parish and school.
Back on the 101 through the Salinas Valley, our GPS detoured us at San Jose eastward through Oakland and across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. A stop in San Rafael at the Whole Foods to pick up lunch, and we were soon at our turn-off at Hopland toward Lakeport and Clear Lake, over a steep, winding mountain road rimmed at the top with snow from the storm the day before. We arrived at our resort promptly at the 4:00pm check-in time and settled in for a few days of bike riding and site-seeing along the lake.


The first day dawned very cold. We ventured out on the bike, but only as far as the supermarket at the north end of town, for a short 8Km loop along the shore. We did walk about a bit and enjoyed the flocks of ducks and coots that alternated between the resort grounds and the shore, though we had to step lightly and carefully everywhere: the sidewalks and grounds were well-fertilized by the waterfowl. We took a car trip south to the town of Clear Lake “for coffee,” winding back along the hilly shoreline to Clear Lake Oaks, then retracing the shore highway back to Nice.

Clear Lake from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

The second day was not much warmer, but we put on heavy gloves and layers and rode to LakePort for lunch, round trip 34Km, along the lakeshore. We didn’t explore the town much, as the temperature peaked at 8 Celcius and started dropping as rain clouds moved in from the west, bringing a damp chill to the air. The much-needed rain came shortly after we were off the road, and stayed with us for the rest of the trip.

LakePort from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

Our riding ended by the cold rain, the next day we ventured out by car to check out the parts of Lakeport we missed (not much, actually) and the village of Upper Lake, where we lunched at the Blue Wing Saloon, part of the restored Tallman hotel complex. Our impression of the lake communities was that the recession had hit here, too, with many storefronts vacant. A cyclist we met in Lakeport, the former city planner, said that the water quality in the lake was a big factor, too, with early summer algae blooms sending vacationers elsewhere for water sports. We also read that mercury contamination from an old mine also had diminished the joy of fishing if you intended to eat the catch.


On our way again, we headed north on CA 20 to US 101, backtracking to Ukiah to visit the campus of the City of 10,000 Buddhas, a Chan Buddhist community, school, and monastery occupying a former California State Hospital complex. It was pouring rain and a school holiday, so there was not much activity, though a number of monks and nuns gathered for noon meditation in the great hall. We were going to lunch at the restaurant on campus, but it was cash-only and we don’t usually carry enough to be worth mugging us for, so it was back to town and deli fare in the Safeway parking lot, in the rain.

The rain stayed with us through the Redwoods: we toured the Avenue of the Giants, but it was raining too hard to explore under the trees, so we pressed on to Fortuna for the night, dining at the brew pub next door to our motel. The one good thing about traveling along the coast is that most restaurants now have a reasonable variety of vegetarian fare, so I’m not restricted to fettucine alfredo or bean burritos (though the brew pub’s burrito was tasty), or the usual meat country fare of bread and garnishes (i.e., regular sandwich sans meat) or skimpy salad greens with no protein whatsoever that is what they think vegetarians subsist on.
In the morning, with the rain lighter, we ventured off-road to the Ladybird Johnson Grove, which turned out to be not just 5km off the highway, but nearly 300 meters above, on a very steep, narrow road with switchbacks. After Crescent City, we were in “new” (to us) territory, not having traveled the coast between Crescent City and Coos Bay. Our destination for the night was Florence, but we were blocked 20km south by a large fir tree fallen across both lanes of the coast highway, minutes before we arrived on the windy ridge. We turned back to Reedsport to get groceries for dinner, by which time the blockage had been cleared and we proceeded on. Wind and rain continued to batter the area through the night.

Sunday morning, our 22nd day on the road, dawned clear, but cold. We got a few “scenery shots” along the way, but when northbound, most of the scenic turnouts are on the left, of course, and usually on a curve with no visibiity. On we went, encountering snow at the 45th parallel near Lincoln City, where we stopped at an ATM to get cash for anticipated stops later. We followed an 18-wheeler travelling at blizzard speed (very slowly) for many miles, finally passing at the intersection with OR 26, and made our way to the Tillamook Air Museum, a collection of mostly World War II military aircraft, housed in the remaining blimp hanger from the war. The structure itself is worth the stop: it is constructed of wood, over 300 meters long and almost 65 meters high, the largest open-span wooden building in the world. Most of the building is rented storage: the museum takes up less than half the length, but includes a heated display room, theater that shows a history of the facility, and a gift shop.

The Latimer Textile Museum isn’t open on Sundays, so we continued on, deciding to make it home by dark, since it was too cold and snowy to explore much, and the entire I-5 corridor through Oregon was essentially shut down due to the storm. We snacked in the car and stopped for coffee at Seaside, then crossed the Columbia at Astoria, back into Washington, took WA 104 to WA 4 rather than the 101 through Ilwaco, rejoining US 101 north of Naselle, then leaving 101 on WA 107 to US12, via WA 108 to Kamilche, then back on US101 4 miles to Shelton, where we found an inch or so of snow on the ground.
In retrospect, it was good that we got home three days early (we intended to explore the northern California and Oregon coast a bit more, if not for the weather), as we had plenty of emergent work with our consulting projects and weaving guild programs, and the cat was happy to be home, too.

Road Trip 2014 — Part II: Family

The primary reason for the tour is to visit with family. First stop, our granddaughter in Santa Fe. We also planned to bicycle the excellent bike trails in Santa Fe, but the weather was very cold (minus 12 C overnight), so we got in more visiting time. We delivered a quilt for our newest great-grandson, and got a request for woven scarves from our great-granddaughters. Another great-grandson we hadn’t met (our last visit was just before he was born) was already walking and talking. The two older boys are talking about careers in public service. Grandson-in-law Paul teaches history and coaches basketball at a middle school, so we saw him briefly after long day of teaching and back-to-back games after school.


After a final stop to pick up baby clothing for exchange with another granddaughter, we headed south through Madrid, NM, an arts and crafts community east of the Sandia Mountains. The traffic was more pleasant this way than along the busy I-25 corridor between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. But, soon we were on I-25 headed south. A brief lunch stop (picnic on the plaza) in Socorro, a fuel stop in Truth or Consequences, and a snack stop in Hatch brought us to Las Cruces, where we checked in at the Lundeen Inn of the Arts, a downtown B&B that also serves as an art gallery and architect’s studio.

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January is a big birthday month in our family. We took another granddaughter to dinner for her 25th birthday and attended a first-birthday party for a great-grandson. While we did have a much-abbreviated family potluck, we also visited with most family members individually: lunch with a son, dinner with a daughter, and a trip to El Paso for lunch with the birthday girl and to see her new apartment.

Meanwhile, we did find time to bicycle, a trip through the huge Saturday Market stretching the length of the downtown business district on Main, and a Sunday loop ride on the bike trail along I-25, in the middle of a half-marathon with over 2,000 participants. Fortunately, the runner’s route turned soon, and we continued on to the NMSU campus, then back through town.

Las Cruces – NMSU from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

The B&B provide interesting breakfast conversation, including a couple from northern Alberta whose sport was curling. And, as always, hosts Jerry and Linda provided good conversation. A final family stop at our oldest daughter’s, and, all too soon, we found ourselves packed and headed west, enduring the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-10 that makes Las Cruces seem like a foreign destination.


All roads leading north, east, and west out of Las Cruces have Border Patrol checkpoints. Always scary, and a bit surreal, but then, so are the random DUI dragnets the state conducts, possible in a place where there are few roads.

A lunch stop in Wilcox, Arizona and a detour around a traffic jam in Tucson got us to Casa Grande for the night, just after sunset.

In the morning, the GPS routed us around Phoenix on rural highways, which was most pleasant, but by afternoon we were in the thick of Los Angeles traffic. After a series of “Keep left, then bear right” directions from the GPS, we got the dreaded equivalent of “Oh, no, you did what I told you [--recalculating],” and ended up the last few miles on Anaheim city streets, which suited us fine.


Judy and Ben pore over family photo albums and scrapbooks.

A couple days visiting with relatives in Anaheim, Judy’s brother-in-law and nephew, plus a side trip to Thousand Oaks to visit a niece (during which we did a drive-by of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, on the way), and we prepared for a leisurely trip north toward home. Fortunately, a light rain during our stay cleared out the smog so we could breathe easier.


Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: we didn’t go it, as we hadn’t time.

Road Trip 2014 – Stage 1: Shelton to Santa Fe


Mid-January is probably not everyone’s idea of a good time to tour the country, but our primary destination is the Southwest, where the weather tends to be a bit more mild than the rest of the country.  Besides, it has been over two years since we have visited the New Mexico relatives, so it is time to do this.

A road trip by car is a tale of fuel and food as much as scenery and people.  We started our trip on a Sunday, first dropping the cat at the Just Cats Hotel, then spending a few pleasant hours at Ruby Street Quiltworks in Tumwater, with our art quilting group, which involves, of course, a light lunch and coffee at the Starbucks across the parking lot.

Setting off south at 2:00pm, we cruised through foggy conditions until reaching Vancouver, WA, where we stopped for gas and road food at Costco, crossing into Oregon and clear skies for a spectacular view of Mt. Hood before making our way up the Columbia Gorge with the setting sun behind us.

We stopped just after dark in tiny Arlington, at the Village Inn cafe, where Judy had a tasty black bean soup and I had a vegan bean burrito–rice and beans inside, quacamole and chopped tomatoes outside.  We can’t get though Oregon without a stop at a full-service station (there isn’t any other kind in Oregon), so we stopped in Pendleton at Safeway.  Then, up over the mountains in ice fog with nearly zero visibility, ending the day in La Grande.

The next morning, we left at the crack of dawn, scraping frost off the windshield and soon back in the fog off and on over the Snake into Idaho.  A stop in Nampa for fuel and coffee sent us through a winter wonderland of hoar frost and on toward Utah.


The last fuel stop in Idaho, in the “middle of nowhere” listed regular unleaded at $4.30, so we drove on at reduced speed, arriving in Beeville, Utah on fumes, but with fuel at more than a dollar cheaper. By now, we had been fighting headwinds and freeway speeds for two days at 18mpg, about 20% below our usual. We were thinking our decision to bring our tandem bike on top of the car was going to cost us $200 in extra fuel before we were done. Lunch was nuts and fruit in the car, as we had nearly 600 miles planned for today. We pressed on through Salt Lake City in heavy traffic, though light on the MLK holiday, arriving in Provo just after sunset. From our motel near BYU, it was a short backtrack to a bakery cafe, where Judy had a bowl of corn chowder and I had a “veggie pesto” sandwich, actually a caprese panini, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil.
In the morning, we backtracked to Starbucks and then resumed our journey as the sun touched the peaks of the Wasatch Range above the city.

Up the Spanish Fork canyon, we stopped in Price for fuel and yogurt, then south to Green River and Moab, the hiking, rafting, and biking Mecca, which was pretty much closed, between seasons.  At Monticello, we stopped for coffee and an excellent roasted red pepper and potato soup at the Peace Tree Juice Bar, one of our “must stop” places on this route.


Topping off the fuel again, though our mileage had started to rise due to prevailing winds and lower secondary highway speeds. we headed east to Durango, where we stayed at the historic Strater Hotel downtown. We ate at the Diamond Belle Saloon in the hotel, Judy had a fusion “Greek” salad, with avacados and other ingredients that don’t grow in the Hellenic region. I had a vegan risotto that came in a trencher bigger than my head. Even so, we managed to force down separate orders of creme brulee on top of all that and stagger off to bed.


After morning breakfast of whole-grain french toast and made-to-order omelette, we retrieved our bicycle from the butlers closet at the hotel and loaded it back on the car, topped off our frozen travel mugs at Starbucks, and headed east to Pagosa Springs through beautiful forested mountains reminiscent of western Montana. Another fuel stop to top off, then south into New Mexico, where we planned to stop at the Ghost Ranch Visitor Center and museums, but the complex was closed, though there was a workshop in session at the ranch itself, a few miles down the road.

We did get a number of photos of the Pedernal, the butte made famous by the Georgia O’Keeffe paintings. Then, on to Espanola, where we had lunch at El Paragua. Judy had a BLT, which included a spicy guacamole spread and fries, and I had a roasted green chile on french roll with “monetary” jack cheese (according to the menu), which was like a chile relleno sandwich, with avacado slices and fries. We then stopped at the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center, where we bought yarn and yet another inkle loom and 3.5Kg of upholstery fabric remnants, from a stash that nearly filled the classroom area, a donation from an Albuquerque fabric outlet.

Arriving in Santa Fe, we made arrangements to visit our granddaughter and the great grandkids the next day, picked up some supplies at World Market. Next, visits with relatives here and in Las Cruces and El Paso over the weekend before heading west to California.

Musings on Unix, Bicycling, Quilting, Weaving, Old Houses, and other diversions

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